The mid-season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. set up countless new arcs, with a strong focus on the "LMD" plot. But, in doing so, it also brought an end to one of the most popular arcs the series has ever seen. Gabriel Luna's phenomenally successful Ghost Rider vanished to another (likely Hellish) dimension along with his uncle, but nobody believed he was dead; Coulson even decided to keep the car around just in case.
1. A Different 'Flavor'
“It would feel like one flavor over a long period of time, but we’ve certainly left it open to revisit."
So says Jeffrey Bell, Executive Producer of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. He's got a point; the last half-season saw Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dive into a darker place than its ever been before. You had mystical tomes like the Darkhold, demonic possession, people stranded in astral forms. All that worked tremendously well, but in the long-term? Not so much.
It's worth remembering that #Marvel embraced the "Ghost Rider" arc as a loose thematic tie-in with Doctor Strange, which introduced the concept of the supernatural to the #MCU. That's now been done, and the MCU is moving on; the next film will be May's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is to stay relevant to the ongoing narrative tone and style of the MCU, then the series had to move on too.
2. The Danger of Dominating the Show
Significantly, Jeffrey Bell also pointed out that 22 episodes of "Ghost Rider" would be a lot — "especially with everything else that we like and care about on the show." The real danger with the "Ghost Rider" arc is that, should it last too long, it would risk dominating the series. Other major plot elements — from the Inhuman pandemic to the Watchdogs — would gradually move into the background. Even the LMDs themselves (which, don't forget, were the first thing we learned to expect in Season 4) would gradually become overwhelmed by supernatural arcs.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a lot more stories to tell than just "Ghost Rider." The risk was that Gabriel Luna's popular superhero would gradually warp the narrative, leaving it focused entirely around him. That could damage the arcs we've already invested in, and result in characters we already know and love not getting developed.
Nobody will be particularly surprised to hear that the "Ghost Rider" arc wasn't cheap. Jeffrey Bell even quipped that the LMD arc — which seems to set up a potential "Secret Invasion" plotline — is a lot cheaper than setting a guy's head on fire! It's been obvious to any viewers that the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crew invested a lot of money into making Gabriel Luna's Ghost Rider work; the scenes were he flamed out were phenomenal, and the quality of the CGI was light years ahead what we've usually seen on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The sad truth is, there was simply no way the show could maintain that budget.
Viewed from a financial perspective, the "LMD" arc is a nice antidote. You're dealing with robot duplicates of key characters, meaning that CGI costs are a lot lower. As a result, balancing "Ghost Rider" out with "LMD" probably meant most of the show's CGI budget could be allocated to the first half-season. Smart budgeting.
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So there you have it, Marvel fans — three reasons Marvel Television chose to end the "Ghost Rider" arc. I'm not going to lie, I want to see a lot more of Robbie Reyes's Ghost Rider — but I can also fully understand the decisions. Personally, I'm rather hoping Ghost Rider will ultimately return — either as the star of his own series or in another Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. arc!
Do you agree with the decision to end "Ghost Rider" at the mid-season break?
(Source: TVLine, Poll Image Credit: ABC)