Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Meet the New Boss Review
“You’re enhanced, and you *just* said that we’re not that different. I’m sorry, but you just said that like… ten seconds ago.”
I’m working to maintain a careful sense of cynicism about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 was rarely great, and I don’t want to get immersed in the show only to have the rug pulled out from under me should it screw up again. Conversely, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be fair to it when it does something right, and this episode, Meet the New Boss, almost felt like a deliberate response to the flaws present in the premiere. Where the premiere felt scattered and unfocused, this episode primarily restricted itself to two storylines that converge at the end. One half of the episode focuses on Daisy’s investigation into Robbie Reyes, and the other half concerns itself with clarifying the current state of S.H.I.E.L.D. Not all the answers given were as satisfying as could be hoped, but I didn’t feel any of them were disappointing either. All in all, this episode serves to tie together the disparate elements that had been previously presented, and bring them together into a cohesive narrative.
Let’s start off with the new director, Jeffrey Mace. Agents went a little obscure in choosing to use him, but he has a bit of a history in Marvel as he was the civilian identity of the Patriot and the third individual to take up the mantle of Captain America (Though, the logic behind that involves some odd retcons). Despite his ties to Captain America, there is currently little to connect his comic book character to the rendition seen here. The Patriot didn’t have powers, was the uncle of Thunderbolt Ross, and died of cancer in the modern age. Given his appearances throughout Meet the New Boss, it would appear none of those traits are true of this version, though if they were, I suspect the Ross family reunions would be even odder than I would have previously considered. He’s actually a rather fresh character for this show, as he appears to be an affable and well-meaning, if somewhat amateurish, leader. The Ghost had hinted at his insistence on less than intuitive forms of bureaucracy, and it’s a little surprising that, given the character’s clear affinity towards buzzwords, he doesn’t make use of the word ‘synergy’ at any point. I stand by the complaint that the sustained sense of mystery as to the director’s identity was ultimately unwarranted, but at least it doesn’t detract from this episode. He may seem affable, and his “A team that trusts is a team that triumphs,” bit is intentionally cheesy in a way that is rather hilarious, but he is clearly also not willing to let Coulson have his way. Whether that is to a reasonable degree remains to be seen. It appears there are two directions Agents could go with this character. They could make him an incompetent or short-sighted foil for our heroes, essentially a more friendly version of Rawls from The Wire, or they could make him a skeptical but generally permissive superior, like Deputy Director Skinner from The X-Files. There is a chance for nuance in both instances, but I currently find the latter option to be more interesting. The rest of the narrative surrounding S.H.I.E.L.D. predominantly centers around Mack and Fitz’s investigation into the specter that influenced the gang members towards the conclusion of The Ghost. This ends up leading to an encounter with Daisy.
The other half of Meet the New Boss is devoted to Daisy’s attempts to prod at Reyes. She chooses to take a rather direct approach with him, and, like with Fitz and Simmons, she appears to be, at least initially, rejecting the idea of supernatural influence. There are nods towards Reyes’s uncle who, in the comics, is the spirit that possesses him and provides his powers. Whether that is the case here remains unclear, but he makes it apparent to her that he believes he isn’t an Inhuman, though his argument of ‘the devil made me do it,’ seems less than convincing to her. She ends up making a reference to a location, an alternative energy lab, that sends him after the same trail as Lucy, the ghost from the container. She has now unleashed at five other ghosts who appear to have been sealed there by another individual who utilized the Darkhold, a grimoire also referred to as the Book of Sin, to seemingly put them in that state. Mack and Fitz arrive at the facility to investigate shortly beforehand, which ends up putting them face to face with the Ghost Rider.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- For the time being, I will continue covering Agents, along with Steven Universe and Star Wars Rebels. If anyone is interested in seeing something else get covered, I’m open to alterations in the schedule, but for now, this is what I’m going with.
- Simmons’ pleasant but overly condescending statement of “That’s also a theory,” when Mack suggests the specter they see on the video from the warehouse might actually be a ghost, got a legitimate laugh out of me.
- May ends up losing her grip on reality in this episode as she is bested by the visions due to her contact with the spirit in The Ghost. In theory, I think this is an interesting route for the narrative to go with her character, having her be a victim of something she can’t fight in her standard head-to-head manner. She seemed the most superfluous of the main characters in season 3, so I’m glad to see Agents has an idea of how to use her here, though where they plan on going with this narrative thread remains to be seen.
- The audio mixing in this episode could seemingly use a little bit of work. There were a few lines where, during my first viewing, I couldn’t quite determine what was being said.
- The show continues to use the Ghost Rider effects sparingly, but enough so that it doesn’t feel as if the character is being wasted. It’s a tough balance to maintain, but whenever he does show up, it certainly feels rewarding, even if they have to use some creative editing to avoid showing the skull too often.
Agents takes the cluttered element presented in the preceding episode, and brings them together in a far more tightly constructed narrative than viewers have seen in a while. I'm still skeptical of how Marvel will handle the show going forward, but this episode was a solid step in the right direction.