8:30am PT by Sydney Bucksbaum
'Agents of SHIELD' Season 4: Everything to Know About Ghost Rider, Rogue Daisy and LMDs
Agents of SHIELD is going to look a lot different when it returns for season four.
Not only are the dynamics between all the core characters going to be wildly different than they were in season three, but there are also going to be a lot of new faces both allied with and working against SHIELD when ABC's Marvel drama finally returns after the long summer break.
In addition to the introduction of new characters like Marvel antihero Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna) and the new Director (Jason O'Mara) running SHIELD after Coulson's (Clark Gregg) demotion, there's also the fact that the original group of agents are as fractured as they've ever been when the season kicks off. To keep track of all the changes ahead,The Hollywood Reporter rounded up everything that viewers need to know or catch up on before tuning in to the premiere.
Goodbye Nicolas Cage, hello Gabriel Luna. The True Detective alum is taking on the popular Marvel character Ghost Rider, but instead of playing Johnny Blaze, the most well-known iteration of the flaming skull, Luna is playing the more recently created Robbie Reyes.
"Robbie's story, in its inception, is the story of an older brother who's looking after his younger brother, and then how the world of the Ghost Rider changes that dynamic," Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb says. "That's true of any Marvel hero. We begin in a place where it's something we can all relate to, and then something extraordinary happens to them, not that they've ever asked for it. What we'll find out along the way is Robbie's journey, now that he has the burden of being the Ghost Rider, what that does and more importantly how that affects our cast at SHIELD."
Robbie was introduced into the Marvel canon in 2014, and his story has focused on his family history as he lives with and takes care of his developmentally disabled brother Gabe and will do anything to keep both of them away from the gangs that run East Los Angeles. The Mexican-American high schooler doesn't even ride a motorcycle — he drives a black muscle car and wears a flaming helmet when the Ghost Rider takes over his body.
"Because there is so little material on him right now, a lot of the show is going to be expanding the Ghost Rider canon," Luna says. "That's really cool. It's all on me. The Ghost Rider is a completely separate thing from Robbie. It's something that always inhabits his body and something that he always has to fight. It's an evil thing. That's what they have maintained in the writing. It's going to be a really solid interpretation of Ghost Rider."
That separation between Robbie and the Ghost Rider spirit is what Luna is most looking forward to portraying. "A lot of what happens in the books is that Robbie has this internal conflict with the spirit of vengeance," Luna says. "I'm excited to get to show how he's able to exist with this spirit of vengeance and not only harness it but own it. That's always been central to the Ghost Rider story. Sometimes the Rider totally takes over and that's a terrifying process. It's always this push and pull between the two characters."
Now that the Sokovia Accords are official, SHIELD is finally coming out of the shadows without the threat of Hydra corrupting it. And according to the season four premiere logline, "Since the world presumes that Coulson is dead, the organization needed a new Director to be the face of the organization." Not much is known about O'Mara's mysterious new Director, not even his name, besides the fact that he is "playing a character whose Marvel roots go back to the 1940s."
"We can't really say much about him yet," executive producer Maurissa Tancharoen says. "If we say anything about him now, it will ruin some of the surprise. You'll have to watch the premiere."
Now that he's no longer the Director, that means that Coulson is going to find himself back in the field as a SHIELD agent. "I always felt like Coulson was happiest in the field," Gregg says. "Neither I nor Coulson loved playing and listening while his agents went into dangerous situations. And there are more dramatic possibilities when you have a boss that you have to deal with."
So how will Coulson and the new Director get along? "Obviously, the relationship between my character and Coulson is going to be huge," O'Mara says. "It's a power struggle kind of dynamic there. It's going to be huge and important. And of course, how my character interacts with the entire team and their dynamic, but even their goals and purpose as a team, that's going to be really interesting to see as that changes, if that changes. My character is going to lean on [Simmons] quite a bit to make sense of a lot of the science stuff because he's new and needs it to be turned into laymen's language."
