Welcome back, true believers! The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are back from their winter break, taking a new approach to the rest of Season 4. The beginning of the season focused on Robbie Reyes, aka the Ghost Rider, as he tore a path across Los Angeles, looking to put a stop to the plans of his nefarious uncle, Eli Morrow. In the end, Robbie was in fact able to stop his uncle, but not without being sucked into a portal along with him into whereabouts unknown. Yes, the Ghost Rider may not be appearing for the rest of this season, especially as show producers were balking at the cost of bringing the Spirit of Vengeance to life on ABC, which is understandable, but instead we’re given a new look into the head of a Life Model Decoy.
Ada, the artificial intelligence created by Dr. Radcliffe and Fitz earlier this season, used the Darkhold to save our heroes earlier in the season, but the cursed book has apparently sparked something in the robot, sending her on a path of destruction. Her first stop down this road? Creating a duplicate of Agent May that would give the cylons from Battlestar Galactica a run for their money.
“Broken Promises” begins with the eerie scene of Ada fixing her bullet wounds while listening to classical music and checking on the real, unconscious May. The LMD makes for a nice character here with Ada proving to be quite scary in grappling with her newfound emotions given to her by the Darkhold. While not necessarily on the same level as the supernatural shenanigans of Ghost Rider fighting vengeful spirits, it does the trick to reel you in and keep you interested as to where this plot is headed. Ada searching for the cursed book, while also manipulating “Fake May” ratchets up the tension for what the robot can get away with. Ada’s ability to hack into S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters makes for some nice action scenes when she takes control of the Quinjet and its turrets.
The best part of the episode, far and away, is Mack and his hatred of said robots. Dropping reference after reference, the tallest member of the team got some legitimate belly laughs from yours truly as he spouted off how he was going to force Dr. Radcliffe to watch the worst Terminator movie as punishment for their current predicament and rallying on about how their situation is similar to that of the ending of the movie, Lawnmower Man. Mack has slowly become my favorite member of the core cast, adding a lot of novelty like his witty charm and ever trusty “shotgun axe” to the mix of the team’s adventures. It’s a delight to spend time with the character, and his belle Yo-Yo, as they dart between Quinjet gunfire and eventually put a stop to Ada by knocking her head from her body. Alas, all was not as it seemed as Radcliffe had made a fake Ada to attempt to gain back control of the Darkhold for himself and his Life Model Decoy creation, celebrating the fact that the pair still had the robotic May in play.
While the main storyline manages to hold your interest, I can’t really say the same for the B-plot that once again drops us into the world of Inhumans, albeit in a less than spectacular fashion. The Inhuman saved by Simmons, Veejay, has awoken from his cocoon and been taken by his sister, the shady Senator Nadeer. Daisy and company attempt to save Veejay from the clutches of his sister while also battling the Watchdogs under her employ. The Watchdogs themselves are pretty much played out at this point, a number of faceless, personality-less goons donning somewhat nifty masks that have a hatred for the newly discovered super powered race. This leads into my problem with the Inhuman storylines in general in that that particular area has been mined to its full potential. I say this for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at least as the actual Inhumans series coming out later this year, introducing comic stalwarts such as Black Bolt, Lockjaw, Medusa, and others.
The Inhumans made splashes in Season 2 and 3, and of course several members of the team are Inhumans, but Ghost Rider acted as a breath of fresh air acting to incorporate their skill sets without focusing once again on Terrigen mists, full-body cocoons, and so on. It’s territory we’ve revisited numerous times and, if you plan on going back to that well, we need to see a fresh new take. To its credit, the show tries to offer something new with the origin of the Senator’s hatred of Inhumans, but even this feels like a repeat as Netflix’s Jessica Jones had explored something similar in its run. The Avengers and the Chitauri invasion have been dragged out over and over again, and while it was originally charming, it’s simply boring to reveal that it’s once again the motivation for our villain’s nefarious deeds, to say nothing of the fact that Veejay and the Senator don’t exactly knock it out of the park when it comes to their acting chops.
Ultimately, the return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s fourth season doesn’t maintain the heights of its days with Ghost Rider in the driver’s seat, but it does manage to remain a solid entry on the airwaves. Just figure out a way to better sell the B-plot and we’d be cooking with gas.