Marvel is digging deep this season. Great googly moogly. Because some early 2000's business people wanted immortality and great power, it’s entirely possible that Marvel Zombies, vampires, werewolf’s, and RED FREAKING SONJA are now canon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Because of the implication. We knew this season would be dealing with magic and things that aren’t so cut and dry scientifically, but God Damn they jumped right into the fray. And Ghost Rider sold his soul to the only guy buying. We’re on track to hear about Mephisto before the Marvel movies have a chance to cast their first spell.
Spooky and frightening spoilers walk throughout this discussion. If you don’t want to know what happened, WHY ARE YOU HERE?
Let me start off by saying I think I may have been wrong last week, when I opined that that spooky ghost came out of Pandora’s Box. This episode, we got a little back story, and it appears that there wasn’t anything inside the special case other than Lucy. She ain’t no Imp; she’s just some corporate stooge who wanted ultimate power and immortality through the dark arts. You know, a regular Tuesday for some people. And it wasn’t just her: Yugo (who, interestingly, came out of that box like a flame (didn’t Lucy come out of her box like a breeze? And Vincent needs to calm the fuck down)) and Vincent and that other guy and Joseph. They were all locked in their own boxes, after using the Darkhold to conjure up some dark magic.
1. Which brings us to the deep pull Marvel made last night. The Darkhold is a collection of dark magic authored by Chthon, the Elder God of Darkness and Chaos (because OF COURSE HE IS). Basically, the first Elder God was born from the magical energies of primeval Earth, and ended up creating a bunch of other Elder Gods (of various different things). Chthon saw some conflict coming and wrote down everything he knew in the Darkhold, an indestructible parchment that would be left behind in case something bad happened to him. When that conflict eventually came, he got out of dodge (read: went to another dimension) and left the Darkhold behind. Various people have used it over the years, including Red Sonja (GAIL SIMONE INTENSIFIES!) It looks like these corporate drones wanted to unlock it’s awesome power, and things went south, fast. So fast, Yugo didn’t even realize he had been locked up, let alone for years.
Whatever spell these people unleashed, it turned them into “ghosts.” However, they can also make themselves corporeal enough to manipulate objects and lock people in reactors.
And of course, Ghost Motherfucking Rider is hunting them down for some reason.
2. If I had to guess (I totally don’t but am going to anyway), I am more certain now than ever that this Ghost Rider isn’t the Spirit of Vengeance with the Penance Stare. This is a Spirit of Vengeance. When Robbie was fixing Quake’s completely inconspicuous van, he said he sold his soul, and when Quake said “to the devil?” he responded that he was the only one buying, you know? Chthon was sometimes portrayed as the Devil before Mephisto got into the mix. What I’m thinking that Chthon, the Elder God of Darkness and Chaos (sounds like people would think he lived somewhere it didn’t snow too much), has been keeping tabs on Earth from his comfy dimension, and noticed people found the Darkhold, and started using it for reasons he does not agree with.
Then, along comes Robbie, on his way out (dying) and pleading with whoever will listen to let him live so he can take care of his brother Gabe, who needs him. Instead of Mephisto answering the call, Chthon does. We know from the OG Johnny Blaze stories that Mephisto merged him with the Spirit of Vengeance for selfish reasons. It’s possible that Chthon wanted to stop these people from using the Darkhold, and merged Robbie with a Spirit of Vengeance, with the main goal of hunting and eliminating these Corporate Ghosts.
Think about it: When we first met Robbie, he was hunting the first box with Lucy. He seems drawn to evil, which is what Chthon dealt with. When he met Yugo, he annihilated him in a poof of fiery ectoplasm. Then he (as Ghost Rider) saw the photo in that reactor room and took it. Now he has a new lead on the rest of those Ghosts for him to hunt down.
But see, this Spirit of Vengeance isn’t beholden to the one specific job. This Spirit is drawn to evil, and will kill anyone it determines deserves to die. That’s why he has no problem taking out those Trump Supporters or Triad people or Watchdogs or whoever else has it coming.