A Fractured Team
Because of Simmons' close working relationship with the new Director, expect the rest of the team to start to fracture even more than they already have. "With Simmons’ new promotion as Special Advisor to the Director in Science and Technology, Fitz, as well as her former team members, finds it hard to confide in or trust her since she’s now the Director’s confidant," the premiere logline reads.
But don't despair, FitzSimmons fans: After finally consummating their slow-burning relationship in the season three finale, Fitz and Simmons will continue to explore their relationship both in a professional atmosphere and privately.
As for Agent May (Ming-Na Wen), she's going to find herself in a new position in SHIELD as well, training specialist strike teams. How she feels about Coulson's new job and the rest of her team being scattered remains to be seen, as she wasn't included in the six-month flash forward scene in the season three finale.
The original SHIELD team is all the more broken thanks to Daisy (Chloe Bennet) going rogue. As seen in the season three finale flash forward scene, Daisy is no longer apart of SHIELD, and is on the run from her former friends. She's also responsible for destroying banks and bridges, and the world knows that an Enhanced Human named Quake is to blame, causing the new Director to send Coulson and Mack (Henry Simmons) after her to "take her down for good." But her exile actually stems from good intentions on her part.
"Having her boyfriend Lincoln sacrifice himself for her when she was going to do it for him and die in that heroic, tragic way while talking to her, that was the straw that broke the camel's back," Bennet says. "She really becomes Quake because of the past she's had and the loss she's dealing with. It's not perfect. She goes rogue because every time she gets close to someone, they die. Her way of protecting the people that she cares about is really by distancing herself from them and not letting anyone else get close to her. In her mind, that's her way of showing love to the people she cares about."
So if she is trying to do good by the people she loves, why is she destroying banks and bridges and letting herself get caught on camera, exposing herself as an Inhuman?
"If you paused the TV and really looked closely at what those articles are saying about what she was doing, yes there happened to be some damage, collapsed bridges or physical damage to different cities, but always, magically, no one gets hurt," Bennet says. "Two people were saved or one person was saved. Daisy isn't as much of a threat but more of some sort of vigilante."
Life Model Decoys
As if all the changes happening within SHIELD weren't going to cause enough drama already, Dr. Radcliffe (John Hannah) is also going to stir up some potential problems in the lab as he works on bringing his computer system AIDA to life as a Life Model Decoy (he clearly learned nothing from Avengers: Age of Ultron). Galavant's erstwhile queen Mallory Jansen has been cast to play the humanoid A.I. robot in season four.
"Radcliffe has a good heart, but he's willing to do anything for science," executive producer Jed Whedon says. "He's excited about the prospect. He said Fitz and Simmons had friends die and maybe they didn't have to. He's clearly opening a box. Whether or not it's Pandora's box, we'll see."
Tancharoen adds, "To someone like Radcliffe, he might believe that to be just the next step in human evolution. There are a number of people who are into body modification now, so what does that mean? What's the root of that? Now we are going to dive deeper into this man, Radcliffe, who is into that endeavor."
For those uninitiated in Marvel mythology, Life Model Decoys, or LMDs, are a cross between A.I.'s, robots and clones, they have a long and storied history in the comic book universe. They are usually created with good intentions, but more often than not, things go very, very wrong, and supervillains are created, meaning that if Radcliffe isn't careful, he could be the downfall of the very organization he just committed his life and work to.
Luna, O'Mara and Jansen aren't the only new faces that are joining SHIELD this season. Other castings for season four include Parminder Nagra and Lilli Birdsell.
Nagra joins the series in a multi-episode arc as a political figure skeptical of Inhumans, concerned for the threat they pose to the world at large. Birdsell will recur as Lucy, a beautiful woman with a haunting quality. She has a very violent streak in her inner self, because of things that have happened.
What are you most excited to see from this season of SHIELD? Let us know in the comments section below.
Agents of SHIELD season four premieres Tuesday in its new timeslot, 10 p.m., on ABC.