Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S04E01 “The Ghost” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Rogue Daisy – aka Quake – is on the trail of a new, unknown superweapon that the Chinatown crew in LA has paid some frankly rubbish hoodlums to steal (the Watchdogs seem to be involved as well, as we get a glimpse of one of their helmets and a Watchdog tattoo but even Daisy admits she doesn’t quite understand the link).
- When Daisy tries to intercept the hoodlums she’s beaten to it by a mysterious flaming figure who kidnaps one of the guys and leaves the others for dead.
- At SHIELD, the new director has split up the old gang. A demoted Coulson and Mack are now intercontinental Inhuman hunters; May is training up a new strike squad (the members of which have future cannon fodder written all over them); and Jemma appears to be sucking up to new boss in her role as his personal scientific advisor (but she claims to May later that she’s just cosying up to him so she can be in a position to change things).
- SHIELD also now has daily state-of-the-art lie-detector tests – a Jemma creation. She’s not exactly winning new friends at the moment.
- The new director doesn’t want Coulson and Mack chasing Daisy but when May hears that Quake might be in LA she surreptitiously tips them off.
- Daisy is now on the trail of Ghost Rider – thankfully his car is proves pretty easy to trace – and through various bits of not very exciting detective work, winds up at the workplace of a mechanic called Robbie Reyes who…
- …she quickly works out is the guy she’s after (it’ the old “recognisable habit trope!).
- He immediately turns into a flaming skulled demon and they have an AWESOME fight. Well, awesome for TV anyway. It’s worth watching the whole episode for.
- He beats her. She begs to be killed. He doesn’t oblige, presumably because he claims he only kills those who deserve it.
- He walks off, returns to human form, and the next day Daisy spies on him being humanised even further; the writers show him being all sweet and tender with his disabled bro’.
- While that’s all going on, Coulson and Mack fail to find Daisy but they do find the box that the hoodlums stole for the Chinatown gang… but not before whatever’s in the box sends all the Chinatown gang barking and intent on killing each other.
- That’s when May and her strike force turn up and deal with the situation. May’s been forced to intervene by Jemma, who found out that May had leak intel to Coulson and Mack. Jemma is forced to do this to maintain the trust of the new director.
- May, though, becomes unknowingly infected by whatever was in the box and later starts hallucinating that Couslon is a zombie. But she doesn’t let on…
- Elsewhere, Radcliffe reveals his latest secret project to an aghast Fitz – he’s given his AI interface a (beautiful, female) body, but he gives Scout’s honour that he’s not been using her as a sex toy.
- Creating AI robots has been made illegal since that Ultron business, but Radcliffe uses semantics, basically, to justify Aida; she’s not a weapon, she’s an intelligent decoy.
- Fitz, despite himself, agrees to help perfect Aida, but warns that – because of her closeness with the new director – Jemma cannot be told about Aida just yet.
Most of the prepublicity for this episode concentrated on the debut of Ghost Rider, and we certainly weren’t left wanting. Any suspicions his fiery-skulled debut would be saved for a cliffhanger tease were dispelled in the first scene. Although we didn’t get a good look at him immediately he was in the thick of the action, and that action was flaming spectacular. The Rider’s car doing a backflip was a stunner.
And that was nothing compared to the big Quake vs Ghost Rider showdown at the end of the episode, which has to rate as one of TV’s greatest superhero slugfests ever filmed. It wasn’t just the visual effects and the action – though they were mightily impressive – but the way it was shot and the striking colour palette that made it looks so damned fine.
It’s a good job that Ghost Rider did live up to expectations – no, let’s be honest, exceeded expectations – because the rest of the episode was a a little creaky. Don’t get us wrong, there was lots to enjoy and some very amusing dialogue (especially May disgust at the new spectrum-themed rankings at SHIELD; presumably she’s no Captain Scarlet fan). But the plotting simply didn’t hang together and the driving force behind the story – a new, mysterious, apparently supernatural superweapon – felt sidelined and distinctly underwhelming, victim of a plot featuring too many faceless, dull, minor league villains.
But there was fun to be had in the incidental details. It’s a clever idea to keep the new director absent for this season premiere as we get to know him more through his deeds than his words; and a right officious plonker he’s coming across as so far. We’re guessing we’ll be in for a surprise when we finally meet him.
Radcliffe and Fitz’s ethical discussions about Aida are surprisingly fun too, considering most of their scenes are two guys dumping exposition on us. But it is good to hear them mention Ultron – an AI like that is bound to have an effect on official policy regarding androids. Plus, it’s two Scotsmen getting distracted from soccer… you just know they have to be talking about something vitally important. It’s heartbreaking, though, when Fitz makes the decision not to tell Jemma and y0u can see at least half a season of relationship turmoil brewing.
