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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S4 E8 "The Laws of Inferno Dynamics"

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S.H.I.E.L.D. brings in some of their strongest assets to launch an offensive against Eli Morrow and whatever he is planning to use his new powers and knowledge for.

Tropes in this episode:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: While Radcliffe made certain that Aida was not a true artificial intelligence (she was basically just a very sophisticated computer, though reading the Darkhold may have changed her), the problem is that a computer is going to keep doing exactly what you tell it to until you tell it otherwise. Aida was designed to keep SHIELD agents safe, and by her view, replacing them with LMD's is a perfectly acceptable way of doing that.
  • Apologetic Attacker:
    • Eli is at least somewhat sorry about attacking his nephew.
    • Aida apologizes before snapping Agent Nathanson's neck.
  • Arc Villain: Eli, the main antagonist of the Story Arc running through the first eight episodes of this season, is Dragged Off to Hell while being roasted by Ghost Rider's hellfire, leaving the door open for Aida to take over as the main threat.
  • Artistic Licence – Chemistry: While caesium is very reactive to water and will react, explosively, to its presence. However, caesium is SO reactive to water that even the vapour in the air will set of a firery reaction, so it isn't a good idea for a trap.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: While Eli's makeshift nuclear device is definitely dangerous, it's not quite "level downtown LA" dangerous. Surrounding plutonium with a beryllium neutron reflector will cause a critical reaction, not a prompt-critical explosion. The reaction will heat the plutonium until it burns through the beryllium, at which point it will cool down. Until it does this, it will be releasing huge doses of harmful radiation. The "Demon Core" Fitz mentioned got its name by doing this twice in the Manhattan Project; in each case, a scientist's prompt thinking ended the criticality incident in about a second. Both scientists died of radiation poisoning and other people nearby suffered significant long-term damage; in reality, everybody in the building when Eli's beryllium door closes would have caught a serious dose in the few seconds before the plutonium is shifted to another dimension.
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  • Bad Boss: When one of Eli's goons questions him and brings up the fact that he hasn't paid them anything yet, Eli murders him on the spot by filling his lungs with the requested payment.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: While Mace has demonstrated his superhuman power before when forced to subdue May and fight a pissed-off Ghost Rider, this time he goes into the field with the team and demonstrates he's a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield and then a minute later, demonstrates himself to be a master of public relations by changing Daisy's reputation from accused domestic terrorist to heroic agent in a few sentences when she's accidentally seen by the media.
  • Body Horror: When one of his Mooks talks back to him, Eli makes diamonds form in his lungs.
  • Boxed Crook: An understated version. By referring to Daisy as "Agent Johnson" in front of the press as they're confronting the notorious Inhuman outlaw Quake, he was offering to retroactively take responsibility for her actions as Quake so long as she returns to S.H.I.E.L.D. She takes the offer.
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  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: When trying to describe how Eli is Drunk on the Dark Side, Coulson says that he's "drunk on power, or drinking [his] own Kool-Aid, or drunk on Powerade."
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Daisy does this when she learns she was Coulson's first choice for his successor as Director. Bonus points because she was Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. at one point in the comics.
    Daisy: Yeah, right. Maybe the comic book version...
  • Bullet Time: Elena gets in a pretty cool sequence, redirecting attacks from allies and enemies alike to benefit their position—for example, taking a gun pointed at Coulson and putting it in his hand (which he had formed into a loose grip precisely for that reason), taking the blade of Mack's shotgun-axe out of one mook and pointing the barrel at another, and planting a powerful magnet on Eli and pushing him into the box.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Mack just can't say he's interested in Yo-Yo.
  • The Consigliere: Coulson tells Mace that being there to give the Director the advice he needs is the role he wants to fill, not trying to undermine him, and they both admit that they need to trust each other in order to function.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The idea that Eli, instead of creating matter out of nothing, is primarily harnessing energy and matter from other dimensions, is explicitly consistent with how the sorcerers of Kamar-Taj use magic in Doctor Strange.
    • Simmons mentions that creating an android AI is explicitly against the Sokovian Accords.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Once Coulson gives the signal, he, Mack, Elena, May and Mace proceed to wipe the floor with Eli's mooks.
