Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Deals With Our Devils”:

Going to keep this reasonably brief tonight, what with so much other superhero chicanery pulling focus this week, as well as that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. definitely lost a bit of Season 4’s momentum to have not aired since November 1 (a few things have maybe changed since then). Not to mention, the urgency of S.H.I.E.L.D. looks even further reduced in the MCU by the announcement of an unrelated Inhumans TV series for ABC, and it isn’t as if Season 4 treated “Deals With Our Devils” as the answer to some major cliffhanger, but rather a general pivot to the next phase.

And no, there was never any real questioning the survival of Coulson, Fitz and Robbie, or that they’d end up in some similar state to the “ghosts” we’d been dealing with all season. It seemed even odder that “Deals With Our Devils” would spend any time on the remaining team doubting their survival, but the hour may have needed some padding overall, especially in light of repetitively reliving a number of scenes from their “ghost” perspective.

The one time it worked to see both sides of the equation came with the clever reveal that the Ghost Rider had moved on to inhabit Mack’s body; Mack cutting a much more imposing figure as the Spirit of Vengeance than Robbie Reyes, despite the missed opportunity of actually using skull effects atop the motorcycle. I’m always up for expanding Henry Simmons’ role beyond the team’s threat-measuring Worf stand-in, and while I wasn’t certain what to make of that ending*, or Mack’s apparent mental state even before the possession, it’s an intriguing enough hook to ride out the next few episodes.

*So, what exactly happened there? Did the Rider actually pass back to Robbie before they settled scores in Hell, or was Robbie off doing that on his own? Are there two Spirits of Vengeance now, one for both Mack and Robbie?

Flaming Shotgun-Axe really did seem like the next step, anyway.

At best, “Deals With Our Devils” managed to get a few lingering threads out in the open; outing AIDA as an android, cluing Fitz and Coulson in on Mace’s duplicity, and I suppose pulling Coulson out of whatever post-Director funk Season 4 has been playing at. The integration of AIDA actually worked pretty well; almost as if they were using some advanced science to reverse-engineer the same kind of extra-dimensional magic we’ve since seen Doctor Strange using. Plus, there’s nothing unappealing about a story involving androids learning to use magic.

The only aspect that felt a bit underserved was Simmons’ effort to liberate Senator Nadeer’s brother from Terrigenesis, as all we really learned was that he maintains a human exterior underneath. I’m not 100% clear on when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes off for 2016, leaving it unclear how much of these threads (including Eli’s transformation to a carbon-manipulating villain) we’ll get to explore in the coming weeks, but for now at least, I supposed “Deals With Our Devils” gave a soft enough landing for whatever comes next.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • Still not crazy that we’re circling the idea of Coulson and May as a romantic pairing. They’re one of TV’s better platonic relationships.
  • “My axe is plenty sharp. And a shotgun.”
  • It is an adorable detail that Mace would specifically point out Mack riding off without a helmet.
  • At first I thought the cocoon might turn out to be Swamp Thing, who is of course DC. Still, pick someone with an exterior transformation, guys!
  • Seriously, Mack looks much better as Ghost Rider.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 will continue Tuesday, December 6 with “The Laws of Inferno Dynamics,” airing at 10:00 P.M. on ABC.

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