Ghost Rider revs up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s bloody Season 4 premiere

Marvel’s flagship ABC series returned for its fourth season Tuesday night, and here’s our take on everything from Ghost Rider to exploding pens!

The short version: The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are splintered under a new director, and the search for a rogue Daisy takes a bloody turn when the Ghost Rider himself starts cracking (and burning) heads.

The Good

Trent: The big addition to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season is obviously Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider, and his appearance certainly set the premiere apart from everything that’s come before. Newcomer Gabriel Luna did an excellent job bringing the other Ghost Rider to life (not to be confused with the Johnny Blaze version played by Nic Cage in those movies you’d like to forget exist), and ABC actually managed to do a decent job with the flaming skull effects on a TV budget. As soon as that rocket hit the car, and only managed to piss it off? Yeah, I was sold. They seem to be setting Robbie up with an interesting story, and connecting his arc with Daisy keeps her relevant while on the run, and gives him a foil we’re already familiar with. Win-win.

There’s also the fact that this season of S.H.I.E.L.D. has shifted to the late hour on ABC’s lineup, and boy did it show. This was arguably one of the most violent and bloody episodes of the series to date, and with shows like Daredevil already pushing the Marvel brand in that direction, it was cool to see S.H.I.E.L.D. dip its toes into that water. Other things I loved: Mack got an exploding pen! Hey, why not? Also, Yoyo and Mack are (kinda) a thing now? I like it.

Aaron: I'm with Trent here. It was a violent ep, and I loved it. When was the last time we saw blood splatters on this show?! I definitely feel like we are synchronizing with the Netflix Daredevil tone, slightly, and I am in support of this. More than that, I do enjoy a fractured S.H.I.E.L.D. team, with each pursuing their own goals. 

But my favorite is the Ghost Rider skull reveal. That pre-credits scene was cool, but the one between Daisy (ready to die) and the Rider (who shows some sort of code) was perfection. He looked cool, but also exercised restraint. It looked better to me than the movie versions of the Rider, and fit within this world. And that car! I imagine that Coulson can come to appreciate a guy/Spirit of Vengeance with an attachment to his wheels.

I am also intrigued by the Life Model Decoy of Radcliffe and Fitz's connection to her. I think he'll start to find her (Aida) more and more appealing. Will he begin to have feelings for her, though? I think so.

The Bad


Trent: As great as it was to see a fresh version of Ghost Rider on the small screen, his story was a weird fit for the world of S.H.I.E.L.D. Whenever Robbie was on screen, it felt like he was in a different show. A really cool show with magic, and demons — but still a different show. S.H.I.E.L.D. has come a long way the past four years, and as the big screen version of the MCU pushes into the magical corners of the world with projects like Doctor Strange, it’s no surprise to see that mirrored on S.H.I.E.L.D. But there’s still some work to be done as far as nailing the tone. Not a bad start, but these stories need to come together in a more cohesive way down the line.

Aaron: It actually made sense to me for the Rider to exist within Daisy's L.A. It struck me that, since she's become an Inhuman, she's now suddenly aware of all the cool crap out there, and even happening within her own 'hood. The May scenes, however, didn't do it for me. May is smarter than to be offended by Simmons climbing the chain of command; in fact, May would understand this. Yes, she's still a badass, but May felt like such a cog that Ming-Na Wen's character could've been cut from this episode. I hope they give her more meat this season, and it goes beyond being a puppet to some ghostly presence.

Lingering Questions

Trent: There are a lot of them. One of the biggest and most exciting was certainly the formal introduction of the first Life Model Decoy (LMD), thanks to Dr. Radcliffe (John Hannah). LMD’s have been a staple of the Marvel comic universe for years, and it always seemed like something a bit too weird and confusing for Marvel to actually tackle on the big screen — but it’s perfect for S.H.I.E.L.D. Hannah was a fun addition to the extended cast last season, and this story is an excellent way to keep him around and create some drama between Fitz and Simmons (since Fitz has to keep the project a secret).

More than any season before, this premiere really felt like a soft reboot, and for the most part it worked. All the pieces have been moved around the board, and there are still a lot of questions left unanswered about how and why the team is split up, and exactly how the new director (played by Jason O’Mara, who has yet to being introduced on-screen). They’ve also fully evolved Daisy into her Quake persona, after she went rogue at the end of last season in search of Watchdogs and terrorists. It'll be interesting to see where that story goes next, and how she eventually comes back in from the cold.

Oh, and what the heck was in the mystery box and what did it do to May?

Aaron: That's my main question: What's in the box?! The effects shot of the orange glowy thing infecting others looked like something out of Doctor Strange. I could be wrong here, but it was definitely a mystical force emergring from that mystery box. May even sees Coulson as a possessed creature that looked demonic, but also like something out of Thor 2: The Dark World.

There is a lot to wonder about here. This S.H.I.E.L.D. strikes me as tightly controlled and regimented, and that leads to a whole lot of secrets and problems. And this new, unnamed Director, is going to cause trouble, isn't he?

Best Lines:

“Aryan brotherhood? Not my kind of brothers,” -Mack

"So, you've got the devil inside you, too?" -Robbie to Daisy.

Up Next: Daisy hangs out with the Ghost Rider, and Coulson is almost certainly heading to the principal's office!

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