  • Does Not Like Magic: Fitz comes out and says that he "hates magic" because he thinks it violates his scientific understanding of things. Unfortunately for him, it has become more and more common lately (Ghost Rider, the Darkhold, ghosts, etc.).
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Aida's dimensional gateway is used to transport Eli's giant quantum power cell into another dimension, preventing a nuclear catastrophe in Los Angeles. Eli and Robbie are taken with it, the former being burned to death by the latter along the way.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Eli's reason for trying to become a god. He feels like he's been looked down on and belittled his entire life, particularly by the others at Momentum Labs.
  • Exploited Immunity: Since Robbie is immune to flame, he just walks right through the flaming hallway. However, the fire does mess up his body camera and fries his earpiece, meaning Fitz and Simmons can't talk to him and can barely see his point of view.
  • Family of Choice: Phil and Daisy make it quite clear that they've missed the father/daughter dynamic they had and are both happy to have it back.
  • Fanservice: There really is no reason for Daisy to have her uniform top unzipped to the bottom of her bra, especially considering that Yo-Yo has a jacket on over hers. Then again, once Yo-Yo takes off her jacket, her top is undone the same way, so maybe it's a bonding thing.
  • He Knows Too Much: Agent Nathanson probably would have walked out of that room alive if the closet hadn't popped open at an inconvenient time.
  • Hero of Another Story:
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Robbie/Ghost Rider stops trying to escape the box so he can hold Eli inside and kill him, making sure Eli can't threaten the world with his powers anymore. He and Eli are transported with the box as he burns Eli alive, trapping them in another dimension and preventing a nuclear explosion in Los Angeles.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Robbie gets two spikes through his body, one through his right shoulder and the other through his left side near his stomach. This fails to kill him, but the pain each time is enough to keep him from transforming, until Eli is pinned down and unable to pull the same trick a third time.
  • Internal Reveal: The team finds out that Mace was being blackmailed into helping Nadeer.
  • It's a Long Story: Coulson, regarding how the last Ghost Rider Escaped from Hell.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: In a variation, Robbie notes that the coast looks clear when they open a door to Eli's hideout, then immediately assumes it's probably not.
  • Kill and Replace: A non-fatal version. Aida has swapped May for a Life Model Decoy, keeping the real thing sedated in a closet in Radcliffe's laboratory.
  • Load-Bearing Hero: Daisy has to absorb the quakes being generated by Eli's powers so the team can set up the dimension gateway. She manages to hold on long enough to get it done.
  • Made of Explodium: Eli rigs up the hallway into the building with veins of cesium through the walls and a leaky pipe covering the floor with water. As Elena runs through, the water is splashed on the cesium and the entire hallway quickly goes up in flames.
  • Metaphorically True: Mace's statement to the press that Daisy was undercover on behalf of S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to take down the Watchdogs wasn't quite the outright lie it could be seen as; she was primarily out to take them down, and she and S.H.I.E.L.D. were sort of acting together. From a certain point of view.
  • Motive Rant: Eli rants at Robbie about how nobody's never given him any respect for his genius and hard work, thus why he was so eager to seize godlike power.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • When Phil suggests that Daisy should have been the Inhuman who was the face of S.H.I.E.L.D. instead of Mace, she laughs off the idea and says maybe the comic book version of her. The comic version of Daisy Johnson/Quake was the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a time.
    • Mace's combat suit is this and a Continuity Nod: it's almost identical to the dark tactical suit worn by Captain America in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and has the S.H.I.E.L.D. eagle on the chest. In the comics, Mace replaced Steve Rogers as Captain America for a time and while known as the Patriot, had a costume with an eagle (often drawn to look somewhat similar to the S.H.I.E.L.D. eagle) on the chest.
  • Neck Snap: Agent Nathanson has his neck snapped by Aida when he discovers May. She even does it one-handed, no less.
