Agents of SHIELD’s fourth season is split into three distinct but connected arcs, and judging by the first one, this was the right way to go! Plus, we finally see the MCU’s version of Ghost Rider… both the newer version and the classic (briefly)…
Former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Daisy Johnson, now the vigilante “Quake”, is hunting gang affiliates of the terrorist group Watchdogs in Los Angeles when Aryan Brotherhood members are murdered by the fiery “Ghost Rider”. Agents Phil Coulson and Mack, who were forbidden from searching for Johnson by new S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Jeffrey Mace, are tipped off to her location by Agent Melinda May.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
If only you know what he was doing to them…
Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) – Former head of SHIELD, still likes to boss people around in jokey ways. Has a robotic hand that’s conveniently made to look like a real one (budget issues!)
Daisy Johnson / Quake (Chloe Bennet) – Former SHIELD agent with the Inhuman power to cause quakes, be it through the air as a weapon, or against the ground to cause Earthquakes. Is going through a hard time after her boyfriend died in the last season…
Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) – Your classic kick-ass female agent who shows little emotion, but you know she’s actually good deep inside.
Leo Fitz (Ian De Caestecker) – Your classic socially awkward genius scientist type, with a Scottish accent. Has finally landed his long-time love interest Jemma Simmons.
Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) – Formally socially awkward, but now more friendly and approachable scientist who has been through some stuff (on an alien world, for starters) that has also made her a bit more hardened. Loves Fitz deeply (which is good, given what I put in Fitz’ bio…)
Mack (Henry Simmons) – Large, muscular agent who has began taking a shotgun with an axehead on it around as a trademark weapon, because… why not?
Jeffery Mace / Patriot (Jason O’Mara) – New head of SHIELD and an Inhuman to boot. Super Strength and a chiselled jaw line, he has what it takes to be a much lesser version of Captain America, if this is like the comics anyway…
Holden Radcliffe (John Hannah) – Your classic socially awkward genius scientist type, with a Scottish accent. Has built a life-like android human called Aida, which of course always turns out well…
Robbie Reyes / Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna) – Car mechanic who looks after his disabled younger brother by day, vigilante with a flaming skull by night.
Aida (Mallory Jansen) – Lifelike LMD (or Life Model Decoy) designed to assist humans and if necessary sacrifice itself for them. Has extremely intelligent A.I., which of course never backfires or anything!
“I have Quake powers, but flaming skull demon from Hell is still weird…”
Splitting the series into 3 parts was a damn good move, as this story arc involving Ghost Rider and the mysterious “Darkhold” book, was great and didn’t suffer from the usual filler episodes that past series of AoS has been plagued with. The story surrounding the book and how overwhelmingly powerful it is was good fun, and the scientist team coming back as “ghosts” was fun too.
Robbie Reyes / Ghost Rider is really good, which is a pleasant surprise as I was initially disappointed that we weren’t getting the more classic Ghost Rider in the MCU at last (though as it turns out, we did get a brief glimpse). He’s sympathetic, yet the Ghost Rider side is still “cool” in that cheesy comic book way, plus the effects are impressive for a TV budget. The twist that it was Robbie’s Uncle Eli who pushed the Darkhold-based experiment to its limits in an attempt to give himself godlike powers was good as well. The final battle between the two was satisfying.
Agents of SHIELD vs. Stargate! (Except not… at all)
Daisy / Quake was a bit of a downer to start. The whole “I’ll turn my back on my friends because I’m upset” thing didn’t ring true to me, I saw it more in character that she would have buried herself in her SHIELD work rather than go all vigilante. That being said, her storyline with Reyes / Ghost Rider and how it ended up connecting to SHIELD was well done.
The rest of the cast was up to usual standards, Coulson was funny and a good straight man at different points, May is still a tough-as-nails agent who you completely believe, Fitz and Simmons are still a great couple, though I do fear that now they’re together they’ll be split apart again by the end of the Season (that’s just how these things go…) and Mack is a kind and fun shoulder everyone leans on.
Radcliffe looks at his super-intelligent Android and thinks “Yep, nothing is going to go wrong here!”
Initial impressions of Mace / Patriot are “okay”. He’s quite dull and straight forward, and I don’t like that fact that he is now an Inhuman with powers, you may as well have just gone with another character, but it’s early days yet. I don’t want to be too harsh a judge on him this early.
The cliffhanger implies (well, straight up shows) that the second arc will be rogue A.I. and “who’s real and who’s a robot” Battlestar Galactica style, which doesn’t seem very original. I did like how Aida is only super smart because she read the mystical Darkhold, but other than that I’m worried she’s just Ultron again, which at least a few characters have said already…
An extremely strong start to Season 4. No more Inhuman focus, no more Grant Ward is evil / good / dead / alive etc, and a good storyline that introduces one of the last notable (not-Fox-owned) Marvel characters to the MCU. Let’s keep the momentum going, please!