This review contains spoilers.
4.2 Meet The New Boss
I’ve been recapping Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for Den Of Geek US since the premiere. To be honest, while I still enjoyed the series immensely last year, it was kind of a chore (I know, first world nerd problems). Every episode was pretty much the same. Inhumans machinations and intrigue and HYDRA, HYDRA, HYDRA. The show was enjoyable, but it was rather hard to write about. Maybe that’s why I’m really enjoying this new direction Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking. The focus on the supernatural and the rebuilding of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a post-Civil War world has brought a new lease of life to Marvel’s inaugural TV series.
This week, there are lots of moving parts. The focus of the episode is split between the mystery of the ghostly figures that infected Melinda May last week and more interactions between Daisy and Ghost Rider.
Let’s start with Ghost Rider, shall we? This week, Daisy finagles a meeting with Robbie Reyes and secret agents him for more information. She corners Robbie at work, and the young mechanic is none too pleased with Daisy prying into his private life. We learn a bit more about Reyes as Daisy becomes somewhat sympathetic to the ghostly vigilante. That doesn’t prevent Ghostie and Daisy from violently going at it once again, with Reyes getting the better of the former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. It didn’t help Daisy that her body is still breaking down because she doesn’t have her gauntlets to protect her from the ravages of her Quake powers. But even though they fought, Daisy and Robbie come to an understanding and even ride together.
How do we get there you ask? Well, we have a few revelations this week. Firstly, we see more of those creepy ass ghostly figures that wreaked so much havoc last week. It turns out there is a large number of these ghosts and they are somehow connected to a mystical book known as the Darkhold. Now, that should be a very ominous name for old-school Marvel fans, but if you’re newer to the game, check out our Marvel Moments section below. Let’s just say for now, the Darkhold is bad news and that, years ago, these ghosts were reduced to incorporeal form and are now manifesting in the present. We also discover that Ghost Rider can hurt them as Reyes, Daisy, and S.H.I.E.L.D. all converge to battle said ghosts in this week’s stirring climax.
Earlier in the episode, Fitz and Simmons were able to track the ghosts to a lab in California. There, more ghosts were manifesting and blaming each other for the mess they found themselves in. It’s clear that the ghosts are terrified of their condition and want to fix it. When Fitz and Mack show up, the ghosts take the fight to the agents and nearly kill them both. That’s when the Rider arrives to kick some serious ass. Daisy sees the Rider’s bravery in battle and the Rider sees Daisy’s loyalty to her friends and a very unlikely Inhuman/demonic friendship is born.
But what are these ghosts? I really dig the introduction of the supernatural into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially with Doctor Strange right around the corner. Some very new ground is being explored, which makes a welcome break from the aforementioned S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA and Inhumans stuff.
Speaking of S.H.I.E.L.D., this week’s other major reveal involves the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Last week, the new director was teased and it was revealed that Simmons took the job of director’s assistant in order to protect her teammates from the new director’s whims. This week, we meet this director and there are some surprises in store.
Before we cover those surprises, let’s discuss poor Melinda May. Last week, Melinda was infected by one of our ghosts. This week, May is facing the consequences of that ghostly encounter. It’s all very shocking because we’re so used to seeing May in control of her faculties. Heck man, when May allows herself a smile, it’s headline news. This week, May is having visions (premonitions?) of her friends’ deaths. She sees them rotting before her eyes and it’s sending poor May into a state of panic. After all, if May is so used to solving problems and protecting her friends by just punching and kicking stuff, it must be so painful for her to sit back helplessly and witness her friends repeatedly dying. The supernatural and immaterial nature of this new threat means that it can’t be punched or kicked, and this impotence is making May crazy. I’ll tell you, after three years and change of the stoic and immovable Melina May, it’s very hard to watch her break down like this.
When May loses it, she goes on a rampage around SH.I.E.L.D. HQ during a VIP tour of the facility. Of course, none of S.H.I.E.L.D. can go toe to toe with May, until the new director Jeffrey Mace steps up and easily dispatches her. Mace is charismatic, handsome, and most importantly, an Inhuman strongman! He lifts May easily and does what no one else, friend or foe, has done since we met her by taking her out easily.
We then find out that Mace is an Inhuman recruited as director in order to have a positive super-powered public persona in charge of the rebuilt S.H.I.E.L.D. This is a deft twist that ties into the events of Civil War very nicely. We also find out the whole super-powered-being-in-charge-of-S.H.I.E.L.D. thing was Coulson’s idea. Now that May is Mace’s prisoner and suffering from some kind of curse, that might just be an idea that comes back to haunt Coulson.
Speaking of hauntings, I am highly intrigued by those ghosts and their story, and even more intrigued about how this all fits with Ghost Rider. Let me tell you, Ghost Rider is a presence on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Every time Reyes goes full Rider, it is a sight to behold. Really, I never imagined I’d be enjoying Ghost Rider, any Ghost Rider, on a weekly TV show, so for this old school Marvel fan, this season has been a win so far.
And a non-redundant pleasure to recap.
So we met the new director Jeff Mace this week. Many will be surprised to learn that Mace is one of Marvel’s oldest characters. In the comics, Mace is not an Inhuman powerhouse but a bona fide Golden Age, Nazi-smashing super hero. Jeff Mace, also known as The Patriot, was one of the very first flag-wearing super heroes in comics. The Patriot first appeared in The Human Torch #4 (1941 and was created by Ray Gill and George Mandel. As The Patriot, Mace appeared throughout the Golden Age. Patriot’s first modern age appearance was in Invaders #5 (1976).
Ready for a bit of history that will surprise you? Mace was once actually a stand in for Captain America himself. When Steve Rogers was frozen in ice at the end of the Second World War, the US government turned to a number of stand-ins to fill Rogers’ red, white, and blue uniform. Mace was the second hero chosen to replace Rogers and served with distinction into the Cold War. This tale was told in the awesome 2010 Captain America: Patriot miniseries. It appears that the Mace we met this week will not be a Golden Age hero (although, who knows, Inhumans may age slower), but it’s really cool to see Marvel mine some of its OG heroes for some live action projects.
The Darkhold first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #4, a Werewolf By Night issue of this old school Marvel anthology. The Darkhold was dreamed up by Gerry Conway and Mike Ploog. It is a book of ancient dark magic that is used to summon only the most terrible demons. The Darkhold was responsible for the creation of the very first vampire, a terrible being named Varnae, who used the book to try and conquer ancient Atlantis. He was stopped by a barbarian (and classic sword and sandal literary character) named Kull, but he would return and face both Conan and Red Sonja. So the Darkhold is the first object to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has ties to Conan! How cool is that? The Darkhold also was responsible for the creation of werewolves in the Marvel Universe and was even the subject of its own 1992 series entitled Darkhold: Pages From The Book Of Sins. So the Darkhold is the only book to star in its own Marvel series! But dude, Conan! There should be some exciting stuff coming up with the Darkhold in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Read Rob’s review of the previous episode, The Ghost, here.