Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 Premiere Review
“So, you’ve got the devil inside you too.”
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back and it is okay, which is probably as good as can be expected after the tedious entry that was its third season. The third season threw many disparate narrative fragments at the viewer in the last few minutes of its finale, and The Ghost spends much of its time attempting to stitch together a workable narrative out of those ideas. In some ways it works, but there are numerous elements at play that remain frustrating. The most notable problem is that certain bits of information are clearly being left out in order to build intrigue. Do you remember how, during the season 3 finale, Coulson referenced the fact that there was a new director of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Well, almost all of the cast spend the entirety of the episode making references to the enigmatic “director” without him ever appearing on screen or being referenced by name. It is an awkward attempt to build suspense regarding the character’s identity, and it goes over like a lead balloon.
The Ghost starts out with Daisy pursuing some skinheads as part of her apparent war on the Watchdogs, which is still a thing apparently. It turns out that she isn’t the only one chasing after them, however, as a black Dodge Charger appears spreading flames throughout the area. The Rider kills two of the skinheads and takes a third with him. We don’t get a good look at the Rider until later in the episode, but, for the most part, the effects work on him is quite good. Coulson and Mack get a tip from May regarding the killings and the possibility of Quake being involved, and spend much of the episode attempting to track a trailer stolen by the skinheads. It appears the trailer contained some form of spirit that spreads madness to those affected by it. Meanwhile, Holden Radcliffe presents his work on Life Model Decoys to Fitz who insists it be kept from Simmons because she will feel obligated to alert the director. There are a lot of balls in the air, and I wish the episode had taken a bit more time to explain S.H.I.E.L.D.’s new structuring. Maybe a group PowerPoint presentation meant to reinforce the new hierarchy and protocols would have done the trick.
So, there are plenty of different things going on in this first episode. If Agents can limit its focus a bit and reel in the forced intrigue, we may have the potential for a decent narrative here. While, I’m not about to start singing the praises of Agents again just yet, they have at least made me curious about how they intend to introduce supernatural elements into the mix. The Ghost suffers a bit from the fact that there isn’t an audience surrogate available to introduce viewers to the new status quo. All of the characters are already immersed in the goings on, and, without someone to ask questions on behalf of the viewer, it can be difficult to become engaged in the narrative. The closest thing we get on that front is Quake, and she doesn’t really get the opportunity to ask too many questions since she’s on the run. Between that and some awkward structuring of scenes it can sometimes be unclear exactly what is going on throughout the episode. Agents is in an interesting position this season, as it could potentially serve to help introduce mysticism to the Marvel Universe, and, ideally, will lay the groundwork for November’s Doctor Strange. While its success is far from guaranteed, there are some tantalizing elements to this premiere, and hopefully the episodes that follow will be able to run with those elements. Until then, I am simply cautiously curious.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- I don’t know if I will be attempting to do weekly reviews of the show this season. I didn’t do a particularly good job of keeping up with it during season 3, so I suppose it depends on whether people are interested in me covering it.
- I have plenty of ideas and theories as to who the new director could be, but I’d prefer not to entertain any of them publicly since such speculation is probably just setting myself up for disappointment when the director’s identity proves to be far less interesting than I’d hoped. If he proves to be a character unique to this series, I will be seriously annoyed, though, since it would mean that the mystery surrounding his identity was completely pointless.
- This might be one of the most irritating ending scenes that Agents has had in recent memory. I was hoping for something to try and hook me, but instead all it does is confirm something regarding the mysterious spirit that had already been heavily hinted at earlier.
Agents is back with a decent, if scattered, premiere. It shows some promise, but there are underlying issues that will need to be dealt with before the show can truly soar.