Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD: ‘The Return’ Review
Aida’s first heartbreak threatens the world.
Warning: Yes, there will be spoilers for this episode review.
We are near the end of a spectacular fourth season of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. This penultimate episode entitled “The Return” basically has all of our surviving agents (except Mack) officially out of The Framework in order to face a sh*t storm in the real world. Now they must deal with a dozen Ivanov L.M.D.’s, the government manhunt against them led by Talbot, and Aida/Ophelia is now a fully organic being with inhuman powers. Yeah, it was one hell of an exciting hour of AOS.
Kevin Tancharoen (who also directed this week’s Prison Break episode) made his return for the ninth time on the series, directing another action packed thrill ride that focuses on the emotional fallout for our characters who are trying to get past their newly acquired memories from The Framework in order to deal with the current conflicts in the real world. In truth, because our time in The Framework was so compelling, I kind of knew the intrigue was going to lighten up a bit with us returning to the real world. The final part of this seasons looks to be more action heavy than thought provoking, but it’s exciting none the less. Besides, there’s plenty of emotional punch left to keep us invested until the season concludes.
Some of our agents seem to be handling their transition back to the real world well enough. For Coulson and May, while obviously rattled by the choices they made as their alternate selves, they are able to get back into action right away. Poor May is the one who’s been hacked in the longest, and it shows with her having trouble walking and asking how things ended with Robbie Reyes. Yup, it’s been that long since the real May has been active with the team. Sadly for Phil and us Philinda shippers, there’s been a setback in the romance department. While May obviously has true feelings for Phil, she hasn’t actually acted upon them, so she’s not feeling what he is feeling towards her at the moment. He’s making the right decision keeping that from her while they fight off all the Ivanov clones and try to escape the oil rig. However, you can still feel the infectious chemistry between the two. So I hope he eventually tells her what really happened between him and the L.M.D. version of May. This was a fun portion of the episode with some great action sequences between Coulson and May versus the Ivanov bots. Coulson using his built in shield to slice through an Ivanov head was the coolest moment of the episode. There was also a lot of subtle humor between the two characters as well. Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen create so much magic together. Laughed so hard when he admitted to drinking the bottle of liquor they’ve been saving.
Not all is smiles and laughs were to be had though. Fitz is coming out of The Framework with the most complex, morally compromised experience of all. He remembers every terrible thing he did in the virtual world. Despite all of it not being real, he now knows he carries that darkness within him. Because of what he’s capable of doing, he feels Simmons could never look him in the eye, let alone be with him. Not only that, but he also has to fight with his memories of being in love with Ophelia in the alternate reality. It’s a lot for our mild mannered scientist to deal with. Fitz indeed has had the most emotional ride in this late part of the season.
If you want to talk about emotions, let’s talk about Mallory Jansen, who once again proves she’s one of this season’s strongest assets. Throughout the season, she’s done a perfect job playing an android, having to maintain an intimidating presence while keeping her face devoid of emotion. Now that she’s able to play her character as a human experiencing all kinds of emotions all at once, Jansen has her work cut out for her. Thankfully, she’s doing such an outstanding job; it’s literally scary. It’s basically Aida/Ophelia’s birthday. While she has her memories from being an android and from The Framework, this is the first time she can actually feel emotions and physical contact. For the first half of the episode, I was actually starting to feel sympathy for her, being that she just wanted a chance to be a real person with free will and not a robotic slave. Oh, but that changed in an instant when things went from 0 to 100 when Fitz broke her heart by declaring his love to Simmons. While that was a relief to me and all the Fitz/Simmons shippers of the world – because they did a good job making it seem like Fitz was going to fall in love with Ophelia – it sure put Fitz in one of the scariest situations of his life. Watch out Rachel Bloom, Aida is the ultimate crazy ex-girlfriend.
Her reaction to the “break up” was terrifying. It was like watching a horror movie. It made for some very suspenseful TV though. I loved that she played it so insanely over the top because that’s probably how it would be for a person experiencing every emotion for the first time in one day. Jansen also brought out her inner terminator again by lunging after an unsuspecting Davis. In addition to showing off her new powers (her teleporting powers look exactly like Nightcrawler’s), she also can’t be killed. Aida has always been the threat of the season, but now, she’s the stuff nightmares are made of.
Now, I know some may be thinking the whole “woman scorned” plot device is a weak way to end the season with such a good villain. But honestly, I think it’s an exciting turn of events. We knew things were going to go south once Aida became human. So really, this seems to be the most “logical” way to go. I liked that for a few minutes, with her saving Mack, she seemed like she could become an allie to SHIELD. But when her best laid plans fall apart, all hell breaks loose. And speaking of Hell, Ghost Rider is back, baby! He’ll be a very valuable asset to taking Aida down.
Ivanov is the only character that’s let me down. I don’t think things are going to change in the finale. You’d think someone dubbed as “The Superior” would have been a dominating force in this part of the season, but really, he’s been nothing without Aida. Not to mention all of the duplicates of himself go down pretty easily. No, at this point, Aida is the one to watch out for.
Yo Yo’s devotion to Mack is beautiful. I knew she was going to dive right into The Framework to try to save him. She’s apparently going to get more than she bargained for though with her waking up strapped to a lab char in a destroyed room, most likely due to the uprising caused by Coulson’s speech that exposed Hydra. Things may be getting progressively worse in the alternate world. All the more reason for Mack to leave, just sayin’. I’m beginning to wonder if there’s enough time to see this subplot through. With so much happening in the real world, it makes me wonder if The Framework situation may carry over to the hopefully possible fifth season. AOS usually wraps everything up neatly by the end of each season, but they usually leave the door open for certain subplots. This one might be it. I hope not though. I need to see Mack and Yo Yo reunited asap.
Finally, my review would not be valid if I didn’t talk about the most beautiful, most defining Fitz-Simmons moment of the season. When Fitz feels his world and relationship with Simmons is destroyed, at the first quiet moment available, she sits right beside him and holds him closely. No words, no gimmicks; just a reassuring hug. It was perfection. Our babies are going to make it. Their bond can’t be broken.
“The Return” was a packed episode leading up to what is sure to be a very thrilling season finale, now that we have a very threatening villain capable of doing anything, and the return of Ghost Rider. Our characters have gone through the most emotional journey of their lives surviving The Framework. Now they have to destroy the being who put them through that terrible ordeal, but who now has unstoppable powers. This was an exciting setup that worked very well in its own right. It packed so much awesome action and powerhouse performances by Mallory Jansen and Iain De Caestecker. Seriously, can we, like, get The Emmy’s to get off their high horses and nominate these two? So what that this is a superhero show? I have no doubt the season finale will be just as memorable as all the other finales of the show’s history. I can’t wait. Now if only ABC would stop fooling around and officially renew the show for a fifth season already, damn it.
UPDATE: Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD has been renewed for season five, woohoo!!!