[This post will contain SPOILERS for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 premiere]
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has returned to ABC, bringing Ghost Rider/Robbie Reyes (Gabriel Luna) to the small screen and continuing the MCU’s flagship television series. The show has proven itself to be resilient and adaptable, changing up its premise when needed and addressing the constantly changing running narrative of the films.
The dynamics between the characters in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has also shifted as season 4 opens, cleverly placing Daisy/Quake (Chloe Bennett), Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), Fitz and Simmons (Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge) and Agent May (Ming-Na Wen) back into positions that parallel where they were when the series began. With the season 4 introduction of Ghost Rider, the new mandate in the wake of the Sokovia Accords of Captain America: Civil War and now the debut of the Life Model Decoy, fans had plenty to chew on with the premiere episode, ‘The Ghost.’
The overall ratings of the episode proved less than impressive, however. According to Deadline (via Comicbook.com), the season 4 premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. managed a 1.1, down from the season 3 premiere, which scored a 1.7. However, once the Live+3 ratings are figured in, the numbers dramatically increase. With those numbers factored in, the premiere gained 82 percent viewership, going from a 1.1 to a 2. Not only that, but the number of viewers increased as well, from 3.44 million to 5.549 million, which is a record for the series.
With many networks now only reporting the Live+3 numbers for their shows, this method of absorbing programming is now entrenched in our culture. Live viewership has dwindled across the board, even for a show as firmly rooted to a successful shared universe as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This dramatic ratings increase for ‘The Ghost’ seems to indicate that either word of mouth for the well-received episode spread very quickly, or that viewers simply prefer the option to watch in their own time.
Now the question is whether or not this ratings boost will hold. Can word of mouth from the premiere’s positive reviews influence fans to tune in live? That really depends on the show itself. ‘The Ghost’ laid a lot of groundwork for season 4, from the mysterious new S.H.I.E.L.D. director who no one seems to trust or even see much to Quake, now once again a rogue fugitive on the run. Add in Ghost Rider, connections to the Secret Warriors, and the ways AoS will tie into the upcoming Doctor Strange, there should be plenty to keep fans showing up on the night of.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues with ‘Meet the New Boss’ Tuesday, September 27 at 10:00 pm on ABC.