[SPOILERS for those not caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ahead.]
Marvel has so far introduced two major ideas from the comics during season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The first half of the season was largely focused on Robbie Reyes aka Ghost Rider (Gabriel Luna) and his quest for vengeance. He has been one of the best things to come out of the series as a whole, which is why it is surprising that he appears to be gone - for now. The midseason finale ended with Reyes and his uncle Eli Morrow being taken to an alternate dimension.
Their disappearance will allow the show to shift its focus to Aida and her mysterious plans for Life Model Decoys, another recurring idea throughout Marvel comics. Now, the executive producers have revealed why exactly they decided to make such a hard split at the turn of the season.
TVLine was able to visit the set of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recently to see how different the show will be without Ghost Rider. Apparently, one of the factors in keeping Ghost Rider's story as an eight episode arc were the financials. Ghost Rider is a CGI heavy character and the show made sure he transformed at least once an episode to not cheat viewers of the experience, however executive producer Jeffrey Bell thinks it will be a good change for the show.
[Ghost Rider is] a lot for 22 [episodes], especially with everything else that we like and care about on the show. It would feel like one flavor over a long period of time, but we’ve certainly left it open.
With Ghost Rider's precise whereabouts unknown, the ability to switch their focus to LMDs is something that showrunner Jed Whedon admits they've been waiting for. However, viewers should not expect the same style that the show has been using to incorporate Ghost Rider as they focus on LMDs. They are aware of how different these storylines will be, and wanted to make that apparent to the audience according to Whedon.
We want everything to feel like its own mini world, and to have its own flavor. So we do think you’ll come into the next section [of episodes] and immediately feel like, ‘Oh, this is a different kind of story.’ So we’re excited about that.
Once Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns in a few weeks, the focus will not only be on figuring out what exactly Aida's plans are, but how the LMD version of May factors in. Coulson is not likely to take this reveal lightly when it is made, and only further explores the idea of mistrust within spy organizations. However, this will also resonate on a personal level for him as May is not only one of his closest friends, but one that he has shared a romantic spark with recently.
Even with the show changing its focus, hopefully they will continue to deliver the same level of quality throughout. If they can make viewers like or fear Aida as much as Ghost Rider, then that transition will not be as rough. That said, Whedon also teased the events that follow very well could sync up with another Ghost Rider story in "thrilling fashion," so viewers should be on the lookout for any potential connections between the new LMD storyline and Ghost Rider's.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 continues on Tuesday, January 10, 2017 on ABC.