THE SHOCKING ORIGIN OF GHOST RIDER. AAAH!
Sorry, had to get that out of the way. This episode is so damn cool!
Quick recap: S.H.I.E.L.D. and shockwave-generating rogue ex-agent Quake are working with flame-skulled murdering invincible vigilante Ghost Rider to track a mad scientist ghost named Lucy Bauer, who has kidnapped fellow scientist Eli Morrow (the uncle of Ghost Rider) and is trying to use a mystical tome to undo the experiment that caused her ghostly form.
The episode starts with a flashback to “Back in the day” (way to be non-committal, folks!), where we see Elias Morrow show up to work at Momentum Energy Labs in his Dodge Charger. Dr. Lucy Bauer and her husband Dr. Joseph Bauer have had a breakthrough, and through some new machinery created by Joe, they create carbon out of air. Joe explains the science to fellow doctors Vincent, Frederick and Hugo, describing how the device could eventually end hunger, but Eli is confused; the end of the experiment had more matter than the start, which violates the laws of thermodynamics. Lucy begins to tell Eli that they discovered a book, the Darkhold, but Joe pulls her away and tells Eli that the book is his, and warns him to do what he is told and stop questioning it.
In present day, Agent Melinda May of S.H.I.E.L.D. and her S.T.R.I.K.E. team infiltrate Momentum Energy Lab to find Eli, who has been kidnapped by the ghost of Lucy; only to find several dead guards. Watching via video feed, Agent Leo Fitz notices that Lucy had looted the place, taking many pieces of equipment. May questions what Lucy wants with Eli, and Agent Phil Coulson theorizes that she is trying to reverse her ghostly form, and is using him to do what she can’t.
In Los Angeles, Gabriel Reyes calls Canelo’s Auto Body Shop, wondering if his older brother Roberto Reyes has shown up to work; he hasn’t seen him in a few days, and doesn’t suspect his brother is the vigilante Ghost Rider. His call is cut short when Daisy Johnson – a fellow vigilante known as Quake – knocks on his door, and tells Gabe she is going to take him to Robbie. Gabe refuses to get into her car, when a S.H.I.E.L.D. Quinjet lands.
In the S.H.I.E.L.D. base The Playground, Director Jeffrey Mace is sending his new blackmailer Agent Jemma Simmons on an urgent mission to assist the U.S. government. He refuses to divulge any information, saying it is government information and not S.H.I.E.L.D.’s. Simmons is relieved to hear that the director’s Quinjet is ready, assuming he is joining her – only to hear that he has his own mission, and hers is alone. She is to put a black bag on her head so she doesn’t see where she’s going, and believe it or not, this is the last we see of Simmons this episode.
On the S.H.I.E.L.D. jet Zephyr One, Gabe scolds his big brother Robbie for disappearing and hiding secrets. He reveals that he has figured it out; the nights away, the blood on his clothes: Robbie is a secret agent! Daisy lies for Robbie, and Gabe is excited by the fact. He is relieved, as he imagined the truth was a lot worse (it is). Robbie explains that their uncle Eli was taken out of prison and they feared Gabe was next, but they are going to find him.
In an abandoned lab, Eli is reading the Darkhold to Lucy and discovers the original experiment failed because they didn’t generate enough energy. He points out that if something goes wrong, thousands could die…but Lucy doesn’t care.
Mace’s Quinjet docks onto the Zephyr One. He broadcasts that Coulson is harboring two fugitives: Quake and Ghost Rider, and boards. Coulson denies that any criminals are on board, and Mace sends a S.T.R.I.K.E. team to spread out and find them. Agent Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie hears the director’s orders, and loads Daisy, Robbie and Gabe into the containment module and sinks it below the Zephyr One, so it is hanging in the sky. Using Star Wars analogies, Mace questions Coulson’s loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D. – an organization Coulson points out he literally died for. Mace shows Coulson Ghost Rider’s recent murder, and asks again where Coulson is hiding him. Below the jet in the containment module, Gabe asks why they are hiding. Daisy tells the (partial) truth: she was an agent that went rogue. Gabe asks why he and Robbie have to hide, and Daisy begins to lie. Robbie denies everything and says that Gabe deserves the entire truth.
