It has taken three season, the third season being the best, but “Agents of SHIELD” has finally arrived as its own entity of the MCU. The MCU is full of independent characters taking journeys to define themselves and what kind of heroes they will become before interacting with other characters, until “SHIELD” arrived. With a close tie to the films, the show actually had to progress the opposite way. After resolving the plot of Phil Coulson’s death, though, they restarted.
The family on this show has more pathos than most of the MCU. Once again, this family starts as the underdogs. In a way, though, they are in the place they were in the beginning. Their arcs may have changed their roles, but they’re now a legitimate organization.
Is season 4 a just simple reboot? Based on this season première, the characters’ current situations and the set up for their season long arcs respect the show’s history as well as the experiences shared by the characters. The change that the show made feels akin to the frequent reboots that are now the trend for Marvel Comics, but in this case it actually works in the show’s favor because it leaves the viewers questioning both what is going to happen next and what happened to lead the characters to this point but still maintaining every we love about the characters (ie May is still a badass).
“The Ghost”, the title of this première, opens with a provocative image, Quake in her panties, which makes it clear they are taking advantage of their new 10 time slot. To think that is as far as the show went in this first episode, you’d be wrong because they cranked the dial-up to 11 in mature content (for ABC) with a bloody (I mean BLOOODY) confrontation between Ghost Rider and a bunch of thugs. It all comes together in the emotional fight between Ghost Rider and Daisy Johnson. Ghost Rider righteously massacring those thugs made Daisy think that he was the punishment she deserves for Lincoln’s death, which she holds herself responsible for. Well into the fight, however, the Ghost Rider decides to show mercy towards Daisy who went into it with no plan of walking away.
The episode gave each character their new roles in the new order set up by last season, mostly by using Robbie and his supernatural world to gauge their responses. The basis of this show is the spy intrigue, which means the undefined and unknown entity known as Ghost Rider sends as big a shockwave as when Ward and SHIELD hailed Hydra. It makes sense to introduce Ghost Rider. How the show treats Ghost Rider is much like it is in the comics, a righteous fury that hunts down any person he deems is worthy of punishment and smites them. The series is full of people worth smiting at this point, which the viewer can see during the show’s version of a post credit scene involving May and Coulson’s future. The show’s arm has had plenty of shots to it as it became this thrilling show but this one feels different because Rider is a response to the Agents’ darkness. Here is where they turn the light, right?
This year is already shaping up as a tenant in the supernatural subsection of the MCU, with each character playing a part (like Fitz and Radcliffe with their LMD). The nature of these roles may seem difficult to discern (ie Jemma playing double agent with the new boss), but they all have the potential of colliding down the road. This stage of the season is usually full of setting up future plot points, but this season starts off by blending this stage with enough character defining moments that will hook viewers for what’s to come. The LA and SHIELD divide for the setting (Coulson and Mack’s hunt for Daisy in LA and the rest in SHIELD) allowed all the characters plenty of time for introspection, especially Daisy, with Chloe Bennett totally knocking her tortured portrayal out of the park, who wandered LA looking for the vigilante Robbie Reyes and coming up to murals celebrating him as well as him taking care of his paraplegic brother, Gabriel.
Its own brand of intrigue was on full display in this episode, that had Phil Coulson and Mack team-up, which is a pairing isn’t often seen but is fun, to take down criminal with a tie to Robbie Reyes. Up until this point, the show has reacted to the movies but now it feels like it’s able to create their own journey.
While theaters wait for the next Marvel movie to come out, “Doctor Strange”, this show is making its own path of the mystical MCU. Its effective in establishing the changes. Over the course of this episode, we visit with each character in new statuses caused by last season’s time jump while showing the conflicts that will be taking them through this fourth season, like Daisy’s death wish face-off with Ghost Rider. The past seasons spent too much time winning fans of the films over by clinging tightly to those stories but, thanks to last season’s successes, the show can start making its own contributions to the MCU.
“SHIELD” has lost all its binds. The MCU has gained an expansive and interesting corner when the show stopped kowtowing to the blockbuster movies and started staking its own creative ground, like with new addition of Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider. Based on this season première alone, the show progressed further down the scary and horror road (that 100% will lead to Doctor Strange) more than any of the films which gives them the role of Marvel pioneers as they are able to define the mythos as they come across them before the movies. While support from the movies is very vital to the marketing of this show, the première proves that the show can generate its own stories.