I was a fan of Agents of SHIELD ever since the first episode, back when it seemed like Marvel’s version of “Warehouse 13”, a serial science-fiction in which a team investigates specific events and items of unknown, possibly alien, origin. However, as everyone knows, Captain America: The Winter Soldier changed the series upside-down, and to be frank, it’s been a wild roller-coaster ever since.
Season 4 was no different. After the time jump following the end of season 3, this season placed us in a new world, one in which SHIELD is about to be a legitimate organization again, with a new director, and with our beloved team scattered, Coulson no longer in charge, and Daisy is now a vigilante known as Quake. But what seemed like a strange beginning to a season after the entire grand arc of Ward-Evil Ward-Hive, turned quickly for the better, with the introduction of Ghost Rider.
The Rider was actually a catalyst, not only to draw new viewers (which unfortunately didn’t work), but for SHIELD to lose all breaks and go crazy. The good kind of crazy. Opening the series’ world to demons, hell, and later, the LMD shenanigans, was the best thing that could happen. Robbie Reyes was wonderful as the troubled, haunted and dangerous Ghost Rider. He gave Daisy new meaning while she was on the run, and actually helped her return to SHIELD. It was his uncle and his Darkhold insanity which brought John Hannah’s Radcliff and Malory Jensen’s AIDA into the mix.
We quickly forgot that Hannah was introduced late in season 3, and wasn’t actually a “good” person. Though he build AIDA with good intentions (as he stated very often), creating AIs in science fiction always backlashes. Always. While Hannah wasn’t bad, his delusions of a better world drove him to crazyland, and when he let AIDA use the Darkhold, it was inevitable something bad is bound to happen. And it did.
After capturing most of the team and connecting them to the Framework, a virtual world in which one regret was “fixed” for every team member, AIDA found a way to overcome her programming and betray Radcliff, thus killing him in the real world. Both of these actors did terrific job, especially Jensen, who is a professional villain material (Galavant, remember?)
The third arc of the season was nicely dubbed “Agents of HYDRA”, since most of it took place within the Framework, which turned out to be a world ruled by HYDRA. This arc was an amazing opportunity to shift the balance from Coulson, who was always in charge, to Daisy (and partly Simmons), who were the only two people who regained their memory. Chloe Bennet even narrated the “previously on” and the “we’ll return in a moment”, and she seemed to acquire her new role perfectly. It proved right with her speech in the end of the last episode, when she convinced Fitz that their team should stay united and that they are all responsible for what happened. Coulson only suggested to go eat something before being captured. I like this series serious/funny moments. Simmons was always a strong woman, especially since being stranded on the alien planet in season 3, and she did a strong performance in the Framework as well. While the team slowly united and left the Framework, not without losses (we’ll get to it in a moment), the found their world upside-down as well.
SHIELD is now once again a ruined organization, its director dead and its base blown. General Talbot didn’t help the team beat AIDA, but instead, tried to capture them over and over, until they were arrested by an unknown factor. The only clue we have to next season, is another time jump, and Coulson’s view from his window, a view of space. Jed Whedon and Jeffrey Bell, SHIELD showrunners, confirmed.
But let’s rewind back, and take a moment to mourn Director Jeffrey Mace, SHIELD new director, who died just when started to like him. By legitimizing SHIELD, Coulson could no longer by its director, since the world knows he’s dead, since he ran an illegal spy agency during SHIELD’s collapse, and etc. So Talbot chose Mace, and man with a plan, a catchphrase and a secret. While he seemed like just an overeager employer, we didn’t like him, because our favorite team didn’t like him. His secret turned out to be that he wasn’t an Inhuman, and the photo from Vienna on his desk was just an error. But when Coulson found all out, and decided he is now calling the shots, we got to see the imperfect Mace, the human being, and we started to like him. He joined missions, risked his life, and did everything he could to protect SHIELD against both the press and the bad guys.
It was the Framework, in which he was a true Inhuman, where he got his true heroism. We don’t know whether he had the gene in real life as well, but it doesn’t matter. In the Framework he was the one running illegal agency, protecting civilians and Inhumans, much like Coulson in the real world. It was a shame that he died protecting a kid from a collapsing building, the exact scenario that complicated his life in the real world. For us, and for the team, he got to be the hero he was supposed to be. Too bad it cost his life.
Agents of SHIELD is the strongest when it works with long running arcs that pay off our investments. Three major arcs for season 4 was the perfect example for that, and the last couple of episodes were the best of the best. If you look over the entire 4 seasons up to now, you see a story about doing what’s good, about union, about family. Coulson is the father, the head of the family, and espacially Daisy’s mentor. Daisy is the newcomer that went the longest road. FitzSimmons grew up to be the heart of the series, May is the protecting (and furious) mom, and Mack is the kid who never takes anything for granted. Others came and went, but in the end, it comes down to this perfect combination team.
And Ward. Ward seemed doomed after betraying SHIELD and turning more and more evil, and people feared he might be able to redeem himself, like in many other TV series. Fortunately, it didn’t happen, and he turned to be Death himself, and died in space, after almost destroying the Earth. But just when it seemed impossible, he was redeemed. All it took was a dozen episodes without him, and a fresh new version, one in which he had no bad influence over him his entire life. Good Ward was the opposite of bad Fitz, and we even wished he’d get a new body, like AIDA (what proved to be impossible, since dark matter and all). The Framework was an opportunity for tons of great stuff, like having Tripp back, evil Fitz and squirrel Coulson.
Which brings us to Fitz. Iain De Caestecker is perfect, perfect, perfect. He is able to portray any Fitz necessary. The young and naive Fitz in the beginning of the series, the Fitz with brain injury since season 2, the evil Fitz in the Framework, and on and on. His mannerism and behavior in the Framework should award him an Oscar, no less. Evil Fitz was the result of his HYDRA-loving father and his strict education, the entire opposite of real Fitz, and really, a mirror of Ward. He showed no remorse and no compassion,
and radcliff had to throw him through the exit, but in the real world again, we’ve yet again seen our beloved Fitz, struck with the evil things he did in the virtual world. But in the end, he helped beat AIDA and protect the world once again. It’ll take him time to overcome all of it, and I hope he and Jemma might be able to get back together one day.
On the right, you can see young Fitz from season 1 and have a shock, over how much he had grown.
All in all, season 4 was a wild ride, a fun thrill and a season that broke all limits. It does an amazing job at expanding and building the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I personally cannot wait for season 5, which will probably air in November (after the Inhumans 8 episodes mini-series), on Friday nights.
Your thoughts are welcome in the comments. Sorry for the long post, I just really really like SHIELD, and I think I dropped so many things I wanted to talk about.