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REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×22 “World’s End”

With, “World’s End,” came the end of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s Fourth, but happily not final, season. And boy oh boy is the wait for Season 5 going to be a looooooong one. While the length will literally be long due to the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. is scheduled for a midseason, 2018, premiere, the wait will feel infinitely longer in the figurative sense due to how this finale left our favorite gang of Agents.

While many of the still-loose threads were surprisingly tied up this episode (I mentioned last week that I didn’t know how the writers would be able to bring closure to the frankly numerous plot-points still hanging in limbo) no finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be complete without a jaw-dropping, humdinger, of a cliffhanger. “World’s End,” was no different in this regard and, if this finale is anything to go by, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s fifth season will no doubt continue the show’s upward trajectory… literally.

Spoilers ahead!

We start off with Robbie and the Rider making their way to Aida’s current lair (located in Dover of all places), where she and her multiple Russian androids are gearing up to destroy one world and rule another. Aida is shutting down the Framework and, by Fitz and Daisy’s estimation, they only have 12-20 hours before the virtual world is gone for good. Something that’s just a bit problematic considering the very real Mack and YoYo are still stuck in it.

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Despite a minor snafu during which she learned that the Rider can actually hurt her, Aida’s real-world plan is beginning to come to fruition as she sends her android Russians to an international intelligence meeting where they immediately try to convince those gathered that S.H.I.E.L.D. is building an Inhuman army. Unfortunately, just as good ol’ Glenn Talbot mentions how preposterous that is, Daisy Johnson bursts into the room and puts a bullet in his head.

Of course, this isn’t the real Daisy, it’s one of the many LMDs that Aida has created for the purpose of bringing a fear of Inhumans to the people of the real world so as to replicate the fascist state of the Framework. Thankfully, team S.H.I.E.L.D. already knew that the Russian would be present at the meeting, and aren’t too far behind once things start going crazy. Real Daisy and the Ghost Rider team up (in epic fashion) to take out the LMDs on site while May and Coulson manage to snag the Darkhold before it winds up back in Aida’s clutches.

While S.H.I.E.L.D. manages to grab the book, they’re still floundering as to how to destroy Aida once and for all. Though, they don’t flounder for long.

Coulson devises a plan to use the Darkhold as bait to lure Aida to them rather than remain on the defensive. But, in order for this plan to work, the gang and Robbie need to work together.

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While Daisy is working to program a backdoor in the Framework for YoYo and Mack to escape, May and Coulson make their way through the rubble of the Playground in search of the portal-creating device that Robbie used to escape the Dark World. Elsewhere, FitzSimmons are in the server room working on buying as much time for their friends as possible before the Framework collapses for good. Of course, where there’s a Fitz… there’s a psychotic former android ready to kill everyone he loves.

Still bitter about the fact that Fitz opted to be with Jemma instead of her, Aida materializes in the server room out of thin air and promptly makes it clear that she intends on destroying his world… starting with Jemma. Aida promptly stabs Fitz’s real-world love, literally and figuratively twisting the knife until he gives her the information she came for: the location of the Darkhold. Pleading with her to spare Jemma, Fitz reveals that Coulson has it and is planning to use it to rebuild a portal and destroy Aida for good. Having acquired all relevant information, Aida then electrocutes Jemma to death in front of Fitz and reaffirms that she has every intention of making him watch as she kills everyone he loves.

Teleporting to the very room in which Coulson is waiting with the Darkhold in hand and the portal serving as an ominous backdrop, Aida cockily says that only one person can destroy her before… being shot in the back by Jemma!

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Yes, as it turns out, Simmons is alive and well, as part of Coulson’s plan involved using a Jemma Simmons LMD to trick Aida and lure her to him so that he could… LET THE RIDER TAKE OVER SO AS TO TAKE AIDA OUT!

Turns out, Coulson made a temporary deal with the devil, taking the Rider out of Robbie long enough to burn an unsuspecting Aida to a crisp.

Meanwhile, YoYo is giving it her best effort to convince Mack to willingly leave the Framework but he refuses to part with Hope, despite knowing that she isn’t real. As furniture and structures begin disappearing right before their eyes, YoYo hunkers down next to the Mackenzies and decides that she too will remain in the virtual world until the bitter end because, like make, the most important person in her life is there. This of course leads to a heartbreaking scene in which Hope (being code and all) vanishes from Mack’s arms as he and Elena cry.

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While utterly devastating, there is light at the end of the tunnel: both YoYo and Mack use Daisy’s programmed exit just in the knick of time and make it out of the Framework alive, if a bit worse for wear.

Woohoo!

By some miracle, each member of the core team has lived to see another day (and another season!). While victorious in their battle against Aida, the gang still has to deal with the ramifications of her actions during the little time she was actually a living being in the real world. Because, while we know that S.H.I.E.L.D. are still very much the good guys, everyone else sees them as a rogue group of dangerous people looking to cause harm. Meaning the team only has a short amount of time before government big-wigs come to bring them in. (After all, the world still thinks that Daisy shot Talbot and S.H.I.E.L.D. sent her to do it).

And what does a group of operatives do when they know they will likely very soon be arrested?

They hit up a local diner for a final meal together of course!

And they even manage to make it to dessert! Rather… almost make it. Just as they’re learning of the pie specials, a bunch of nameless suits waltz up behind them, use some sort of electronic device to paralyze them, and whisk the lot of them away to some undisclosed location.

