Agents of SHIELD 4.22 Review: “World’s End”
The fourth season comes to an end as The Framework dissolves, Ghost Rider returns and the team comes together.
The Rider Returns
Gabriel Luna’s performances as Robbie Reyes was perhaps the most touted in the early episodes of season four. Complex and intriguing, that stretched beyond AoS and stands as the best performance as any Ghost Rider. While it’s an easy write-off to have said he was coming back by the end of the year, it didn’t hit me until tonight just how much I’d like to see an eight episode series based around him.
Beyond that, visually, the FX team clearly wanted to leave us wanting more tonight. The hero shots of Ghost Rider, as well as when chai-whipping a bamf-ing Aida, looked absolutely stunning.
It would be fine if it was just for fanservice but in order to take Aida out, The Rider needed to be there. The connection to The Darkhold forced a fiery hand, and his return was imminent. I didn’t see the Coulson twist coming, though. That was a surprise that genuinely made me sit up in excitement.
Robbie’s return does come with some baggage, though. After the bait-and-switch of Rider Coulson, it’s revealed that Coulson owes the Rider a debt. We’re left to wonder just what that means for Phil, so we’ll have to wait and see.
I’ll be honest, I was shocked when Aida gave her electrifying performance tonight. (I’m so sorry for all those puns.) I wouldn’t have been surprised by a death tonight, but I would have been surprised by Simmons’. Fitz got a chance to go across the universe for her, so I wanted for her What Dreams May Come quest to save him.
The twist of an LMD of Simmons worked because I assumed the SHIELD team wouldn’t head down that route. At least not during a fight against them.
It’s interesting to see Aida go full villain in this episode, leaning into the vengeance the has wound through the entire season’s themes. While those who have always been human attempt to veer away from their anger, Aida embraces it fully tonight. The complexities of the previous episode, which I believe holds Mallory Jansen’s best performance of the season, fade away and Aida’s focus is a laser.
May, Coulson, Haig
Will-they? Won’t-they? There’s been a lot of winks and nudging at a romance between Coulson and May this year. Tonight, their brief conversation regarding their connection finally opens up some honesty. And the promise of a new bottle of Haig.
Holding Onto Hope
The story of Mack and Hope has been playing in the background leading up to the finale. Pieces of them placed in each episode, a bread trail of Mack’s sense of dedication to family. So as The Framework begins to fade, he’s made to stare down a harsh reality: go back to the real world or die as he watches Hope fade.
His grief is instantaneous and overtakes Fitz-Simmons’ quiet moment from last week as the most emotional of the season, if not the series. It’s also the most poetic of scenes the series has shown. We are shaped by the experiences we have and the people in our lives. The memories we hold make us. As Mack experiences this erasure of everything that made him, arms outstretched, Yo-Yo grabs his hand.
After such suffering for the characters at hand, it’s clear the episode couldn’t go out the way it was playing out. Yo-Yo deciding to stay with Mack if he won’t come home was beautiful. It would have teetered on the edge of both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Even though it would have played well with me, I understand that AoS’ fandom needed the full win.
I had the impression that Hope would be able to come into the real world, making a much happier resolution for Mack. Sadly, that’s not the case but it did allow for a moment of amazing performance work.
Post-Credit Where Post-Credit’s Due
Knowing that the next televised step in the MCU is Inhumans, there clearly needed to be some sort of setup nodding towards the upcoming series. I like the subtlety behind the reveal, which I know sounds weird considering Phil wakes up in a space prison, but it’s just enough to appease those who know and blow the mind of those who don’t.
I’m curious if our introduction to the Royals come from that very prison, which totally gave me Negative Zone Prison Alpha vibes, or merely a general introduction to this new realm. Only time will tell when Inhumans hits theaters/TV come fall 2017.
Boiling it down, this has been the best season of Agents of SHIELD to date. Between performances, writing, visual FX and more it’s been a season of many ups and very few downs. The whole thing bookended by wandering souls, vengeance and responsibility. Owning who you are and mistakes you’ve made and accepting we all have hard paths to lead. Being on those paths doesn’t mean you can’t turn to those around you for help. Everyone has had some sort of emotional motivation ultimately bringing them back to the family. Everyone felt alone one way or another this year and the greatest fan-service enacted is to see that family come together.