Spoilers ahead for “The Good Samaritan,” the latest episode of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The good: Ghost Rider kills it (in every way possible), Agent Carter callbacks,
Bringing Robbie Reyes’ version of Ghost Rider into the ensemble this season has been an excellent move, and if Marvel is still looking for a new S.H.I.E.L.D. companion series, this seems infinitely more promising than that ill-fated Mockingbird and Hunter spinoff (speaking of which, where are those guys?). The episode’s title is a reference to what Robbie’s brother Gabe saw during the fateful car crash that left him in a wheelchair. Turns out that “good samaritan” was actually the previous Ghost Rider, with the best guess being Johnny Blaze (especially considering those Quentin Carnival posters in the basement of where the Darkhold was first discovered). Now, this doesn’t mean the show will be introducing a version of John Blaze anytime soon — but it’s a great nod to the comics without being gratuitous about it. Yes, it’s a part of his history, but this is still Robbie’s story.
Seeing why Robbie becomes the Ghost Rider, and watching his “deal with the devil” play out, really goes a long way toward grounding that character’s motivations. He was trying to protect his brother, and he was willing to do whatever it took in that moment to make sure Gabe would live. Who can’t relate to that? We also see more of Robbie’s struggle with the spirit of vengeance always bubbling right beneath his skin. This episode also provided a nice measuring stick for Ghost Rider’s powers. Turns out, he’s stronger than anyone expected, and not even S.H.I.E.L.D.’s unbreakable containment units can hold him once he flames on.
Gabe also got a chance to have some agency this week, as Robbie finally tells him the full truth of what happened. But man, Lorenzo James Henrie just keeps playing characters who have bad luck with car crashes (see: Fear the Walking Dead).
The bad: Coulson butting heads with S.H.I.E.L.D., the ghost-ly story
Jason O’Mara is doing a solid job as the mysterious new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., but the subplot that found him storming Coulson’s plane to search for Quake and Ghost Rider was the worst part of a really good episode. Coulson has a proven track record of doing pretty much whatever he wants to do, and in all realistic scenarios, he would’ve been benched as soon as S.H.I.E.L.D. tried to go legit (again). This just seemed like a silly way to manufacture drama and try to set up Coulson’s team as a smaller unit fighting against The Man. There’s a dude with a flaming skull walking around out there. That’s awesome. It’s hard to get excited about a pissing match over who’s in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. when there are cooler things to spend that time on.
We finally got some payoff to the ghost story that has been a key part of this season, setting up the Darkhold. It seems to be almost over, following the twist that saw Robbie’s uncle seize control of the Darkhold's power. In the comics, Eli is a bad dude — and it seems the series will also be going that direction. It just seems like we took a very long way around to get there. But hey, at least we’re there.
If you watched the second season of ABC’s Agent Carter, you saw a nice call back to the main story of that (tragically) short-lived series. It turns out all these wacky experiments with the Darkhold tie back to the case Peggy was working in Season 2, surrounding the zero point energy experiments at Isodyne Energy. We already saw someone get ghost-ed on that series, and it seems the current season of S.H.I.E.L.D. is facing the same type of dangerous technology. Nice to see that come full circle, since fans obviously had no clue they were setting all this up last year. It’ll be interesting to see how much more those stories will intersect as the season goes on.
We get to see Coulson and the new director have a Star Wars debate about the story’s real hero. Corporate synergy at work! What other Star Wars goodies might this season hold?
Robbie has always looked up to his uncle, and largely got involved with all this insanity as a way to help protect him. How will Robbie take the news when he finds out his uncle is about to be the big bad pulling the evil, magical strings? Narratively, it will be hard to keep Ghost Rider as a member of this group once this Doctor Strange adjacent arc ends, but man we hope they find a way to keep him around in some capacity.
That cliffhanger finale -- what happened to Coulson and Fitz? How will they be affected by that shockwave?
Quotes of the night:
"You know, the rationalist in me wants to agree, but the skull on fire presents a pretty compelling argument for hail Satan." - Coulson
“Who names these? Are there focus groups for evil things?” –Mack.
Up next: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking a few weeks off, but the Ghost Rider saga resumes at the end of the month.