What’s In The Booooox?!
There, now that i’ve gotten the obvious, and unfortunately topical joke out of the way, I can talk about the Agents of SHIELD season 4 premiere episode The Ghost. Holy shit, we got Ghost Rider on prime time TV, and I don’t have an overwhelming feeling of embarrassment or shame! See kids, before one of our finest actors (fight me) turned him into a meme, Ghost Rider was a badass spectre, who used flaming chains and rode a motorcycle. While this isn’t the Johnny Blaze version of The Rider, Agents of SHIELD still leaned heavy on spectral mythology for their season opener.
The first thing you’ll notice about Agents of SHIELD this season is the attempt to justify their new 10pm timeslot, so within four minutes, we got a gratuitous booty shot, and blood splatter from a possible decapitation. Far be it from me to look down my nose for them turning up the sex a bit, but this is also a show that made sure to not come off as sleazy for three seasons with regards to their female stars. So the opening shot was a bit jarring. That said, there was darker tone that could possibly only be done by this show airing at a later time, and that’s where The Ghost comes in.
We’re a few months out from the events of the season 3 finale. SHIELD has a new (unseen, unnamed) director, and the band has been split up following Daisy’s vigilante turn. She’s now an outed Inhuman, known to the worlds as Quake, determined not to lose anyone else close to her, but also using her powers to help others. It’s that heroic thread that puts her on the trail of Robbie Reyes AKA The Ghost as he’s referred to on the streets of L.A.. A dark force that’s seemingly watching over the citizens and taking out anyone he deems worthy of his vengeance. He’s not interested in taking people in, he’s taking them out, and in gory fashion, which puts him at odds with Quake on her morality meter. I guess there’s a right way to go about killing bad guys.
Back at the base, Coulson has been placed on field duty with Mack. May is now in charge of training new agents in the ways of CQC and straight murkin’ fools, and Fitz is in the lab. No one is particularly happy with their situation, and true to form, Coulson refuses to stop his search for Daisy, and to bring her back into the fold. In a show of restraint, especially considering how quickly things were resolved last season, there was no interaction between Daisy and SHIELD aside from Yo-Yo meeting with her on a bus. Yo-Yo herself being a bit of a free agent. I like that they’re going to let this play out a bit more. If the tone is going to be darker, and they want the fractured team to actually mean something, we have to see what it means for them to be apart, more than just the occasional solo scenes of despair.
Agents of SHIELD works best as an ensemble show. That team has grown and shrank as the show needed, but it was always about the unit. The Ghost has been our first real exposure to a team divided. Not in full on dramatic fashion, or even in a case or moral issue, but literally separated for the “greater good”. Simmon, as we found out in a great moment between she and May, is trying her hardest to hold onto whatever power she can, in order to keep what’s left of her team together. In doing so, she may also be losing those closest to her. Not to blame Simmons for lies and half truths, but you have to suspect that if it weren’t for the pressures of work, Fitz wouldn’t be keeping secrets of Life Model Decoys from his now live-in girlfriend. Also, can we start the countdown to when one of them dies, because there’s no way a Whedon will allow this much happiness for long.
The Ghost was a solid return for Agents of SHIELD . They didn’t overplay anything just yet, and allowed for the effects team to flex a bit. The Ghost Rider transformation is something I never thought i’d see on network TV. They’re also prepared to go some fairly dark places, like Daisy asking The Ghost to let her die, so she’s clearly not as fine as she’d like to let on without those she cares about around her. No matter how much she sees them as a vulnerability. What she really needs to be concerned about is her proximity to dead bodies and practically every government entity looking for her. We’ll likely learn more about Robbie Reyes before we get a full SHIELD reunion, which is good. If the show is going to lean so heavily on the character, he should be fleshed out a bit. You know, before he seers it off in the name of fiery justice.