(Warning: spoilers for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 below. You've been warned.)
The latest season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D started Tuesday night and it's not the same show. Yes, there's a new status quo, a new director, the team being split up, and Daisy Johnson going it alone as quake, but it also feels like I'm watching it on Netflix along with Marvel's other offerings there, rather than on ABC.
The actors and showrunners have been hailing their new 10:00pm time slot as a chance to be edgier and open up new opportunities for the show. Historically, the 10:00pm hour is not the best slot for shows, especially on ABC, the channel that hosts S.H.I.E.L.D.
Watching the fourth season premiere, it seems like Marvel's showrunners know that too. Agent Carter was already canceled by ABC, and, by all accounts, not with Marvel's approval. Added to ABC passing up on Marvel's Most Wanted, something seems a bit iffy here.
With Marvel developing such a good relationship with Netflix and the heavy support for Netflix to pick up Agent Carter (a move that unfortunately fell through, likely due to conflicts deals with Marvel's international outlets), there is an awful lot of strange synergy with S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new tone and that of Marvel's Netflix series so far.
Here's where the spoilers begin:
In S.H.I.E.L.D.'s opener this week, Daisy (as Quake) is tracking down what appears to be the sale of weapons from one gang to another. The chase scene is disrupted by Ghost Rider.
I couldn't help but think I'd seen this exact thing before. Rumors of gangs working together, some outside force causing them fear. The protagonist desperately searching for who that is.
Oh, right. That was this past season's Daredevil, with Punisher in place of Ghost Rider.
In both cases we don't see this new antihero's face until much later, in a new seemingly surprising context. Moreover, both times the new character faces off against the protagonist until he or she is gravely wounded, then decides not to kill him/her and leaves.
To be fair, I don't think S.H.I.E.L.D. was trying to recapture Daredevil frame for frame; I don't think they were even going for plot similarities. And there's enough differences in the subplots of both shows to make up for how similar Daisy's interactions with Ghost Rider are to that of Daredevil and Punisher. You can watch the scene in question below:
It's more like S.H.I.E.L.D is trying to force some connection between the shows. The MCU does need more synergy as a whole, but the namedropping of the Sokovia Accords and Ultron in this episode didn't feel out of place with how S.H.I.E.L.D has handled film events in the past. Even the new mystical element introduced with Robbie/Ghost Rider's powers and the strange ghost briefcase don't quite feel like a shove for Dr. Strange, but somewhat organic to the show.
The introduction of different gangs as a guide to some overarching criminal underworld plot seems like a huge bid for the show to bring in Daredevil. Clark Gregg has been very honest in the past about wanting S.H.I.E.L.D to crossover with Marvel's Netflix series, but that always felt like a long shot until now.
Even smaller parts of S.H.I.E.L.D, with no connection to the plot, feel like they'd be more at home on the streaming service. For example, there are the entirely unnecessary (CBR agrees with me) shots of Daisy pulling on her underwear in the opening of S.H.I.E.L.D Season 4. There's no relevance to the nudity — especially one with a strongly implied male gaze — for the plot. Even the uniform Daisy is putting on reveals nothing. It's her same old S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform. The shots don't add to the show, other than alienate a female audience who enjoyed seeing a Marvel cast with equal gender representation.
Other than hint that, S.H.I.E.L.D is ready for a R-rating like Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
With her oddly chosen, Bucky Barnes-style eyeliner, Daisy is even starting to look like a discount Jessica Jones, not that Jessica Jones would approve of the unnecessary nudity (or that the characters are similar enough to have the show draw such comparisons).
When the android AIDA is introduced, she is similarly nude. It works for the show's plot. It sets up a nice gag. (Though, combined with the opening of the show, it still made me at least feel a bit uneasy).
Either way, the point is clear — S.H.I.E.L.D. is ready to be treated like the rest of Marvel's still ongoing shows. It's dark, it's broody, it's ready for a crossover.
But the best parts of the episode for me were still where it felt like old S.H.I.E.L.D.: YoYo's flirtatious banter with Mack; Simmons's wonderment at the virtual reality construct of the lab Fitz made; The still sort of new, but always wonderful, John Hannah as Dr. Radcliffe; Coulson and May ending the episode with the kind of talk that always set them up as Team Dad and Mom.
I'm alright with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. playing with the big boys, but they still have a lot of fine tuning to do before the show can walk that world, and not lose their old audience.
What did you think of the Season premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?