On the night of its season premiere, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. scored 3.44 million viewers overall, up from it season three finale that raked in just 3.03 million. However, the second episode the season didn’t fare as well, with a score of just 2.95 million viewers. That said, this time last year ABC was struggling to make anything happen at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, with Wicked City dipping all the way to 1.69 million viewers in episode three before being cancelled.

Moving S.H.I.E.L.D. to 10 p.m. may have been a form of getting it out of the way, but it can’t be denied that, so far, it’s giving ABC a boost in what has been a very troubled time slot recently.On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 Episode 3, titled “Uprising,” a series of blackouts caused by EMPs made cities around the world vulnerable to vigilantes trying to hunt down Inhumans.  The downside to this was that all of the awesome fight sequences in this episode took place in the dark.  However, the upside was that one of the blackouts took place in Miami, where Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez was attending a bachelorette party. And I am always in favor of more scenes with Yo-Yo.

But not many people want anything to do with Inhumans, especially with the blackout. One of the most powerful moments of this new episode involves Yo Yo. She’s at a bachelorette party when the blackout hits and all of a sudden, a group of Watchdogs arrive to weed out any Inhuman presence. Soon, Yo Yo must use her powers to save an amateur magician believed to be an Inhuman and her friends turn on her faster than the GOP turned on Trump.

The first two episodes of the season were Ghost Rider-heavy, but they kind of had to be. With the third episode, Ghost Rider, or more accurately Robbie Reyes, became a part of the show rather than being the show. In fact, this week, Reyes doesn’t even transform into his demonic alter ego, instead, we get to know the man behind the leather and chains (that didn’t sound like I wanted it to sound).

The whole episode focuses on an EMP-caused blackout in Los Angeles. It seems that the blackout is caused by a group of rogue Inhumans fighting the Sokovia accords. So it looks like we have a sort of Brotherhood of Evil Inhumans up in here… but not so fast. When the blackout hits, Reyes’ brother is in a wheelchair and on a subway in a bad part of town, so Daisy and Reyes race to his rescue.

My initial feelings of wariness about Jeffrey are already starting to wear off. He might be a shiny stuffed suit, but I don’t think he’s an evil one. (Though, as someone who works in public relations – Jeffrey’s favorite buzzword – I may be more sympathetic to his cause than I should be!)  Jeffrey has different priorities than Coulson and the rest of the team. This is guaranteed to keep causing friction throughout the season, but I don’t see him as a full-out villain – at least, not yet.

Instead, in this episode we got a good look at another villain – Senator Rota Nadeer, the anti-Inhuman talking head featured in numerous television broadcasts surrounding the blackouts. Played by Parminder Nagra, a thin layer of ice coats every hateful word that comes out of her mouth.  It’s worth noting (though in an ideal world, it wouldn’t be) that the addition of Nagra adds another actress of color to one of the most diverse casts on television. It’s also a bit of a twist to see a person of color playing a character persecuting others for being different.  Senator Nadeer is clearly covering up some secrets of her own, as we saw in the last scene of this episode, and I can’t wait to discover more about what drives her actions.

I did enjoy the moment when Radcliffe addressed the myth of humans only using ten percent of their brains as just that: a myth. It is used as a crutch in so much science-fiction, from Lucy to Limitless and beyond, so it was refreshing to see a show like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. debunk it. 

For too long, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the rest of Marvel Television has been forced to be the reactor to the events seen in Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers and more. Never do the films deal with the repercussions of what’s happening on the shows, even when S.H.I.E.L.D.unleashed the Inhumans onto the world at the end of season two. However, there’s hope the end of this week’s episode is going to change that.  It’s funny, Agents Of SHIELD always felt like an addition to the MCU, not an essential cog, but somewhere, perhaps this week, the agents we have been thrilling to these past three seasons have become truly likable heroes.

