‘The Laws of Inferno Dynamics’ Plot Summary:
Director Mace (Jason O’Mara) and Aida (Mallory Jansen) join the team in the field as they make one final effort to stop Uncle Eli (José Zúñiga).
Everything this season so far has been leading to this moment, the last stand against Eli Morrow, Robbie Reyes’ villainous uncle. Given the events in past mid-season finales, it’s reasonable to expect a lot. But this one just can’t match up to the others.
The big difference between the previous mid-season finales is that they served as the midway point for the season arc. While this episode does end on a cliffhanger, the show is clearly transitioning from one arc to the other. Only the first half of the season is the Ghost Rider arc. This was always the likeliest scenario, but there’s something missing.
While Eli has some cool abilities, his poorly explored motivation and the explanation of what he’s doing really hurt him as an antagonist. Maybe I missed something, but his rant about no one ever believing in him feels really forced, like the writers gave him a motivation as an afterthought. I haven’t read the comics he originates from, but I know that he’s a Satanist in those. I’m also disappointed that they explain how he’s stealing energy from another dimension. Sure, it makes sense, but it subtracts from how frightening and incomprehensible the Darkhold was in previous episodes.
Ghost Rider does surprisingly little in this episode other than withstand Eli’s attacks. Something flashy by him would have made up for a lot of these weaknesses. Still, overall I’m pretty happy with the way he’s been handled. The end of his storyline isn’t mind-blowing but he’s been a strong presence. He’s really changed up what can happen on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. They don’t try to explain him and both he and Johnny Blaze are still out there.
Because the show has featured Ghost Rider so heavily, Daisy (Chloe Bennet) has taken a back seat. This is very ironic when you look at the way last season ended. We never really got the Quake on the run storyline we deserved, as she officially returns to the team in this mid-season finale. Similar to Eli, her motivations are the biggest issue. Lincoln’s death apparently changed her but why is not clear. Why did she go rogue and rob banks? The show explained Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) demotion and Mace well enough, but it really needs to work on Daisy when it comes back.
Speaking of coming back, Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) and Mack (Henry Simmons) are now real couple. I like Mack, but I couldn’t care less. And apparently now Yo-Yo has her own online mini-series. Whatever. Her powers pale in comparison to Fox’s Quicksilver and The CW’s Flash.
There is a bright spot in this episode, which is Aida. While the jump to evil AI should have been saved for a little later in the season, the ending really stands out. Not only does she break that agent’s neck, she apparently has Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) hostage and has replaced her with a Life Model Decoy. This feels like a retread of Ultron, who’s mentioned in this episode and who wasn’t really that great a character. But this storyline holds potential if Aida starts replacing other people with LMDs too.
Ghost Rider, it’s definitely been an interesting journey. I just wish you could have gotten a better send off. Aida, don’t let us down.
RATING: 6.5 OUT OF 10 (AVERAGE)
Aaron Sarnecky is Pop-Break’s television editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., among other things. He is a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in television and film. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed. Follow him on Twitter: @AaronSarnecky