This Agents of SHIELD review contains spoilers.
Agents of SHIELD Season 4 Episode 1
So here we are for the Agents of SHIELD season 4 premiere. It seems like just yesterday that we were all settling back to watch the first episode of Marvel Studios’ first TV series with dreams of Iron Man, Hulk, and Hawkeye guest appearances dancing in our brains. Well, we didn’t get many Marvel movie stars nor did we get a large helping of established Marvel characters. What we did get was some amazing new characters for the Marvel Universe, characters who have since become part of the comic universe as well.
On the Agents of SHIELD season 4 premiere, we do get an established Marvel Comics character. This week, we are introduced to the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider. We’ll get to Reyes’ history in the Marvel Moments section, but suffice it to say, this Ghost Rider isn’t the most familiar form of the character. But it is till damn cool to see a Ghost Rider realized on a TV screen.
Let’s get this out of the way early: I actively hated the Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider films, which were the cinematic equivalent of stubbing your toe on something sharp and hot. So it is nice to see a Ghost Rider, any Ghost Rider, appear in live action that doesn’t sent me into fits of uncontrollable nerd rage.
But enough about me, what of our beloved agents? “The Ghost” kicks off with a shot of Daisy’s ass as she pulls on a pair of black panties. Seriously Marvel, you’re better than that. From there, things get a lot cooler and less misogynistic as Daisy in her Quake identity confronts Ghost Rider for the first time. That’s right, they actually gave us Ghost Rider before the first commercial break. I thought we were going to have to wait until sweeps. Daisy witnesses Ghost Rider do what he does best: unleash righteous vengeance on some Aryan skinhead punks.
From there we get an act one reintroduction to our major players. Daisy is on the run and you can tell she’s troubled and tortured because she’s wearing really dark eye makeup. There’s a new director of SHIELD and Agent Coulson is relegated to field operative. Coulson and Agent Mack are hunting Daisy as well as trying to find Inhumans to register for the Sokovia accords so there’s a whole new dynamic within SHIELD.
Some of those new dynamics consists of Simmons as a high level aid to the new director. May as a field leader, Fitz in pretty much the same place he’s always been, and a bunch of new faces. Even though SHIELD is now back to becoming a fiercely powerful intelligence entity, the episode spells out that there are protocols in place so things can’t get all HYDRA again. Speaking of HYDRA, this had to be the first episode in Agents of SHIELD history where the word HYDRA wasn’t uttered once (unless I just forgot). It kind of feels like we are in virgin territory here with the plot not being taken up by HYDRA or Inhumans.
I think I am most pleasantly surprised by the Fitz and Simmons dynamic. It seems like the two star crossed lovers are in the healthiest place they’ve ever been. Keep in mind, we’ve opened seasons with Fitz suffering severe brain damage and Simmons trapped on a hostile alien world, so seeing the duo happy, in bed together, discussing football, it’s all kind of refreshing. We know it can’t last, but for the moment, it’s good to see something going right for these crazy kids.
Not all our agents are happy though, which leads us to Daisy. Daisy has gone full vigilante. She is hunting Ghost Rider because of reports of multiple homicides. She is doing the superhero thing as Quake with aplomb, but the Daisy Johnson part of her life isn’t going well. She’s addicted to pain killers (supplied by the returning Secret Warrior, Yo Yo), she is self-destructive and rushes headlong into battle, and she is avoiding her friends at SHIELD. She also has gone total goth complete with dark raccoon like make up and tons of leather and chains.
Did someone say chains? Let’s talk Ghost Rider, shall we? Yeah, it takes getting used to seeing Ghost Rider with a low rider instead of a motorcycle, but this is the Robbie Reyes version of the character not Johnny Blaze or Daniel Ketch, so Marvel is farming its recent comic book past. In the comics, the coolest aspect of Reyes is that he is so dedicated to caring for his special needs brother, who is finally introduced by the episode’s end. Daisy spies this and sees her quarry in a whole new light. And believe me, Daisy and Reyes have some battles this episode. In fact, the Quake vs Ghost Rider battles are possibly the most comic book like moments in Agents of SHIELD history.
I will say that Ghost Rider’s transformation is way too CGI cartoony. It looks like something out of Grimm instead of something out of Marvel, but other than that, this new Ghost Rider feels right. The way killers and thieves fear him, the whole spirit of vengeance vibe, it’s all there. Plus, his racer is cool. Yeah, I kind of want to see Johnny Blaze too, but I have a feeling that Marvel has bigger plans for Blaze. And so far, because of the atmosphere that surrounds the character, I’m sold on Reyes.
There is no clear big bad for the season as of yet, but it does feel like we will be seeing some very new types of threats this year. This week, we saw a mysterious chest opened and some terrifying ghostly beings emerge. With Doctor Strange on the way to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this opens the doors to supernatural threats throughout TV and film and it seems like Agents of SHIELD will be affected by this coming of the mystical.
The last thing we’ll talk about is a new subplot involving the returning Doctor Radcliffe. Last season, we were introduced to Radcliffe as an engineering genius specializing in AI. This week, Fitz discovers Radcliffe has built a very close to human robot named AIDA. As we all know, AI is frowned upon in the MU because of Ultron, so Fitz is now helping his new pal Radcliffe harbor a secret from SHIELD. I can see a few roads this can go down, but for now, let’s just say that the dynamic of friendship between Fitz and Radcliffe is an interesting one. It seems that the two bonded so deeply that Fitz is even willing to keep AIDA a secret from Simmons. See, I told you their happy days couldn’t last.
So all in all, “The Ghost” was a fun way to kick off the new season of Agents of SHIELD and it seems some new story doors have opened as an unexpected version of a Marvel superhero has arrived on TV. There’s not much to rate in terms of story yet, but what is there has me interested. Like ghosts. Ghosts that it seems from this week’s sweeper that May can now see. Uh-oh.
– The Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider debuted in All New Ghost Rider #1 (2013) and was created by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore. In the comics, Reyes was a street racer and a mechanic who worked very hard to give his special needs brother Gabe a good life. When he is gunned down during a race, Reyes is possessed by the spirit of a demonic killer and transforms into a very different Ghost Rider. I’ll leave some of his origin secret as not to potentially spoil future SHIELD episodes, but I will say that the comic version of Reyes is significantly younger than the version played by Gabriel Luna on Agents of SHIELD. Comic book Reyes is also much less comfortable with his curse so it will be interesting to see where this older and more confident Reyes story takes us. One really has to wonder if they’ll be any mention of any of the other Ghost Riders.
– The only AIDA in Marvel history was a disembodied AI built by Squadron Supreme member Tom Thumb. AIDA first appeared in Squadron Supreme #1 (1985) and was created by Mark Gruenwald and Bob Hall. AIDA was basically a computer with a female voice that would flirt with Thumb and help the Squadron and their world. So yeah, a disembodied artificial intelligence that would flirt with a dwarven genius. Somehow, I don’t think Agents of SHIELD will go down that road with AIDA.
I do think that AIDA will become the first LMD or Life Model Decoy. For years in the comics, high level SHIELD agents have used LMDs to serve as decoys. It’s pretty cool to see a SHIELD classic come to TV even though AIDA’s arrival will likely cause Fitz some headaches.
– We have a mention of the Sokovia Accords just to remind us that we are living in a post-Civil War world.