Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 4 Episode 22
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD closes off another season and wraps up the Framework plot and deals with Ophelia’s plan.
The return of Ghost Rider at the end of the previous episode was both a blessing and a curse when anticipating this episode. On one hand it’s great to see Gabriel Luna come back and the unique visuals that Ghost Rider brings to the series but on the other it adds another element to a really busy episode.
His role in this episode was a relatively small one and his main purpose was to provide a bookend from the beginning of the season to the end. It was necessary from a narrative point of view as a lot has happened since the season began so it can be easy to forget that it started with Daisy isolating herself from the team and working with Robbie. It’s a shame that Robbie’s role is almost entirely a supporting one but the writers also had to pick a focal point and it wouldn’t make sense for Robbie to take centre stage.
I like how casual the characters were about his return. No time was wasted reuniting him with his car and with the rest of the characters. Daisy casually asking “What’s new?” sums up the attitude that Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD as a show takes to these surprising returns. Anything is possible and the characters have accepted that to a degree so it does cut down on the overdramatic attempts to shock that the show used to deploy frequently.
Robbie was able to come back because Ophelia 3D printing a body created a tear that allowed him to return. The explanation is a bit handwavy but it does successfully tie into the earlier idea of the Darkhold not allowing anything to be created. Ophelia stole that matter and energy from somewhere and that ultimately affected the dimensional balance enough to put her in Ghost Rider’s vengeful sights.
In all the chaos of plot that needs to be resolved in this episode, Ophelia loses some of her depth and becomes something of a pantomime villain. I don’t mean this as a criticism as Mallory Jansen is very good at chewing scenery and her motivation is reasonably well defined. She kills because she enjoys it and chooses to express herself that way. It makes some kind of sense for a character new to emotions to latch onto the strongest ones but it deprives her of a lot of the intelligence that made her character interesting. In this episode she is essentially a murderer on a rampage and there’s some merit to that but it’s very simplistic considering what has been set up before this point.
I suggested last week that Fitz might be the key to stopping her and I was sort of right though he ends up being a small part of it. She is still obsessed with him and comes after him but his role in leading her into the trap that has been set for her is relatively small. It’s a good scene that has plenty of tension to it as she holds Simmons hostage and makes her demands. Fitz tries to talk her down and makes some interesting points about how people express sadness. Now that Ophelia has been able to feel that emotion she can understand why there are so many songs about it. Fitz tries to convince her that going down that route would be a much better way to express how she’s feeling but Ophelia seems content with letting her rage run riot and doesn’t hesitate in using her powers to kill Simmons.
The aftermath of Simmons being killed is really bizarre. The episode immediately cuts to a scene featuring Coulson and May talking about their feelings which suggests that the death is a fake out or that whoever edited this episode doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing. Thankfully it turns out to be the former though that doesn’t work as well as it needed to. Replacing Simmons with a Life Model Decoy to fool Ophelia is fair enough as plans go but it has been established that the team are not in control of them so them being able to set this up in the first place goes completely unexplained and only works as a shock reveal because it makes no sense.
I did like the reveal of Coulson being the vessel for Ghost Rider. It was unexpected and really clever. The ensuing fight was somewhat underwhelming but left on a memorable visual of Ophelia being burned alive by the power of Ghost Rider. All told it feels like an anticlimax to have the character dispatched so quickly but it was a great looking sequence while it lasted. I really wish there was more to it than a brief bout of teleportation followed by Ophelia’s death.
It seems that there are consequences for Coulson being possessed by Ghost Rider teased in a cryptic conversation about why the deal was accepted. There’s something Coulson is keeping from the rest of the team and he asks Robbie not to reveal what it is. As teases go it doesn’t really work because there’s currently nothing to be invested in and the only shade it has to the mystery is the fact that it has been mentioned in one conversation.
There is an attempt to wrap up the emotional upheaval felt by all of the characters when Fitz offers to take full responsibility for everything that has happened before being talked out of it by Daisy. Her arc throughout the season has been about learning that she needs the love and support of her friends in order to cope with life. She tried pushing everyone away to protect them and that didn’t work so can now comfortably say that they are all stronger together than they are apart. As a group they will accept blame for everything that has happened because they were all in the Framework and experienced the same things.
It’s a good speech and Chloe Bennet plays it well but it feels overly sentimental and comes across as an obvious attempt to wrap everything up as neatly as possible. It is acknowledged that it may take the rest of their lives to process everything but it stands out as being a little clumsy especially since this season has done such a good job of developing the characters as complex people with a myriad of emotional states.
