Ghost Rider May Be Exactly What Agents of SHIELD Needed

Illustration for article titled Ghost Rider May Be Exactly What Agents of SHIELD Needed

Agents of SHIELD has never been a show that’s hesitated to shake up its status quo, and Agent Coulson and his team had yet another when season four premiered last night—and it’s not for the better. But the real change comes from the addition of the first (reasonably) major Marvel superhero, Ghost Rider, to the series. He’s brought new life to the show—not bad for an undead spirit of vengeance.


The main problem with season four is that the show has decided to separate all of its main characters yet again. While I like that SHIELD has returned to being a well-staffed, well-funded government agency again after going to hell in Captain America: The Winter Soldier—and I also like the fact that Coulson is no longer the director, because it’s more fun when he gets out in the field—it’s actually aggravating to know we’re going to have to wait umpteen episodes before the gang eventually, inevitably gets back together. For now, Coulson and Mack are running missions, Melinda May is training her own strike team back at SHIELD HQ, Fitz is in the science lab, Gemma is now a liaison to the mysterious new Director, Yoyo is hanging around L.A., and Daisy, as we saw in last season’s finale, is for some reason running around as an outlaw/vigilante/hacker fighting crime, avoiding SHIELD in general and Coulson in particular.

So most of the excitement of the episode comes from the arrival of Ghost Rider, whose flaming ’67 Charger is as awesome-looking as his very silly 1980s heavy metal album cover skull is not. To be fair, the very stylized skull is to set the new Ghost Rider, a.k.a. Robbie Reyes, apart from the better known Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider of the movies. If you have read our primer on the character, this new Ghost Rider is much more interesting than the movie version, even if at the moment he’s basically Punisher with a car, murdering bad guys for being bad. Reyes seems to have accepted his fate as opposed to railing against it, which avoids the all-too-expected conflict with the character, but he also has a disabled younger brother to care for, giving him some real, visible stakes. (And if you read the primer, you know how Reyes became Ghost Rider has a much more intriguing twist than normal G.R., too.)

There are a few other storyarcs introduced in this episode that are varying degrees of interesting: The skeevy Dr. Radcliffe has created Aida, an A.I. with a very nude physical body, which is presumably a Life Model Decoy, as teased in last season’s finale. Right now, she’s every generic AI-in-a-human-body trope, but I have hopes that she means more Life Model Decoys are on the way, which could lead to some very interesting drama. (If a LMD of Grant Ward, progammed to be “good” again, doesn’t eventually show up to make everyone vastly uncomfortable I will be extremely disappointed.)

More importantly, there’s a ghost running around that seems to drive people insane with rage, causing them to kill everyone around them—and, most notably, cause the infected to see others’ eyes are being dark, shadow-y holes, not unlike Mads Mikkelsen and his cronies in the upcoming Dr. Strange movie. May’s infected, because AoS can’t possibly function unless one team member is working actively against the rest.

We’ve heard that this season of SHIELD will connect to Dr. Strange, and it’s safe to say this is it. (Although, as usual, the chances of Dr. Strange being affected by anything that happens in AoS are of course practically nonexistent.) After several seasons of Inhumans and Hydra drama, I greatly look forward to seeing the SHIELD team try to take on the supernatural, something new, and something they aren’t even slightly equipped for. I just wish I didn’t have to wait for them to become a team again.

Rob Bricken was the Editor of io9 from 2016-18, the creator of the poorly named but fan-favorite news site Topless Robot, and now writes nerd stuff for many places, because it's all he's good at.



Ghost Rider was amazingly well done. I loved it.

Lawdy. It was a long summer, but we’re finally back. And, true to form, Shieldhit the ground running. Whatever complaints you may have about Shield, filler episodes is not one of them. We developed about eleventy questions that need answering this season, and I predict that about half will be answered before Halloween. But I digress.

There are terrible, TERRIBLE spoilers beyond this sentence. If you read something you didn’t know, I’m glad you learned today, but any spoilers are on you.

Shield was moved to the 10 p.m. slot by ABC for this season, and at first, many people (myself included) thought that ABC was preparing us for a final season. It’s too early to tell, but if this were the last hurrah, Shield could go out with a bang. Then, it started coming out that the time move was to allow Shield to get a little more dark. Clark Gregg promised side boob, and whispers of a darker, grittier, bloodier Shield began to emerge. Well, we’re here. So which is it? Shield After Dark or Saying goodbyes?

I think Daisy’s Dukes and Ghost Rider ripping a dude’s spine out answers that question. God damn I love this show.

This trend started last season with Squidward feeding on all those poor (not really) Hydra souls. Remember when he left those people husks when getting his strength back? That was pretty graphic. Compare that with the Netflix shows (Punisher. DUDE) and the trend continues: Marvel is keeping the movies PG-13 so they can be seen by a larger audience, while letting the television side of things explore the darker themes and push the element with gore and sex and what not.

