While I was on vacation in Orlando, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ran a new episode. Helpfully, from this blog's perspective, it hasn't run a new one since, giving me time to catch up before things get started again.
This was the "Ghost Rider origin story" episode. Specifically on those terms, it didn't feel like essential viewing. It came six episodes into the season, at a point when the show had done a thorough job of showing us what Robbie and his flaming-skulled alter ego were all about. I didn't really need a Ghost Rider origin story to fill in the gaps, unless that back story somehow had some unexpected elements.
Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), the back story was instead very Marvel hero paint-by-numbers. We already knew about Robbie's commitment to his brother. We already knew he was seeking vengeance, and against whom. Really, the only added detail we got was that Robbie received his powers from, apparently, another Ghost Rider (as opposed to the Devil himself or some such). And that detail doesn't seem meaningful in any way at this point.
Also in the "doesn't seem meaningful" column was the revelation that Robbie's Uncle Eli is not an ally, but an enemy. In the ill-defined Macguffin that is the Darkhold, that felt to me not like a revelation, but a given. Whatever this Darkhold thing is or isn't, we've watched it pretty consistently corrupt everyone it comes into contact with. That Eli would be corrupt too isn't a disappointment, but it isn't a surprise either. Yet it was played as though it was meant to come as a shocking twist.
But fortunately, the episode wasn't all about flashbacks, and a lot of what happened in the present day was more compelling. Director Mace is quickly being moved into antagonist territory. It makes sense, because while he's maybe a bit simplistic in his views, you can understand why he thinks Coulson is doing bad things here. I'll be interested to see if the show tries to bring Mace around, or if we're just on an express train to all-out opposition.
Even more interesting for the future is the episode's cliffhanger ending. Fitz and Coulson were caught up in the mystical explosion. (Well, so was Robbie, but one might assume him to be immune to any ill effects.) What exactly is going to happen to them? Are they ghostly now too, or will something else happen to them? Well it be the same or different for each of them? The story could take off in almost any direction from here, and two characters who have been around since the beginning are right at the center of it.
This episode wasn't a favorite of mine, but I am interested to see where things go from here. I give it a B-.