All change at SHIELD as a new director imposes tough new bureaucracy on the agents, with the old team split to head various departments and Coulson back to plain old Agent. Daisy encounters a strange new figure with a fiery temperament in her one woman war on the Watch Dogs. But just whose side is the Ghost Rider on?
There’s a distinct feeling to this opening episode, as if it’s a brand new term for everyone and nobody quite knows how to settle in. It handles itself well, introducing new information about what everyone is up to without ever feeling like too much of an ‘info-dump’, and it certainly starts with a bang.
If anyone was wondering how soon it would be before we got to see Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider in full flaming skull mode, it’s about two minutes in to this first instalment, and I’m happy to report that despite being on a TV budget, he looks every bit as impressive as you’d hope (rapidly dispelling thoughts of the disappointing Nic Cage turn of the movies). Daisy’s encounter with him as they both track down some white supremacists running errands for the Chinese is suitably epic, and it isn’t just the trademark skull we get to see as Robbie gives us the full flaming wheels treatment with his ride too.
Meanwhile Coulson and Mac are flying from one part of the globe to the next non-stop on the Zephyr when they receive a call back to base ahead of schedule. This gives us an opportunity to see the whole team settling (not all that comfortably) into their new roles, including Simmons pretty much being the boss of everyone, May training new recruits in unarmed combat (of course) and Fitz pining that he never quite sees enough of Simmons anymore. And everyone moans about the ‘New Director’ though we never get to see him for the space of the entire episode, merely getting a taste for a special kind of bureaucracy in the new rules and regs under his regime (an exchange between May and Simmons over the new ‘SPECTRUM’ ranking system being a particular highlight)
Anyway, soon Coulson and Mac are wheels up again, tipped off about an incident that may lead them to Daisy, who they are officially definitely not supposed to be looking for. We get to see YoYo again (a personal favourite of mine) and then Mac and Coulson end up tracing a container which definitely shouldn’t have been opened, and have their necks saved by the timely arrival of May and her agents but not before May gets an unfortunate taste of something which definitely doesn’t seem to agree with her.
They return to base sans Daisy because she’s busy across town having tracked down the Ghost Rider once more and throwing down with him in a junkyard. The fight is well done, and manages spectacle without feeling over long or over played. When they part, it’s an emotionally resonant moment for Daisy, and we get a feeling of a new side to her which the episode has merely hinted at to that point – a sense that she is imposing a penance on herself for what she sees as the sins of her past.
Tying things up, Fitz makes an unfortunate discovery in the home of the newly pardoned Holden Radcliffe – something that one can only imagine will potentially come back to bite someone later in the series. Hannah once again is superb, and I can see another season coming of never quite knowing whether and how much his mad scientist should ever be trusted.
So, the gang’s all back, even if they aren’t quite all together, and we have an explosive new character tearing up the streets in tracks of fire, even if it isn’t quite clear whose side he will be on.
Verdict: A solid opener with some spectacular set pieces, only marginally let down by a little too much edging around things which could either have been developed more or just left for later. Plenty going on and an episode that you’ll definitely need to re-watch at least once just to satisfy yourself that you’ve caught it all. 8/10
Greg D. Smith