Agents of SHIELD
Season 4 Episode 22 ‘World’s End’
One of the most intense, suspenseful, action packed seasons and story arcs in the four seasons of Agents of SHIELD has come to an end. Oh what a bang it went out with! Our finale contained call backs to every element of the season, we revisited Robbie Reyes and the phenomenal Ghost Rider, we experienced the full wrath of AIDA/Ophelia/Madame Hydra, received a call back to the incredible LMD aspect, we got to see the conclusion of the Framework, and of course the always wonderful chemistry of Coulson and his team. Incredible action, well crafted and natural humor, powerful emotions, wonderful comic book panel moments, a truly noteworthy villain; these aspects not only provided the best finale Agents has had, but the finale, the story arc, and in my opinion, the overall season to beat for comic book television (if not television entirely). I have never been as engaged in a show’s season, I have never felt like an arc was as much of a ‘comic book feel’ until I watched LMD and the Framework. All tied up neatly with a bow with a very heavy illusion towards SWORD next season, and a tasteful in memoriam for Powers Boothe; I was wowed with the amazing finale and to this incredible season for Agents of SHIELD.
Every character, not only in the season finale, but in this season, has had their amazing stand out moments. They were taken to the brink of their character mold and had it absolutely shattered. They spent a portion somewhere along the lines of this season in a very raw nerve state. The character development, the acting, the writing, the story telling, every solitary aspect of this season has been nothing short of phenomenal. The finale brought everything back full circle. We get to see Team Coulson working together in the manner that we love, everyone clicking and on the same page, tricks, team ups, and incredible super hero super spy action! We get to see Fitz slowly begin to recover, enough to enable him to reconnect stronger with Simmons. This led to a very convincing and extremely comic book LMD switcheroo as Ophelia stabs Simmons in the heart, tells Fitz she’s going to murder everyone he cares about in front of him, only for Simmons to reemerge, revealing that what Ophelia killed was the LMD from the SHIELD base siege, and blast her full of bullets, knowing it won’t kill her, but it still felt great!
Reyes and Daisy destroy a few of the Superior’s Russian RoboClones and scare off Ophelia with some super power fueled team work. This also provide a classic Coulson ‘cool dad’ moment as he enters the now empty room, and echoing the sentiments of anyone who accidentally looked away from the tv to their phone, and didn’t have the luxury of rewinding the show ‘I missed it didn’t I? You two together and I missed it? Damn!’
Coulson has been one of my favorite aspects of the Marvel universe since his first appearance, and his one liners have made him a staple of my Marvel top five. However, this finale provided another switcheroo/surprise reveal, and gave me one more reason to vote team Coulson, Ghost Coulson! Or Phil Rider! SHIELD Rider? Agent Rider? Coulson Rider? In a poetic fashion after the onslaught of pain and chaos she unleashed upon his team, Coulson takes in the spirit of the Rider in order to destroy Ophelia. It was fast, there was only one real teaser to that reveal, (Coulson asking Reyes if that thing inside of him wanted to destroy Ophelia as much as his team did), and it opened up a huge lingering question; What were the terms of the deal he made with the Rider for the switching of hands? However, all in all it felt the most poignant way to defeat Ophelia. While I would have loved to see her continue on into next season, this truly felt like the best bookend for the Darkhold/Rider/LMD/Framework season. The only thing that would have felt better would be if the team some how found a way to each contribute an aspect in destroying her, receiving their own personal revenge, but Coulson being able to defeat their oppressor for the honor of his team felt like the perfect leader thing to do.
Speaking of Ophelia, the journey that Mallory Jansen took the audience on with the enormous transformation of AIDA/Ophelia/Madame Hydra has been one of the most amazing character arcs I have seen in any media, period. Her transformation, the story that she told, and the insight into the motivations, rationale, and experiences that she has equaled out to arguably, the single best villain Marvel Entertainment has offered to date. That’s battling Hydra, Radcliffe, Loki, Ultron, Wilson Fisk, Madame Gao, Kilgrave, Cotton Mouth, Mariah Dillard, and Diamondback in my personal opinion. From the Artificial Intelligence vessel, to the sentient, self aware, malicious Android, into the Framework as the all powerful puppet master and fascist dictator of Hydra, finally evolving into her final form, fueled by the Darkhold, driven by desire and curiosity to be ‘real’, this dark side Pinocchio emerges from her Framework cocoon as something not quite Human, not quite Inhuman. Despite the myriad of powers she had discovered in the Framework and translated over into her body, generated by the power of the Darkhold Ophelia is born a unique creature all her own. Until this season, I truly thought that Netflix housed all of my favorite Marvel Entertainment Villains, and Loki and Ultron rounded out my top five, truthfully Ultron gained his spot because of James Spader. With the multi-layered performance, the evolution, and the spine chilling explosion of emotions Ophelia displayed after her Darkhold birth was just absolutely incredible. She invoked fear, she emoted to the audience and transformed into a truthfully terrifying horror movie villain. The power she displayed, the things she was capable of; it was entirely believable at points that the show could have decided to kill off a primary cast mate, and if anyone was going to do it, Ophelia would’ve been up to the task. I know that the comic book based mediums are typically ignored for award recognition, but I sincerely hope that Jansen’s performance, among some of the other absolutely incredible performances this season, at least garner some of the much deserved attention.
