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REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×06 “The Good Samaritan”

This week was all about the life and death (and subsequent possession) of Robbie Reyes. A quarter of the way into the season, we finally got a bit more background on Robbie and the event that led to his transition into the vengeance seeker that we know today. The Ghost Rider origin story was briefly teased last week, but, “The Good Samaritan,” explored it in slightly more detail as both the characters and the viewers learned about the night that changed the Reyes family forever.

Spoilers ahead!

As mentioned, the majority of, “The Good Samaritan,” focused on Robbie explaining how he came to be the Ghost Rider. Through various flashbacks, starting with Eli Morrow and Lucy at Momentum pre-ghost situation, we begin to piece together what events coincided to lead to the predicament that all of the characters are in today. Granted, we already knew that the Bowers’ experiment with the Darkhold failed rather spectacularly, but now we got to see just what they did to wind up in their current states.

Most of the Lucy/Eli flashbacks felt pretty pointless to me (up until that last one), partially because we pretty much already knew what happened but mostly because they were way less interesting than Robbie’s. While we also pretty much got the gist of what when down on the teased night during which Robbie when from human to rider, it was infinitely preferable seeing this bit of backstory than it was seeing Eli and Lucy’s.

The day Robbie became the Rider was the same day that little bro Gabe was injured to the point of paralysis. Off to drag race for cash, the elder Reyes invited Gabe to tag along for some brother bonding… which was nice until the two were ambushed by the Locos gang and pummelled with bullets. While the attack left Gabe paralyzed, it left Robbie dead… until a mysterious good samaritan decided to pay him a visit. Of course, said samaritan was actually the last Rider, who transferred into Robbie, thus making him the new incarnation of Ghost Rider.

All of this is explained by Robbie while he, Gabe, and Daisy are hiding out in a S.H.I.E.L.D. containment module aboard the Zephyr 1 in an attempt to avoid being taken into custody by Mace. Unfortunately, the gang is caught and Robbie does very little to get on the Director’s good side, instead opting to bust out of the module and attack Mace in a fiery (literally) rage.

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While certainly grounds to lock the guy up forever, Robbie’s actions occur at a time where S.H.I.E.L.D. actually requires his services. Fitz has managed to track down Lucy and Eli to a facility, Isodyne labs, owned by the Roxxon Energy Corporation.

The very Isodyne/Roxxon whose experiments with dark matter caused problems for Peggy in the 1940’s.

See where this is going?

As it turns out, the machine that caused Lucy and her ghostly comrades to become the incorporeal beings that they are today was created with the intent to produce matter… and the Darkhold was the instruction manual in creating it. Said machine, which failed epically the first time around, was actually created and used by Eli, against the recommendation and wishes of the others. He forced Lucy and the others into the first, faulty, device and is the one responsible for their predicament as he’s the one who wanted the power of the Darkhold and dark matter.

Unfortunately, this time around, Eli has enough energy to properly power the machine, and boots it up while jumping in it… leaving Fitz and Coulson in the blast zone.

The episode closes with Evil Eli emerging from the machine and procuring visible matter while Coulson and Fitz are nowhere to be seen.

The manner in which Robbie’s tale unfolded is one of the more common storytelling techniques used on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The flashbacks shown onscreen, as a character audibly explains the past to another off screen, is something that we’ve seen many times before (most memorably with Jemma explaining her 4,722 hours on Maveth to Fitz). Though not necessarily new, the method was still an effective way of simultaneously cluing in both the audience and characters into the back story without it feeling like an inundation of  information.

S.H.I.E.L.D.’s visuals are equally important to the overarching story as the script itself, making it feel wholly necessary to show Robbie’s past rather than simply tell it. Seeing these teased events play out onscreen felt pivotal to understanding Robbie’s actions and motivation.

Interestingly, as we watched events unfold, my mind immediately went back to Robbie’s earlier conversation with Daisy regarding their respective reasoning behind their present-day actions. While Robbie has thus far been fairly vocal about vengeance being his sole motivator as the Rider, even scoffing at Daisy being fueled by a desire for penance, learning about his involvement and responsibility for Gabe’s injury makes it clear that the bravado exhibited is very much a facade. While he certainly didn’t pull the trigger, there’s no question that Gabe would be walking today were it not for Robbie’s past actions. It seems that Robbie, “doth protest too much,” when trying to prove that he’s only out for vengeance because, despite what he may claim, he seems to be trying to right his own wrongs more than anyone else’s.

Having said all that… this episode felt a bit lacking to me.

The vast majority of the 42ish minutes were spent telling us information that we basically already knew, making the final minutes and closing cliffhanger feel a bit off-kilter from the episode as a whole. Very little was seen of the original characters (Jemma’s presence this week involved getting a bag thrown over her head in the first five minutes and never being seen again) and, despite being touted as the ‘Ghost Rider Origin Episode,’ it didn’t feel as though all that much was gleaned this week. Robbie’s tale is one that we heard almost in its entirety prior to this episode, and the few minutes of flashbacks that accompanied it this week didn’t feel like enough to justify taking up the A plot of the episode.

Similarly, all of the information pertaining to Eli, Lucy, and the Darkhold was very much irrelevant until the closing minutes when all of the, “reveals,” were quickly squeezed into those final character exchanges.

This episode, to me, can very easily be slotted into the, “filler,” category. It was an episode meant to drive the plot forward while actually spending the majority of the time focused on the past. While the performances were stellar and the visuals were top-notch, the material just wasn’t there.

Episode Grade: C+

Episode Highs:

  • “There’s no such thing as luck. There’s decisions, and consequences.”
  • The interactions between Mace and Jemma are starting to become my favorite of the season. The fact that this week’s stood out considering Jemma only appeared in .2 seconds of the episode says something.
  • MVP of the week was the Charger. Even pre-suped-up it was a pretty slick car.

Episode Lows:

  • Much of the backstories felt irrelevant and repetitive.
  • While I know the scene with Jemma and Mace will make sense in upcoming episodes, it felt like a pointless insert considering Simmons was literally bagged and never to be seen or heard from again.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Obviously S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t just take out Coulson and Fitz… so what do you think that dark matter blast did to them?

What did you think about the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below!

About the author

Silje Falck-Pedersen

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