Which brings us to the Season 4 finale tag… Phil Coulson waking up in some sort of prison, flipping a switch, and looking out his bedroom window… which shows that he is in space. And has been for awhile if his nonchalant reaction is anything to go by.

I smell a time jump…

I think it’s pretty safe to say that this season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and this pod in particular, has been nothing less than exceptional. While I personally have enjoyed each and every year of S.H.I.E.L.D. thus far, and find it a little irksome that most are saying that the show has, “finally found its groove,” there’s no denying that the past 22 episodes of television have cumulatively been S.H.I.E.L.D.’s best. This final arc has been the very definition of peak television, producing some of the finest 7 hours of TV that any superhero show (and arguably any show period) has exhibited in quite some time.

The Framework put characters that we’ve known and loved for four years in situations that completely altered the team dynamics that have been a staple of the show. The Hydra-driven world, though decidedly not reality, forced much of our favorites to come face-to-face with a few harsh realities of the personal variety. “World’s End,” was every bit the culmination of these shifting personalities, dynamics, and events as each and every character experienced a pivotal moment that will no doubt impact their respective courses come Season 5.

While most have been aware of the fact for some time, this episode proved once more that Daisy Johnson is a veritable superhero and, more impressively, a true leader. Coulson’s young protégé has arguably changed the most since Skye “No Last Name” was first introduced to us in the show’s Pilot. The solo hacktivist of years’ past has transformed into an individual who knows, and is confident, in her place on a team that, at this point, is far closer to being a family. She says as much during her poignant speech to Fitz, taking on Coulson’s usual role as inspirational speaker and making it clear that, no matter what happens, they’re in it together.

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The other characters have grown a decent amount in their own right as well. May, though stoic and no-nonsense as ever, is equally adamant that the gang will go down together or not at all. The very woman who strove to keep her distance has reached the point where, in addition to wanting to open a bottle of Haig with more symbolism and emotional weight than anything else in her life, is now determinedly willing to go down with the ship that is S.H.I.E.L.D. due to the fact that it is comprised of the people she loves.

FitzSimmons have been put through the wringer this year, something that I’m sure most people expect at this point considering past seasons’ storylines, and have somehow managed to come out the other side. It’s clear that Fitz more than anyone will be dealing with the ramifications of the Framework for quite sometime, the biggest being the guilt he feels for his actions within the virtual world. And, while this episode didn’t exactly have much payoff in terms of the FitzSimmons relationship, it still is clear to me that these two are it. Simmons is just as quick to, in few words, state that Fitz sure as hell isn’t going to take sole responsibility for everything that’s happened as of late and the single moment of eye contact that follows seemed laced with all of the conversations that the episode didn’t have time to actually show.

Lastly, Mack and Elena’s relationship was tested for the first time in the Framework but, despite the heartbreak and trauma, the two seem to be the only ones better for it. While neither the virtual nor real world are exactly great, it does feel as though Mack had a best of both situation. He lived his life to the fullest in the Framework, raising his daughter and experiencing what he missed out on in the real world. And while the eventual destruction of it all was heartbreaking, Mack himself admits that he wouldn’t trade the time he had with Hope for anything. PLUS, the experience only confirmed the fact that he might still be able to have a life of domestic bliss with YoYo in the real world.

While the action and adventure, as well as the insane twists and turns that only a comic property could get away with, is always fun to see, as an ensemble show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is always at its best when the characters take focus. This season in particular has done a wonderful job at exploring each member of our favorite team, be it through backstory, a faux universe, or something as novel as conversation, and I think that more than anything is why the show has experienced such rave reviews in this fourth year. The character growth is actually noticeable and is what makes all of the absurdities entirely believable.

Cheers to a great season!

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Episode Grade: B+

Episode Highs:

  • I’ve admittedly always been in the, “eh,” camp as far as Ghost Rider is concerned, but DAMN that Quake/GR team-up was a thing to behold. As previously mentioned, Quake is a full-on superhero at this point and it was epic to see her and Robbie play off each other during their showdown against the Russian androids.

Episode Lows:

  • The dichotomy between the A and B plots (AKA Real World v Framework) just didn’t work for me. While aware that the stakes were high in both, cutting from Jemma being stabbed in the heart by Aida, Talbot being shot in the head, and Ghost Rider with his flaming chain to a slow-paced heart-to-heart between YoYo and Radcliffe just felt off. Both Mack and Elena are two characters who, in my opinion, are woefully underutilized on this show, and it felt a bit like the writers were trying to cram a season’s worth of the characters into one episode. There were undoubtedly some pivotal moments, but the integration of the much-needed conversations and confessions felt rushed due to the outside chaos taking place. 
  • As an episode this was a good one, but as a season finale… it felt a bit lacking. The Framework arc was so mind-blowingly epic that, “World’s End,” seemed like a pretty dramatic shift back to all the Darkhold/Dark world stuff and didn’t feel quite up to par with its predecessors.

Additional Thoughts:

  • There’s got to be a time-jump between seasons, which begs the question: how long of one?
  • We’ve seen a glimpse of Coulson, but where do you think the rest of the team wound up?
  • What deal do you think Coulson made with the Rider? What’s expected of him down the line?
  • Are we just ignoring the fact that the Superior’s head has yet to be found? Presumably (unless it’s a detail that will just be ignored by the writers) we’re not done with the Russian just yet.

Final Season Grade: A-
What did you think about the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below!

About the author

Silje Falck-Pedersen

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