Posted by Tom Bacon @TomBacon
I'm a British guy who has a particular love of superhero movies - and I'm having a great time writing for Movie Pilot! Feel free to foll...
Tom Bacon

Gabriel Luna's new Ghost Rider has roared on to the scene in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s season premiere, "The Ghost"! It's a tremendously effective episode, exploiting the later timeslot to tell a far darker story than we've ever seen before in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But here are some of the details you may have missed...

1. Dark, Dangerous Eyes...

The eyes of Kaecilius, villain of 'Doctor Strange'. Image: Marvel Studios
The eyes of Kaecilius, villain of 'Doctor Strange'. Image: Marvel Studios

The "Ghost" of the title isn't Robbie Reyes — it's a mysterious, creepy spirit that drives men to murder. There are tantalizing hints that this wraith has stayed with Agents May and Coulson; there's even a moment where May glances at Coulson, and sees strange darkness around his eyes. The same effect was seen earlier in the show, when the ghost turned criminals against one another.

It's a clear visual nod to Marvel's next movie, Doctor Strange. The villains of Doctor Strange, known as the Zealots, all bear similar growths around their eyes after their exposure to other, darker dimensions. There may be a clearer tie-in between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 and Doctor Strange than we'd been led to expect...

2. A Revised Origin for Robbie Reyes

Robbie Reyes's deal with his uncle in the comics. Image: Marvel Comics
Robbie Reyes's deal with his uncle in the comics. Image: Marvel Comics

Traditionally, the Ghost Rider makes a deal with the devil (or Marvel's equivalent, Mephisto). In the comics, Robbie Reyes is different; he was possessed by the spirit of his murderous uncle, Eli Morrow. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to have abandoned that origin; when confronted by Quake, Ghost Rider observes that she seems to have a bit of the devil in her too...

Here's the question: What did Robbie trade with the devil? For Johnny Blaze, it was his father's life; has Robbie done a deal with Mephisto in order to save his brother Gabe? Even in the comics, Gabe is the only one Robbie really cares about, so that seems very likely...

3. Skye's Control Over Her Powers

Quake prepares for lift-off - but at a cost! Image: ABC
Quake prepares for lift-off - but at a cost! Image: ABC

In what's clearly a major plot point, Quake is once again struggling to control her powers; they're fracturing her bones (Yoyo suggests through overuse). It's a plot that was touched on in Season 2, where Jemma Simmons created wrist-gauntlets to help minimize the harm Daisy was doing to herself. While at Afterlife, Daisy learned to center her emotions in such a way as to control her abilities, no longer needing those gauntlets.

That ties in nicely to the real reason Quake's powers are out of control; her emotional turbulence means she no longer has the self-control she needed to make her powers work properly. It's a smart touch, tying back to earlier plots in a remarkable way.

4. A Virtual Reality Plot?

Is Doctor Radcliffe the only mad scientist? Image: ABC
Is Doctor Radcliffe the only mad scientist? Image: ABC

It may only seem like a cool nod, but Fitz is working with Virtual Reality tech that could be put to a dark purpose. He's planning to use it for training, so Agent May doesn't wind up breaking so many of her cadets' bones. But there's an ominous hint at the direction this plot could take: the goggles the cadets wear in the field are eerily reminiscent of those worn by the Dauntless troops in Divergent.

This may not be anything more than a gentle nod, but remember that Fitz and Doctor Radcliffe are experimenting with a potentially-dangerous Artificial Intelligence. Imagine such an AI going out of control in an environment where cadets were trained in immersive VR simulations...

5. Nods to Wider MCU Continuity

Ultron's shadow looms. Image: Marvel Studios
Ultron's shadow looms. Image: Marvel Studios

Of course, anything based in the MCU has to have nods to the wider shared universe. The most obvious is Doctor Radcliffe's cautionary reference to Ultron, but that's by no means the only one. The changed status quo of Season 4 is heavily dependent on the Sokovia Accords; we're told that S.H.I.E.L.D.'s decision to register the Inhumans set the team down a path they aren't really comfortable with. When General Talbot told the President where S.H.I.E.L.D. was based, the President wasted no time in bringing S.H.I.E.L.D. in check; a new Director has been installed, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been legitimized, and the team has been split up.

Interestingly, the episode continues the 'will-they-won't-they' relationship between Mack and Yoyo, complicated by the fact that relationships between S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and Inhuman 'assets' are apparently forbidden under the Sokovia Accords. (I'm guessing Sharon Carter's brief kiss with Steve Rogers in Captain America: Civil War was just as much a breach of the Accords as her helping Cap out in the first place!)

Image: Marvel Studios
Image: Marvel Studios

6. Exploding Pens

With Fitz playing Q for Mack and Coulson, it's amusingly appropriate that Mack has ordered an exploding pen. In spy fiction, pens can useful for a lot more than writing; The Man From U.N.C.L.E. famously used pens for communication ("Open Channel D, overseas relay"), while James Bond has had literal poison pens and - of course - the exploding pen of Goldeneye. Interestingly, during the Second World War intelligence agencies actually did have exploding pens; a press of the pen's button broke a vial of sulphuric acid, allowing it to drip on to potassium chlorate and cause a detonation!

See also:

One thing you'll notice as you look through these Easter eggs: unusually for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., these are all really hints at where the series could go from here. This is a particularly intriguing episode, one filled to the brim with creative ideas and remarkable concepts. It's going to be interesting to see where the series goes from here...

Have you spotted any other Easter eggs in "Ghost"? Let me know in the comments! Meanwhile, check out the teaser for Episode 2...