Flashback to back in the day again, Robbie is borrowing his uncle Eli’s Dodge Charger when he is caught by his younger brother Gabe, who is not in a wheelchair (yet). Robbie says that he is racing a member of the gang The Fifth Street Cholos for money, and convinces reluctant star student Gabe to come along. They pull out of the driveway and are tailed by a van.
In the lab aboard the Zephyr One, Fitz is video chatting with May, trying to deduce exactly what was taken from Momentum Labs. He is interrupted by Mace’s S.T.R.I.K.E. team looking for Quake and Ghost Rider, which frustrates him. He admits he doesn’t trust the new director, and is worried that he hasn’t heard from his girlfriend Simmons all day. Through his frustration, he realizes they took power cells from the lab, to generate more energy.
In the containment module, Gabe tells Daisy that Robbie blames himself for the fact that Gabe is in a wheelchair. Robbie claims it is his fault. Flashing back, Robbie and Gabe are riding in the Charger. Gabe asks why Robbie doesn’t go back to school, and he says he would much rather work with cars than in an office. They comment that their uncle Eli has been acting funny lately, and chalk it up to his power-crazy boss Joe. They stop at a red light behind the van that was tailing them before, which doesn’t move when the light turns green. Robbie honks his horn and yells, when the van opens up and members of the Fifth Street Cholos throw a molotov cocktail at the Charger. Robbie backs into the car behind them and tries to make an escape when the brothers are sprayed with bullets, causing the car to crash and flip many times, throwing Robbie from the car and trapping Gabe beneath the burning car. Gabe recalls not being able to move or feel his legs – and seeing Robbie’s body and thinking he was dead. Robbie reveals that he was.
Aboard the Zephyr One, Fitz is looking for Coulson, as he needs someone to access some of Agent Peggy Carter’s classified S.S.R. files from the 1940s and 1950s on a company called Isodyne. (Where are my Agent Carter fans at?) Simmons has clearance, but she hasn’t spoken to him all day. Mack doesn’t have proper clearance, but mentions Coulson is still escorting Mace around.
Gabe doesn’t believe that Robbie died, and remembers being rescued by a good samaritan. He heard a motorcycle pull up…
Motorcycle. This is Robbie Reyes’ origin as Ghost Rider.
No way it’s Johnny Blaze. No way.
He heard a motorcycle pull up, and the man pulled Gabe to safety. He then went to check if Robbie was breathing, and left once he was satisfied he was.
Hell no, there’s more to it than that. DON’T TEASE ME.
Robbie tells Gabe there’s more to the story. (Damn right there is.) He recounts being shot by the Locos, flipping the car, and being thrown from the vehicle. As he was soaring through the air, he remembered feeling like he failed Gabe, and he was going to die because of him. He promised he would give anything to save Gabe – then he hit the pavement and died. As he lied mangled in the darkness, he heard a voice asking if he would like to avenge his own death, and right the wrongs done to his brother. He said yes. Robbie explains that when he opened his eyes, someone was there, but it wasn’t a good samaritan: it was the devil.
IN THE FLASHBACK, THE GHOST RIDER JOHNNY BLAZE BENDS DOWN AND GIVES ROBBIE HIS POWER, MAKING HIM THE NEXT GHOST RIDER.