  • Never Found the Body: Ghost Rider is drawn into another dimension, but Coulson isn't so sure that he's actually dead.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Daisy has been told to hide from the press, as she's still a vigilante. After she's overwhelmed by the quakes caused by Eli's powers, she runs out of the building, launches herself into the sky to escape, then lands dead center in the press pool. Luckily, some quick PR by Mace actually spins the entire situation into a positive.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Something in Fitz's past has made him hate clowns. And clowns with knives. Not even Simmons knows the circumstances.
    Fitz: I do not like magic. Or clowns. Or clowns with knives. In the dark.
    • After Robbie and Eli are Dragged Off to Hell, Coulson (rather casually) tells Daisy that he saw Ghost Rider escape from Hell before.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: When Robbie accuses Eli of being a killer, he replies that it runs in the family.
  • Not Me This Time: Daisy has to keep stating that the minor earthquakes that are being detected aren't being caused by her.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Elena unwittingly springs a cesium trap in her reconnaissance of Eli's hideout and barely makes it out alive; fast enough to avoid getting incinerated, but not fast enough to not catch on fire. Thankfully, Daisy manages to put said fire out quickly.
  • Over-the-Top Secret: The clearance spectrum returns with Daisy being granted clearance level Blue. Fitz jokes that they aren't quite sure what that means.
  • Power Incontinence: After absorbing all the earthquake energy generated by Eli's machine, Skye desperately runs outside and launches herself hundreds of feet into the air in a desperate bid to get rid of it all.
  • Properly Paranoid: Everyone was absolutely right to worry about Aida. She has begun replacing human agents with Life Model Decoys and killing anyone who finds out.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: For the first time since last season, all the living members of Team Coulson (except for Bobbi and Lance) are finally back together in the same place at the same time....sort of.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Elena and Mack share a kiss and seemingly get together at the end of the episode.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots:
    • Fitz and Simmons are surprised that Aida can bleed and feel pain. Aida explains that the bleeding is just for show and the pain reaction is necessary for a robot meant to pass for human. Radcliffe is still apologetic that she has to be put through it, though.
    • Aida has managed to replace May with a Life Model Decoy; one that can emulate the real May well enough that no one has caught on. Admittedly, they haven't had much time to spot any imperfections, but it's good enough to fool them in casual conversation.
  • Running Gag: Members of S.H.I.E.L.D. wondering who comes up the various names for people or things, such as Hive. In this episode, it's a historical Shout-Out to the "Demon Core" plutonium bomb used in early U.S. atomic tests- which, for the record, got its nickname because it lethally irradiated two scientists.
  • Scientifically Understandable Sorcery: Eli assumes he's creating matter out of nothing and is thus a god. Fitz realizes he's pulling quantum energy from another dimension to create the matter and that energy is trying to get back. Technically, this trope is where the title of the episode comes from.
  • Shout-Out: May questions if Aida thinks, Coulson suggests she thinks about electric sheep
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Done by Mack to Elena when she demands to know just what their relationship is.
  • Taking the Bullet: Aida allows herself to be shot several times by one of the gangsters to protect Fitz, Simmons, Daisy, and Radcliffe. She can't be killed by a few bullets so death isn't an issue, but it does hurt.
  • Taking You with Me: Robbie holds Eli to drag him into Hell (or whatever the other dimension is).
  • Took a Level in Badass: Eli's powers have grown from being able to conjure carbon as coal into being able to conjure carbon in other forms such as diamonds, in addition to other elements such as enough cesium to make a good sized firebomb, enough plutonium to make a nuke, and at the time of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s second try to bring him down, he was experimenting with simple compounds like water.
  • Transformation Is a Free Action: Averted. Robbie twice tries to transform into Ghost Rider, only for Eli to impale him and break his concentration. He gets away with it the third time, as Eli has been pinned by a magnet and can't concentrate on stopping Robbie.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Eli loses his cool when Coulson tells him that his powers aren't godly and that he's essentially nothing more than a thief.
  • Wham Shot: Aida murders Agent Nathanson, who'd been sent to collect all the technical data for the Life Model Decoy project. The Stinger reveals that she's also keeping May prisoner in the lab, implying Coulson is having a drink with a May LMD.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Coulson and Director Mace throw this at each other over behavior that the other found suspicious. It ends with them admitting that they don't trust each other and that they need to be able to do so in order to make an effective team.