Welcome back, fellow Agents of SHIELD fans! Though last week’s was an exciting premiere for the fourth season featuring a badass Ghost Rider, this week’s episode introduced many of the upcoming through-lines for the season and the mysterious, possibly canonical elements that we fans love to explore. How will the new characters shape the show’s tone? Will the restructuring of SHIELD feel like a process we’ve already undergone in previous seasons (though now somewhat in reverse) or will a whole new SHIELD emerge as they once again make the clandestine organization public? And how will a character like Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider fit into the new world of the Sokovia Accords?
Agents of SHIELD: Ghost Rider
Over the Summer some of us were concerned that adding a character like Ghost Rider – big name, heavy CGI – would be a poor move for the show, overpowering the ensemble style while not adding the correct level of intrigue. There were also those that worried using the fifth, in some ways lesser, version of the Rider (without the signature bike, not a true Spirit of Vengeance, etc.) would leave a sour taste with diehard fans. Thankfully, we critics have been proven wrong, seeing a complicated and mysterious but defined Robbie Reyes, well written so far and well performed.
Furthermore, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen spoke at this year’s SDCC about the connection between Ghost Rider’s arrival and what may be the series’ most curious theatrical tie-in yet, November’s Doctor Strange:
Along with and in mysterious connection to Ghost Rider and Doctor Strange, this fourth season of Agents of SHIELD has already introduced some interesting comic book canonical elements and new plot directions. In the name of avoiding SPOILERS, True Believers, let’s hit the READ MORE link and look at what’s coming on this season of Agents of SHIELD…
*****SPOILER WARNING FOR THE TWO EPISODES OF Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and the upcoming Doctor Strange film SPOILER WARNING*****
Before we get to the real juicy stuff, let’s mention this cool note from Episode 4.02:
Agent of SHIELD: Jeffrey Mace aka Patriot is the New Director
The restructuring of SHIELD from Season 3 to 4 has led to many changes, not the least of which is Coulson’s replacement as Director. Eager to put a public face on the secret organization in the wake of the Sokovia Accords, there are more protocols, more compartmentalization, and lots of signs around the base that say “Suspect it? Report it”. There were subtle hints before his reveal this week including Coulson referring to him as a hero and addressing him by name as “Jeff”. In the Golden Age of comics, Jeffrey Mace is the Patriot, a war hero who takes up the Captain American mantle while Rogers is MIA, which Coulson and Mace make mention of in the episode. Here in the MCU, Mace has been cleverly interpreted as an Inhuman with super strength and invulnerability, a natural progression from his comic book predecessor and a smooth plot device as SHIELD aims to gain the public’s trust.
Several questions persist in the reveal of the new Director’s identity: Is he trustworthy? What’s going to happen to May? Will this new, segmented, public-face SHIELD work or somehow come crashing down when it’s revealed that Mace is an Inhuman?
Agents of SHIELD: How will the MCU version of Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider compare with the comics?
I’ll not do a full background on the most modern Ghost Rider (for that, simply click here), but there are elements that make him instantly recognizable as the version from the Marvel NOW! initiative. For one, Robbie drives a muscle car (’69 Dodge Charger) that lights on fire instead of the iconic chopper, he is Latino and a younger iteration than Johnny Blaze or Danny Ketch. On a more substantive level, Reyes is not considered an actual Spirit of Vengeance like his predecessors but is instead possessed by the spirit of his dead serial killer uncle, Eli. But with all his talk in the first two episodes of guilt and innocence, of a lack of moral dilemma in committing his vigilante justice, it certainly seems possible that the show will be imbuing Robbie with some of the credo of Blaze and Ketch.
That being said, while running through their fake history together, Daisy did make mention of Robbie’s uncle, though not by name, so it’s possible the story of the MCU’s Robbie Reyes will be a mix of several Ghost Rider origins.
We know that the mention of Momentum Laboratories was both familiar and alarming to Robbie. Will whatever experiments the ghosts had been conducting there be linked to Robbie’s own possession/transformation? Is his uncle Eli a member of the group?
Did Robbie’s Ghost Rider commit a Penance Stare on the ghost Fredrick (an ability restricted to the earlier GR’s)? There certainly seemed to be some pause before he eviscerated him and it would an excellent tool for him to possess as he encounters a SHIELD team already full of moral complication. Speaking of Fredrick and his friends…
Agents of SHIELD: Who are the ghosts?
We’re first introduced to the ethereal adversaries in the premiere when a group of Chinese gangsters are transporting what they believe is a weapon in a high-tech box. The leader opens the box and a ghost emerges, infecting the minds of him and his men with the desire to kill each other.
