The next big screen installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange, arrives this November. However, in the meantime, the MCU will return to the small screen with the premiere of Luke Cage season 1 on Netflix and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 on ABC. S.H.I.E.L.D., in particular, has been a hot discussion topic of late, in the build-up to the airing of the season 4 premiere, 'The Ghost': the episode that introduces the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider (played by Gabriel Luna) to the MCU. Of course, as the official synopsis for 'The Ghost' has reminded everyone, there will be other important things happening on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when season 4 begins.
Following Captain America: Civil War and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3 finale, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) has stepped down as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s leader in order to keep the fact that he's still alive a secret - even as S.H.I.E.L.D. the organization lands a new director and steps back out from the shadows. Coulson now works with Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) and Agent Alphonso "Mack" Mackenzie (Henry Simmons) to track down the remaining "Enhanced" individuals and Inhumans - most notably, Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet), who's currently operating as a rogue agent, so to speak.
This leads to Coulson, May and Mack crossing paths with a very different sort of "Enhanced" human altogether: Robbie Reyes, who has already become something of a local legend in southern California thanks to his Ghost Rider ways (as the newly-unveiled viral teaser for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 has suggested). You can check out images featuring May, Mack and/or Mr. Reyes from 'The Ghost', below.
Wen, speaking to TVLine, admitted that she's in the same boat as many Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. viewer no doubt are - in that she doesn't know a lot about the Marvel Comics version of Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider heading into season 4:
“I don’t know much about Ghost Rider [in the comics], and I want it discover it along with the audience what he’s about. But our writers are creating wonderful backstory for him, so he’s not just a creature that pops out of nowhere for the fun of it.”
The big wild card factor of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 is not so much Robbie Reyes' backstory as it is the show's ability to do justice by the supernatural aspect of the character - given that the Ghost Rider's flaming skull appearance won't be easy (or inexpensive) to produce, armed with a comparatively-lower network TV budget rather than that of a full-blown film or even a cable TV series. Admittedly, this has been an issue for the TV series in the past, as characters such as the powerful Inhuman Hive or the cyborg Deathlok simply couldn't be realized in their full glory for most of their screen time, due to the realities of what an ABC TV show budget actually allows for.
S.H.I.E.L.D. co-showrunner Jed Whedon half-jokingly told TVLine that when it comes to Robbie Reyes, “His skull is on fire exactly as much as we can afford!” Hopefully, viewers will like the Reyes character enough in his non-fiery form to make up the difference - and ensure that the character is another worthy addition to the larger S.H.I.E.L.D. ensemble.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 premieres Tuesday, September 20 @10pm on ABC.