For the first time since Captain America: The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. is being recognized as an official organization. There’s no way for this not to have major implications within the MCU (though it’s clear Coulson wasn’t left in charge so that when the announcement was made, the secret of him being alive would still be just that to The Avengers). Even if it’s just Tony Stark acknowledging its existence in the next Spider-Man movie, the world at large can’t let this change in mythology sit unacknowledged.  Yet something tells me the Ghost Rider/Momentum Labs storyline won’t gain any…well, momentum, until after Doctor Strange is released. It’s one of those things that makes you curse the interconnectedness (what little of it there is) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

In a not unsurprising fashion, SHIELD is once again the tie-in to an upcoming big-screen Movie Adaptation (namely Doctor Strange). The second episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gives us a foothold into the supernatural in more ways than one. First, we have Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes who told Daisy that he sold his soul to the devil. The secondary plot involves a bunch of ghostly people that induce dementia to those they come in contact with. At first, the force that caused their current state involved some device and what they called the Darkhold.  Though Marvel tried to keep it under wraps, the new director’s identity has been revealed. EW can officially confirm that Jason O’Mara is playing Jeffrey Mace, otherwise known in the comics as the Patriot.

Like the Necronomicon in the Evil Dead series, the Darkhold is a powerful ancient book in the Marvel universe. It’s also known as the Book of Sins and was penned by the demonic Elder God Chthon. A creature at the level of Mephisto (Satan), The Dread Dormammu (arch-nemesis of Doctor Strange) and the Earth Goddess Gaea (Mother Nature, and Thor’s real mother in comic lore), the Darkhold contains all of Chthon’s magical knowledge and also serves as his link to the earthly plane before all the Elder Gods (except Gaea) were banished to their respective dimensions.  Anyone, not powerful enough to use the book itself, becomes a thrall of Chthon. Robbie Reyes says he has some link to what’s going on in the lab and might have come across a page or two, giving him the means to summon ‘the devil.’ It doesn’t work the same way in the comics, but you know the MCU.

Now while the whole tie-in thing was amazing and awesome in series one & in some ways took everyone completely by surprise with the grand reveal of Ward as an agent of HYDRA, having it so prevalent and so early on in this season is a bit annoying.  I loved Ghost Rider and his overall look/feel but I’m almost annoyed with the fact that the authors seem to think their show is nothing more than an extended sales vehicle and lead into the overarching MCU.  I really feel that SHIELD has enough to stand on its own and doesn’t need to be used so.

On a positive note, however – the new Director was quite interesting for me.  While his initial goodie-two-shoes’ness was a bit bland, his later reveal as an Inhuman – by the way, this is actually contrary to comic book lore as Jeffrey Mace (the Patriot) from the comics was not a super-powered individual but was simply an admirer of Cap & in fact, took on his role – was really good and unexpected. As the show tends to do, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has put a twist on the character by infusing him with powers and turning the Patriot into an Inhuman. That’s exactly why he got the top job at S.H.I.E.L.D., because Coulson (Clark Gregg) suggested that the new director should be a powered person the public could trust, especially in the wake of Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, going AWOL.

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is leaning hard on Ghost Rider joining in Season 4 as a hook to get people watching the show, so it makes sense that Gabriel Luna’s take on Robbie Reyes would be introduced right at the beginning of the premiere, “The Ghost.” It was the right choice not to force viewers to wait to see the fiery Marvel superhero, and he proved to be the best part of SHIELD’s return.  As always with new beginnings on this show, the status quo has radically shifted. The last few moments of season 3 jumped ahead six months and gave us a quick look at where the characters had ended up in the wake of Hydra’s final defeat, but now we know for sure.

The difference made by shifting Agents of SHIELD back to a 10 p.m. time slot came across most notably through the Ghost Rider story arc; there’s a whole lot more blood this season, and a generally darker aesthetic. Thinking back to the Season 1 premiere (which was in an 8 p.m. time slot), it’s clear how Agents of SHIELD has matured over the years, and given the success of the darker Marvel shows over at Netflix, it’s a smart move for ABC’s series to be more tonally similar. It also helps that Ghost Rider looks great.