Also, this Spirit of Vengeance doesn’t have the Penance Stare. When Robbie was doing a thorough background check on Quake to see if she deserved to die (because he literally will not kill unless you earned it), he remarked that Quake was looking for penance, and that he was the wrong person for that. To me, that confirms that Robbie has a Spirit of Vengeance, but not the Spirit of Vengeance. Which is smart. Because one day, in Defenders Season 2 or Punisher Season 1, Johnny Blaze can roll in and wreck shit. Bring it on.
3. Again, this show is going all in with the magic, and I love the spooky, kind of off-putting vibe the show has going for it. It feels like a mystic mystery right now, and no one has any answers. When FitzSimmons was analyzing Lucy’s box, they were trying to explain it scientifically (Tobias Ford, Matter Energy Phase Shift, etc.) and Mack just threw out the “What if it’s just a ghost?” was hilarious. Simmons did not take his suggestion seriously, but that’s EXACTLY WHAT ALWAYS HAPPENS WHEN GHOSTS ARE INVOLVED. Maybe those Corporate Ghosts didn’t become ghosts scientifically, but they became ghosts. LISTEN TO MACK!
4. Agents of SHIELD could have done two things: Draw out May’s infection from Lucy’s box and have her hide it from everyone, or make it apparent to the team immediately. Knowing the pace of this show, I think we all know what happened. It’s literally the second fucking episode and May’s already tied up in a Quinjet losing her mind. It sucks because she’s gone through so much (The Cavalry, Lash the HGHog, Ward, etc.) but of the entire team, she’s the one that could handle it the most. Notice how when those triad guys were infected, and immediately started freaking out on each other? May is so well disciplined and trained to not show fear, that it took days for the effects to overwhelm her. Coulson may be the best Avenger, he would have freaked out in no time. May will be fine, but the trip back will be tough to watch.
5. The May Team is awesome. From Piper’s willingness to “do May” to the entire group just sitting around, kicking ass, trying to match May, I love it all. I got a very Civil War vibe from that fight between freaking out May and the May Team. Unless you were one of the dozens of people who didn’t see Captain America: Civil War, you will recall the flashback scene where Bucky was describing the other Winter Soldiers. In one scene, Bucky was being used to gauge the fighting abilities of the new Winter Soldiers, and he was thrown around a little bit. However, when shit hit the fan, the Russian handler simply told him “Get me out of this room” and he effortlessly made his way through those new Winter Soldiers. No matter how good they were, they weren’t Bucky.
I got that same vibe last night when May was fighting the May Team: They were throwing her around a little, but no matter how much training they got from May, they still weren’t on her level. She made easy work of them, until the Director came along.
6. Shotgun MOTHERFUCKING Axe.
7. I don’t buy that the US Government would install an Inhuman director of SHIELD if it plans on reintroducing the agency as a legitimate agency in the wake of Winter Soldier, Ultron, and Civil War. Director Jeffrey (more on that in a minute) indicated that it was all Optics with hunting Quake, and that they were preparing a public announcement, even to the tune of giving certain congresspeople private tours of the House That Carter Built.
But if the UN has just signed and is enforcing the Sokovia Accords, which require enhanced individuals to sign up, the US wouldn’t install an Inhuman (that Coulson didn’t know about, suggesting he is not a signatory to the Accords) to lead that agency.
So no, Director Jeffrey, I do not believe that you are an Inhuman. Watch him “fight” May. He stands there, does very specific moves, doesn’t break his mood (he’s practically smiling the entire time) and knocks her out with one arm.
Also, watch how he interacts with May and Coulson in their two-hour late meeting, and how he handles those Congresspeople. He’s super refined. He says all the right things. Watch his inflection. It’s calculated.
