Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S04 E21: ‘The Return’


Finally, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have escaped the Hydra ruled world of The Framework, but at what cost? How have they been affected, what have they lost, and what dangerous new threat awaits them in the real world? Meet me after the jump for my review of “The Return.”

Back to Reality

We open on a chilling sight: the Superior/Russian reading the Darkhold and commenting that there are actually a few funny passages in there. We’re in his underwater base under an oil rig, and Coulson and May have just been freed from The Framework. Mace is dead, and Mack chose to stay behind where his daughter was still alive. The now flesh and blood Aida took Fitz and teleported away. On the Zephyr, Daisy and Jemma are under attack by a Russian jet.


All involved have retained their real memories and those they led in The Framework. As Coulson and May access their situation, guessing that the human Aida somehow programmed Inhuman powers (such as those of Gordon) into her new body, they are greeted by the Superior, who is no longer bound by the order not to kill them. And being an LMD, he’s not so easy to kill – but score one for the good guys, after five episodes of doom and gloom, I actually cheered as Coulson dispatched him with his holo-shield.


While the Zephyr continues to be fired upon, Coulson and May find themselves trapped in their space by multiple LMDs of the Russian/Superior. They use the time to catch up each other, and technically the audience, on the state of affairs. Robbie Reyes’ name comes up, probably to remind us as he’ll be returning.


Phil and Melinda in an economy of minutes show us why we love them, and why we wanted them together in the first place. Their chemistry is perfect when they’re both themselves, and their chatter casual, natural, and bonding. In that moment, feeling their power together, we know they can’t fail. It feels so good to be able to root for the good guys again.

On the Beach

Aida teleported herself and Fitz to a beach somewhere, where she is bathing in the reality of being human, feeling the sand and water between her toes, etc., while Fitz agonizes over what he’s done. She’s in love with him, and he’s stunned, recoiling from what he himself has done… and what’s she’s done, and allowed to be done.


Next Aida whisks Fitz to an apartment familiar to him in both worlds. It means nothing. The longer Fitz is out of The Framework, the clearer his thoughts are. She is a monster. But once he knows where his friends are, he has to make her feel, so he can save them. She teleports into the Russian’s lair to save them for Fitz, but the Russian has other ideas. Could the wicked queen be developing a heart, like a real boy?


Preying upon her newly realized human emotions, Fitz gets Aida to use her teleport powers to pull off the incredible last minute save, getting everyone, including the comatose Frameworked Mack, to safety before the entire oil rig blows up. And even though the Superior, and who knows how many LMD duplicates of himself, get away, Jemma shoots both Aida… and Fitz. Yes, it’s another cheer out loud moment, even if I suspect she used an icer.

And then the Zephyr lands at the old SSR headquarters to refuel. May and Coulson see for the first time the damage their LMD duplicates incurred. The place is nearly completely destroyed. And then the discussion turns to what to do with Fitz and Aida. It’s posited that Aida might be different now that’s she’s human. But Fitz, what is he now? A murderer? In love with Aida? It’s scary, for all of us.

The Status Quo

There’s a point where the skeleton crew on the Zephyr (all of whom would make great cast as opposed to fodder) show Daisy and Jemma what’s on TV. General Talbot is spinning a tale of conspiracy and saying that our S.H.I.E.L.D. team are wanted fugitives. I’m like what, again? And so were you. It was a bad idea before, and it’s a bad idea now. I think someone has forgotten what S.H.I.E.L.D. is about.


S.H.I.E.L.D. are the good guys, publicly known and globally respected. Not just support for the Avengers, they fight enemies of mankind on their own. They take on Hydra, A.I.M., the Zodiac, and more. Hell, when Godzilla was in the Marvel Universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. fought freakin’ Godzilla! The organization works best in this way, as legit good guys, with tech and a budget, and all the trappings of a spy group. Or this could be a parallel to The Framework, where a broadcast brought down Hydra. Or maybe in a world where our true reality resembles the Secret Empire a bit too much, the good guys can only be fugitives.

Hell Hath No Fury

FitzSimmons is a love that has been through it all, much like Barry Allen and Iris West on The Flash, it can withstand life and death and time and space. And as Fitz and Aida talk about his emotions in their cell, it becomes apparent to everyone but Aida that it stands impervious. As she feels for the first time betrayal and rage, Talbot’s men invade the base.


As the young S.H.I.E.L.D. agents extract Fitz from the cell, he reveals that teleportation is not Aida’s only power. They cut to commercial just as she begins to exhibit Lincoln-like electrical powers to blow the circuits of the cell and vanishes. As Aida begins to kill everyone, Fitz keeps yelling that she can’t be stopped. Oh boy, this going to be bad. What other powers could she have?


And then it occurs to me, Vijay Nadeer was in The Framework, the Inhuman who came back from the dead via a second terrigenesis. Uh oh. So far, Aida has the Inhuman powers of Gordon, Lincoln, and Vijay… who else? She goes to see the Russian and before she creepily rape/kills one of his LMDs, they discuss remaking the world using the Darkhold – and things go from bad to worst.

I do mean worst. Yo-Yo, who had vanished during the clash with Aida, has entered The Framework to retrieve Mack. She awakes strapped to a table in a world on fire. Bad, worse, worst, the only hope comes from Ghost Rider’s (told ya) emergence from the Darkhold doorway Aida built way back when.

This was a great episode, with lots of action, character development, plot advancement, and real emotional connection, but most of all, we got to root for the good guys. I hope it continues to next week’s season finale in “World’s End.”

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