Lawdy. It was a long summer, but we’re finally back. And, true to form, Shield hit the ground running. Whatever complaints you may have about Shield, filler episodes is not one of them. We developed about eleventy questions that need answering this season, and I predict that about half will be answered before Halloween. But I digress.

There are terrible, TERRIBLE spoilers beyond this sentence. If you read something you didn’t know, I’m glad you learned today, but any spoilers are on you.

Shield was moved to the 10 p.m. slot by ABC for this season, and at first, many people (myself included) thought that ABC was preparing us for a final season. It’s too early to tell, but if this were the last hurrah, Shield could go out with a bang. Then, it started coming out that the time move was to allow Shield to get a little more dark. Clark Gregg promised side boob, and whispers of a darker, grittier, bloodier Shield began to emerge. Well, we’re here. So which is it? Shield After Dark or Saying goodbyes?

I think Daisy’s Dukes and Ghost Rider ripping a dude’s spine out answers that question. God damn I love this show.

This trend started last season with Squidward feeding on all those poor (not really) Hydra souls. Remember when he left those people husks when getting his strength back? That was pretty graphic. Compare that with the Netflix shows (Punisher. DUDE) and the trend continues: Marvel is keeping the movies PG-13 so they can be seen by a larger audience, while letting the television side of things explore the darker themes and push the element with gore and sex and what not.

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Since we’re comparing things, consider what DC has done: The movies are surprisingly dark (would you take an 8 year old to watch Batman torture people and Superman break necks at a breakneck speed?) and the shows are accessible and PG-13. Sure, Arrow is more serious than most and Flash fucks reality up because he loves his mom (Martha? Is that you?) and ice cream, but the money is still in the movies. Only a few million people watch the weekly shows for both DC and Marvel. But movies draw a larger audience. Marvel’s strategy is keep the movies accessible to a larger, broader audience, and let the shows take a chance. DC was doing the exact opposite, you know, until WB got skittish and Justice League got jokes.

But up until this season, Shield was the outlier for Marvel. All of the other televised options (Netflix) were more mature, if you will. Shield is now taking its chances at a later time, and from what we’ve seen, it’s going to be awesome.

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1. Having said that, Shield still needs to remind us (it really doesn’t) that it’s connected to the overall MCU. That’s why we got references to two of the last three movies, and that box is already hinting at an obvious connection to the next. First, Coulson made the quip about those stoners and if hunger were a super power, they’d be signing the Sokovia Accords as we speak. Then, Mack had to go and ruin the moment when Yo Yo was spittin’ game and talk about signing the Accords. THEN, Dr. Potter referenced Ultron when Fitz raised the completely reasonable and understandable concerns about Artificial Intelligence.

But I don’t need to look back. I know Shield was there for all that in spirit. Coulson is team Cap all the way to the registration line, and Koenig helped Coulson deliver the Helicarrier to Fury when Ultron took Sokovia out for a spin. What’s next.

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Magic. We’ve dealt with science and weirdness (Season 1) and Hydra (Season 2) and the cosmos (Season 3). The next step is magic. Dr. Strange comes out on November 4, 2016. That’s six weeks from now. Shield has a tendency of expanding on something (Hydra, Kree, etc.) and introducing us to new ideas for the movies (Darkforce/Zero Matter, Inhumans, etc.) and the MCU proper won’t touch real (not Asgardian Sci-magic) magic for six weeks. There are five more episodes (not withstanding any week long breaks planned by ABC) before Dr. Strange blows our minds. Given the pace of this show since Ward took out Agent Hand, we’ll be fully versed in spirits and magic and other realms and dimensions before the Ancient One has a chance to knock the Chakra out of Stephen Strange for giving sass.

But really, I lied earlier. I said I didn’t need to look back. I keep doing it, and I will, so you should get used to me lying, and you should LIKE IT. (There’s a very real chance a fibbing Cheetoh will be President, so really, get used to it.) We’ve already had a taste of magic and other dimensions in the MCU: In Season 1 of Shield, Darkforce was introduced. Darkforce was expanded on in Agent Carter with Zero Matter. We’ve been told that Darkforce/Zero Matter will tie into Dr. Strange somehow.

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So in the next five weeks, expect to get a crash course in spirits and realms and dimensions and planes of existence, because this shit is about to get weird.

2. Despite the above, my goodness this show is still funny. We lost Hunter and Bobbie last season, so someone had to pick up the slack with the jokes. It appears those people are Coulson and Mack. This show was somewhat of a rollercoaster for me, as I went from being intrigued by Daisy’s dukes to impressed by Ghost Rider’s interrogation techniques to Coulson and Mack hamming it up to May ABSOLUTELY kicking ass to Ghost MOTHERFUCKING Rider. My favorite part was Coulson giving himself a high five with his new hand. Mack was hilarious with his deadpan, what with the “not my kind of brotha’s” and telling Coulson he looks forward to seeing May more than he did. Did you see Mack’s face when he said they should call May for backup and May appeared out of nowhere? Perfect. This show has the proper mix of hilarity and serial killery. Keep it up.

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3. Seal Team May was off the hook. Those augmented glasses FitzSimmons developed were sweet, giving them a bird’s eye view while they swept the room. I have a feeling that that technology will be used on either Daisy (to provide closure,) Robbie (to calm his ass down,) or the Director (to throw a little rouge on him.) You watch. That was one of the eleventy questions we’ll see pay off this season. Remember Mack’s Shotgun Axe? NEVER FORGET.