The Framework plot is another thing that is neatly wrapped up. As the episode begins it’s falling apart and all of the “people” are disappearing. Some lip-service is paid to Mack’s decision to stay behind with the perspective being somewhat reset as Elena goes in with the intent to convince Mack that his daughter isn’t real before having second thoughts once she spends some time with Hope. This leads her to decide to stay with him even though it will mean her death. Radcliffe puts it best when he chastises her for it but it is her choice and if she wants to stay behind to die then that’s up to her. Either way, Mack won’t leave his daughter.
This leads to a genuine emotional gut punch when Mack is cradling his daughter telling her it’s going to be ok as the world is crumbling all around him. The moment is abruptly cut short when Hope simply disappears without any fanfare. She’s there one second and gone the next. It’s brutal and the emotional beat as Mack realises what has happened is excellent. Sometimes less is more and this is definitely one of those moments. It forces Mack back into the real world but at least he has memories of being a father to Hope that span years.
Radcliffe is also allowed a death that is both dignified and powerful. He decides to sit on a beach and enjoy a drink as the inevitability of his fate closes in on him. He laments his inability to become immortal and how his plan ultimately fails but accepts it and comes to the realisation that all things end. As with Hope he’s there one second and gone the next with the full glass soundlessly falling into the sand. The fact that it happens mid sentence makes it all the more poignant. It’s the perfect end for Radcliffe as he is destroyed by his own creations and simply winks out of existence. It’s somewhat ruined by having more episode after it as it would have been a great moment to end the season on.
It’s a shame that the episode doesn’t address the returning characters brought back by the Framework. Trip was really prominent and disappears without so much as a mention and Ward’s fate remains unclear. I would have liked to see these characters brought into the real world somehow as their arcs feel unfinished.
The episode boasted some great action. I’ve already mentioned the fight that ended with Ophelia’s death and there were a few others that stood out. The early fight where Robbie took on some LMDs was really well choreographed and the Daisy/Ghost Rider team up was impressive if brief. Beyond that there were some shoot outs that were competent if a little unmemorable.
One thing’s for sure. This episode could have been longer as there was a really rushed quality to a lot of the plotting. Talbot’s continued attempts to get the agency shut down could have been a much bigger part than what was featured here though it was a genuine shock when he was shot in the head. Apparently he’s in a coma which means he’ll probably come back. It pretty much gets absorbed in all of the chaos and doesn’t have the time to land.
Thankfully, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is getting another season and there are a couple of teases for what we can expect from it. The team being arrested by unknown agents is pretty typical for this show but the reveal that Coulson ends up in space is really tantalising. If I were to speculate -and I really do love to speculate- I’d suggest that they might be on their way to setting up the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of S.W.O.R.D. or Coulson could become “The Man on the Wall” -someone tasked with keeping the Earth safe from aliens before anyone even knows there was a threat- with the team backing him up to change it up a little. This could easily lead into Avengers: Infinity War and fits with this show following similar themes to the films in this universe. The MCU is heading down a more cosmic direction so Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD does too. It’s a small tease and doesn’t mean much on its own but it’s interesting and I look forward to seeing where it goes.
A solid finale that has a lot to wrap up and does so with some degree of success. Robbie’s return works as a way to link the earlier episodes in the season with the last episode and ties into the wider mythology but he is underplayed in a supporting role that comes across as somewhat disappointing. Ophelia loses some of her nuance in favour of being on a murderous rampage and enjoying killing. It’s not bad but takes away from the intelligent character she was before. Mallory Jansen chews scenery wonderfully and her motivations are clear enough. Setting a trap for her using a Simmons LMD didn’t really work as it has never been established that LMDs could be used by the team. The reveal that she didn’t really die falls a bit flat because of a mundane scene where May and Coulson discuss their feelings. Coulson being possessed by Ghost Rider is a reveal that works and there is a tease of some consequences that doesn’t work quite as well. Daisy’s appeal to Fitz to trust in the team does show how her arc has progressed but also feels very neat in a season filled with emotional depth.
The Framework falling apart is handled well though the reset perspective when Elena has to learn about Mack’s relationship with his daughter slows it down somewhat. Mack losing his daughter in the blink of an eye is really powerful and handled beautifully. Similarly Radcliffe disappearing in a similar way with the full glass soundlessly hitting the sand is a perfect end for the character. The episode could definitely have been longer as there are many plot points that feel somewhat rushed and action sequences that could have gone on longer. Ophelia’s fight with Coulson as Ghost Rider felt like too abrupt an end for her even though it did look great. The tease for next season with Coulson in space is really tantalising and I look forward to seeing what this amounts too next season.