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, “The Good Samaritan,” we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Then let’s go.
Though it airs the day after Halloween, “The Good Samaritan” is about as close as we’re likely to get to a bonafide horror episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. this year. Primarily because it at long last gives us the origin story of Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider. As many of us had anticipated, the screen’s previous Rider, Johnny Blaze, plays no small role in it.
Picking up where “Lockup” left off, Robbie and Daisy have agreed to help Coulson and co. retrieve the
Book of the Dead,the Darkhold from Lucy Bauer before she uses it to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting populace, at Momentum Labs, where she and her husband Joseph started this whole mess. She drags along Robbie’s uncle Eli — or so we’re at first led to believe. Turns out that Eli has been planning for this all along, and that he’s the one who caused the initial explosion that turned Lucy into a “ghost.” But not before Joseph paid some thugs to rub him out.
Eli’s backstory is a little convoluted, but it eventually leads to Robbie’s satisfyingly tragic transformation. In the tradition of such heroes as Iron Man and Doctor Strange, the young man was an arrogant, self-centered narcissist, one whose only concern was winning street races in his uncle’s Dodge Charger, before he and his brother Gabe ran afoul of the assassins targeting Eli. They crippled Gabe and murdered Robbie, but with his dying wish Eli made a literal deal with the devil and was paid a visit by Johnny Blaze. We don’t see his face, just his black leather jacket and a wheel of his motorcycle, but the flaming skull of his Ghost Rider is the last thing Robbie sees before he shares his gift/curse.
Since this sequence is by far the most interesting part of “The Good Samaritan,” it’s a shame we don’t get to see it unbroken by scenes of present-day S.H.I.E.L.D. business. One can easily imagine, say, The Walking Dead, devoting an entire hour to Robbie’s origin, as it did for its villainous Governor. But at least the ongoing storyline has momentum, with Mace on a mission to take Daisy and Robbie prisoner, before the latter lets the Rider loose. Though I’m still a little mystified as to how Mace survives the beating he receives from Ghost Rider when it’s been established he can break out of a cell designed to hold the Hulk. Just how powerful is the new Director anyway?
That story has to wait for another day. For now, the Director allows Robbie to complete Coulson’s mission; on which he winds up frying Lucy after she tells him the truth about his Uncle. Up until now, Mrs. Bauer gave us little reason to sympathize with her. So it’s almost a pity she dies just when she’s starting to become interesting. But we have a new antagonist to deal with in Eli, who’s secured the Darkhold’s powers for himself and attained the power to create matter out of nothing. The immediate cost is Coulson and Robbie, who vanish in the new lab explosion. Can May, Mack, Fitz, and Simmons use the Darkhold to bring them back? And if so, what price will they pay? Because all I want for Christmas this year is Philinda.
— Poor Lucy. Not only was she annoying as hell, but she was saddled with a makeup job surpassed by any number of trick-or-treaters who visited my house last night.
— “Geese? I have zero geese. We are goose free.”
— “Screw you, black Kojack. No one moves this thing except me.” Whoa there, kid! You haven’t earned nearly enough points to talk to Mack that way.
— If Mace is trying to win us over, dissing Han Solo is not the way to do it.
— “Personally, I always felt Admiral Ackbar was the unsung hero.”
— Shout out to “the other guy” in case we missed the Hulk allusion.
— “The rationalist in me wants to agree. But the skull on fire sets a pretty compelling argument for ‘Hail, Satan.'” Again, Coulson’s never been funnier since he stepped down as Director.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).