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REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×20 “Farewell, Cruel World!”

At last we’re starting to get some payoff.

As mentioned last week, the Framework arc was beginning to drag a bit, meaning this episode came just in the knick of time. This entire third arc seems to have been leading up to the occurrences in, “Farewell, Cruel World!” and I have to say, the wait was worth it. No show does the slow build/burn quite as well and as consistently as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and this week’s episode made all of the exposition and teases of the past few weeks come to a head in an action-packed, jaw-dropping, gut-wrenching hour of television.

Spoilers ahead!

After a quick reunion with Trip, Daisy informs Jemma that she knows where the backdoor to the Framework is thanks to her previous chat with Radcliffe. Though, knowing the location won’t make it easy to get there, especially considering how few of the actual team are aware of the fact that they’re from a different world. Jemma also points out that getting Fitz to the exit point will be enormously difficult due to his current Hydra ranking. Daisy delivers the sharp blow that they can’t save Fits right now, they’ll have to get out the people they can and save him at a later time. Though she doesn’t seem too happy about it, Jemma begrudgingly agrees that they need to save as many of their friends as possible.

AOS420DaisyJemma

Of course, Jemma’s agreement only lasts until she discovers that Alistair Fitz is still very much a part of Fitz’s life in this world. Realizing that this is what Aida changed, Jemma promptly makes her way to the Fitz patriarch’s abode and demands that he call his son to bring him there. Naturally, a dude as innately awful as Alistair does no such thing and instead tells his son (and his Hydra bodyguards) that the fugitive is in his home before proceeding to attack Jemma. Alistair is literally squeezing the life out of Jemma but she manages to grab a nearby gun and shoot him before he kills her in this world and the real one.

Unfortunately, Fitz is still on the other end of the phone and hears the entire exchange. Upon finding his father dead in his home, Fitz commands his Hydra squad to gear up the Zephyr and head towards the backdoor coordinates provided by Radcliffe, ominously stating, “You’re going to lead me to Jemma Simmons where it is my intent to put a bullet in her skull.”

The team makes it to the warehouse holding the backdoor and are alarmed to find that the exit point seems to be a boiling vat of lava. Though, Mack seems to be the most upset because he’s the only one who still hasn’t been clued into the whole, “other reality,” thing. He is not pleased to hear about it either, mainly upset that the gang lied to him to get him away from his daughter, but finds himself believing the story when Daisy uses her powers to quake the lava and reveal what’s hidden underneath… the backdoor!!!

quake

Coulson, ecstatic to discover that he’s not just some conspiracy kook, makes his way to the exit but is promptly shot by incoming Hydra agents. Fitz’s team has now arrived at the coordinates and bullets start flying as team S.H.I.E.L.D. goes up against those villains that just. won’t. die. While Mack and Daisy take care of the incoming baddies, May helps Coulson to the backdoor, which he needs to quickly go through or else his recent wounds will kill him in the Framework as well as the real world. He makes the jump, telling May to jump with him and… promptly wakes up in the Russian submarine that the gang is being housed in!

It’s Jemma’s turn next but, as she’s making her way to the exit, a gun is cocked behind her and Fitz waltzes in ready to kill her. Despite Jemma explaining to him again that this world isn’t real, that killing his father was an accident, and pleading for him to wake up, Fitz isn’t having it and promptly shoots her in the leg when she refuses to kneel before him. Jemma’s desperate pleading and declaration of love still doesn’t phase Fitz, who tells her that she means nothing to him, but as he presses the barrel of his gun to her head another shot rings out and we see that Radcliffe has taken out his Hydra guard. The mad scientist promptly disarms Fitz, dragging him out of the room and telling him that nothing was his fault before pushing him into the backdoor as Daisy quakes it open.

Jemma quickly follows, leaving Mack and Daisy as the only two left. Unfortunately, despite now knowing that this world isn’t real, Mack has no intention of leaving. Because in this world he has his daughter and, fake or not, she’s real to him. Daisy makes an emotional speech, begging for him to reconsider and come with her, but he ultimately refuses… meaning that when Daisy awakens in the real world, she’s forced to tell YoYo that she couldn’t save him.

That alone is a rough awakening, made even tougher by the fact that Jemma and Daisy come to right as the Zephyr is being bombed by the Russian and his cronies. As the jet is being attacked, Fitz, May, and Coulson are coming to the harsh realization of the things they did in the Framework (namely being responsible for Mace’s FW/RW death) and coming face-to-face with the now human Aida.

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Yes, as it turns out, Project Looking Glass was a total success and Aida/Madame Hydra/Ophelia is now a living, breathing, organic being in the real world. And, unfortunately, she still has her sights set on Fitz. Stunned to see her, Fitz can’t do much other than gape as Aida pulls him into her arms and… teleports away before May can shoot her.

…what?

As far as excitement goes, “Farewell, Cruel World!” was a definite upgrade from the last two weeks of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As expected, this week’s episode served as the culmination of all of the build-up from the Framework arc as a whole. In addition to the team making it to the backdoor, we also got clued into Aida’s long-term gameplan and how the actions taken within the virtual reality will impact the gang now that they’re out. 

Truthfully, the biggest highlight this week was the acting itself. Much of the scenes ramped up the emotion from what we’ve seen in the past month or so, and provided ample opportunity for the show’s actors to delve into the material with performances that invoked the entire spectrum of emotions/reactions. There were scenes I cringed at, scenes I clapped at, and scenes that made me want to pour a glass of wine for the sole purpose of throwing it in someone’s face.

Most importantly, with only two episodes left, “Farewell, Cruel World!” is perfect set-up for what’s still to come.

Episode Grade: A-

Quotes of the Week:

  • “Y’all did not just go and use the Bible against me.” Mack to the gang after his Moses comment leads to Daisy literally parting the red sea.

Episode Highs:

  • The emotional scenes were at a peak this week. Any interaction between Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge will undoubtedly be crippling, as was the case this week. Similarly, the bond between Mack and Daisy was on full display this week as Chloe Bennet and Henry Simmons knocked it out of the park during their emotional goodbye at the backdoor.
  • The VFX shot of the Framework changing/glitching after Coulson and May leapt into the backdoor was awesome and a really cool look at how the team creates their shots.

Episode Lows:

  • If you’re going to do cutaways between the real world and the fake world, make sure they are equally substantive. YoYo and Co. are all fan-favorites at this point and should be given more to play with. Oftentimes it felt as though their scenes were included for the sole purpose of including them rather than integrating them into the story. The stakes just weren’t as high for them in comparison to those in the Framework which made the scenes feel as though they weren’t living up to their full potential.

Additional Thoughts:

  • WTF is this Ophelia/Fitz nonsense? Was his reaction to her simply astonishment that she exists, or some sort of lingering Framework affection for her? I know no one who will be happy if it’s the latter.

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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