Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “The Laws of Inferno Dynamics”:

As I said of last week’s “Deals With Our Devils,” it’s unfortunate that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. halted most of Season 4’s momentum with a November absence, leaving this week’s “The Laws of Inferno Dynamics” as an oddly-burdened midseason finale. On the one hand, we won’t have Agent Carter episodes to stall that momentum even further, but it’s still somewhat unclear how 2017 will schedule the remainder of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, given that past years tend to break after ten episodes, not eight.

Either way, if we have to sign off Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. yet again, “The Laws of Inferno Dynamics” definitely makes for a more conclusive end to the arcs driving Season 4 thus far; to see near of the whole team taking on Eli Morrow, including a Patriot-suited* Jeffrey Mace, and even having AIDA fill a role. The final showdown had some diverse powers in play, between Yo-Yo racing around at super-speed to tip the scales, Ghost Rider lighting up against Eli, or Mace tossing henchman around, and that little extra bit of comic flare is always appreciated.

*Thank goodness the costume design for Patriot looks as good as it does, if only to balance that terrible CG shot of Daisy getting launched into the sky. And it’s a repetitive nitpick at this point, but if S.H.I.E.L.D. is operating under such public scrutiny with costumed heroes, how are The Avengers not weighing in? Is Tony Stark rolling his eyes, and clicking off the TV somewhere?

“Well, according to Nielsen, everyone is.”

That said, I’m less enamored with the show’s treatment of Eli as a major villain after the initial revelation in early November. Having one centralized antagonist is miles better than the “ghosts” that drove early Season 4, but the idea of Eli threatening to destroy the world over his peers’ lack of respect feels paper-thin, and devoid of any possible subtext S.H.I.E.L.D. might have thought to bring. Destroying the world to create new life is pretty old-hat for sci-fi as well, and in this case didn’t enhance the emotional conflict between Robbie and Eli more than two angry men raging at one another.

The best “Inferno” accomplished was to get most every major storyline out in the open, whether addressing Mace’s deal with Senator Nadeer, finally capitalizing on the romantic tension between Mack and Yo-Yo, or vindicating “Quake” in the public eye to undo Daisy’s exile. That’s a respectable amount of closure for one hour, leaving Senator Nadeer’s Inhuman agenda and AIDA’s treachery for the latter half, to say nothing of Eli and Robbie’s likely return.

In the case of May at least, S.H.I.E.L.D. has already been to the May-Doppelganger well once, but it’s worth wondering how Season 4 might play it out (presumably she was only replaced this week, given the emotion after Coulson’s “death,” and that brain we saw AIDA working on). In either case, S.H.I.E.L.D. still has itself in a pretty precarious position beyond Season 4, so I’d hope the back half gets a longer stretch to build up its main villain.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • Creating diamonds from thin air in someone’s lungs is certainly a new one for TV deaths.
  • No one remembers Ultron. No one.
  • The “Demon Core” is a real thing. Who knew?
  • AIDA clearly needs to bone up on her Simpsons references.
  • So yes, Coulson apparently has knowledge of a previous Ghost Rider. Wouldn’t count on it being any more than a reference, for now.
  • “Maybe the comic book version” is an oddly-meta line for this series.
  • As long as we’re dropping Agent Koenig references, did the series ever actually explain why there seemed to be so many of him?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 will continue Tuesdays in 2017, airing at 10:00 P.M. on ABC.

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