[Spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘Deals with Our Devils’ ahead.]
Over its first three seasons, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dealt with a number of factions adapted from Marvel Comics, specifically the villainous group known as Hydra and the part-human/part-Kree race of Inhumans. However, with Hydra defeated in season 3, and the Inhumans storyline taking a new turn thanks to the Sokovia Accords from Captain America: Civil War, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started off season 4 by introducing a fan-favorite comic character: Ghost Rider.
However, rather than adapt the most well-known version of the character, Johnny Blaze, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brought in Robbie Reyes (Gabriel Luna), a newer comic book iteration of Ghost Rider. Prior to a four-week break, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed Robbie's origin as Ghost Rider, while seemingly introducing Johnny Blaze as well. Now, in the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., an entirely new character takes on the persona -- and the Spirit of Vengeance -- to become Ghost Rider.
During 'Deals with Our Devils', it's revealed that Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), Leo Fitz (Iain de Caestecker), and Robbie are stuck between dimensions as a result of Eli Morrow's (Jose Zuniga) experiment from 'The Good Samaritan', and they are in the process of being dragged down into a dark dimension. However, the spirit of Ghost Rider refuses to be dragged down with Robbie, and abandons ship to inhabit an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fan-favorite: Mack (Henry Simmons).
Of course, the character of Mack is a minor one from the Marvel Comics and, through his brief appearances, never took up the mantle of Ghost Rider -- so, he is a completely new iteration of the Spirit of Vengeance. Additionally, Ghost Rider's brief sojourn in Mack's body allows Robbie and the spirit to talk face to face, offering viewers more insight into the thing Robbie calls the devil. It appears the spirit needs to inhabit someone who is filled with the desire for vengeance; though, as the Rider points out, it can also survive on pain (in this case, Mack's pain in regards to someone named Hope -- but that's a topic for another day).
Perhaps most interestingly, the Rider also reveals vague details and intimations toward its own history, including knowledge of the dark dimension to which Robbie, Fitz, and Coulson are being dragged. "I know where you're being dragged down to, I escaped it before. I'm never going back," the spirit says. Plus, as is hinted when Robbie and the Rider strike their new deal, the spirit has a number of scores to settle -- presumably from back when the spirit was a flesh-and-blood person. Though, again, these details into the Ghost Rider's history are merely hints at a bigger picture.
Still, while Mack's brief foray as the Ghost Rider allowed Robbie to have a conversation with the spirit that had been inhabiting him for some time, it was also a chance for fans to see another character break out into the iconic flaming skull quintessential to the comic book favorite. But, though it may have been a highlight of 'Deals with Our Devils' for some fans, it was a short-lived experience as Ghost Rider ended up leaving Mack and returning to Robbie before the episode's end.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 continues Tuesday, December 6 with 'The Laws of Inferno Dynamics' at 10pm on ABC.