If you don’t know what is exciting about Johnny Blaze, let me put it in context: Robbie Reyes is the fifth Ghost Rider. He is the most recent Ghost Rider in the comics, but not the original, most famous or beloved. When they announced Ghost Rider would appear on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., many people were upset that they were focusing on “legacy” hero Robbie Reyes and not the iconic Johnny Blaze (famously portrayed by Nicolas Cage in some unfortunately unforgettable movies). Johnny is a caucasian adult stuntman who rides a motocycle and has a leather jacket, Robbie is a latino teenage mechanic who drives a muscle car and has a striped riding jacket. Even their skulls look different. Imagine if you were a big Peter Parker fan, and then they announced that the new Spider-Man movie would be about newbie Miles Morales instead.
But Johnny Blaze is too big for S.H.I.E.L.D.! He belongs in the movies! Netflix series, at least! They should distance themselves from the Ghost Rider movies. Why would they do something so confusing as follow the Ghost Rider lore? We don’t need two Ghost Riders!
There were a million reasons a hero as big as Johnny Blaze would NEVER show up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – yet here he his. And GOD, WAS IT COOL.
Robbie reveals that as part of the deal, he needs to avenge wrongdoings by killing those who are not innocent. Gabe refuses to believe it, and blames Robbie for the deaths of the criminals, not Ghost Rider. He is disgusted that Robbie is trying to paint the crimes as justice for Gabe, as he has made peace with his disability.
Concluding the tour in the hangar of the Zephyr One, Mace notices the Hell Charger and thinks it is Coulson’s car. He is satisfied that Quake and Ghost Rider are nowhere on the plane, but points out they were below the plane the whole time, noticing the containment module is missing and calling it back up. Fitz approaches to authorize clearance to the S.S.R. files, but Mace hands the tablet to a S.T.R.I.K.E. agent before Coulson can sign. Robbie asks about his uncle’s safety, but Mace is more concerned with detaining and charging the criminals at the Playground. Coulson and Fitz argue the importance of their mission, but Mace orders they return to the base. Robbie refuses to be detained, and tries to punch his way out of the containment cell, flaming on and becoming Ghost Rider is the process, horrifying Gabe. Mace is concerned about Robbie escaping, but Coulson points out that no one has ever escaped, and it was adapted from material that held Thor, Loki, Hulk, and many others. Fitz reiterates that the containment module was designed to be impossible to break out of, and scoffs at the idea that Ghost Rider’s power comes from a “deal with the devil”. Ghost Rider breaks out of the cell and runs at Mace.
Mace and Robbie fight, before Robbie corners Mace. (Who would have thought we’d see Ghost Rider and Patriot duking it out on a S.H.I.E.L.D. Quinjet in front of Quake and Coulson?) Robbie starts pummeling Mace repeatedly in the face, almost killing the director and ignoring Coulson’s attempts to stop him, before Gabe calls for him to stop. Robbie flames down and Gabe asks to leave. Coulson convinces Mace to let Robbie stay and help, and he can pay for his mistakes later.
In the lab, Mack asks what Fitz has found. Fitz voices his frustration that Simmons appears to be missing, and reveals that Isodyne was a company in the 40s that was experimenting with “Zero Matter”, or “Darkforce”. Isodyne was bought out by Roxxon in the 50’s, and they renamed Isodyne to Momentum Energy Labs. Lucy has taken Eli to an abandoned Roxxon lab to conduct experiments. Good on you, S.H.I.E.L.D., for continuing the Agent Carter plotline after they were cancelled.
At the Roxxon power station, Lucy is forcing Eli to work on her experiment. Lucy laments that her husband Joe isn’t there to see their work (whom she killed), and blames Eli for putting him in a coma. Eli reveals that Joe was the one who hired the thugs to assassinate Robbie and Gabe, and claims Lucy and Joe were crazy about the book. In a flashback, Joe is reading the Darkhold when Eli approaches and asks for the book, trying to seek help for Joe. Joe begins to throw coffee mugs and Eli locks himself in Lucy’s office. Lucy tells him to trust them, and Eli is concerned about the dangers of the project. Lucy reveals that the book revealed some more information, and the new experiment is to imbue Joe with powers to generate materials himself. Eli is concerned that Joe is trying to be a god, and Lucy accuses him of jealousy.
