What Does Ghost Rider Mean For The Agents of Shield?
It was confirmed over the weekend that Ghost Rider would be bringing vengeance to Marvel's Agents of SHIELD when it returns to ABC in it's new later time slot. The character had been rumoured for some time though many were surprised by which iteration of the Rider was making it's way to TV; Robbie Reyes, to be played by Gabriel Luna (True Detective). So who is Robbie Reyes and what does his appearance mean for Coulson and his team?
By going into Reyes' story in the comics this article may contain some spoilers but as Agents of SHIELD has played fast and loose with the history of it's comic book characters it might not reveal anything.
Who is Robbie Reyes?
Debuting in 2013 under the Marvel NOW banner (one of the comics many initiatives to bring in new readers), Robbie differs from previous Riders by really being a Ghost Driver. His origin story is tied into Mr. Hyde (who has previously appeared in Agents of SHIELD as Daisy Johnson's father played by Kyle MacLachlan). Reyes gets tangled up in a deadly shoot out whilst trying to win money to give his developmentally disabled brother Gabe a better shot at life. He becomes bound to the ghost of a man named Eli Morrow who has his own dark history with Robbie. It's a complex story that is absolutely ripe with potential for television. He attracts the attention of Johnny Blaze (the Ghost Rider most are familiar with) who tells him that the ghost that inhabits Robbie is not a true Spirit of Vengeance but one that shares many of those traits.
Why Robbie Reyes?
As Agents of SHIELD has often been left with the even lesser known characters, leaving the big hitters for the cinema, this choice may have been to leave the more well known Johnny Blaze iteration of the character available for a big screen reboot or it may just be an attempt to distance themselves from the terrible Nic Cage movies that we already have. However, Jeph Loeb, head of Marvel TV has stated that they chose Robbie because "our show, at the end of day, is always about family, and the fact that Robbie’s relationship with Gabe is so much a part of his character."
How does Robbie Reyes fit in?
In a post Civil War MCU we can assume that SHIELD are tackling non-registered vigilantes. As such, Ghost Rider will most likely start out as an antagonist before becoming a dangerous ally in a similar fashion to the Punisher in Netflix's Daredevil. In a post Doctor Strange world it also makes sense for SHIELD to start tackling magical/mystical threats. He may even end up an occasional part of the team, much in the same way that Deathlok would pop up every now and then. Hopefully he plays a more fulfilling role than the ultimately disappointing Secret Warriors who were heavily teased and ultimately delivered little. With last season teasing AIs and LMDs we could be seeing an interesting technology vs. mysticiscm dynamic. With SHIELD pushed back to a later time slot it may also be a way for the show to take on a darker tone, perhaps more inline with the show's Netflix cousins.
(Speaking of Netflix, don't expect Coulson and co. to be teaming up with The Defenders any time soon owing to their greatest opponent yet "corporate stuff". Whilst the CW/DC Comics shows are expanding their shared universes and giving actors multi-show contracts, the "everything is connected" Marvel Universe has been splintered by deals and the fracturing of Marvel's various departments).
After 3 seasons of Hydra and the Inhumans, the show is in a great position for a clean break. Expect the season opener to have something of a repilot feel to it, with Coulson back as an Agent and Daisy back operating out of a van. Introducing new threats like Ghost Rider will give the show a boost and attract new viewers or those who may have drifted away. /
Ghost Rider also opens the door to other supernatural threats. Although shortlived, the recent Howling Commandos comic saw an LMD Dum Dum Duggan (last seen in the MCU in Captain America: First Avenger) lead a team of monstrous heroes. We've already had Man Thing name dropped (way back in Season One). Perhaps we might see something similar on television. Blade has also been an Agent of SHIELD and the rights to the character have since returned to Marvel. It's a very exciting time to be a SHIELD fan right now.
Agents of SHIELD returns to US television in September. No UK airdate as of yet.