Meanwhile, Yoyo teasing Mack is just impossibly cute.
So it’s a good solid episode for loyal fans, giving some interesting character development. But for more casual viewers, aside from the outstanding Ghost Rider action, the episode may have come across as a little directionless and plodding – it wasn’t “case of the week” enough to have a satisfying beginning, middle and end and yet as the first stepping stone in an extended arc, it’s difficult to to get a handle on where the season’s going from here.
- The Ghost Rider visual effects are stunning and the two major action sequences he’s involved in are just brilliant. We especially liked the under-the-chin shot above which shows how hollow his flaming skull is. For some reason that really freaked us out.
- “Of course he did!” Jemma losing her rag with May and revealing what she’s really up to is a great moment; especially as May seems to appreciate Jemma losing her rag.
- The gags with the acronyms – SADIST (Special Advisor to the Director In Science and Technology) and WIMP (Widespread Infiltration Monitoring Programme) – are very amusing but you have to wonder if the new director is such a blinkered bell-end that he doesn’t realise what he’s created, or if he’s just got a wicked sense of humour.
- Okay, the Aida plot is pretty much wall-t0-wall exposition, but the dialogue’s good, John Hannah and Iain De Caestecker bounce off each other really well and the way it dovetails with the MCU as regards fears of AI after Ultron raises some interesting ethical questions.
- Plus, Fitz’s expression when he first sees naked Aida would have won the episode if not for Ghost Rider.
- Plus… “What the hell?”
“Well, I’ve just upped her PSU to compensate for image processing. I must have overcranked it a wee bit.”
“No, no, no, no. No, no. That’s not what I meant. I meant: WHAT THE HELL?!”
- We also loved the Carry On smuttiness in:
“I built her a body.”
“Yeah, a naked body.”
“I was just now installing new hardware…”
- It was great to see Daisy using her powers loads. Even just to slam shut a hospital door. This seems to be building up to something, as she’s not wearing her protective gauntlets any more and Yoyo warns her that she’s shaking her body apart; presumably it links in with her plea to Ghost Rider at the end of the episode to kill her – she doesn’t care about dying. But whatever the reason, it’s so refreshing to see a TV superhero use their powers so casually, without a care for the budget.
- Coulson’s description of the Aryan brotherhood as, “the value meal of hired guns,” is just great.
- As are both Mack’s request for an exploding pen and Fitz’s obvious incredulity anybody would want one.
- Coulson now has an x-ray hand.
- May’s shrug when ghost woman sweeps by is hilariously theatrical. Considering how Ming-Na Wen usually underplays everything, we can only assume the director was encouraging he to camp it up a little. It doesn’t suit her.
- Did we really need shots at the start of Daisy putting her knickers on? It seemed a little gratuitous.
- Daisy sobbing, “Do it… I deserve it!” to Ghost Rider was extremely corny. If Daisy does have a death wish (maybe there are still some lingering after effects of her union with Hive, as well as guilt over Lincoln), the writers could have revealed it with a bit more subtlety. This just felt such a cliché, and a jarring moment.
- The new “supernatural”’ weapon will presumably become a big element in the coming season but the plotline surrounding it here – all dull hoodlums, faceless crime bosses, and off-screen lorry jacking – is uninspiring to say the least.
- So FitzSimmons are having relationship wobbles. Okay, dramas need friction between characters, but it all feels a little contrived and too soon.
- Ghost Rider’s rationale that he only kills the bad guys, and Daisy argument that he hasn’t the right to judge, sounds just a little too close to the Daredevil/Punisher dynamic for comfort.
And The Random:
- The scene in which Ghost Rider’s car does a backflip after being hit by a bazooka rocket is lifted straight from All-New Ghost Rider #2 (above).
- Robbie Reyes works for Canelo’s Auto and Body in All-New Ghost Rider too.
- DID YOU SPOT? The first time we see Robbie’s face (in a lorry’s wing mirror) he’s mucking about with some chains. Ghost Rider famously uses flaming chains in the comics (and considering SHIELD’s season four publicity we assume he will in the show as well).
- We honestly thought at this point Coulson was going to say to Fitz, “But it doesn’t match!”
- Robbie’s brother, Gabe, is played by Lorenzo James Henrie, who’s been starring in Fear The Walking Dead recently as Chris Manawa.
- Daisy has a little hula girl doll on her dashboard, just like she did way at the start of the show before she joined SHIELD.
- Aberdeen and Inverness did indeed face each other in the Scottish League Cup Finals (not “Finals”, Mr Graphics Designer person)… but in 2014! So this must be a future final unless the MCU has always been set two years in the past.
- The logo for Cosmogenic Manufacturing looks similar to an infinity sign (∞). Significant?
- If Mack and Yoyo do become a proper couple, can we call them Yomack?