Ghost Rider, Coulson, May, Fitz and Mack prepare to go on a infiltration missing at the power station, with Quake on hacking duty – but she is unable to hack into the system as it is pre-network. She directs the teams from the Zephye as Fitz and Mack are tasked with shutting down the power from the inside, Coulson and May are tasked with rescuing Eli, and Ghost Rider is tasked with “killing” Lucy, since his hellfire is the only thing that can affect ghosts. Mack, Coulson and May lose communication with Daisy, when Lucy shows up. Robbie stays behind to fight her while sending May and Coulson to find Eli. Lucy mistakes Robbie for Eli’s nephew “Gabriel, like the angel”. He corrects her that he is “the other one”. Lucy reveals that the hired hit was intended for Eli, not Robbie and Gabe.
In the main lab, Coulson and May find the Darkhold. Coulson sends May back the plane with it to ensure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands again. In the control room, Fitz and Mack are unable to power down the plant. Fitz thinks they may have used the book to power it, and Mack goes back to the plane to get an EMP device to disrupt the signal. Eli arrives in the main lab, and notices the book is different. He tells Coulson to avoid the equipment, as it is dangerous. Coulson asks if he could dismantle it, and Eli says he could – but refuses to do so, saying it took him so long to achieve it, locking himself in the reactor.
Mack runs into May’s S.T.R.I.K.E. team and brings them to the Zephyr to grab the EMP. Lucy tells Robbie she’s going to fix herself, and tries to infect Robbie with the ghost disease. Robbie grabs her arm, unaffected, and says there are consequences for playing God. Lucy scoffs and claims it was Eli who tried to play God.
In a flashback, Eli tries to get the Darkhold from Lucy, but she says that Joe has it. She notices Hugo, Vincent and Frederick are gone, and notices the ghostly containment boxes. Before she can piece it together, Eli strikes Lucy and loads her into the reactor, turning her into a ghost and locking her in a box as she begs for her life, realizing Eli just wanted the power to create matter for himself.
In present day, Robbie burns Lucy to death for her sins. Mack and May meet on the Zephyr on their errands. Coulson confronts Eli about being the “bad guy” all along. Eli activates the reactor and tells Coulson to leave. Coulson tries to unplug the equipment, but fails. Fitz notices the energy levels rising in the control room. The reactor sends out a blast that vaporizes Robbie, Coulson, and Fitz. The main lab, the hallway and the control room are empty, as Mack, Daisy and May watch in horror from outside.
Eli Morrow steps out of the reactor and manipulates the air above his hand into carbon.
What a crazy episode! Twist after twist after twist! What happened to Simmons? What happened to Coulson, Robbie and Fitz? JOHNNY BLAZE! ELI MORROW! Too much to process!
I give this episode a 9.5/10. Not as tightly scripted as some other entries, but holy damn was it good.
CRACKPOT THEORIES AND SPECULATION
– I think Mace gave Simmons to Senator Nadeer, his other blackmailer. Two birds with one stone.
– Johnny Blaze better appear again. I feel when S.H.I.E.L.D. returns from it’s very long hiatus, they will cast him for good. Norman Reedus anyone?
– Since S.H.I.E.L.D. is picking up Agent Carter’s storyline, maybe the same thing that happened to Jason Wilkes happened to them – sent to another dimension where they are incorporeal in ours.
– Will this tie in with Doctor Strange? I saw it recently, and there was a book missing in the Kamar-Taj library that looked roughly Darkhold-sized. Were the gang teleported to the Dark Dimension?
– When I recapped Agent Carter, I told you Darkforce/Zero Matter would be important.
– Eli Morrow was a villain in the comics, albeit a different one. Still, I should have seen this coming. Is he Molecule Man? That’s pretty overpowered for simple S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.