Spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘Deals with Our Devil’ ahead
Throughout its first three seasons, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has regularly tweaked its premise by introducing new factions of characters and giving viewers fresh storylines. One notable turning point was the Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie-in episode in season 1, but other events to have a major impact on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been the introduction of Inhumans, which has become a main throughline of the series, as well as the debut of Ghost Rider earlier in season 4.
Robbie Reyes (Gabriel Luna) had already become the Ghost Rider when Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) crossed paths with him in the season 4 premiere, and the two struck up an unlikely partnership while they investigated mysterious goings on in Los Angeles. Then, after much fan anticipation, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. explored Robbie's origin story as Ghost Rider in the episode, 'The Good Samaritan' -- which additionally seemed to introduce original Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze. 'The Good Samaritan' and all the season 4 episodes preceding it have prompted conversation among fans that Robbie Reyes' Ghost Rider deserves a solo spinoff series.
In addition to the character of Ghost Rider being a favorite among fans of Marvel Comics -- which helped to earn the Spirit of Vengeance two live-action movies starring Nicolas Cage -- Luna's turn as Robbie Reyes has been incredibly well-received by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. viewers and Marvel fans. In terms of a solo Ghost Rider series, Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb said at New York Comic-Con that fans will have to "wait and see" what happens with the character. But, more recently, Luna himself confirmed Ghost Rider solo series talks have taken place.
Now, much of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 has worked to introduce not only Robbie Reyes but his relationships with the Rider and his younger brother Gabe (Lorenzo James Henrie), building out the characters that would be central to a Ghost Rider series. But, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes a step further in the show's latest episode, 'Deals with Our Devils', and establishes the premise of a Ghost Rider spinoff.
Robbie's Ghost Rider Deal
In 'Deals with Our Devils', Robbie, Coulson (Clark Gregg), and Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) are trapped in between dimensions and, throughout the episode, are being dragged into an unnamed dark dimension. Because of this, Ghost Rider chooses to abandon Robbie, because the spirit refuses to be dragged down along with his host, and takes a sojourn in Mack's (Henry Simmons) body. Although Robbie's friends and fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are unable to see or hear him while he's in between dimensions, the Rider is still capable of communicating with Robbie.
As such, Robbie and the Rider have their first on-screen external conversation, and that conversation entails Robbie bargaining with Ghost Rider to leave Mack and return to him. In order to convince the Ghost Rider to do so, Robbie makes a deal: If Ghost Rider returns to Robbie and helps him settle his score against his uncle, Eli Morrow (Jose Zuniga), Robbie promises to help the Rider settle its own scores -- all of them.
Although the bargain seems to simply be a necessity so that Robbie can return to his home dimension, it additionally establishes a workable premise for a Ghost Rider solo series. Undoubtedly, Robbie-as-Ghost Rider will face off with Eli in next week's winter finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., 'The Laws of Inferno Dynamics'. But, it's unlikely Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will follow Robbie as he helps Ghost Rider settle the spirit's scores since they likely don't have anything to do with the show's other season 4 storylines -- of which there are quite a few.
However, if Marvel TV were to take the character of Robbie from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and introduce a Ghost Rider solo series, the mission to settle the Rider's scores -- as well as the mysteries surrounding who exactly the spirit used to be and where those scores originated -- is the perfect premise for a spinoff.
What We Know From The Comics
Within the world of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it was established in 'The Good Samaritan' the Rider is a spirit that can jump from one host to the next of its own volition. Although we have yet to learn the identity of the spirit, in the Marvel Comics All-New Ghost Rider run, it's the spirit of a Satanic serial killer named Eli Morrow. In the books, Eli was a hit-man for the Russian mob who escaped eternal damnation through Satanic rituals that allowed him to return as the Rider.
Technically, Eli's spirit isn't a Spirit of Vengeance, meaning Robbie isn't a true Ghost Rider in the same way as Johnny Blaze or Danny Ketch. As a result, the rules of Robbie's Ghost Rider persona are different. As established in All-New Ghost Rider, once Robbie avenges Eli's death, the spirit bonds with Robbie's soul and the two can never part -- Eli cannot jump to another host and Robbie will never be free of the spirit's presence. Additionally, they make a deal the satisfy them both: Robbie agrees to kill with the help of Eli, but only "the foulest, darkest degenerate souls to walk the Earth."
Translating this comic knowledge to what we know of Robbie's story and the Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it's clear that the Marvel TV universe has put a new spin on the character, specifically Robbie's connection to Eli's spirit. Robbie is already inhabited by a spirit when viewers meet him, and Eli has become a different kind of (living) villain throughout Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 -- one that is still a psychopathic killer, but has figured out how to give himself the ability to create matter out of nothing using an ancient book known as the Darkhold.
So, unless Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. plans to use some sort of time-bending explanation, it seems safe to say the spirit inhabiting Robbie isn't that of his uncle Eli. That said, 'Deals with Our Devils' makes it clear there is some history to the spirit inhabiting Robbie, though it remains to be seen whether that's a life as a mob hit-man. Additionally, the deal Robbie and the Rider strike is similar to the one struck by Robbie and Eli in the comics; it's a compromise on both of their parts and presumably means they're bonded forever, setting the stage for a Ghost Rider solo series.
Where Do We Go From Here?
It would seem Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 has been leading up to a climactic showdown between Robbie/Ghost Rider and Eli Morrow in next week's midseason finale. As such, Ghost Rider's future on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and in the Marvel TV universe will be determined by where 'The Laws of Inferno Dynamics' leaves the character.
That said, Gabriel Luna has been billed on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 as a guest star rather than a series regular, which would indicate the end of his arc will see Robbie Reyes leave the series -- unless the show promotes Luna to a series regular. So, that knowledge combined with Luna's statement there are "definitely deals in place" for a potential Ghost Rider series, it seems Marvel has been thinking of the future of the character and possibly planning for a spinoff show.
Of course, there's the question of where a potential Ghost Rider series would air. Would ABC pick up the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff? Would Netflix add the character as an extension of their street-level Marvel universe (though a Ghost Rider series would likely be well removed from The Defenders and the streets of New York City since Robbie resides in Los Angeles). Or would Marvel TV send Ghost Rider to another streaming service/network? Undoubtedly, fans would likely hope to see Ghost Rider join the Netflix corner of the MCU given the overwhelmingly positive reception to their entries: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage.
Still, though it seems Marvel began preparing for a potential Ghost Rider solo series even before Luna signed on as Robbie Reyes, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff has yet to be officially confirmed as in development. That said, if 'The Laws of Inferno Dynamics' does wrap up Robbie and set up the character to depart from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it's possible we may learn more about a Ghost Rider show soon after. Certainly, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s 'Deals with Our Devils' proved, the premise of a Ghost Rider show in the MCU has been established and is just waiting to be developed into a full-blown series.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 continues Tuesday, December 6 with 'The Laws of Inferno Dynamics' at 10pm on ABC.