What an entrance for Ghost Rider.
At night time, on the streets of Los Angeles, a few low-life crooks cower as they fear of what’s coming. Daisy, known to the world as Quake, watches from a distance as a roaring muscle car approaches from the distance. One of the crooks has an RGP and lets it fly. The car catches fire as it somersaults through the air, but lands on its wheels. Nothing can stop it, not even the flames that encapsulate it.
Flames spread throughout the intersection of the street. A figure steps out and grabs one of them. As Daisy watches the horror, she sees flames come out of his skull as he tosses him into the car and rides off.
Yeah, Ghost Rider is totally awesome.
Season 4 of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” delivered on all fronts in its premiere episode that gave us plenty of Ghost Rider, an insight into what we’ll learn about him throughout the season, as well as the new environment in which the remaining agents — Mack, May, Fitz, Simmons and, yes, Coulson (no longer the director) — are learning to work while under new management.
Quake isn’t shy in using her earthquake-like vibration abilities to help her fly around town. She still kicks butt, but in the opening scene, we also get a sexier, edgier shot of her suiting up, something the writers and actors promised about the show now that it’s in a later timeslot (again, as I’ve mentioned previously, it’s not like that’s going to be a primary focus, hopefully). A later scene showed Fitz and Simmons lying in bed together watching some TV.
Quake tries to track down Ghost Rider, but so do agents Coulson and Mack. The two of them have been flying around the world the past six weeks in the Quinjet, but they finally got called back into headquarters to take on this mission; knowing that it might lead to Daisy’s whereabouts certainly provided extra motivation.
Their paths don’t cross, though. Daisy finds out the location of this mystery muscle car and asks a guy about it. Turns out she’s talking to Ghost Rider himself. As soon as she figures that out, she hits him with a quick force quake (that’s what I’m going to call this move of hers), and he lights up a bat on fire. A fight between Daisy and Ghost Rider.
Watching Robbie Reyes evolve into Ghost Rider was quite the sight to behold. The CG work was a bit caricature-ish, yet heavy and lively at the same time; it knocked of “The Terminator.” The fight wasn’t too long or anything. Daisy tries to understand his reasoning for killing innocent people, but he enlightens her with the true characteristics of his victims, which include being a pedophile or a crooked cop with blood on his hands. Daisy counters, telling him he doesn’t have the right to decide who lives or dies.
Reyes tells her, “I’m not the one who decides.”
Coincidentally, I’m nearly done watching Season 2 of “Daredevil” on Netflix, and Daredevil and the Punisher have an incredibly powerful, passionate discussion about that very same topic. There are a lot of story ideas to mine here, and Ghost Rider is a perfect character to tangle with those boundaries. This is speculation, but it looks like Daisy might go to the dark side and embrace his ideas, at least at first. On that note, Marvel’s Netflix shows have had a darker tone to them, and it seems ABC may be picking up on that a bit, especially given the new timeslot for “AoS.”
At the end of their fight, Ghost Rider has Quake pinned to the ground. She curiously tells him, “Go ahead. I deserve to die.” He, of course, lets her live as he takes off, but I’m curious to see how much guilt she’s carrying with her. Is it from anything she did in Season 3? Did she get out of control since the end of Season 3 and go a little too far? Or is she just too scared to let anyone get close to her again? I could just be looking too into it, but I suspect we’ll learn of some bad deeds of hers.
Meanwhile, back at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, a new boss is in charge mainly because of the fallout in Season 3 involving President Talbot and the mistrust created with the government and whatnot. We didn’t meet the new director, but the agents aren’t too fond of some of the adjustments they’ve had to make. Coulson handles it well for the most part, but he’s already trying to keep some of his missions off the books, and he got help with that from May. Simmons is in a new position of authority, and I like it. Elizabeth Henstridge continues to be one of the shining actors on the show, and she appears to have chances to spread her wings even more. Plus, Simmons and Fitz are in the cutesy, hand-holding, young-love phase of their relationship, so there’s no doubt we’ll get to see more of that side to them.
There were several great lines in the episode. The one guy that initially survived seeing Ghost Rider eventually died in the hospital, but not before saying, “They say when the rider burns you, he burns your soul, and you can never heal.” Given that Ghost Rider makes a deal with the devil, he’d better turn out to be as formidable a foe as they’re hinting at already, maybe even the toughest villain the show has seen yet.
During a briefing, Fitz outfits Coulson with a new prosthetic hand. Turns out, that hand was totally tricked out; it even has x-ray abilities. Mack gets jealous, and Coulson responds, “If you want tech like this, you should’ve cut off your own hand.”
There were several mentions of the Sokovia Accords, which were established in “Captain America: Civil War.” Is it possible we’ll see some loyalty conflicts among the enhanced? Yo-Yo, a returning enhanced person from Season 3, helped Coulson and Mack on their mission, but she also secretly worked with Daisy; she gave her pills to help ease her pain from using her powers too much (something to keep a watch for). Is Yo-Yo playing two sides? Will others do the same?
The line “Everyone is attached to something,” is said multiple times in the episode. Allegiances are fragile now, so the question will become whether they break altogether or get re-forged. Time will tell.
Last but not least, Dr. Radcliffe (introduced late in Season 3) has been busy working on Aida, who was teased at the tail-end of the Season 3 finale. Aida is a sentient robot. While he’s trying to avoid the calamities of creating a true artificial intelligence (akin to Ultron, whom Radcliffe references), he wants Aida to pass the Turing test as well as pass for a normal human being. So an A.I. storyline definitely seems forthcoming.
Odds and ends:
— One location given in the episode is Monterey Park, Califorinia. I actually used to live there, so I know it’s a real place.
— Daisy walks by a guy drawing graffiti of Ghost Rider on the wall. The guy basically says that anyone who sees “The rider” is on the wall. If everyone who sees him dies, how would anyone else know what he looks like? (It’s possible, of course, but the wording kind of trapped itself).
— Simmons used a cool piece of VR tech that Fitz created. It’ll be cool if VR stuff gets used more.
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EDT on ABC.
— Jeremy Costello is the Sports Editor and Entertainment Guru for the Butler County (Kansas) Times Gazette.