Further, pay attention to the hints that the writers are dropping: When talking about Steve Rogers going AWOL, Coulson and Director Jeffrey indicated that the US wanted a “hero” leading the agency, and Coulson remarked “and they came up with you.”
I don’t think Director Jeffrey is an Inhuman. I think he’s a Life Model Decoy.
Think about it: When Dr. Potter began working on AIDA, he got the idea from an old SHIELD project. In Captain America: The First Avenger, The Human Torch, an android, was on display at the Stark World Expo. Dr. Potter and Fitz do not want to introduce Simmons to Aida until she’s perfect (she keeps trying to install Windows 10 and glitching out). SHIELD and Howard Stark perfected the technology years ago. Director Jeffrey is a Life Model Decoy that has been refined over the years. He’s designed to put on a competent and friendly face, and to deal with bureaucracy. Everything’s classified and compartmentalized. It’s all too clinical.
8. They only introduced the Director as Director Jeffrey. His last name was explicitly left out (when everyone is referred to by their last names on the show, this is painfully obvious). Jeffrey Mace was The Patriot who eventually took over the mantle of Captain America for a time after he went missing. In the comics, he was just a great athlete with great reflexes and strength. But, he was also introduced in The Human Torch. I think Marvel is going to change his origin to be a Life Model Decoy, created after The Human Torch and refined over the years.
9. Professional Shade is the best Shade. As we are painfully aware, Agent Carter was cancelled after being on the cusp of renewal after last season. When LMDirector Jeff introduced Coulson to those Congresspeople, Agent Carter was discussed, and LMDirector Jeff remarked that not even Agent Carter knew everything. Coulson ended up telling the Congresspeople that Agent Carter oversaw construction of the base, and that there were “so many stories that were never reported.” God that was a beautiful burn.
10. Betrayed Mack is the worst. Last season, when Hunter and Bobbie left, I was busy cutting onions (FIGHT ME) when he raised his glass during the Spy’s Goodbye. I thought that was plenty and was PERFECTLY FINE with Mack having NO FURTHER SORROW.
But fuck, it’s tough to watch him come unwound. He’s supposed to be the rock. WHY. If I were Quake, I would have broke down right there and apologized for all of my sins.
And Fitz was right on the money. Quake left when things got tough, even though they were basically a family and helped each other, because everyone has had some form of loss. Mack and his belief in POINTIER SHIELD, Fitz and his function, Simmons and Hogface, May and Lash the HGHog, etc. Everyone had loss, and every time, the team helped. Here, Quake just bounced. Fitz was right. I hope she comes back soon.
11. Mack and Fitz are great together, though. I laughed out loud when Mack was complaining that he was a mechanic, and not an accountant when doing inventory before the mission, and Fitz corrected him: “You’re an engineer. And a small tank.” And when Mack said he didn’t like being on the road all the time? “You are looking a little feeble..” The best. And and and when Mack got locked in the reactor and Fitz was having trouble with the wheel? “I really wish our roles were reversed right now.” GOLD.
This is an acceptable replacement of the Hunter/Whoever dynamic.
12. Nothing better get between Coulson and Zephyr. For reals.
13. I saw something interesting, and it kind of introduces a new angle to the whole split in Civil War and is a little different than Civil War and Civil War II in the comics: In Civil War, the split is over oversight. In the original Civil War comic, it was registration, and in Civil War II, it was precrime and how to respond to what someone might do, Minority Report style.
When Quake remarked to Mack that maybe the people Ghost Rider killed deserved it, Mack responded with a “What, is that how we do things now?” response. Mack is a man of the LAW, but there is something new here. What happens when the laws of man are trumped BIGLY by the laws of a higher plain of existence? Ghost Rider can look at someone’s soul and knows if that person deserves to die. The law cannot do that. What do you do when laws are in place to deal with punishing people for crimes after proving that they did it, and someone comes along with a power from the Gods to exact judgment immediately? As a lawyer, I default to the laws of man, but I see Quake’s point. This will be cool for them to explore in more detail.