While the move to the 10 p.m. death spot might ultimately prove more menacing than the Spirit of Vengeance, Agents of SHIELD’s fourth season is going to go down swinging. There were a number of intriguing subplots and switches to the status quo hinting this could be a fun season to play out. Ultimately none provided enough evidence that Ghost Rider wouldn’t be better off as a solo series on Netflix instead of getting forced into the AOS dynamic.
Adding Ghost Rider to the show seems like a desperation Hail Mary to lure in more traditional comic book fans. Those who want a little more superheroic action than Daisy aka Quake battling rogue Inhumans. The show’s darker take on Ghost Rider, right down to his more aggressive human alter ego Robbie Reyes, seems a more natural fit for a 13-episode binge session rather than fighting for time among Daisy and friends.
Fully taking advantage of its later time slot, AOS went heavy on the blood and tantalizing teases of Quake dressing. The latter solely seemed to be for titillation purposes.
Quake has ditched SHIELD and is on her own taking down Watch Dogs syndicates. Daisy’s adopted the Heat philosophy of not being attached to anything she can’t leave behind in 30 seconds. The problem, of course, is AOS has leaned too hard, too often on Daisy realizing she’s better off with the team. We all know she’s going to eventually return to the team so this feels like another side quest to squarely put the spotlight on Daisy.
At least her subplot directly had her tangling with Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna). The flame effects and skull are pivotal in getting Ghost Rider’s visuals right and this looked significantly better than either movie. The episode offered just enough Ghost Rider appearances that it wasn’t a quick tease while leaving ample room for character development. Anyone else weirded out that Robbie’s wheelchair-bound brother was Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) from Fear the Walking Dead?
The rest of SHIELD is also scattered. Coulson has been demoted to agent status teaming with Mack while a new director is running a tighter ship. Simmons is in the director’s inner circle to helping preventing any future infiltration. Simmons proves adept at being a stickler to the point that her longtime friends are leery in confiding in her. Even Fitz.
Radcliffe has nearly perfected his first Life Model Decoy, Aida (Mallory Jansen), but needs Fitz help to make her indistinguishable from a human. The LMDs were a pivotal aspect in the SHIELD comics so I’m looking forward to seeing how that’s implemented this season.
Yo-Yo reappeared on the scene to flirt with Mack and report back to Daisy on SHIELD whereabouts. The Mack/Coulson scenes were a lot of fun. Their new dynamic as peers could carry several episodes alone. May is tasked with training and heading up the elite response unit, but her loyalties remain with the original band.
Coulson and Mack run into a wacky situation where a spirit appears to turn a gang against each other. This will likely be the main threat Ghost Rider will need SHIELD’s help in stopping. Still, I’d be fine watching SHIELD power down the bad guys a touch so the entire team has a purpose.
So while Ghost Rider gets all the attention, it’s the evolving dynamics of the team that have me most invested this season. Splitting the team with different agendas has a ton of potential. Here’s hoping this season reaches it.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: ABC/Richard Cartwright