Let’s all just admit that it’s difficult to reference the title of this episode without following it with “same as the old boss” and just move on. Now that we’ve done that, what do we think about Jeffrey Mace? If that name doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t worry, because I had to look up who Jason O’Mara was playing on IMDb since he’s only referred to as “The Director” throughout the past two episodes (Coulson actually calls him Jeffrey at one point, but whatever the equivalent of blinking is for ears and you’ll miss it). Seems weird to introduce a brand-new character who will presumably have a lot of impact on the show and its characters moving forward (and, in a sense, the MCU at-large, given his role) and not formally provide us with their name, but hey, I’m no TV writer. But let’s focus on what we do know about him: he’s an Inhuman with generic super strength powers, he’s an insufferable bureaucrat with a dash of smarmy politician thrown in, and he’s more or less a nice fellow, albeit a rather bland one. Nothing too surprising here (you know, except for the whole Inhuman thing, but we’ll get to that) given that the last episode bent over backward to make us hate the new Director, even before we met him. It’s a fairly classic television trope indicating that the characters will be super likable once we do finally meet them. At first, it all plays as it should, and all I could think is how unlikely it seemed that this person holds the same position that Nick Fury once held. I know S.H.I.E.L.D. has been hobbled a bit, but it’s hard to imagine Mace lurking in the shadows of Tony Stark’s home to tell him about the Avengers Initiative, or thumbing his nose at the World Council (do they still exist?). Even when Coulson had the job, it was still hard to buy; but at least he was Fury’s buddy and had fought with the Avengers. Who’s this guy?


For an answer to that, it seems we’ll have to wait a bit. This season seems keen on slowly doling out its mysteries, which I think is actually a wise choice. Just like with Ghost Rider and the Ring Rejects, we’re getting just enough of these stories to make them interesting on their own, while we gradually get teases as to what’s happening this season. I was ready to end my opinion of Director Mace at “bland,” but the writers, as always, deserve more credit than that. Turns out, he’s an Inhuman. He may also be some sort of hero. It’s hard to tell given all the vague talk between Mace and Coulson, but the gist so far seems to be that Coulson told President Ellis he was out, but that he thought the new S.H.I.E.L.D. director should be someone with powers that the public could take a shine too. It’s an interesting twist that makes sense given what’s happened with the Sokovia Accords and the role S.H.I.E.L.D. plays as a sort of Enhance police force already. It’s hard to tell whether the public knows about Mace’s abilities, as he mentions to Coulson that his powers aren’t ready for the tour yet, but Coulson also implies he’s a publicly known hero, given his recommendation to the Pres. It’s possible that he’s just a military hero or something like that. Either way, it adds some much-needed nuance to a character that was teetering on the edge of generic and the reveal of his abilities was fun and added a nice spark to his personality.

Our other slow-burn seems to indicate that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. learned from the success of dovetailing all of their storylines together last season with the HYDRA/Maveth reveal. The Ring Rejects seemed headed towards case-of-the-week status until Daisy, Robbie, Mack, and Fitz all came crashing together. While the design of the ghosts leaves a lot to be desired (this show does an amazing job with TV CGI but they could really use a new make-up department), I’m really interested in how their story is going to play out. May’s infection/possession, the weird ghost people, the Watchdogs and the armed Aryans that Daisy’s after, and Robbie/Ghostie all look to be connected. I know some people will be bothered that there seems to be a science-y explanation for the possessions, ghosts, and the Rider himself, but I’m willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt. The core of Robbie’s story isn’t about the supernatural, it’s about his family, in a number of ways. While the show is definitely tweaking his origin, they seem to be hitting all the necessary beats, which is what Marvel has always done, and done well. It’s still up in the air how the studio is going to treat what Doctor Strange does, but given what we’ve already seen in the Thor movies, the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man, how Hill explains Scarlet Witch to Cap in Age of Ultron, and the Darkforce here and in Agent Carter, it seems that Feige and Co. are going midichlorians on us. Personally, I don’t mind. Magic, demons, gods: it’s all a bit messy from a storytelling standpoint. It’s one thing if you’ve got a massive, overarching universe built up over decades and made from multiple stand-alone stories that each explore different genres, but when it comes to crafting a leaner and newer MCU, I think rooting things in “science” is a smart move.

Ghost Rider

I’ve read enough fan comments to know that this is a sensitive subject, but if we get to the root of it, what’s the issue? I understand that some people like sci-fi, some like fantasy, some want supernatural elements and Marvel has always been great about catering to all of those, but the films/shows are a different beast. They’re designed to all fit in the same world that birthed Iron Man, which has always been one rooted in “reality” and leaning towards soft sci-fi more than anything. While Marvel is great about wrapping their films and shows in other genre trappings to give them their own energy, they’ve still always kept that core conceit. By doing this, they’re able to play with the majesty and grandeur of a cosmic Norse pantheon while still keeping one foot in the realm of “this is just super advanced technology and science.” I know people argue that these sorts of explanations take away from the awe and wonder that magic provides, but do they? It’s not like anyone’s bothered to explain how science allows Thor to fly around with a lightening-channeling hammer that no one can pick up. All the mystery normally associated with stories of wizards and demons is still in play, there’s just a slight tendril of reality grounding the whole thing. Again, we’ll see how things play out over the next few months as the season unfolds and all things Doctor Strange are revealed, but for right now, I’m pretty intrigued and excited by the direction of the show as it’s offering its own unique spin on some classic Marvel elements. Honestly, that’s all I’ve ever wanted it to do.


4.5 Shotgun Axe Combos out of 5. Seriously, Marvel needs to drop a Mack and His Shotgun Axe comic now.


  • In typical Marvel fashion, Mace is actually a repurposed character from the comics. He appeared during the Golden Age as the Patriot before becoming one of the many Captain Americas who replaced Steve Rogers after his (first) death. While he didn’t have powers or really bear any similarities to the show’s version, it’s fitting that Mace does mention that Rogers might have taken his job if he wasn’t AWOL. In the comics, Steve did briefly head S.H.I.E.L.D. (or a version of it, it’s complicated) and donned one of my favorite costumes of his following his resurrection, which saw Bucky taking on the Cap mantle (again, it’s complicated).

  • In case you were wondering if the ghosts were mangling the term “Darkforce” when discussing the book that seems to have given them and Ghost Rider their spooky powers, they were actually discussing The Darkhold, a magical artifact from the comics that I had to Google. We don’t yet know how it’ll play out in the series, but it could blow a hole in my entire science-magic rant. It’s also a prime candidate for the connective thread between SHIELD and Doctor Strange at this point.

  • Fitz: “You’re an engineer Mack. And a small tank.”

  • While I love the direction they’re going with Daisy this season, Fitz is also pretty on-point when he says they’ve all been through bad things and no one else reacted like she did. Oh wait, Fitz ran off to Morocco and almost got himself killed after Simmons disappeared. Whoops.

  • I know they wanted the big, dramatic Inhuman reveal for the Director, but all I could think while May was freaking out was “You all literally have guns that knock people out!”

  • I liked Mace bringing up that Coulson used to have mysterious, unlimited funding, which honestly seems to be the case for virtually every superhero.

  • Good thing they signed those NDAs, cus now a bunch of random Congresspeople also know Coulson is alive. Cap, Tony, and Thor are gonna feel so dumb.

  • Robbie got his white hoodie from the comics! The writers are also really trying to hold off on him getting a chain. He’s used a pipe, a wrench, and an exhaust manifold so far. It’d be great if he and Daisy ran into James and that’s where Robbie gets the idea for the flaming chain. Please let this happen!