Engines roared. Flames ignited. Criminals screamed. In the fourth season premiere episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC, the Ghost Rider made his first on-screen appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Agents, for those not in the know, follows the espionage missions of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, first introduced by Agent Phil Coulson (insert name) in the MCU’s premiere movie Iron Man. After Coulson was seemingly killed by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in The Avengers, he is brought out of hiding by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to assemble a response team. The events of the show correspond in real time with the theatrical releases of the Marvel films. Thus, the Agents have dealt with the HYDRA infiltration of SHIELD, Ultron’s destruction of the fictional country Sokovia and the United Nations forcing all “enhanced” humans to register themselves under United Nations control.
This season finds S.H.I.E.L.D. out of the shadows and back under official recognition of the world’s governments – but, also with a currently unseen new Director who has not only brought authoritarian discipline to the agency, and has split up the main cast of characters who have worked together as a team. With their dynamic tested, the agents have to secretly work with each other in the dark to locate one of their own: Daisy Johnson, a hacker turned agent turned Inhuman vigilante known as Quake.
While trying to stop some criminals in true comic book fashion, she witnesses them brutally torn apart by another super-powered being in a menacing black muscle car. Looking deeper into what she deems to be a serial killer, Quake discovers the urban legend of the Ghost Rider, who burns the souls of evil men.
All in all, this episode does a great job setting up the Ghost Rider in a chilling way, like a monster straight from a horror movie. As well, this serves as a lead-in to the supernatural side of Marvel Comics, which will be expanded upon greatly in the upcoming Doctor Strange. There is also a spooky device introduced in this episode that will have ghostly ramifications for the rest of the season.
Overall, the production value has gotten even better than previous seasons. The effects, especially for Ghost Rider and Quake’s vibration powers, nearly rival the movies. The cinematography is clearly taking cues from Netflix’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones, by going outside the framing of safe, traditional TV filming. Overall, Agents continues to improve every season, and serves as a great weekly trip into the MCU between movies and Netflix binges.
This version of Ghost Rider is named Robbie Reyes, one of many people in the comics who have shared that name. The original Ghost Rider was technically Old West hero Carter Slade, who wore a ghost costume as he rode on a horse. About a decade later in 1971 the first official Ghost Rider was Johnny Blaze, a motorcyclist stuntman who sold his soul to the demon Mephisto. The next Ghost Rider was Daniel Ketch in 1990, who’s body was bonded with the Angel of Death, and they worked together to punish evil. In 2014 was the introduction of Robbie Reyes, a Mexican-American from East Los Angeles, who drives a black muscle car and takes on biker gangs.
As previously noted, this is the first official appearance of Ghost Rider in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The previous two movies starring Nicolas Cage were produced by Sony, who gave the cinematic rights to Ghost Rider to Marvel Studios and Disney. (Currently, the X-Men, Deadpool and Fantastic Four are the only Marvel characters that Marvel Studios does not have or share the cinematic rights.)