Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Agents of SHIELD reviews here.
Agents of SHIELD returned in “The Ghost”, a highly anticipated season premiere that largely lived up to expectations.
The big headline coming into this season was the inclusion of Ghost Rider, and Robbie Reyes wasted no time making his presence known. He kicked off the episode with an impressive and violent debut, and capped it off with an intense duel with Daisy. Any worries about wonky television CGI were put to rest. Though the effects were not exactly cinematic, Ghost Rider nevertheless looked very menacing, and Robbie’s first onscreen transformation was particularly effective.
In fact, “The Ghost” as a whole felt darker than Agents of SHIELD used to be. The action was more violent and downright bloody, no doubt a benefit of the 10 p.m. time slot. But the storytelling and characterization was also more grim, and this I feel has less to do with time slots and more with the natural progression of the series. It’s a far cry from the overly jokey tone of early Season 1.
Daisy’s journey perfectly exemplifies this. After all she’s experienced, most recently Lincoln’s death, it makes sense that she’s become a lone vigilante who avoids getting close to anyone. Plus, this attitude suits her well, and I look forward to seeing more of her.
In terms of the story, “The Ghost” refreshingly went in a different direction than I would have predicted. Based on how Season 3 ended, I assumed this premiere would be mostly about the team bringing Daisy back into SHIELD and succeeding, perhaps teasing Ghost Rider along the way, but saving the full reveal for later. Instead, not only did Agents of SHIELD double down on its “lone wolf vigilante” storyline with Daisy, but it also led with Ghost Rider right out of the gate.
Meanwhile, things have vastly changed back at SHIELD HQ. SHIELD is back to being government-run in the aftermath of the Sokovia Accords (though I doubt the movies will reference this), forcing Coulson to step down as director. And his still-unnamed replacement has for whatever reason chosen to split up the original band. This led to some tension among the group, but also a fair bit of secrecy, as Coulson and Mack’s search for fugitive Daisy had to be kept private.
Instead of Daisy, though, their search led them to a mysterious box with what appear to be magical properties. Between that McGuffin and Ghost Rider, it’s clear that Agents of SHIELD will be tying into the upcoming release of Doctor Strange thematically with the inclusion of magic and mysticism.
But on the more science-fiction side of things, we finally have Life Model Decoys in the Marvel Cinematic Universe courtesy of Dr. Radcliffe. Fitz’s bewildered reactions elevated those otherwise purely expository scenes. It’s a great nod to the comics, but Agents of SHIELD has to be careful with LMDs as a plot device. You don’t want to overuse the gimmick of seemingly killing off a character only to reveal it to have been a robot decoy. I would love to see that trick used, but perhaps not more than once.
My only complaint about “The Ghost” is that for the moment, the different plot threads—Daisy/Ghost Rider, SHIELD, LMDs—are a bit too disconnected. But judging by last year, it won’t be long before it’s all brought together with a singular focus. That aside, “The Ghost” was a very strong showing for a dependable, entertaining show, with promising developments ahead.