The fourth season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been a wild one, from the debut of Ghost Rider to killer LMDs to the Secret Empire world of Agents of Hydra, the ride has been intense. Now it ends here in a season finale that’s sure to go out with a bang. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on “World’s End.”
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been renewed, but won’t be returning until mid-season, maybe January or February of 2018. And it will be moving to the sci-fi death slot of Friday nights – a time slot that only The X-Files survived in recent memory. Once Upon a Time will be its lead-in, and 20/20 will follow.
September will bring The Inhumans, an eight-episode series in the vein of Agent Carter, about the Inhuman Royal Family created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in the classic Silver Age days of Fantastic Four. It will obviously tie into events from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The first two episodes of The Inhumans will debut in movie theaters in IMAX before continuing on ABC television.
We were left with quite a gauntlet of cliffhangers in the last episode. Aida, now human with Inhuman powers and thirsty for vengeance after Fitz spurned her, has joined forces with the multiple LMD Russian, who may or may not be on his way to becoming M.O.D.O.K., to remake the world into a hell on Earth using the Darkhold.
Speaking of Hell, Ghost Rider has returned from wherever the Spirit of Vengeance sent his uncle, ironically through the gateway Aida created with the Darkhold. The team is united but being hunted by Talbot who thinks they’re all LMDs. And Yo-Yo has entered The Framework to find Mack and convince him to come back. Unfortunately in The Framework, she awakens strapped to a table in a room on fire.
As Aida and the Russian size each other up and make plans to use the Darkhold to carve the Earth up, while making sure that S.H.I.E.L.D. suffers, one begins to realize that this is not just a case of honor among thieves, these two really do hate each other, and yet they need each other to get what they want. One has to wonder how long it’d be before they would be at one another’s throats had Ghost Rider not shown up.
When Robbie’s flaming Dodge Charger pulls up on them, I felt something I haven’t felt all that often in the last six episodes – glee – and if the showrunners are reading this, it’s a good feeling, more of this please. Ghost Rider is there for the Darkhold, and to kick ass and take names. Ghost Rider don’t play, and like a honey badger he don’t care about LMDs or Inhuman powers.
That good feeling is quickly ruined however. After Aida teleports away, but not before Ghost Rider burns her with his chain, a new plot point, that seemingly comes out of nowhere, plunged everything into chaos. A quick phone call patches things up between Talbot and Coulson, but a hearing is being held to decide the future of S.H.I.E.L.D. and someone from the team should be there. Coulson says it’s not possible.
Next we find that ‘the plan’ somehow has LMDs, the Russian and friend, attend the meeting and claim S.H.I.E.L.D. is breeding and weaponizing Inhumans. The Russian then produces the Darkhold and further claims the book can stop them. As Talbot is doing his usual ‘that’s horse crap’ speech, Daisy bursts in and puts a bullet in his head.
So it would seem that there are two things that the showrunners do not like. One would be for the good guys to win. The whole Agents of Hydra thing pretty much verifies that. The second would be for fans to be excited about the show. There is something to be said for evoking an emotional reaction, yes, but there’s a difference being excited and being upset. If you’re upset, eventually you’re going to change the channel and/or stop watching.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does indeed like to upset us. Daisy of course is an LMD as we know when the real S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives, and Talbot’s not quite dead yet, but still. Aida is trying to recreate the hysteria that created the Secret Empire of The Framework by destroying any trust built for S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans. That said, it was still pretty cool watching Quake and Ghost Rider as a team, so at least we got a gift.
Meanwhile inside The Framework, as Mack tries to help get people to safety, the world is beginning to unravel and fall apart. Daisy’s hacking has connected Yo-Yo with Radcliffe and together they find Mack and his daughter Hope. We get one last cameo of Ward as Radcliffe shoots him. That’s a shame as it would have been nice to have him involved here. I liked Framework hero Ward.
Like FitzSimmons’ momentary reconciliation and Aida and the Russian’s contempt for one another, the meeting of Mack and Yo-Yo in The Framework is emotionally charged. He doesn’t recognize her and what she’s really asking is for him to choose between her and his daughter. It’s as if this mean woman wants to take Hope away from him.
Stopping Aida at all costs takes a little bit of everything we’ve experienced so far this season, and that includes pain. As we watch Jemma Simmons die for what seems like the umpteenth time in this series, this time horrifically at the hands of Aida with a knife and a lightning bolt, we learn she’s actually an LMD, and it’s a trap.
Aida thinks she’s punished Fitz and extorted the location of the Darkhold from him, but there’s more to it. As she confronts Coulson at the gateway, she taunts him that the only one that can hurt her isn’t there. Heh. That’s when Coulson’s head goes aflame, and no amount of teleporting can stop the Ghost Rider from destroying her.
As if you hadn’t already had your insides twisted by the Jemma LMD’s death, it gets worse. As the world ends in The Framework, Mack can’t leave the only person that means anything to him, and Yo-Yo can’t leave the one person that means everything to her. Yet, somehow, they both wake up on the other side in the real world after Hope vanishes from Mack’s arms. The killer is when Yo-Yo grabs his hand to comfort her. Mack wasn’t the only one crying.
But, why couldn’t we see the scene of them going through the door to the real world? Did anyone else feel cheated? I wanted to see Mack take that leap of faith. Yo-Yo left first, I wanted to see her make that decision, not just to leave, but to leave Mack after coming all this way to retrieve him. You made us watch Jemma die, but didn’t let us see this?
Loose Ends, Old and New
There are nagging questions, and that’s not even considering the big cliffhanger. Where did the Russian go, and will we see M.O.D.O.K. in the future? What was the deal that Robbie and Coulson made for the latter to take on the Rider and destroy Aida? Did he sell his soul to a devil? Did he promise to take a turn as the Ghost Rider? And how long will the effects of The Framework affect the team, especially FitzSimmons?
Our cliffhanger was a bit strange. Expecting government forces to arrest the team at a diner, they are instead kidnapped by men in black and taken into space. They didn’t even get their pie, which in the week that the return of Twin Peaks debuts is just a damned crime. S.H.I.E.L.D. in space… is this a reference to S.W.O.R.D., or an intro to Inhumans or maybe Captain Marvel?
Next: The Inhumans opens in IMAX theaters on September 1st.