4. Speaking of, I do not like this new Director. He’s completely over reacting to Shield’s past. Sure, the public opinion about Shield has to be right there with its opinion on Hitler (because NAZIS) but he’s already making the same mistakes Fury did. Fury kept everything compartmentalized. That’s why Cap was so pissed when Widow had her own mission at the beginning of Winter Soldier and why Hydra was allowed to flourish - no one had information on other departments or clearance levels, so who knew all of S.T.R.I.K.E. was Hydra enforcers? Now, this Director is keeping everything classified (“everything is these days...”) and only certain people know certain information.

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Then, we learned that the different levels were replaced with a “Spectrum of Security” because we all know how well color-coded systems work. Then, the Director requires daily lie detector tests? Come on now. Maybe the Director doesn’t want anyone to feel lesser because their number is smaller (it’s not the size, it’s how you use it...right?) but it’s going to end up making it so people keep pertinent information from each other because plausible deniability. We were 40 minutes in and the flaw was already revealed: May had to lie to Simmons because of her new title. That’s not Synergy, Director.

He needs to work on those acronyms. Seriously Hideous Identification Themes, dude.

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5. AIDA. Now that’s an acronym Fitz really doesn’t feel comfortable getting behind. Also, she’s (it’s?) another casualty of the Director’s strict rules and regulations. Dr. Potter and Fitz have to try to make it (her?) perfect before they even mention her (it?) to Simmons or the Director. You know what Fitz needs to do his best work? Simmons. This will not end well.

But God damn I love that Life Model Decoys are here, even if they keep trying to install Windows 10. Aida already crossed that uncanny valley, and makes Fitz extremely uncomfortable. Fitz told Dr. Potter to turn Aida off before she could reveal the real reason she was created.

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6. I keep beating around the bush, but we’ll get there. Hold your horses. I want to talk about that Ghost Box Ghost Rider is after. What is that thing, and what just got out? My first thought was that the box was Pandora’s Box, which holds numerous Imps that cause various conditions for those exposed to it. I think this could be the case, but if so, man is it an obscure reference from the comics. Pandora’s Box contains numerous Imps, such as the Imp of Hatred and the Imp of Fear. What have we seen so far? Two Triad guys opened the box, and ripped each other the shreds (hate?) and the rest of the Triad guys started freaking out on each other and seeing each others’ faces melt off (fear?) Sadly, that same spirit infected May, because she saw the same face condition on Coulson as those gangsters saw in the warehouse. Interestingly, there is a Firey Imp, made of pure fire. I wonder if that has anything to do with Ghost Rider?

7. Coulson’s new hand is BOSS.

8. Ghost. MotherFUCKING. Rider. Last season, we got a quick glimpse of Hellfire using a fiery chain to take out some dudes, and the flames were stoked: Marvel could pull off a proper Ghost Rider. That reality has come to pass, and it was done SPECTACULARLY. Robbie is great as the Ghost Rider, and the visual effects are ON POINT. My God it was beautiful. The only corny shot was when the RPG flipped his Charger. Everything else was righteous.

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As you are well aware, this isn’t your dad’s Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze. Nope, this is Robbie Reyes, a street racer who, in the comics, is possessed by a spirit that pretends to be a Spirit of Vengeance but is really just a deceased serial killer taking advantage of Robbie. Johnny Blaze comes around and reveals this information, but I don’t think that’s how they’re going to go with this character. This is basically a clean slate for Marvel, and I suspect that they will change Eli to be less of a serial killer to more of a killer who was recruited by someone (Mephisto?) to be one of the Spirits of Vengeance. While his skull is exposed and on fire, he has all the same powers as Johnny Blaze, save for the Penance Stare. I propose that each of the different Spirits of Vengeance have different specialties. Blaze has the Penance Stare. Robbie has something else.

That first goon that died in the hospital said that this Ghost Rider “burns your soul” and that your sould “can’t heal” from it. Later, when Ghost Rider was done with that Trump Supporter, his last words were that he “didn’t deserve to die.” When Ghost Rider was tangoing with Quake (Per my usual rule, I will call her whatever she calls her self, unless out of mind (like when she was under Squidward’s persuasion)), she asked him to kill her because she deserved it, and he didn’t.

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THAT is Robbie’s specialty: He can tell who deserves to die, and obliges, burning their soul as a penalty. Blaze’s Penance Stare made the people he looked eye to eye with (save for Punisher) experience all the pain and suffering they caused throughout their lives. Here, Robbie is able to look into a person’s soul and determine if they deserve to die. Sinners. Evil Doers. People who excessively customize orders at Starbucks. All of them. If they deserve to die, Eli, the serial killer, makes things right.

In the preview for next week, Robbie told Quake that he sold his soul to the devil. It should be noted that Blaze did the same thing, and Mephisto pulled a Trump and got Blaze on a technicality. I have a feeling the same thing happened here. Robbie is determined to take care of his brother, Chris Gabe. Something happened to Robbie, and to allow himself to be present to care for Gabe, Robbie sold his soul in exchange for a second chance at life. Mephisto pulled a technicality, and now Robbie has to wrastle with Eli for control. Hopefully the show doesn’t go as dark as the comic (when Eli takes over for a time, he doesn’t take care of Gabe, who almost dies.) Daisy and the team will teach Robbie how to control Eli, and use his powers for good.

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But seriously, how fucking cool would it be if the name “Mephisto” was uttered on Shield before Dr. Strange has to deal with him?

Dude. We’re in for a treat this season.