On how much more "mature" the episode is from previous episodes given the later air time, Whedon explained that ABC "haven't really ever given us a note on violence. We've cut people into pieces and hacked them up and shot people point blank in the head. Never got any notes on that. So pushing the envelope for us will be in the sexual nature". This is evidenced by the episode's opening, a "sexy" look at the character Quake getting dressed. Executive producer Jeph Loeb added, "what it does is give us the chance to tell different stories. The idea is some of the material might be more mature, there may be more grit, what we're doing might be darker. It certainly made a lot more sense when we wanted to introduce a character like Ghost Rider into this world."
Discussing Quake's mindset when the episode picks up, actress Chloe Bennet said, "She's not doing well. She's had a rough couple of years. She's taking some time and I think it's kind of her way of protecting the people that she cares about. Everyone she's gotten close to, something bad has happened to them. It's her weird, selfish way of protecting them". This, the character's assertion in the episode to Ghost Rider that she "deserves to die". Concerning the character Fitz keeping the android Aida a secret from his girlfriend Simmons, actor Iain De Caestecker said, "They're trying to maintain a healthy relationship while being secret undercover spies that have secret assignments ... it's with the best intentions, keeping stuff from her, I suppose. It's going to get interesting. Lying is a strong word. I'm just keeping stuff from" her.
When Ghost Rider was confirmed to be joining the season at Comic-Con, after months of speculation, Gabriel Luna was revealed to be cast in the role. Lorenzo James Henrie was later revealed to be cast as his younger brother Gabe Reyes. Shortly after Comic-Con, Lilli Birdsell was revealed to be cast as the mysterious Lucy. In August, Mallory Jansen was cast as the android Aida, whose artificial intelligence was briefly voiced by Amanda Rea during the third-season finale.
Terri Schwartz of IGN scored the premiere 8 out of 10, indicating a "great" episode, and praising the introduction of Ghost Rider and subsequent darker tone which "will eventually allow [the series] to sit more comfortably beside its corporate cousins over on Netflix". Schwartz was positive about the smaller cast compared to the previous season, which meant that the episode "doesn't feel as overstuffed as it would have", and of Coulson not finding Johnson and asking her to return to S.H.I.E.L.D. straight away after the newly established status quo. Schwartz did feel that there were some "growing pains" with the transition to more mature material, particularly criticizing the "sexy" opening of the episode with Johnson because "S.H.I.E.L.D. has already done a great job establishing Daisy as a sexy character without needing to depict it in this unsubtle way. Hopefully the inclusion of more overt sexuality in the show feels a bit more organic to the show as it continues". 2b1af7f3a8