We now know that they have some connection to Robbie and some have speculated that they could be involved with Robbie’s uncle Eli, that perhaps he is the one who double-crossed them. Lucy, though, was looking for someone named Joseph who would seem to have been their leader and with whom the other ghosts are very angry. We also know they are working with technology that is beyond anything FitzSimmons have ever seen and they were doing so quite a few years ago, though we don’t yet know how long they were locked in those boxes, only that it was “years”.
Do their names (Joseph, Lucy, Fredrick, and Hugo) or the name of Momentum Laboratories lend us any hints about who they might be, if they are, in fact, canonical?
They’ve been overt about using Lucy’s name and establishing some level of detail to her character (i.e. her leadership in their project that also makes her to blame). I am hypothesizing that “Lucy” will either be directly pulled from the comics or a stand-in for a name like “Lilith” or “Louise”.
We know they have the power to poison people’s mind and that their ethereal state is impermanent and doesn’t prevent them from, say, using a computer. And they are the ones who have now introduced to the MCU…
Agents of SHIELD: The Darkhold
The inclusion of the Darkhold in this week’s episode is certainly the biggest reveal, and the hint that ties together the several separate mysterious plot elements. The Darkhold is an ancient book written by the Elder God C’Thon, containing all his black magic knowledge and power. Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s stories of Cthulhu, the grimoire has appeared throughout Marvel Comics, and perhaps most famously is housed for some time in Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Santorum, the dark companion to his magical tome, the Book of the Vishanti. I predict a shot that sees Strange placing the Darkhold on his bookshelf by either the end of the movie or the end of the season.
The ghosts’ ethereal state is very reminiscent of what happened to Dr. Wilkes in the second season of Agent Carter. This was a result of Isodyne’s experiments with Darkforce (also called Zero Matter), and I think this is where it all ties together (#ItsAllConnected). After the fall of Isodyne, I predict some other nefarious and/or government organization took up their work with the Darkforce, somehow also came into possession of the Darkhold, and has been experimenting with them as a means of reaching other dimensions, specifically either the Darkforce Dimension or the Dark Dimension (which could become one in the same in the MCU). It would seem whoever is behind the experiments was also trying to create a weapon from the Darkforce, hence the reason for the ghosts imprisonment and the Chinese being told they were transporting a powerful weapon.
Darkforce has also already emerged on Agents of SHIELD, poking a potential hole in my theory that we would be seeing the villain Blackout in two weeks when we get a worldwide… blackout. The Marcus Daniels version of the character is exploded with gamma radiation at the end of the Season 1 episode, “The Only Light in the Darkness” making him unlikely to reappear. But it is the second version of the character that plays nemesis to Danny Ketch’s Ghost Rider in the comics, travels to and from the Darkforce Dimension, and eventually does battle with Dr. Strange and the Midnight Sons.
Also, since we’re talking about the Darkforce, have I mentioned that a Clock and Dagger tv series has been greenlit?
Agents of SHIELD: How will it tie in to Doctor Strange?
Anyone who knows me knows I’m more than a little excited about this Fall’s new Marvel Studios release, Doctor Strange. It’s a character and series I find particularly captivating and inspiring (‘Professa Strange, Vol. 1‘ coming soon!) and, though information has been fairly secret, what we’ve seen so far looks excellent. But given the other-worldly, occult, and astral elements of Strange, how will it connect and tie into an MCU so far based in a logical-scientific reality (of a certain variety, at least)?
What we do know about the film’s plot is that Mads Mikkelsen plays the main villain, Kaecilius, a fellow monk at Kamar-Taj. He goes off the reservation leading a group called The Zealots “who get seduced by what they find on the other side”. The makeup around Mikkelsen’s eyes is similar to the images in Agents of SHIELD seen by May and others infected by Lucy. A small role in the comics, Kaecilius has been elevated for the film, probably serving a bigger bad that will appear in a sequel (i.e. Dormammu).
On a more general scale, we know that Doctor Strange will serve to introduce the concept of other dimensions to the MCU. The Phase Two and Three films reached to the far corners of the Galaxy, Phase Four will explore other realities, some “right next to our own”. The introduction of the Darkhold and other extra-dimensional elements continue to make Agents of SHIELD the gateway to what’s coming next in the MCU.
LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS!
Will the Darkforce and Darkhold provide the link between Agents of SHIELD and Doctor Strange? Are you enjoying this Robbie Reyes so far? Can Jeff Mace be trusted? And where is Gravitron?!
Happy adventuring, True Believers!