Since we’re comparing things, consider what DC has done: The movies are surprisingly dark (would you take an 8 year old to watch Batman torture people and Superman break necks at a breakneck speed?) and the shows are accessible and PG-13. Sure, Arrow is more serious than most and Flash fucks reality up because he loves his mom (Martha? Is that you?) and ice cream, but the money is still in the movies. Only a few million people watch the weekly shows for both DC and Marvel. But movies draw a larger audience. Marvel’s strategy is keep the movies accessible to a larger, broader audience, and let the shows take a chance. DC was doing the exact opposite, you know, until WB got skittish and Justice League got jokes.

But up until this season, Shield was the outlier for Marvel. All of the other televised options (Netflix) were more mature, if you will. Shield is now taking its chances at a later time, and from what we’ve seen, it’s going to be awesome.

1. Having said that, Shield still needs to remind us (it really doesn’t) that it’s connected to the overall MCU. That’s why we got references to two of the last three movies, and that box is already hinting at an obvious connection to the next. First, Coulson made the quip about those stoners and if hunger were a super power, they’d be signing the Sokovia Accords as we speak. Then, Mack had to go and ruin the moment when Yo Yo was spittin’ game and talk about signing the Accords. THEN, Dr. Potter referenced Ultron when Fitz raised the completely reasonable and understandable concerns about Artificial Intelligence.

But I don’t need to look back. I know Shield was there for all that in spirit. Coulson is team Cap all the way to the registration line, and Koenig helped Coulson deliver the Helicarrier to Fury when Ultron took Sokovia out for a spin. What’s next.

Magic. We’ve dealt with science and weirdness (Season 1) and Hydra (Season 2) and the cosmos (Season 3). The next step is magic. Dr. Strange comes out on November 4, 2016. That’s six weeks from now. Shield has a tendency of expanding on something (Hydra, Kree, etc.) and introducing us to new ideas for the movies (Darkforce/Zero Matter, Inhumans, etc.) and the MCU proper won’t touch real (not Asgardian Sci-magic) magic for six weeks. There are five more episodes (not withstanding any week long breaks planned by ABC) beforeDr. Strange blows our minds. Given the pace of this show since Ward took out Agent Hand, we’ll be fully versed in spirits and magic and other realms and dimensions before the Ancient One has a chance to knock the Chakra out of Stephen Strange for giving sass.

But really, I lied earlier. I said I didn’t need to look back. I keep doing it, and I will, so you should get used to me lying, and you should LIKE IT. (There’s a very real chance a fibbing Cheetoh will be President, so really, get used to it.) We’ve already had a taste of magic and other dimensions in the MCU: In Season 1 of Shield, Darkforce was introduced. Darkforce was expanded on inAgent Carter with Zero Matter. We’ve been told that Darkforce/Zero Matter willtie into Dr. Strange somehow.

So in the next five weeks, expect to get a crash course in spirits and realms and dimensions and planes of existence, because this shit is about to get weird.

2. Despite the above, my goodness this show is still funny. We lost Hunter and Bobbie last season, so someone had to pick up the slack with the jokes. It appears those people are Coulson and Mack. This show was somewhat of a rollercoaster for me, as I went from being intrigued by Daisy’s dukes to impressed by Ghost Rider’s interrogation techniques to Coulson and Mack hamming it up to May ABSOLUTELY kicking ass to Ghost MOTHERFUCKING Rider. My favorite part was Coulson giving himself a high five with his new hand. Mack was hilarious with his deadpan, what with the “not my kind of brotha’s” and telling Coulson he looks forward to seeing May more than he did. Did you see Mack’s face when he said they should call May for backup and May appeared out of nowhere? Perfect. This show has the proper mix of hilarity and serial killery. Keep it up.

3. Seal Team May was off the hook. Those augmented glasses FitzSimmons developed were sweet, giving them a bird’s eye view while they swept the room. I have a feeling that that technology will be used on either Daisy (to provide closure,) Robbie (to calm his ass down,) or the Director (to throw a little rouge on him.) You watch. That was one of the eleventy questions we’ll see pay off this season. Remember Mack’s Shotgun Axe? NEVER FORGET.

4. Speaking of, I do not like this new Director. He’s completely over reacting to Shield’s past. Sure, the public opinion about Shield has to be right there with its opinion on Hitler (because NAZIS) but he’s already making the same mistakes Fury did. Fury kept everything compartmentalized. That’s why Cap was so pissed when Widow had her own mission at the beginning of Winter Soldier and why Hydra was allowed to flourish - no one had information on other departments or clearance levels, so who knew all of S.T.R.I.K.E. was Hydra enforcers? Now, this Director is keeping everything classified (“everything is these days...”) and only certain people know certain information.

Then, we learned that the different levels were replaced with a “Spectrum of Security” because we all know how well color-coded systems work. Then, the Director requires daily lie detector tests? Come on now. Maybe the Director doesn’t want anyone to feel lesser because their number is smaller (it’s not the size, it’s how you use it...right?) but it’s going to end up making it so people keep pertinent information from each other because plausible deniability. We were 40 minutes in and the flaw was already revealed: May had to lie to Simmons because of her new title. That’s not Synergy, Director.

He needs to work on those acronyms. Seriously Hideous Identification Themes, dude.

I wrote more here :)