Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Agents of SHIELD reviews here.
Agents of SHIELD finally returned from its four-week hiatus. And though the long break took the air out of last month’s cliffhanger, “Deals With Our Devils” quickly recovered and proved to be an excellent episode.
The bulk of “Deals With Our Devils” dealt with trying to save Coulson, Fitz, and Robbie from the in-between dimension where they were stuck, rendering them invisible to their friends, thanks to Eli Morrow’s betrayal at the end of “The Good Samaritan”. Within that framework, a lot of interesting developments took place.
Most of those developments involved the Darkhold, which May took to Dr. Radcliffe in an attempt to save her friends. When the book proved “beyond human minds”, the non-human Aida stepped in. With this clever solution, she finally revealed Radcliffe’s secret to everyone by outing herself as an android. Yet again I appreciate the brisk pace in which SHIELD moves the plot along.
Using the Darkhold (presenting its knowledge in binary, which I thought was a nice touch), Aida constructed a portal, identical to the visuals seen in Doctor Strange, and saved Coulson and Fitz. I like the subtle way SHIELD tied into Doctor Strange with this. It wasn’t explicit—it simply by touched on similar themes, allowing for some details to cross over. I especially liked the idea of SHIELD using science to achieve something Strange would do with magic (in this case, the Sling Ring).
These actions weren’t without repercussions, though. The ending stinger showed Aida frantically working on what looked like a brain, probably with knowledge obtained from the Darkhold. I really like this kind of sequential storytelling, where each solution leads to a new problem. This lets SHIELD keep the plot moving by delivering quick payoffs and resolutions, without running out of story to tell. What did the Darkhold show SHIELD‘s resident Life Model Decoy? And what will the consequences be?
Robbie being stuck in limbo led to another great development as well. The Spirit of Vengeance refused to be dragged down to (presumably) Hell, and abandoned Robbie’s body to possess Mack instead. Even though it was temporary, it was really cool to have Mack—already a badass character—as a new Ghost Rider, shotgun-axe in hand, hunting down criminals on his motorbike. Plus, this revealed that Mack has a darker, possibly tragic side, which will definitely be explored in the future. And it allowed Robbie to physically confront his inner demons in a very strong scene.
Robbie was able to persuade Ghost Rider to release Mack and possess him once more by offering a deal: “If you help me settle my last score, I’ll help you settle all of yours.” Which means taking down Eli won’t be Robbie’s last mission as Ghost Rider after all. Whether SHIELD will follow Robbie’s future or leave it open-ended (to be possibly picked up in a spinoff) remains to be seen. With all the talk of being dragged to Hell, I would love to explore those metaphysical realms further. But I guess something like a battle with Mephisto is beyond this show’s budget.
Elsewhere, we finally saw where Simmons was. It seems Senator Nadeer’s request of Director Mace was to have Simmons study the mysterious cocooned Inhuman that was shown in her apartment a few weeks ago. She got him to break out of the Terrigen shell but was whisked away before we could find out who he was. Even though this subplot was pretty detached from the main story, I’m sure it’ll come back in a big way down the line.
I have only one very minor complaint about the episode, and it relates to structure. “Deals With Our Devils” opened with Coulson, Fitz, and Robbie presumed dead, but when they were revealed to be alive, the episode replayed the events of the first block from their perspective. And I loved that, because I thought it was a clever narrative device—the first time. But when the episode continued using this trick in a few subsequent scenes, it just became redundant.
That small quibble aside, I thought “Deals With Our Devils” was a remarkably strong episode, perhaps even the best of the season. Which is saying a lot, because SHIELD has been firing on all cylinders this year.