Agents of SHIELD: 4.01 The Ghost

Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD are back for another season in which everything has changed. Or has it?

One thing is obvious, the production team make a statement of the shows now later air time in the US; that means more blood, and lingering shots of Daisy Johnson in lingerie. It all seems like an attempt to emulate the success of Marvel's more mature Netflix content, a little blood and violence to boost ratings. But that, to me, isn't what we tune into Agents of SHIELD for. We come for light, quippy comic book action, something to tide us over between cinema releases. Edgy does not always equal quality.

There is some effort to introduce us to new characters though so far they largely remain faceless – but perhaps that is the point, SHIELD is now tied down by bureacracy, cautious of repeating the mistakes of the past and wary of the powered assets on it's payroll following the Sokovia Accords.

Coulson is no longer director, the team are back under government control, Daisy is back in her van, a loner righting wrongs and running from the law. This episode feels like a massive reset – not entirely unwelcome after two seasons of Inhumans and Hydra got increasingly convoluted. It's a good jumping on point for new viewers but not one that alienates long time fans.

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The show gets us up to speed whilst laying down new complications. Fitz and Simmons are struggling with the new bureacracy, Fitz chooses to keep AIDA a secret. After three years of will they won't they I do hope the writers aren't going to break up TV's most adorably awkward couple.

With Doctor Strange bringing the mystics arts into the MCU, so too does Agents of SHIELD face new supernatural threats. The stand out new character here is of course the Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes. We don't quite get a sense of his entire power set, but the effects are superb, from the flaming car flip to the first time we really get to see the Rider's flaming skull. Reyes is a fun character, a potentially more interesting choice of Rider than Johnny Blaze. He fits in well and I can't wait to see more of him.

There is an interesting juxtaposition in this episode between the supernatural threats and the potential future technological threats that LMDs present. This season will have two halves (the show always has, each season really feeling like two shorter seasons linked by a few plot threads).

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It's a fun episode, darker in tone but each character gets their moment and there are plenty of smart lines. Stand out moments belonged to Fitz and Simmons, especially Simmons face off with May. But whilst everything has changed there is also a sense of business as usual.

Here lies Agents of SHIELD's greatest problem. It's good. That's it. It does a job and occasionally gets to excel at it. It's never awful but it's never quite water-cooler telly either. The team are familiar, the writing is pacey and pithy, the action and effects work is superb. It has great energy and yet something seems to keep it away from greatness.

However a world without Coulson and co. would be a sadder place and I'm glad they're back.

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