Agents of SHIELD: 401 “The Ghost” Review
Reviewed by K-Ci Williams.
“Everyone’s attached to something.”
I hate hiatuses. It disrupts the nature of my television viewing (as is the case for every show) but in the case of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, the writers have developed a more assured sense of scope and hit the ground running. In this case, the hiatus could not have come soon enough. I was fairly engrossed in the final storylines of last season, but felt that the scope was not substantial enough in alignment with the grueling consequences put forward; i.e. a crisis where Hive threatens the entire planet yet is met with the response of a small rogue SHIELD-ops team. Season 4 brings with it a new set of players, challenges for our beloved characters to face and story scope that is fast becoming typical of Marvel’s spectacular television entry.
Let’s get one thing straight regarding the opening scene; I thought the setup was brilliant and I eagerly awaited the arrival of Ghost Rider – a character I know nothing about except for reading complaints on social media about S.H.I.E.L.D using an uninteresting version of the character. I found the opener to be suspenseful and engaging, but what irked me was the filming of Skye Daisy Quake pulling on her underwear. It was one shot, and it tonally threw me off the scene.
The director Billy Gierhart achieves some pretty fantastic angles and vignette effects in this sequence, especially once Ghost Rider is introduced, but I can’t help but feel that Gierhart approached this through the male gaze. Don’t get me wrong, as a male seeing things like that is great, but it begs the question – is it necessary? Of course, with S.H.I.E.L.D’s later time slot this season, the production team are probably pushing to make it more risqué.
Pressing on with the rest of the episode sees multiple things they get right. Learning that Quake is seen as an enhanced pariah, a social outcast of sorts, helps frame the character motivations tying these stories together. This season brings a different tone for SHIELD as an organisation (whatever remains, anyway), such as the changing dynamics between members of the core team.
I’m loving the banter between Coulson and Mack, however I hope we get more time with Mack and Fitz; his treatment of Fitz while he recovered was a highlight of previous seasons. One aspect I very much want to see more of is the new agent that took over May’s class (I didn’t quite catch her name). She seems fresh and I think she has potential.
I enjoyed the increased strain on relationships between members of the team, despite the tragedies they have faced together – the ‘new’ SHIELD regime has definitely shaken things up. How amazing was it to see both May and Simmons having that heated discussion, something that wouldn’t have happened while they were out in the field together. The show has put these characters in the most extreme circumstances, but I liked that the writers have found new ways to test their loyalties to each other given the different clearances.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about there being a new director of SHIELD though. As a side note, I’m interested to see where the show goes with the A.I. storyline, as I expect it will put pressure on Fitz and his relationship with Simmons.
The development of Ghost Rider and Quake, or Robbie and Daisy respectively, is proving to be my favourite part of this new season. Robbie, whether good or evil, still leads a relatively normal life with family that he cares about. The same could be said for Daisy, who has her SHIELD family back at headquarters (or flying around the place to help her). Of course the pair of them fought, but as an over-analyser their parallels and similarities intrigue me. Something that stood out for me was that “everyone’s attached to something” which hit home for me. The notion is correct, and this is where both Daisy and Robbie are similar. Exactly how similar is something we have to look forward to in future episodes.
In summation, as a viewer there are things that will take getting used to with this season. What felt comfortable to watch has changed, but I’m willing to give this new setup a chance, especially since the show has never let me down before. Change is good, or so they say. It will be interesting to see what situations the writers will put these characters in, and one thing I hope this season stays true to is character-driven drama being at the heart of the series.
P.S. I hope this season manages to balance the storylines effectively and knows when to bite the bullet and move on to something fresh.