Ghost Rider's Arrival Heralds a Darker, More Mature Agents of SHIELD, for Better and for Worse

Wednesday, 21 September 2016 - 10:38AM
Marvel
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
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Wednesday, 21 September 2016 - 10:38AM
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After last season's intense finale shook things up (literally), season 4 is off to a fiery new start with the introduction of Ghost Rider. The show kicks off its debut in the 10pm timeslot with a darker villain that complements its edgier aesthetic and heralds a new, more mature era for the show. This edginess could be great news, if the show manages to support its mature content with substantive themes.


So far, the show is working overtime to live up to its later time-slot – maybe too much so. While this could allow for some more complex, darker, and mature storylines, so far all it's translated to is an extra spattering of blood and an unnecessarily gratuitous changing scene for Daisy. This slip up is particularly annoying, not only because it's anti-feminist, but because the show has a history of forgoing pointless objectification for more complex female-driven plotlines. Nudity and violence are often markers of great shows, but only if their inclusion is deliberate, thoughtful, and relevant to overarching themes and/or character development. AOS should try to emulate the production value and writing of HBO shows, not its attitude towards female nudity.
 
Here's the good news: Robbie Reyes made a fantastic first-impression as Ghost Rider, who is a darker and more ambiguous villain than we usually see on the show. His morally grey judgment calls when it comes to dealing out vengeance are reminiscent of The Punisher. Between the tortured anti-heroes and new supernatural elements, the show is starting to look more at home alongside Marvel's Netflix line-up (which, in this context, is a much more positive comparison than Game of Thrones).
 
The arrival of Ghost Rider is a game-changer in many ways, and it will be interesting to see how the relationship between Robbie Reyes and Ghost Rider is developed. It quickly becomes clear that, although Robbie has some semblance of control over who he confronts, the Ghost Rider takes over and decides their fate. In one heartbreaking scene, Daisy tells Ghost Rider to get it over with and end her life, feeling that she deserves it. Ghost Rider ultimately makes a different call, allowing her to escape.  
 
But maybe the most intriguing aspect of the episode was the introduction of Aida, Dr. Radcliffe's latest creation and the new running side plot of the season. Aida, played by the talented Mallory Jansen, appears to be the show's first Life-Model Decoy (a type of android from the Marvel Comics Universe). Artificial intelligence obviously brings to mind the Ultron disaster, but Aida's job is to serve as a "shield," incapable of killing anyone. The concept has great appeal given the deaths of the last few seasons, but Fitz opts to keep it a secret from Simmons to prevent her having to lie about it's existence to the new Director. Because obviously it's too much to ask for Fitz and Simmons to have a happy, drama-free run as a couple this season.
 
The show has the potential to show Marvel at its best this season, mixing magic and science with complex character-driven plots, not to mention the addition of cool new tech (Coulson's fancy x-ray enabled prosthetic is decidedly one of the best tech toys of the new season, only after Fitz's amazing "holodeck", of course). Hopefully the added creative freedom that comes with a later time-slot will be a boon for the show and allow for darker themes, and not just cringe-worthy attempts at "edginess."

Next week, get ready to meet S.H.E.I.L.D.'s new Director in "Meet the Boss", played by Jason O'Mara (Terra Nova):
 
 
 

Best lines:

 
-"Want a beer?" "It's 6 o'clock in the morning, what are you, Hemingway?"
 
-"The director didn't want to use numbers because he didn't want any team member to feel less-than." "You do have a higher clearance than me." "Only in most instances." "I feel less-than."
 
-"Want tech like this? Should've cut off your own hand."
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