(Marvel Studios 2016)
Summary: 6 months have past since the events of season 3. SHIELD has been reinstated as an official government agency, but it’s still rebuilding and has a long way to go before it returns to glory. The world, however, believes Coulson dead and so a new Director is in charge. Daisy has left SHIELD and is now a vigilante working to help others while fleeing authorities. All the while a new supernatural entity has entered the ring: the Ghost Rider. This season tells of a family broken a part in need of being pieced back together.
Directed by Billy Gierhart; Written by Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen
Review: Agents of SHIELD is officially back for a 4th season with a later time slot and a darker tone. No doubt to play off the edge that has given the Netflix Marvel shows so much success. But is the darker tone really needed, and can the addition of Ghost Rider save this series – with its unfortunate falling ratings – from possible cancellation? Because 4 seasons in and that’s apparently still a worry us fans have.
While it’s still to be seen how any of this will ultimately play out in allowing the series to stay alive, I can tell you that the addition of Ghost Rider is a needed and much welcome one. While the Inhumans did do a lot to help give AoS that superhero feel everyone felt it needed, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I long yearned to see more recognizable faces and characters I was familiar with on the show.
Deathlok served as a good 6th ranger in season 1 but we really haven’t seen much of him since sadly. And unfortunately I’m just not as well versed in Inhuman lore – especially many of the new characters of recent years – to get AS excited for all the Inhumans we got in seasons 2 and 3. Even though I loved seeing them regardless. But Ghost Rider, he’s a big name. Even bigger than Deathlok.
Though I’m not as familiar with the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider incarnation, and I still wonder as to how one can effectively fight crime in car where you have to drive, stop, get out of the car, fight, get back in the car, and then drive off – instead of a motorcycle where you can just simply fight while on the bike itself without stopping. I can still recognize the character and the fundamentals that drive the Spirit of Vengeance as they haven’t really changed in all of the incarnations of the character.
Thankfully AoS delivers one helluva Ghost Rider heavy season opening complete with 2 transformation scenes for the Hell Charger (his car) and Robbie himself. The latter of which was freaking glorious. I was a bit worried about the CGI for the Rider, but not as worried as most people. I’m used to the TV budget and at the end of the day I want better characters than production values. He looks great though, incredibly menacing, and I hope we get to see Robbie transformed quite often this season rather than just a few times. I’m looking at you Hive.
As far as the darker tone goes, was it needed? I personally don’t think so, ultimately this episode felt like the same ole show with just more blood and a super vanilla opening scene of Daisy getting dressed. Which both surprised me, but the pacing of the episode and the awkwardness of acting all felt the same to me. And by awkward acting I’m talking about the fact that every season of AoS opens with a few episodes of stiff acting and dialogue delivery from almost everyone. It’s as the season goes and everyone gets back into their grooves that we see the stellar acting that I’m so used to praising.
I’ve never been a champion of Netflix on the level of saying Agents of SHIELD needs to copy them, or a champion of crossovers in the sense that I feel this show needs to rely heavily on them. I love the connections and I want to see crossovers but I want all these shows to feel like their own thing at the same time. Agents of SHIELD promised super spy action on a family friendly network and that’s what we got. To complain otherwise is just ridiculous. The added darkness is welcome because it doesn’t take away from the show. I’m very interested to see just how dark they’re willing to take this season.
As for the rest of our known heroes, almost everyone is in vastly different positions than they were last season. There’s a new Director of SHIELD who we didn’t get to meet this episode demoting Coulson to field agent where he’s been teamed with Mack. It’s a very fun dynamic and I’m excited to see these two play off one another some more, however its the Mack/Daisy pairing that I will miss the most. Jemma is second in command to the Director and it responsible for overseeing technology and science development. It’s interesting to see Jemma in this position but while she’s secretly loyal to her friends now I am curious to see how much of this power eventually goes to her head.
Fitz is still in about the same place he’s always been however he’s best friends with Dr. Radcliffe from last season and the two get into a philosophical debate over the world’s first known (to us viewers) LMD or Life Model Decoy after Radcliffe creates a human body for his Cortana-like assistant, AIDA. At this point in the MCU I don’t even care anymore that Tony Stark mentioned LMDs way back in Avengers before they apparently even existed. I’m excited for what we’re getting now so I’m just gonna roll with it.
May is leading the STRIKE team, this incarnation of SHIELDs elite field unit. Overall not much has changed for her character other than she’s been reduced to lesser status than even Jemma so she’s no longer privy to all the goings on within the agency. And finally there’s Daisy who spends the episode as a vigilante taking out gangs on the streets of Los Angeles when she comes across the Ghost Rider and eventually the two have a badass bare knuckle brawl. What a great way to open a season.
What I found most interesting about Daisy is that you can tell she doesn’t want to be in this position. Without her friends, her family, and having to nurse her fractured wrist bones every time after using her powers. She’s forced to get medicine from Yo-Yo who also makes a great return this episode after Yo-Yo steals it for her from SHIELD’s HQ. Daisy makes a pretty good detective hunting down Robbie to where he works and I’m very excited to see how their relationship grows from here. Hopefully not romantically.
Finally we get a new mcguffin for the season. A mysterious box stolen from Robbie that has sealed within it a spirit that, when gazed upon, causes those who see it to go crazy. We get a few glimpses at the titular ghost and it seems May has been subtly effected by it at episodes end. I’m very, very curious to see where this goes as I’m loving the new supernatural elements now added to the show.
With this great opener this honestly could be Agents of SHIELD’s best season yet. Hopefully its audience will return and the 10pm Tuesday time slot won’t kill it. This show really is good and I’m so frustrated that more people can’t see that. But hey, we got Ghost Rider and if anything that’s a win in my book. He’s finally, at long, last a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Let’s go with season 4!
Final Score: 4.5 Ghostly Transformations out of 5
Derrick is a born and raised otaku with a love for comics, anime, manga and movies. The full list is pretty long, but that’s just the basics. Stories set in space are his bread and butter.
You can find more of his writing at IndieComix.net