Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ghost Story For Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: "Meet The New Boss" Fizzles!

The Good: Special effects, Final act
The Bad: Outside the final act, there is nothing remarkable for performances, no character development, Mediocre plot
The Basics: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. stumbles completely through "Meet The New Boss," which continues to poorly redefine the show.

When it comes to season premieres, the essential goal of any television series is to get the viewer to tune in to the next week and the subsequent weeks of the show. With serialized television, the goal is also to establish a framework for the new season that is compelling and complex enough to inspire viewers to stick with the whole new season's arc. In Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., season premieres have had a tendency to herald the directions for the blockbuster films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That is certainly true of the fourth season premiere of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., "The Ghost," which is setting viewers of the Marvel Cinematic Universes's up for Doctor Strange in November. Unfortunately, "The Ghost" was such a scattered work that so heavily redefined Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., it is hard for loyal viewers of the series to watch the fourth season premiere and feel like the executive producers just gave up on where the show was and completely redefined the entire series. The subsequent episode, "Meet The New Boss," continues in the direction "The Ghost" began.

"Meet The New Boss" follows on the events of "The Ghost" (reviewed here!) and it is tough to discuss the new episode without some revelations as to what happened in the prior episode. After all, "The Ghost" introduced Ghost Rider to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Agent May was, apparently, possessed by a ghost at the climax of the episode. This placed the burden on "Meet The New Boss" to not only explore the new S.H.I.E.L.D., but start defining some of the supernatural elements that "The Ghost" introduced. "Meet The New Boss" is essentially a S.H.I.E.L.D. take on a ghost story and it is one of the more graphic episodes the series has yet produced.

Opening with a young boy whose home appears to be possessed by a ghost, the boy's father comes out, sees the spectral woman and is affected by it. At the S.H.I.E.L.D. lab, Fitz designs a box that will see something beyond the visual spectrum and he discovers that S.H.I.E.L.D. has recovered some vastly advanced technology. Daisy begins to investigate Robbie Reyes, the Ghost Rider, and confronts him at his work. While Daisy interrogates Reyes, Coulson and May meet with Director Mace, who is prepared to publicly rebrand S.H.I.E.L.D. May continues to see horrifying, mutated versions of people she sees.

The disembodied Lucy rescues the similarly disapperated Hugo from a box, much like the Chinese mob had in the prior episode. Reyes claims that he gained his ability to rip out people's souls and take on the form of the Ghost Rider by selling his soul to the devil, which Daisy does not readily believe. The two fight in the garage at which Reyes works, while May freaks out about what she is seeing. While Lucy and her comrades begin the hunt for a book which should contain the information needed to undo what was done to them, May becomes unhinged. While Mace gives members of Congress a tour of the facility, Mack and Fitz investigate one of the facilities that might have created the "ghosts."

"Meet The New Boss" continues the arc that finds Coulson reacting to no longer being the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and May lamenting the idea that he did not fight for the leadership of S.H.I.E.L.D. In "The Ghost," the leap to all of the character shifts was jarring, in "Meet The New Boss" seems no more refined. Coulson and Mace have a verbal sparring match that is unimpressive and subtle, but continues to make the viewer disbelieve that Coulson would ever let S.H.I.E.L.D. be taken over and taken away the way it has. Moreover, "Meet The New Boss" undermines the character of Coulson by exploring a S.H.I.E.L.D. that is vastly less powerful than Nick Fury's S.H.I.E.L.D. . . . or even Gonzales's splinter cell!

Continuing to illustrate and develop Daisy as a rogue, Chloe Bennet reverts to playing Daisy much like she did at the outset of the series. Daisy is resourceful, educated and tries to extort information from others by using information she has already gathered. Now, of course, Daisy has her super powers and she uses them as part of her arsenal of interrogation techniques. While Daisy is able to almost fly and seems surprisingly resistant to both fire and falling off a moving, speeding car, most of her time in "Meet The New Boss" is spent talking and insinuating that she has an authority she no longer (not being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent) possesses.

Mack suddenly believing in ghosts is perhaps the most jarring character shift in "Meet The New Boss." Given that in the prior season, it was Yo-Yo who talked to him about faith and he wasn't much buying what she was selling, his abrupt belief that the disapparated person who is visible on the S.H.I.E.L.D. video is an actual ghost does not seem at all organic.

The ghost characters in "Meet The New Boss" suffer almost as much as the new Director. The new Director seems like a parody of a S.H.I.E.L.D. director and Jason O'Mara lacks the onscreen gravitas in the role as Director Mace that both Samuel L. Jackson and Edward James Olmos possessed. Even Clark Gregg has had moments when he has portrayed Coulson with a depth that is not at all even hinted at in O'Mara's performance. The "ghost" characters are hunting a book and were trapped in futuristic boxes, but their condition is revealed in an unsatisfying way to the viewers; they are non-corporeal in the boxes, but then are suddenly solid enough to manipulate matter. The mechanism for the change of form is not made clear and why some remain non-corporeal long enough to pass through people while others are able to become solid in (essentially) a vacuum is unsatisfying.

The science in "Meet The New Boss" is wonky both in general and from a storytelling perspective. Fitz is absent from the drama going down at the S.H.I.E.L.D. base, yet he advises Mack not to get touched by the "ghost" they encounter because Mack will go crazy if touched. Fitz has no metric by which to make that statement as he and Mack were in the air when May and Simmons encountered the prisoner who reacted violently to May's visit. Similarly, Director Mace using a quinjet as a distraction for Congresspeople is utterly ridiculous; in order to have security clearance to be part of an intelligence subcommittee to tour a black site, at least one of them would have probably travelled on Air Force One before and a quinjet would be a dramatic step down from that.

Ultimately, "Meet The New Boss" adds a few new details to the new pseudo-supernatural elements of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. while satisfyingly progressing May suffering the effects of being in contact with one of the "ghosts." Ghost Rider looks cool in the episode and the last-act twist with Mace is interesting-enough, but the pay-offs for the episode are nowhere near enough to justify the time spent getting to them.

For other works with Henry Simmons, please check out my reviews of:
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 3
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 2
World's Greatest Dad
Something New
NYPD Blue - Season 7

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the fourth season here!


For other reviews of elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of all those reviews!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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