Following last year’s season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., all most Marvel fans could think about was the quick introduction of Life Model Decoys into the MCU. The tag at the end of the episode set up one of the pulpier aspects of the comics, long-teased on the show thanks to the existence of the Koenig brothers. And while the LMDs turned out to play an even more crucial role in season four than fans could have envisioned, they weren’t the biggest addition to the MCU canon.
That honor went to the Robbie Reyes’ version of Ghost Rider, who was teased throughout the summer before being revealed at Comic-Con last year. After the first arc of the season introduced the character and his mission, Robbie took a backseat during the rise of AIDA and the Framework. But as SHIELD has proven time and again, it’s all connected, and Robbie popped back up at the end of last week to tease Ghost Rider versus AIDA. And though photos from the episode certainly hyped fans up for Robbie’s return, his return marked some of the best action and mythology moments ever for this series.
Ghost Rider’s Return
There’s never really been any doubt that Robbie Reyes would return to the show. The fan-favorite character added a new dimension to the series—pun somewhat intended—and further connected SHIELD to the growing world of science-magic presented in a number of the films. Ghost Rider is also one of Marvel’s more popular characters, in all of its forms, so it would be unusual for the character to be abandoned like so many others have in the history of the MCU. More than that, though, the threads of Robbie’s story have never really stopped factoring into the plot of the series.
Though LMDs, Hydra, and Ghost Rider may all seem like disparate plot elements, SHIELD managed to seamlessly weave them all together in season four. Even before Ghost Rider took a sabbatical and began his nightmare vacation through the Multiverse, he’s had a connection to AIDA. Early in Robbie’s story, we learned of the mystical Darkhold, a book that seems to reveal advanced scientific information to those who read it. Thanks to a few Easter eggs, we knew that it had a connection to a former Ghost Rider, and had some mysterious link to Robbie’s uncle Eli. The full extent, however, turned out to lay the foundation for a whole new corner of the MCU and set up the plots for the rest of the season.
As the first arc of the season went on, we learned that Eli had been using the Darkhold for nefarious purposes and had hidden it inside his Charger to keep it from his colleagues. Angered at his actions, Eli’s boss sent a gang to kill him and retrieve the book, but they instead intercepted Robbie and his brother Gabe in the car. The accident that followed left Gabe paralyzed and Robbie briefly dead. His life was saved—or damned—when another Ghost Rider appeared, though, and bequeathed him with the Spirit of Vengeance.
A Tear In Reality
Once the story of Robbie and Eli was brought to light, the Darkhold and AIDA slowly began intersecting. The knowledge AIDA gained from the book allowed her to create an interdimensional gateway to pull Coulson, Fitz, and Robbie back from an alternate dimension in which they were trapped. Robbie would later use the same gate to return after being dragged to ‘Hell’ in order to save Mack from the Spirit of Vengeance. And when Eli’s master plan was revealed, the gate was used to suck his machine and Robbie down into the Multiverse, where the latter remained. Luckily, the gate survived in the Playground, SHIELD’s main base, and Robbie was able to once again use it to return to our world.
After a season of set-up, the Darkhold and its connection to AIDA, along with the gateway used to traverse the Multiverse, all led back to the return of Robbie Reyes. While inside the Framework, AIDA’s plan to extract Inhuman DNA and build a new body was made possible thanks to the knowledge she gained from the Darkhold. As such, her new form was teeming with Dark Matter, which we learned also powers the Darkhold and Ghost Rider.
For MCU fans, it can be easy to confuse the show’s take on Dark Matter with things like the Darkforce and Dormammu’s Dark Dimension. Just know that they’re all separate but related concepts all blending quantum physics with what seems like supernatural forces. By using the Darkhold, AIDA was able to harness Dark Matter and use it to create a new body. This action, however, caused a tear in the dimension Ghost Rider was stuck inside, allowing him to step back through the gate in order to stop AIDA.
While the show has spent all season setting up a way for Ghost Rider to return, his quick info dump reveals some intriguing tidbits about the MCU. Robbie states that what’s happening this season is all part of an ancient war, with Earth just one stage for a multi-dimensional battle. He also reveals that all the talk of Hell and demons is basically just a way to interpret advanced science, similar to what Doctor Strange proposed. It also lines the show up with similar concepts in Ant-Man and the Thor franchise, all of which deal in alternate dimensions and planes of existence. And for one final MCU reference, Robbie even uses his chain as a Sling Ring, creating a portal identical to the ones Strange and his colleagues use to travel.
The agents may have ended up in space with Robbie off somewhere disposing of the Darkhold, but he’s proven that he can travel to just about anywhere he wants. SHIELD has also made clear that its current sci-fi angle is perfectly inline with the more magical elements of the MCU. As such, Robbie’s talk of other dimensions and wars will likely circle back to the action we’ll see next season. While there’s no telling what season five will brings, it’s safe to assume at some point we’ll see Ghost Rider in space on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.