Warning: This post contains spoilers for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Proceed with caution, agents. If you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode, “Lockup”, we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Then let’s go.
When S.H.I.E.L.D. is at its best, it doesn’t offer viewers much to dissect. Because it’s all about its momentum, a raging river of rambunctiousness that carries us, and its heroes, from one desperate moment to another with a minimum of muss and fuss. “Lockup” is a textbook example: forty-two minutes of adrenaline without a single wasted moment. Fortunately, it somehow also manages to give us more than a few satisfying character beats.
With Daisy and Robbie now under Coulson’s care, the team undertakes a mission to get the Darkhold before Lucy Bower does. In a flashback sequence, we finally learn how she and her husband Joseph came by the dread tome — something about scientific shortcuts that’s the episode’s only real cliche — and how they came to be possessed by its power. It’s interesting how Marvel has, unintentionally or not, debuted this story arc at the same time as the MCU gets its first film to feature magic in Doctor Strange. The company’s TV and movie universes get a lot of flak sometimes for not integrating themselves more fully, but I’m as impressed by this thematic alignment as I’d be at any narrative cohesion. So let’s give credit where its due. Plus, we get lots of ghosts for Halloween!
Of course Lucy’s husband flatlines before he can be of much use to Coulson and co., so the gang moves on to Robbie’s uncle Eli, hoping — in vain, as it turns out — to snag him from his prison cell before Lucy gets to him. All of which turns out to be setup for the centerpiece of “Lockup”, a prison brawl that sees May, Coulson, and Daisy trapped in a pen full of racist Watchdogs. Director Kate Woods isn’t quite as adept at staging fight sequences as Kevin Tancharoen, S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s best visual storyteller. But if “Lockup” doesn’t give us the latter’s trademark POV shots of hand-to-hand combat, it at least employs the same tight choreography in an injured Quake’s melee, which finds her improvising like Jackie Chan as she tussles with an entire squad of ne’er-do-wells.
Meanwhile, Simmons is starting to regret her involvement in finding Daisy, as new Director Jeffrey Mace subjects her to a polygraph test to determine her allegiance. But the cunning scientist sees a bargaining chip when she catches him lying during a televised debate about his “heroic” actions that led to his appointment. The big reveal within the world of the show, however, is Mace’s revelation on live TV that he himself is an Inhuman, which momentarily gives him the upper hand over his opponent, Senator Nadeer. Thought that lasts only until she shows photos of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s prison fiasco and a fiery Ghost Rider.
“Lockup” doesn’t give the Rider quite as much to do as in other recent episodes, but he does get to go full Hellfire on a drug dealer during the breakout. Uncle Eli proves more instrumental to this week’s developments, as his capture by Lucy leads to — presumably — his own possession by the Darkhold. We’ve already learned that there’s nothing more important to Robbie than his family, whether they deserve his loyalty or not, so it’s not too hard to see an angst-ridden confrontation looming ahead between him and the sole remaining paternal figure in his life.
But the relationship I’m most curious about right now is Coulson and May’s. Here, he’s dying (sorry) to know if her recent experience with death mirrors his own, which prompts her to admit that she thought of him during the ordeal. Is she just being sarcastic? Is she only telling him what she thinks he wants to hear? Or is a little bit of romantic tension finally starting to bubble between these old friends and comrades? If so, is it too soon to cling to that look on Clark Gregg’s face when Coulson hears the news as a sign we can start shipping Philinda? In Phil’s own words, “Thoughts? Feelings? This is a safe space.”
— “May, want to go to prison? Could be Taco Tuesday.”
— Nice to see Mack putting the axe half of his shotgun axe to good use. But I still want to see that thing thing buried in the back of a ghost before Christmas.
— The fact that we get May’s kicks and Coulson’s shield in a single action scene excites me to no end. One can only imagine what foreplay would be like with these two.
— Despite the timing of this episode’s debate on Inhumans (moderated by George Robert Stephanopoulos no less), “Lockup” to its credit doesn’t spend too much time hitting us over the head with allusions to real-life political issues. Yet it’s impossible not to see at least something of Clinton and Trump in Nadeer and Mace, particularly with lines like “Inhumans don’t share our core values!”
— Did Mace’s big reveal remind anyone else of Tony Stark’s press conference confession at the end of the first Iron Man movie?
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).