This season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a little slow thus far, and understandably so: There’s been so many new characters, plotlines, and dynamics to introduce that there’s hardly been any time for the team to pal around like usual. Luckily, this week abandoned the incomprehensible conversations between ghosts for a thrilling, self-contained adventure that hinted at a larger conspiracy to come (and one that grows naturally out of previous plot points). Let’s begin.
Things kick off at a bachelorette party in Miami for Yo-Yo’s friend Maria. Maria appears to relish nothing so much as teasing Yo-Yo, both for her clothes (the Inhuman speedster doesn’t wear dresses, which is a problem when you’re supposed to be a bridesmaid) and Mack. Maria even grabs her friend’s phone to prank-call Mack, only to be interrupted by a sudden blackout. One guest jokes that this means no more blended drinks, but a helicopter crashing into a nearby building quickly proves this blackout is going to be a lot worse than that.
Enter the show’s title card, which starts to glitch a little before transitioning into a Max Headroom-style broadcast from an unknown provocateur broadcasting himself to all channels. This shadowy figure claims to be a member of “the Inhuman resistance” and threatens to blackout more cities unless the Sokovia Accords’ Inhuman registration is repealed. Mack and Fitz quickly point out to S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Jeffrey Mace that the only Inhuman with the ability to cause such a blackout was Lincoln Campbell, who was both a good guy and also dead, so it’s more likely some kind of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device. One of Mace’s lackeys worries about the potential bad publicity from this crisis. Mack yells at him, but Mace quickly points out that the guy works in the PR division, so it’s literally his job to worry about these things. After all, “a team divided is a team defeated” — someone’s seen Civil War. Mace is actually turning out to be a pretty good director so far — he listens to his employees and takes their specialty analyses into account. His goofy slogans and bureaucratic shadiness are still there, of course, but not even Nick Fury was perfect. Anyway, Mace orders Mack and Fitz to take Coulson with them on a Quinjet to Miami to figure out this blackout problem.
Coulson, at that moment, is watching a live feed of May’s struggling vitals, while Simmons yells over the phone to whoever’s taking care of her. Per Mace’s edict, she isn’t allowed to tell Coulson where May is being held, which frustrates him again… at least until Mace arrives to explain. The director tells Coulson that May is being held at a top of the line CDC facility in upstate New York, and the reason he withheld that information was because he knew Coulson would go running after her. But right now, he needs Coulson to deal with the blackout problem alongside Fitz and Mack while Simmons is dispatched to bring May to Dr. Radcliffe. One of the gangsters who had been exposed to the ghost has just died, which means time is running out for May and they need some mad-scientist Hail Mary to save her.
Said mad scientist quickly gets to work prepping a cranial helmet device for May, with help from AIDA. When this Life Model Decoy first showed up in the premiere, the most obvious comparison seemed to be Ultron or Vision, the MCU’s previous examples of AI gone awry. But there’s been two episodes of Westworld since then, and HBO’s show about lifelike robots struggling to gain self-consciousness and independence from their creators has added a new level of creepiness to AIDA. For now she’s content to let Radcliffe put her to sleep before Simmons shows up, but obviously that secret can’t stay buried forever. Wouldn’t be surprised to see AIDA swatting flies before too long.
When Simmons arrives, she and Radcliffe apply the experimental headset to May, and then they bring up a fancy high-tech visualization worthy of Tony Stark. Radcliffe discovers that there’s a lot of neuron activity in the part of May’s brain that controls sleep — basically, she’s undergoing a waking nightmare. All of the ghost’s victims are literally scaring themselves to death. And how do you cure fear?
NEXT: Quake and Ghost Rider team up