Marvel’s Agents of Shield had a very rocky beginning. It was one of those shows that wasn’t confident with what it was and wasn’t sure where it was going–mainly because it kind of became beholden to what the Marvel Cinematic Universe was doing at any given time. Case in point–events from Thor: The Dark World affected events in the show. Even bigger though was the realization that Hydra was still around–and brought about the fall of S.H.I.E.LD. This was pretty much all of Season 1–
Season 2 is where things start to get really interesting and why Agents of Shield is now a pretty great show.
I won’t really be covering Seasons 1 through 3, but 4 because it is frankly the best Season yet. I also won’t delve into spoilers, but just know that the Season is divided into three different Arcs: Ghost Rider, LMD, and Agents of Hydra.
This is a different structure than seasons past, and it really works well for the show. Each arc was pretty great, but my favorite was perhaps the Ghost Rider arc.
If you haven’t seen the Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider films, please don’t. Like, get a list of stuff you shouldn’t watch and put that right up on the top. Both films are pretty campy, moreso the first one, and the second one just gets plain..weird. (Memories of what happens when Ghost Rider takes a piss comes to mind from Spirit of Vengeance). They were both just really shitty movies.
That’s why when they announced that they were bringing Ghost Rider to Agents of Shield I was extremely skeptical it would work…also TV CGI tends to be pretty low budget to what they have for film, so…disaster in the making was on my mind while watching the show.
However, they did a fantastic job of bringing Ghost Rider to life. This is not the Johnny Blaze iteration like you have in the movies (although he technically makes a cameo appearance), this is Eddie Reyes. Instead of the motor bike, you get the muscle car (which is badass). Gabriel Luna does a wonderful job playing Eddie Reyes / Ghost Rider. He is brimming with anger and remorse, having a slight bit of heart tossed in as well. The CGI isn’t quite Hollywood blockbuster style but damn does it look good–even the transformation sequence shows muscle and sinew being burned away as the flaming, naked skull roars to life.
This is the best representation of Ghost Rider to date and I highly recommend watching the season for that, and that alone.
The cherries on top though are the LMD and Hydra arcs that come midway through the season.
Radcliffe has overstepped his bounds by creating Aida, who in turn then betrays him, ultimately, by trying to create her own body through the power of the Darkhold (a MacGuffin that strives to solve all of the impossible technology we see throughout the series).
What was fascinating about this is that there is such tension in not knowing who is real, and who is fake. At one point, Fitz and Simmons are trapped in a room with each other, not knowing who is the decoy and who isn’t…I won’t spoil who it really is. But that amount of tension is just rampant throughout the season.
Additionally, Aida is interesting in her own right…she’s not quite as crazy as Ultron, but is motivated in trying to feel human. This leads us to the Hydra arc.
The Framework, a digital reality, seen really in the third arc more than any other, also serves for some interesting twists. We get to see almost the polar opposites of our favorite characters when an alternate “timeline” is created in the Framework in which Hydra has won and Shield fell. It’s heartbreaking knowing that the characters are doing things they really shouldn’t be….and have some pretty gnarly PTSD afterwards.
All in all, I highly recommend the series as a whole. It was satisfying watching all of the arcs play out and I’m excited to see what’s coming down the pipeline in Season 4.