"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
Last year, #DoctorStrange added a whole new element to the Marvel Cinematic Universe — magic, the realm of the supernatural. Season 4 of #AgentsofSHIELD chose to ditch the usual overt tie-ins, instead focusing on a thematic link — introducing our heroes to a new, demonic ally. Gabriel Luna's Ghost Rider was a phenomenal hit, not least because Marvel invested so heavily into the character's CGI.
The Season 4 finale, 'World's End,' has just put the Ghost Rider in a whole new context. What's next for Robbie Reyes?
Note: this article contains heavy spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 22.
War Is Coming
The MCU was born in science, and even as Marvel moves towards themes of sorcery and the supernatural, they've been careful to ensure it doesn't contradict those scientific foundations. Marvel Studios even consulted with quantum physicists when working on Doctor Strange, and came up with a concept that's built on the idea of other dimensions & other levels of reality. Sorcerers tap into energy from other dimensions — as the trailer to Doctor Strange put it:
"Through the mystic arts we harness energy and shape reality."
In 'World's End,' Robbie Reyes talks about these other dimensions at length, and he reveals that they're in a state of war. Light and darkness are locked in cosmic battle; the "war in heaven" is a reality in the wider Marvel multiverse. As Reyes observes:
"The Earth is just one territory in a war that’s been going on forever."
Until Season 4, the stars of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been dealing with more conventional threats. The front line of that war has been reserved for the Marvel Netflix shows, where we learned that the Hand and the Chaste are locked in a centuries-old conflict, one that's set to come to a head in #TheDefenders. Now, though, all that's about to change.
Robbie Reyes Has Grown Up
Robbie Reyes bowed out of the main story at the end of Season 4's first pod. He sacrificed himself in order to defeat his uncle Eli, with both cast back to the dimension Eli was stealing matter from. It was a brilliant, unforgettable moment — but one wich left Robbie stranded.
In this other dimension, he was just the passenger. The Ghost Rider drove, and fought, and killed. All the while, though, Robbie learned. He learned of the war being fought in all those countless dimensions, he gained a knowledge of the cosmic stakes, and he picked up on a few tricks. 'World's End' closes with Reyes using the Ghost Rider chain like a sling-ring from Doctor Strange, creating a portal that transports him elsewhere. At first glance, it looks as though he actually goes to Kamar-Taj, presumably planning to drop the Darkhold off for safekeeping. But I'd be wary of assuming that's the case; it could just as easily be that he's stepped into another dimension.
Robbie Reyes has grown up. He understands the war that rages across the dimensions, and he's accepted that he has a part to play in it. Whatever the future holds, the Ghost Rider will be on the front lines.
This Is Clearly A Part of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5
So here's the question; will this war in heaven figure in some sort of Ghost Rider spinoff? Or will it come up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5? In the short-term, the answer is clearly the latter.
'World's End' saw Agent #Coulson make a deal with the Devil, literally. He opened himself up to the Ghost Rider, becoming a temporary host in order to kill Aida. But the Ghost Rider demanded that he pay a price for this; they struck some sort of deal, one that Coulson has kept secret from everyone else. It seems very likely that, as part of this deal, Coulson has agreed to step on to this mystical battlefield.
Combine this with the beautiful, brilliant dynamic between Gabriel Luna's Ghost Rider and Chloe Bennet's Quake? It's pretty certain we'll see these two interact again. Fans have been quietly wondering whether those two would ever get together, and last year Chloe Bennet insisted that wouldn't happen:
"I don’t think there’s any room for her to be falling in love or liking anyone at this point,” she said. “I think she’s still in an incredible amount of pain from losing Lincoln [and the events of last season]. I think there’s a lot of guilt built up, and I’m glad that there was no forced relationship, because I don’t think that would have been right for them. I think this way, it was weirdly more personal."
She was absolutely right. At that time, a relationship between the two would have felt forced and unnatural. But now? In 'World's End,' we definitely see hints of something more than friendship, with both now truly understanding the depths of loneliness you can feel when you go to battle against evil. At the very least, the dynamic between Bennet and Luna is so electric that they're certain to team up again. That said, I really wouldn't be surprised if these two don't find time for at least a hint of romance!
The Problem Of The Ghost Rider
Here's the catch, though; one reason Ghost Rider was written out of the second pod of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and only returned for the climax? Finances. The Ghost Rider CGI has been tremendously impressive, but will undoubtedly have taken up a lot of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s budget this last year. Given Season 5 is set to head into space, budget constraints are going to be tight. Perhaps too tight. In order to do this character and concept justice, it's possible that Marvel need to look beyond Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
In my view, it's time for Marvel to seriously think about linking in to #Netflix. Not only would Ghost Rider's darker tone fit perfectly with Marvel's Netflix portfolio, the streaming site is more likely to give Ghost Rider a workable budget. After all, Netflix happily pays out a little under $4 million per episode of Orange is the New Black, while The Crown Season 1 had a sky-high budget of $140 million. That officially made The Crown the costliest TV show of all time. Netflix may be the only ones willing to give a CGI-heavy Ghost Rider series the budget it needs.
It's worth noting that, as of yet, we have no evidence that Marvel is considering a Ghost Rider series — nor that Netflix would be interested in picking it up. That said, the concept of this war in heaven is simply too big to ignore; too rich with narrative potential for Marvel not to want to develop it further. I'll be very surprised indeed if Marvel isn't looking at some way of spinning this out in some way.
For fans of Ghost Rider, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 has been an unalloyed pleasure. The great news is, it's clear that the Ghost Rider's story has only just begun. 'World's End' pointed towards an exciting future, one in which the mystical really does move to the center-stage of Marvel's TV shows...