The return of the Ghost Rider, drawn back to the plains of Earth by the incredible amount of Darkhold energy used to create Ophelia’s earthly body, was not only an exciting moment for fans, but a smart way to bring the season to a close full circle. It also introduced an understandable way to suddenly render the previously unstoppable Ophelia a weakness. Luna has given a wonderful performance as both Reyes and the Ghost Rider. He gives a great edginess partnered with caution and wisdom, providing the perfect vessel for Daisy to work through the mental battle she was engaged in at the beginning of the season. The Rider’s return provided a few things for fans to nerd-out about, one, for a television show, the effects for Ghost Rider are incredible, combined with Luna’s performance, this gave the entity of the Ghost Rider redemption from those nearly unspeakable Nicholas Cage films. Two, the Hell Charger was an amazing staple throughout his tenure on the season, gaining the attention of most of the cast, as well as allowing Bennett to perform her favorite stunt thus far on the show when she was hanging from the top of the car during a chase scene. Lastly, the nod to a certain Sorcerer with Rider’s departing at the end of the episode, looked incredibly similar to the sling-ring portals created by those who study at the Ancient One’s temple in Kamar-Taj. I’ve always enjoyed the ways that Agents of SHIELD married in references to the MCU throughout their episodes, some worked better and were more or less subtle than others, but this one, vastly unspoken, purely visual, made many fans sitting at home get stirred up and excited. With Kevin Feige’s inference that eventually the MCU, MNU, and MTU will inevitably cross over, little things like this give hope for some of our favorite characters from the different platforms to have an opportunity to share a screen.
There were some absolutely incredible performances and development arcs this season. Daisy, going through an existential crisis as a lone wolf vigilante back into the team, the terror she felt when the LMD invasion was occurring and she was being hunted by the bodies of her friends, risking her life to rescue her team, her friends, her family by immersing herself into the Framework. This decision forcing her to relive the frustration of not having her powers and feeling sort of helpless. Then regaining control, experiencing Terrigenisis in two realities, using her powers to save the day but experiencing the heart break and guilt of not being able to convince Mack, then battling side by side with her team to defeat the greatest threat the world has experience since the emergence of Hydra. Fitz and Simmons deliver the most heart breaking scenes I’ve ever seen in anything, the chemistry those two actors have with one another is one of a kind and the performances they give together or in response to one another have compounded exponentially in how powerful they are. Simmons’ heart break at seeing Fitz in the Framework, her terror fighting his LMD, the love and empathy she has for him all throughout, paired with the mirror image diabolical Bond Villain of the Doctor. Fitz’s absolute mental break at the realization of the life he lived in the Framework, and his emotionally broken state when Ophelia threatened to destroy everything and everyone he ever loved for rejecting her. The Fitzsimmons pair is one of the single best casting decisions made in entertainment, every element of their performances, especially when paired together, has been gold over the last 89 episodes. Mack was torn over living in reality he didn’t remember, or dying in an artificial world where he gets to have his daughter back was painful to watch, paired with YoYo venturing in to rescue him brings everything up a notch on the teary-eyed meter. Redemption was a largely overarching theme, one of the biggest players was Grant Ward himself, having a life where he’s truly the good guy and sacrifices so much, even after knowing he’s not ‘real’ and slated to disappear as a series of 1’s and 0’s, for his team, the cause, and most importantly, Daisy. Speaking of redemption, good ole Radcliffe, that diabolical evil Tony Stark, sliding back and forth where ever it suits him best, ultimately working towards his own agenda, his life in the Framework, after AIDA destroys his earthly presence, is a painful one to watch, self realization, reflection, and using his last moments to attempt to right some of the wrongs he created was a truly magnificent arc to watch. The final moments, a toast to how the world ends, disappearing from any existence, to utter silence and emptiness was just so poignant and well crafted. It was a powerful, almost beautiful and tranquil foil to the chaotic battle between the Agents and Ophelia back on earth. I don’t feel like it would have had justice done to it if anyone performed that role other than John Hannah.
I could go on for hundreds of thousands of words, talk for hours and hours about this finale, and the season as a whole, I have been a fan of Agents since the pilot and never wavered. But, for all of the missteps it may have made in previous seasons, I truly feel like this season, these arcs, were a massive turn around for the show as a whole. Our ending scenes, the beautiful crane shot of the team eating a diner, recommencement of the mid credit scene after the first Avengers, was so cumulative of the team dynamic and their essence after that massive of a battle. To be frozen in place, kidnapped, and awaken to a ship which appears to be out in space raises numerous questions and speculations. Are we experiencing SWORD in the fifth season of Agents? Will we some how be connected to the MCU Universe (literally) tying in more with Thanos, Guardians, and Asgard? Is there going to be interaction with the Inhumans and their palace on Attilan? So many possibilities, so much eagerness to see what awaits for the Fifth season of adventures for this amazing group of heroes. Agents of SHIELD will not return until January 2018, following the full season of Inhumans, however it has been said that due to the later starting date, Agents will no longer leave us hanging with multiple week long hiatuses throughout the season, so a silver lining still to be had. Tune in at the top of the new year as I continue to bring you week by week coverage of one of my favorite shows on television, Agents of SHIELD, until then, #keepitnerdy .