A lot has changed after the time jump that ended Season 3, and not all of it for the better. Fitz is now keeping lies from Simmons, the team is split up, Coulson is no longer Director of SHIELD and the person who replaced him doesn’t have a lot of love in his heart for the ragtag bunch that came before him. Then there’s Daisy, who is so determined to not lose another person close to her that she is still evading Coulson’s attempts to bring her in, and has become a bit of a vigilante in the process.

Things have changed for Phil Coulson and Mack, too. The one-time directors of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been demoted to field agents over the time jump. We find them out on assignment in the Zephyr One, killing time between assignments by playing backgammon and grumbling about the new management (“everything is classified nowadays”). Suddenly, they get orders to fly back to base, which confuses them because they’re not due to refuel for a while. Coulson’s excited to see the old team again, though, especially May (Ming-Na Wen).


Cut to May, who’s sparring with the members of her elite strike force as the Zephyr One lands. Thanks to her contacts in law enforcement, she’s able to fill Coulson and Mack in on the grisly details of the Ghost Rider murders (apparently, one unfortunate goon got his spine ripped out). But the reason she had them come back to base personally was so she could tell them that Daisy might be involved — and in this new post-Sokovia Accords world where Daisy’s considered a dangerous fugitive, she didn’t exactly want to send that info over the wire. If they pursue, they might be able to catch up with her before she gets into deeper trouble. Then again, it might be too late for that. Daisy’s already breaking into a hospital to interrogate a survivor of the Ghost Rider attack. He helpfully informs her that Ghost Rider’s flames don’t just burn flesh and bone — they burn your soul. Apparently those soul burns were too much for a sinner like him and he expires, forcing Daisy to pursue other leads.

The Ghost Rider that most people are familiar with is Johnny Blaze, whether that’s through the many Ghost Rider comics or Nic Cage’s portrayal of the character across two live-action movies. So when you think of “Ghost Rider is coming to Agents of SHIELD,” you might wonder why he’s not tooling around on his classic bike or why the character is suddenly tearing up the streets of Los Angeles in a souped-up hot rod.

Agents of SHIELD’s Ghost Rider is actually the fourth person to take on the mantle (fifth, if you count the original supernatural cowboy that first appeared in the ‘60s, who had his name changed to “The Phantom Rider” after Johnny’s introduction), Roberto “Robbie” Reyes. Robbie is the most recent and freshest version of the character, having only first appeared in 2014—his series, All-New Ghost Rider by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore, lasted just 12 issues.

Johnny’s power comes from Marvel’s equivalent of Satan, Mephisto, merging the young man’s soul with a demon named Zarathos, after the two made a deal for the life of Johnny’s adoptive father that went awry (Mephisto, of course, is famous for being the vehicle with which Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s marriage was erased in the infamous One More Daystoryline). Zarathos was a spirit of vengeance, causing Johnny to turn into the Ghost Rider in the presence of evil, compelled to hunt it down and destroy it.

Robbie, on the other hand, was resurrected by a spirit named Eli—an altogether more nefarious supernatural entity who pretended to be a spirit like Zarathos, but was actually the soul of a Satanist serial killer using Robbie to get back into the physical realm and continue to kill. While Johnny and Zarathos had a slightly more amicable relationship (as much as one can with a demon linked to your soul), Eli is a potent and sinister force that Robbie has to learn to keep suppressed, after making a deal with it that they would only take the lives of truly evil people. So expectSHIELD’s Robbie to maybe get a little bit nasty every once in a while.

In terms of the tone of the show, the darkness works for Ghost Rider, but there are some definite growing pains as the other facets of the experiment with the time slot freedom as well. The increase in blood and violence was a little jarring after three seasons of comparatively less intense action, but it did feel true to the direction SHIELD is headed in. What didn’t fit as well were the close up shots of Daisy getting dressed; these pants-come-up, shirt-comes-on sequences are familiar ways to add sexuality into TV shows and movies, but SHIELD has already done a great job establishing Daisy as a sexy character without needing to depict it in this unsubtle way. Hopefully the inclusion of more overt sexuality in the show feels a bit more organic to the show as it continues to explore the new territory of the 10 p.m. hour this season.