This new season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started out with lots of mysteries, thanks to the six-month timeskip and radically altered status quo. Tonight, we finally got some answers (including a highly anticipated introduction), which naturally led to even more questions. Let’s dive in.
Ghosts are on the loose, and not just the fiery one with the slick black car. This episode opens with the ghost woman we saw released from that mysterious box last week, now out and about. In typical ghost fashion, she’s returned to her old home only to find new people (a father and son) living there. The ghost flies into the dad, causing him to see his son with a blackened skull face.
We saw this effect happen to May last week after her brief encounter with the ghost, and it appears to still be plaguing her. While she’s working that out, though, May and Coulson have an appointment with the new S.H.I.E.L.D. director, presumably to get chewed out for going after Daisy last week without his approval. They’re first forced to wait a couple hours, which May thinks is a power move by the new director to show them they don’t run this place anymore. As an aside, May mentions as Coulson might still be director “if you’d put up half a fight,” but Coulson doesn’t seem too bitter about the changes. While he and May wait for their new boss, Coulson mentions he doesn’t miss the bureaucratic elements of the director job; the Zephyr One feels like home to him now. We’ve seen Coulson go through a couple different iterations on this show, from company suit to secretive spymaster to Team Dad and back again — now he appears to be operating in a mode like Mal Reynolds in Firefly, a grizzled veteran who’s basically over it and just wants to look out for his ship and his crew. “At least they can’t take that away,” Coulson says, which seems like a big indication they will try to take it away at some point.
Unfortunately for Coulson, he hasn’t entirely escaped the bureaucracy. You see, this new director (Jason O’Mara) is all bureaucracy. We got hints of that last week, with Simmons’ detailed descriptions of his color-coded security clearance system and acronym-heavy initiatives. Now we meet him face-to-face, and the first line he utters is about headlines and sidebars. He’s actually rather lax about Coulson pursuing Daisy without his knowledge; in fact, he calls it “impressive.” He trusts his agents to do their work, and even has a motivational-poster-ready slogan for it: “A team that trusts is a team that triumphs.” He’s got bigger fish to fry than reprimanding overzealous operatives. Getting S.H.I.E.L.D. back off the ground as a legitimate public organization is no easy task, not in this post-Sokovia Accords world.
Nick Fury’s secret bases and unlimited funds are a thing of the past; now S.H.I.E.L.D. has to rely on UN funding and congressional approval, so this guy’s focus is optics, making everything look respectable. Daisy’s independent vigilantism is an obstacle to that, so he would like it taken care of, but first he’s got another job for Phil: tour guide. Even the slightest amount of time at the base seems to make Coulson itchy for the Zephyr, but just as the director figured, he can’t resist dropping trivial tidbits about Peggy Carter’s old adventures while walking congressmen through the base.
May has a different experience on that tour. She sees the politicians’ faces morph into that now-familiar black skull, and runs to the imprisoned gangsters to ask them if they’re seeing something similar. May asks how she can help, but the gangster only responds “It’s everywhere!” before proceeding to bang his head against the glass of his containment module. Simmons arrives to gas him into submission, but May’s already gone.
NEXT: There’s more ghosts where that came from