Who saw that coming? Be honest, cus I sure didn’t. Having read the comics featuring Robbie Reyes, it was clear early on that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to tweak the newest Ghost Rider’s origin a bit. Because of that, I was never sure which direction the MCU’s iteration would take, especially since we’re still so in the dark about how this more grounded side of the Marvel Universe plans on handling magic and the supernatural. While I don’t know that we yet have a definitive answer (and likely won’t until we’ve all had a chance to see Doctor Strange this week), “The Good Samaritan” seems to assuage a lot of people’s fears about everything from how the MCU would treat the mystical, to whether or not other Ghost Riders would ever see the light of day. In doing so, we may have all just witnessed one of the best episodes of this show.
SHIELD has had a particularly strong season so far, channeling some of the energy of the Netflix corner of Marvel’s universe to give us an exciting 6-episode arc (much like the comics do). The show’s slowly been building up and teasing various reveals and backstories, all culminating in this week’s episode; all the while, they’ve been providing us with some of the series’ best action sequences and strongest character moments. Though a few beats haven’t quite worked for me, the main threads of the Season 4 so far, from the convergence of the new SHIELD to Daisy’s isolation, to all of the mystery surrounding Ghost Rider and the Ring Rejects, was masterfully executed as secrets were revealed, shaky alliances were formed, and much of what we knew and assumed about this show and the MCU was flipped on its head.
Many of us know the gist of the “Good Samaritan” story, about a man left beaten and naked on the road, only to be helped by the titular Samaritan. While some of the deeper context doesn’t really apply here, the story’s Biblical roots seem especially apt. I also want to read into it a bit and note that one of the travelers who leaves the man to die is a priest, just as the God who Robbie prays to isn’t the one who offers him or Gabe salvation. I prefer not to have my genre stories suffused with religious (re: Christian) subtext, which is all too often the case on TV, but given how much it’s bandied about in the story of Ghost Rider, it’s hard to ignore. What’s most interesting about the MCU’s origin for Robbie’s very own “other guy” is how it retells his comic backstory while still keeping the, ahem, spirit alive. By the end of the episode, we know that Uncle Eli is a deranged murderer and in some way responsible for Robbie becoming Ghost Rider. That decision takes a number of the key elements from the comics while fitting them into the ongoing story and the existence of prior Ghost Riders to make things a bit less convoluted than they were on the page. With that said, I suppose we ought to talk about the biker with a flaming skull in the room.
After much hemming and hawing from fans of previous comic book Ghost Riders Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, and last week’s little Easter eggs that seemed both a nod and a tease, Marvel proved that it’s always got a plan in place. Turns out that, unlike in the comics, Robbie’s Spirit Of Vengeance is very much part of a lineage. Last week revealed that Robbie made his “deal with the devil” after a drive-by that also put Gabe in a wheelchair and provided the Ghost Rider with his victims of vengeance. This week, we see the event unfold, and learn how it’s all tied into Eli and his corporeal coworkers. Turns out, Uncle Eli is crazy. To be fair, so are his teammates on the project at Momentum Labs. They’re all power hungry over the Darkhold, and their work leads them to reopen the experiments that propelled Season 2 of Agent Carter. For some reason, Fitz seems to forget the team’s previous two encounters with the Darkforce (both Blackout and the Russian Inhuman could wield it, a fact the team openly stated they were aware of). Nonetheless, it was neat to get shoutouts to Peggy Carter, Isodyne, and Zero Matter/the Darkforce in an episode so packed with connective tissue.
Since nothing good can come out of meddling with books and forces that have ‘Dark’ as their prefix, the whole ordeal causes Eli’s boss to put a hit out on Robbie and Gabe’s tio and leads Eli to ghost-toast his colleagues. Of course, the Fifth Street Locos are also, you know, loco, so they light up Eli’s Charger without bothering to notice that two kids are inside. Wracked with guilt, Robbie begs for help before dying, only to be saved by making a deal with the titular Good Samaritan, who just happens to be a preexisting Ghost Rider.
As I try to avoid news related to episodes before I watch them so I don’t get spoiled (and thus was able to bathe in the pure joy that was the reveal of another Ghost Rider in the MCU), it’s possible that the producers or writers have already revealed whether we saw Johnny Blaze or Danny Ketch. If they haven’t, then there will likely be a spirited (not intentional this time) debate across the Internet and in the comments about which one it was. For my money, I’m guessing Blaze, given this Rider had the classic motorcycle jacket, whereas Ketch rocked some weird, high-collared thing. It also makes sense that if the MCU is trying to trim the fat of the various Ghost Rider mythologies from the comics, that they’d stick to the original (not counting The Phantom Rider formerly know as Ghost Rider) and the most recent. The biggest question is, of course, what does this mean regarding the possibility of a Ghost Rider movie/series. I’m leaning towards a movie being a no-go given the character’s sordid history in cinema and Marvel’s packed slate, but Netflix is definitely on the table. That would be awesome, of course, because it’d provide a solid reason for SHIELD to finally crossover (and maybe even just exist within that world, as they’re likely not long for the network television one). Either way, it was a fantastic twist that succeeded in selling the story the show has been telling all season, making this the series’ strongest arc yet.
5 Fitz Beards out of 5. How do we feel about this development?
Seriously, though, Coulson made almost the exact same joke about the Darkforce when it was introduced in Season 1. I know Mack wasn’t there, but Fitz should remember. They also explicitly state that the Russian Inhuman could make Darkforce shadow versions of himself, though I guess that might have been forgotten with the sadness that was Huntingbird leaving the team/show.
Speaking of Huntingbird, while not appearing in this episode, I feel like Elena and Radcliffe are sort of replacements for the energy that Bobbi and Hunter brought. While I love them both, I’d love all four of them on the show together even more.
“Screw you, black Kojak. No one moves this thing except me.” More Gabe, please.
Does Kevin Feige get a million dollars every time an MCU character says the phrase “the other guy?”
“I have zero geese. We’re goose-free.” Coulson and Mace need to start a vaudeville comedy routine.
Really enjoyed the “Back In The Day” timestamp as I’ve given up hope that Marvel will every provide us with anything resembling a coherent timeline on the events of the MCU.
Mace comes off as a bit of a villain in this episode, especially given the shadiness of his interaction with Simmons, but to be fair to him, his whole team is basically ignoring his authority and pretending like Coulson is still the boss. I’m assuming that’ll play out over the next few episodes.
Speaking of, what do you all think will happen with Daisy and Robbie next episode? I doubt Mace is gonna just let everything slide.
In the screenshot I took above of, let’s assume, Johnny Blaze, I noticed a bullet hole in his head. I know he doesn’t die like Robbie did when he makes his “deal,” so I wonder if this is the MCU altering things or if there’s something from Ghost Rider lore of which I’m not aware. Let me know in the comments!