Agents of SHIELD has almost gotten to the end of the fourth season. “The Return” signals the end of the story in The Framework, and picking up the pieces back in the real world. And they’re coming back to a hell of a mess on almost every front.
The show starts with a slightly different perspective on where the last one ended. Ivanov, disturbingly, is reading the Darkhold, and commenting there are some “funny passages” in the book. I don’t know what’s worse, him smiling or finding the Darkhold funny. He walks down a hall and comes in on the confrontation between the newly-awakened SHIELD agents and Aida 2.0. Coulson sums up his frustration very well as Aida and Fitz port away. Ivanov confronts the team, commenting that his previous restrictions have been lifted. Coulson short cuts May’s briefing by just telling her she can shoot Ivanov. It’s a nasty Coulson/May/Ivanov fight. Coulson pulls off a pretty slick move with a creative use of one of his toys. May offers a few wisecracks about robots.
The other part of the team up in the Zephyr have their own problems as the Russian fighter is still bound and determined to bring them down. Bet they’re wishing they had kept that cloak running. They manage to get to the power section to try and restore weapons, but find a new problem.
Coulson brings May up to speed a bit more thoroughly on recent events. Remember, she was replaced by one of the LMD’s a while before everyone else. She asks some uncomfortable questions about when Coulson noticed the substitution. There’s a passing reference to Ghost Rider (boy, she has been gone a while, hasn’t she?), and a good bit of concern about Mac staying behind in the Framework.
The Zephyr crew finally manages to put out the raging fire, get weapons restored, and let Piper show her formidable gunnery skill. I’m really enjoying Piper. I hope she both survives this season and gets a bigger part next one. Elsewhere, Aida has brought Fitz to the beach. It’s really painful watching her be so happy and overjoyed by everything while Fitz is trying to reconcile two very different lives that are both circling around in his head.
Yo Yo is not pleased that Mac stayed in the Framework, and has a lot to say to Daisy about it. She doesn’t seem too interested in hearing about what actually happened, either. Coulson, meanwhile, has figured out where he and May are, in part due to his career teaching back in computer land. May pushes a little harder on getting details about her replacement, and Coulson keeps dodging. Somehow, I don’t blame him.
Team Zephyr fills in Simmons on some of what happened while she was “away,” and none of it’s good. I do like that things happened while the main characters were off in their own world. Aida, continuing to show a stunning but understandable naivete, brings Fitz to “their” place. Wow, she really doesn’t get this at all. He sidesteps some of the awkward emotional issues for now and asks what’s in store for his friends.
The bad guys finally get past the defenses Coulson and May have improvised, and there’s a really spectacular fight. May is hell on wheels normally. May on adrenaline is just terrifying, especially with improvised weapons. She’s definitely the star of the scene, although Coulson does some quick thinking too.
Tensions are rising on many levels. Coulson has a few upsetting things to tell May as they try and find their way out of the oil rig. Mac is back in the Framework room, and the water is rising around his non-responsive body. Fitz is trying to get Aida to go back and help, and she’s suddenly realizing she could get killed. I guess there’s a big perspective shift of robot to real live girl.
I admit I can’t stand Ivanov as a character, but he’s well acted and gets some great lines in a scene with Aida. Finally, all the good guys get back together on the top of the oil rig thanks to one of the containment modules, a lot of stairs, and some last minute teleporting by Aida. Given everything that’s happened in the last few hours, the team takes some wise precautions with Aida and Fitz both.
The team makes a somber return to their no-longer secret base. When the LMD’s ended up fighting each other as the real agents were getting stuffed into the Framework, L.May.D. had a crisis of conscience and did something desperate. She stopped the other LMD’s, but the base is trashed. What isn’t burned is toppled or broken. I suspect they/re going to get a new headquarters next season. Simmons is really worried about how real things were in the other world, since Fitz was in love with Aida there.
It hasn’t been slow to this point, but things really kick up a notch from here. Aida and Fitz wake up in one of the containment rooms, where Aida continues to show how much she just doesn’t get. Fitz has the sobering realization that, in a lot of ways now, he’s just like the arch-traitor Ward. Fitz doesn’t take a few things into account when he’s musing out loud and he really hard-core sets Aida off on a dark path. Not good for a new-born with powers.
Talbot leads a team back into the wrecked base and tries to take the agents prisoner. As far as he’s concerned, they’re all robots. I get where he’s coming from, but there are several ways he could put that to the test. He’s just not thinking straight. Talbot’s always had a bit of a temper. Side note though: a while ago, Talbot’s pet “enhanced,” the Absorbing Man, was serving as his bodyguard. Where’d he go?
Crazy Aida turns on everyone and goes on a killing spree. Soldiers, SHIELD agents, she doesn’t care at this point. She also demonstrates she’s more dangerous than we’d thought. Coulson is trying, without a lot of luck, to talk Talbot down. Talbot then manages to add racism to his resume as he wonder where “that Speedy Gonzales critter” is. Nice. Finally, both teams flee from Aida, in different directions. If the Zephyr was running low on fuel before, it sure as hell didn’t get more here. What’s keeping them in the air? Even Stark tech needs energy.
Fitz and Simmons have a tearful reunion. If they use this as an excuse to keep them apart yet again, I’m going to go punch some of these writers. Aida, having nowhere else to go, returns to Ivanov and vents her emotions in a few unexpected ways. As Talbot’s team pulls out, some of the wreckage shifts, and we see a figure from SHIELD’s past come back. Next episode, which I believe is the finale, is going to be a messy one. Moreso because Yo Yo did something understandable but amazingly stupid to end the episode.
What I liked: Ivanov got some great lines. There were a lot of complications with Aida being “human” now that the writers did a great job with. The Coulson and May scenes were great. Talbot’s a jerk, but what he’s doing makes sense from his perspective. I’m very excited about the return at the end.
What I didn’t: I’m really hoping this doesn’t become the latest excuse to keep Fitz and Simmons apart. I’m not pleased by the new developments with Ivanov and “friends.”
I thought this was a really good episode. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. The finale should be interesting.