Agents of SHIELD Season 4 Recap: “The Return”

The two-part finale commences as our core cast returns to the real world, YoYo heads into the Framework and Ghost Rider turns back up.

For all that SHIELD has turned itself into a “pod” based set of stories, with each plot line of the season contained within a short run of episodes, it’s still a 22 episode season show. And though the pod format affords SHIELD the ability to function like three “prestige TV” seasons instead of one long network one, it also means that a *hell* of a lot of things get jam-packed into one year–three season’s worth of things, in fact.

May: Robots–is this a common occurrence now?
Coulson: Like I said, you missed a fair amount.

This week’s penultimate episode was a brutal reminder of just how damn much this show packed into those 22 episodes. For instance, Agent May has been in variations of the Framework since the end of the first pod–last thing she remembers, Robbie Reyes was on the team, and they were hunting down his Uncle. This means that we’ve had twelve hours of plot that happened without her, including, but not limited to, Reyes and his Uncle crossing over into another dimension, the arrival of the Cheap Russian Wolverine Knockoff (CRWK), all of the adventures between Coulson and May, all of AIDA’s antics in this world, and the all of the antics by the LMD version of the core cast while everyone else was in the Framework.

(ABC/Eric McCandless)

That last point is probably the most important. The last moment we saw at the SHIELD base was LMD May, being an earlier prototype version, taking the free will she had from it and blowing up LMD Coulson and company rather than let them catch Daisy and Simmons. We then transferred wholesale into the Framework for five episodes, completely ignoring that blowing up a SHIELD base like this would have some serious fallout. add to that Fitz’s offing of Jeffrey Mace in the Framework, causing his body to die in the real world, was not going to stay quiet either. (In fact, we learn, AIDA and CRWK made his body look like it was destroyed by Daisy’s earthquake powers before letting it wash up on shore.)

Coulson: We’re not robots Glenn.
Talbot: Yes they are! You assume every one of them is a damn C-3P0 unless you hear otherwise from me!

So not only do Coulson and May and co have to get themselves out of the immediate danger from the oil rig (not to mention pull Mack’s still-in-the-framework body out with them), but when they get back to reality, they have to explain all this as well–something that’s not going to be easy. In fact, the whole getting off the rig with Mack’s body in tact wouldn’t have happened–except that Fitz convinces AIDA to try being a good person for once, and has her rescue Mack for them.

(ABC/Eric McCandless)

Could this be the sign of a new AIDA? Her joy at rescuing Mack at first suggests that she could have turned over a new leaf. Add to that Fitz’s grief at how things have changed, how his relationship with Simmons has suffered at the terrible things–he declares his relationship with Simmons is dead–he killed that too. This starts point to something no fan of SHIELD wants to consider–that Fitz might just decide that of the two women, he’ll choose AIDA (Ophelia, whatever) and this is the end of FitzSimmons forever. (Considering that Simmons shoots both of them at point-blank range as soon as they arrive with Mack on the Zephyr certainly suggests she too is done playing.) But AIDA forgot that the only reason Fitz was “in love” with her in the Framework was because she forced it to happen, from cutting into to being friends with him from the first day at the academy instead of Simmons, all the way to having the father program keep him in line at every turn. Without that, Fitz is free to exercise his own free will. And he chooses Simmons.

Fitz: May, May! You’re the only other one who knows about the Inhumans we tested.

 

And with that discovery, that Fitz is not going to drop Simmons in the real world and start dating her, we say so long to the short-lived new AIDA. But let’s be real, new AIDA was only going to last as long as Fitz did exactly as she wished. Oh and by the way, AIDA’s abilities aren’t limited to the transportation Inhuman powers we saw last week. As Fitz says to May–“you’re the only one who knows the experiments we did in there” Turns out those experiments were to give all of those abilities to AIDA’s new body. Included in her upgraded package are: superhuman strength, serious speed, the ability to control electricity, and super healing powers to survive a gun and a half’s worth of bullet wounds. AIDA is unstoppable–and now she’s ready to take the Darkhold and make the world of the framework come true right here in the real world.

(ABC/Eric McCandless)

I had hoped last week when we saw her and Fitz teleport away that she was taking him back to the Framework. No such luck there, but for those who were worried we were done with the Framework, take heart. While Coulson was trying to explain to Talbot about the Framework, and the robots and AIDA and all the rest, YoYo went back into the Framework after Mack, to get him to put down the pixels called Hope and come back to reality. This week’s bumper gives us a glimpse of insane the Framework has gone, with Hydra’s top three (Madame Hydra, Fitz and May) all having taken their leave of the program–YoYo wakes up in a Hydra lab that’s on fire and clearly under attack, where she was belted down and being experimented on. How does she get out of that, and find Mack? Dunno, but she’s only got an hour to get it done.

Meanwhile, with the main cast on the Zephyr and trying to figure out how to take AIDA down, back in the ruins of the base, that doorway to that other dimension–the one Reyes and his Uncle headed off to, remember?–opens up. And the Ghost Rider, head on fire and all, walks back through.

 

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