Agents of SHIELD S4-1: A Bit Slow, but Setting Up Future Excitement (Especially with the Awesome New Ghost Rider)

The cast of Agents of SHIELD standing in front of a SHIELD logo, including Coulson, May, Daisy, Mack, Fitz, and Simmons. The flaming skull of Ghost Rider looms over them.

Image: Marvel/ABC via Coming Soon

Genre: Action/Superhero

Synopsis:

S1: Agent Coulson is somehow mysteriously alive after dying during the Avengers crisis, and he’s putting together his own team now. It should be business as usual, but gradually the secrets within SHIELD catch up with Coulson, his team, and the entire organization.

S2: SHIELD is in tatters, with rival factions vying for power. As Coulson works to unite his SHIELD with another faction, a community of enhanced people (Inhumans) comes into play–and he and his new allies have vastly different ideas about how to handle them.

S3: Coulson has managed to put his organization back together as a covert force, and wants to establish a task force of people with powers led by Daisy, who can create vibrations. But the release of a compound into the environment is causing people to develop powers in violent and uncontrolled ways. While the team navigates a turbulent political landscape, HYDRA’s secret plans–to unleash a terrifying power upon the world–come to fruition.

S4: Daisy’s left SHIELD, working alone as a vigilante. She crosses paths with a new superhuman the likes of which she’s never met–Ghost Rider. Then Daisy, Ghost Rider, and SHIELD all end up investigating the same problem. With different goals and MOs, the lot of them have to stop a new threat while hopefully not getting in each other’s way in the process.

Series: Midway through the 4th season.

I’ve Watched: Everything that’s out so far.

Verdict: Good, though the first half of the 4th season felt a bit more disjointed, and like set-up.

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This season was slightly (but only slightly) less engaging than most of the show has been for me. I feel like this is one of the first times the show didn’t quite successfully juggle its large cast, leading to insufficient development for everyone. It’s still a good show, and I still enjoyed watching it, but I was missing some extra emotional push. 

Daisy was in a bad place and overextending herself by going it alone, but the point of that story line became a bit muddled. That was especially disappointing, because I was really excited to see her tackle vigilantism. It always seemed like the natural option for her way back in season one, with her grassroots-style beliefs and distrust of institutions. Personally, I thought the only reason she got involved in SHIELD was because she wanted that sense of community, that sense of family, and was willing to give up some of her morality in order to get it.

But now that she’s finally on her own, having walked away from SHIELD, that isn’t touched on at all. Instead, she’s frantically trying to cut all emotional ties because of how much it hurts to lose someone–even after spending her life searching for those kinds of bonds. Maybe that still could have been an interesting story, if it wasn’t one that operated on her constantly failing.

Sure, her bones are breaking from the force of using her powers. She doesn’t have anywhere to go to for medical treatment. She’s completely on her own and without support, both physically and emotionally. But that didn’t have to turn her into a damsel in distress quite so often. The limitations placed on Daisy could have been a challenge placed in her path, something she has to get creative to deal with even despite the toll it takes on her body. Instead, those limitations exist as excuses for why she keeps being beaten.

In fact, there were four or so episodes in the beginning of the season where both Daisy and May stopped being the effective badasses we know them as (which lined up with when the next remaining female badass had to be rescued from a hostage situation). And yeah, maybe they had to break Daisy’s bones and supernaturally overstimulate May’s psychology to do it. But those things didn’t have to happen at the same time. It wasn’t enjoyable for me to have that overlap, where pretty much every female character is featured at her weakest. Usually, there’s more of a balance between male and female characters rescuing each other, and that’s what I want to see. So this was unfortunate timing in terms of plotting and character journeys.

That said, I have no doubt this will get better and that this was just a bad coincidence. Agents of SHIELD has usually been pretty good on this front.

The hyped addition to the cast, Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes, also has a lot of potential. There are plenty of things to like about him, and I’m excited to see where his character development goes. His dynamic with Daisy is fun, and his relationship with his brother Gabe is supportive if complicated–especially now that his brother knows the truth, which is something they still have to deal with.

But I feel like I’m still waiting for his character conflict to surface. We meet him as someone who’s very much an anti-hero, who doesn’t feel much remorse or responsibility for the people he kills as the Ghost Rider. He wants vengeance, and he’s willing to pay the price for it. By the end of the half-season, that’s still who he is. Maybe he’s more officially dedicated to it now, since he’s apparently cut another deal. But his goals and drive haven’t really changed or evolved. 

I’m sure this is coming–Robbie had a great moment with his brother when he tried to say he was getting revenge for Gabe, who ended up in a wheelchair because of the same event that made Robbie the Ghost Rider, and Gabe shut him down. Gabe told Robbie that he may not have asked for this, but he was fine, and Robbie couldn’t put those deaths on him.

But in the meantime, I feel like I’m waiting for Robbie’s character arc to take off. Which is part of that missing emotional push I was waiting for from this half-season. Still, I’m super-excited to see where his character goes.

And glad that we’ve got another Latinx superhero on the show–The Nerds of Color talks about it here. I also just found out that Yo Yo, who I’ve been wanting more development from, has her own digital series. Which I’ll be off to go watch now. Agents of SHIELD has previously received criticism for portrayal of racial diversity and appears to have listened, which is cool.

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