The much anticipated, by me anyway, season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered this Tuesday. What did I think?
Glad you asked.
Like seasons one through three, the premiere episode this season was heavily overwritten. Not that it was a bad show, just that they crammed so many storylines into the one hour show that it can seem a bit overwhelming and incomprehensible on initial viewing. Personally, I think the showrunners are still insecure about the show and it's following and feel they have to grab our attention immediately or we'll lose interest. I wish they'd give us a bit more credit. Having said that . . .
We see now, as teased at the end of last season, that Daisy has morphed pretty fully into the "Quake" character. She's working as both a Robin Hood like vigilante -- we see her leaving bundles of money for various persons who supposedly were wronged in some way, and also tracking some terrorist-like bad guys. In this case, some white supremacist types (probably the only group that can be portrayed as evil without offending someone) who are trafficking in some sort of mysterious thing. Daisy has matured in her ability to use her powers making her a formidable fighter and we are also shown the side-effects of her unrestrained use of these powers via the bruising on her arms as she is literally destroying herself by emitting force waves.
Her attempts to apprehend the bad guys leads to the much ballyhooed appearance of the Ghost Rider as he too is after the same dudes. We also get a look at why the show was moved to 10 p.m. as, along with the Chloe Bennett body double pulling on panties over her bare behind in the opening sequence, the Ghost Rider's outright killing of the bad guys is pretty bloody.
The Ghost Rider in the show is the more recent Robby Reyes version of the Rider as opposed to the more traditional Johnny Blaze motorcycle riding version you may already know. But aside from bringing some more ethnic diversity to the show's main characters, we get Reyes driving an absolutely beautiful 1969 Charger, all souped up with a blower sticking up through the hood, old school mags and big tires . . . nice. A throwback to when cars were cars without computers and cameras and airbags . . . just big brutal raw horsepower that you had to know how to handle. Mmmmm . . .
After Daisy tracks Reyes down to the junk yard where he hangs out, we get a pretty decent fight between them along with some interesting insights into both characters. Reyes apparently has layers of Rider within him as his eyes blaze and he is able to set things like whatever he grabs on fire without fully morphing into the Rider. That's some control I'm not familiar with from the old days of the comics. Plus once the Rider overpowers Daisy and has her helpless, she begs him to kill her, saying she deserves to die. This is a carry over of her guilt from last season at losing Lincoln plus her desire to have the sense of belonging she found as part of Hive and then lost when she was freed from his sway. A subtle touch in the storytelling, I thought. We see the Rider spare Daisy, and we know from his mythology that the Rider judges before he kills and thus finds Daisy an innocent. This sparing of Daisy may play out through the season as a way to free Daisy from her guilt if perhaps she gets to know Reyes and his alter ego and exactly how he functions. We'll have to see.
Elsewhere in the show, we see that post the Sokovia accords from Captain America: Civil War, S.H.I.E.L.D. (ugh, those acronyms) has been reconstituted and no longer in the shadows. Coulson has been demoted, probably because he technically isn't supposed to be alive, and teamed with Mack, and doing basic agent work like tracking Daisy down and also looking for these same terrorist types.
Coulson gets constantly upgraded arms from Fitz who seems over his aphasia from last season and is getting ever more inventive, debuting a vr interface that maps the human brain and may be the key to something else they foreshadowed later in the episode.
Though Fitz and Simmons are now an official "couple," Gemma herself is no longer in the lab with Fitz. She has taken on the role of the new director's assistant. We don't see him yet, but it seems he's a next level paranoid -- demanding constant lie detector tests of the agents and installing a hilariously complex level of security clearances to keep anyone from getting to something he decides they shouldn't see. What is first assumed by her fellow agents as Gemma trying to be upwardly mobile, it is revealed that Gemma doesn't trust the new guy in charge and is trying to gather enough power unto herself to defend them later if things go south within S.H.I.E.L.D.
May is tasked with creating her own team of operatives and has a group of four, I think, that she trains to be as ruthless and deadly as she is herself. We see a glimpse of them working to take down a group of baddies as Mack and Coulson look on astonished at their abilities and unrepentant shoot first, ask questions later ethos.
The final reveal in the episode comes courtesy of Holden Radcliffe, who we were introduced to last season. A scientist on a par with Tony Stark and Fitz, we saw him tease the Life Model Decoy first spoken of in the first Avengers movie. What was supposed to be Fitz and Simmons going over to Holden's to watch a World Cup game or something gives us a look at Aida, played by Mallory Jansen -- a physical embodiment of Holden's computer. Using Fitz's breakthroughs in synthetic body recreation (as in Coulson's arm), Holden put his computer into a human-like body. When Fitz recoils at the notion and reminds Holden of Stark's failure with Ultron, Holden has Aida reveal her purpose -- to create doubles of the agents so that these doubles can take their place in the field and spare any more loss of human life on missions. I'm assuming this is where Fitz's brain mapping may come into play and wondering if the idea is to create programmable stand-alones or perhaps something more along the lines of the 2009 Bruce Willis movie Surrogates.
Like I said, a lot happening in the first hour of the season.
We also get some sort of ghost like creature either haunting or inhabiting May. Yelena Rodriguez (Yo Yo) makes an appearance and besides flirting so heavily with Mack (apparently they've already had dinner together) that he comes off like a stammering schoolboy, she also is helping Daisy by stealing medicine from headquarters to help her body heal from her usage of her powers.
Not sure if we're going to get any more stuff on Inhumans, and since they don't hesitate to name check the various movies and their plots, we'll have to see whether Dr. Strange gets any mention, or whether Coulson will weigh in on Cap's decision to leave the Avengers and so on.
I like the 10:00 p.m. broadcast time. I'm hoping this leads to more action and adult themed moments -- I'm liking Daisy's goth-y look. And where they're going to go with Ghost Rider. Be kind of fun if he and Daisy form a sort of bad ass vigilante team. Definitely looking forward to the rest of the season.
Not much happened in the off season, but here's a few recent appearances by Chloe Bennett and Ming na Wen: