Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: World's End

“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a—”

Let me get one thing out of the way: I loved this episode. It wasn’t the epic finale we all wanted this season to have, it had some disappointing elements, which I’ll discuss, but overall, it worked for me. First, let’s talk about the cliffhanger, which had me reacting like this:


They are going to outer space? Oh my god, what a change of course. This is so cool and weird. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. always reinvents itself from season to season, but that’s an extreme revamp.

It makes sense if you think about it. Coulson’s team has held the fort by taking down major threats. They caught the attention of some MIB-type dudes who probably commissioned them to go fight some baddies outside of Earth.

There are so many questions. Is the entire team there with Coulson? Were they forced to accept their new jobs or did they have a choice? Where are they? Jed Whedon said that everything in those final moments is a clue. Does that blue light behind the asteroids have something to do with the Chitauri?

I’m both excited and worried. I’m excited because the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are easily my favorites of the MCU and I can’t wait to see what Agents has to offer in that territory. Maybe they can even have a little more fun, a couple of missions of the week exploring different planets and extraterrestrial societies before the major arcs kick in. I’m worried because it is a drastic change and I don’t want this show going through its season one growing pains until it has a full grasp of its new setting. Oh, well, we now have several months to theorize and speculate about what’s coming next.

That major cliffhanger aside, this episode felt like a series finale in many ways and, as I feared, it was overstuffed and rushed through some developments. It was one of the lightest episodes of the season and, while I didn’t mind the change of tone – to be honest, I liked it – there was a lot of quick emotional resolution to leave everybody on a happy note.

Take Mack, for example. He is determined to stay in the Framework, Yo-Yo can’t get through to him. It’s only when his daughter disappears that he decides to return. Half an hour later he is fine. I get that Mack had already gone through the pain of losing his real child in the real world, but him getting over Framework Hope so quickly left me wondering what was the point of extending his stay there in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. The Framework scenes were great. Having the world slowly collapse around Mack, Yo-Yo and Radcliffe produced some chilling, reality-defying moments. Mack’s reaction to Hope disappearing from his arms was absolutely heartbreaking. But there wasn’t time for any of that to sink in for Mack once he returned to reality.

My theory is that the writers decided to give the characters some closure just in case the show wasn’t renewed. So Mack gets a happy ending with Elena, Fitz gets a pep talk from Daisy, and May and Coulson leave the door open to wherever their bond takes them next. And if the show got a new season — which it did — the writers could reopen everybody’s wounds — which I hope they do.

Had this been the series finale I would’ve been pretty satisfied, even with the cliffhanger and that loose end with Coulson. Knowing that this isn’t Agents’ epitaph, though, I wish they hadn’t glossed over the pain that this season’s events forged. That writing choice kept the episode from being as powerful as it could’ve been.

The thing that disappointed me the most was how they handled Aida. Last week I complained about the woman scorned card being used too hard and this week they made it worse. It was the only card Aida had going for her. Come on. You build this fascinating villain throughout the whole season only to have her become driven by jealousy? I appreciate that they made it as personal as possible, but this episode picked one single trait of Aida’s in detriment of all the layers she had.

Another bummer is that they teased Aida had several powers, but she used the ones we already knew she possessed. There was a lot of live action comic book awesomeness going on, but practically none of that came from Aida. The episode quickly established that Ghost Rider could hurt her, demoting her from the indestructible status she had achieved, and never compensated by having her display her true arsenal of powers. I wouldn’t say her demise was anticlimactic, but it was far from the showdown they were building up to.

Now that I laid down my issues with the finale, let’s talk about what worked. Ghost Rider was awesome, not that that is any surprise. His return at this point, albeit very convenient, made sense. I liked the concept that he could track Aida and the Framework. His team up with Daisy to flame and quake the robot squad was a highlight, especially coming so long after we last saw those two together in action. And together out of action, for that matter. There is a heat between Robbie and Daisy and I love it. They’d be a freaking badass couple and I hope he returns, at least as a recurring character. Hey, he learned how to open those magical gates from Doctor Strange, so he’d better show up again.

While Robbie was great, the coolest Ghost Rider moment came from... Coulson. What an immensely cool twist to have Coulson “borrow” Ghost Rider and what a great plan as well. Aida never saw it coming. But Coulson made a deal with the devil and there is a price to pay. When they said their goodbyes, Robbie said he didn’t envy Coulson and Coulson returned the sentiment. What hell will Coulson face next season? Will it have something to do with his Project Tahiti resurrection?

Coulson as the Rider wasn’t the team’s only trick to beat Aida. It was pretty neat and ironic that they used an LMD to fool her. But before the reveal, that scene was tense. When Aida grabbed Simmons by the neck, I knew that there was no escape for her. She was going to die. So she had to be an LMD, I thought, probably not accepting that my favorite character was about to be killed. Then Simmons dropped dead and Fitz’ reaction was kind of odd. Yeah, it was an LMD. I loved that Simmons shot Aida several times just for the sake of it. She was clearly very sick of all the mayhem the former android caused.

I called Daisy’s speech a pep talk, which it was, from Fitz’ end. As a whole, though, it was an awesome speech and it drove home how much Daisy has grown. Again, had this been the series finale, that would’ve been a satisfying note to end the series with. I totally thought they were setting her up to become the new face of S.H.I.E.L.D. now that Mace is gone, but after the space twist and all the mess LMD Daisy made on Earth, that was either dropped or put on hold.

With Aida defeated and the team back together, it was time to say farewell to Radcliffe, the last human alive at a collapsing Framework. What an amazing arc Radcliffe had this season and what a terrific final moment he got. A series finest, for sure. Radcliffe is about to finish his sentence and vanishes out of existence. That cut to the glass of scotch dropping on the sand was brilliant. Silent, sad, powerful. Bravo.

One great moment led to another, as we watch the team having a break at a diner (see, Coulson, you got that break you wanted so much), in a scene destined to become a fan favorite. That it paved the way to the most bizarre and bold twist this show has had is a testament that there’s still a lot of energy in the series and more stories to be told about MCU’s most hardworking team. Thankfully, we’ve got a fifth season just for that.

Intel and Assets

- Do you think Fitz and Radcliffe should be blamed for all the bad stuff that happened? The LMD project was fine until the Darkhold came into play and corrupted Radcliffe. I honestly don’t blame them.

- Ghost Rider took the Darkhold with him.

- Daisy and Jemma were the last ones to have their LMD versions activated. They should have done a Daisy vs. Daisy fight scene.

- Like the real one would have had, LMD Simmons had enough nerve to say Aida was artificial, and right to her face!

- As great as it was to see Coulson as Ghost Rider, maybe Simmons or Fitz making the deal with the devil to stop Aida would’ve been more dramatically powerful.

- Aida, afraid and in pain, looked at Fitz before she died. That was a nice touch.

- I liked how Daisy guided Radcliffe to find Elena. So clever.

- I’m guessing we will see plenty of Earth next season as well, or at least enough to address the mess that S.H.I.E.L.D. has fallen into, the possible growing hate against Inhumans and Talbot’s situation.

- I liked the political approach to Aida’s plan of turning the world into something similar to the Framework world, but I wish the Framework had played a role in it as well. We barely learned the specifics of Aida’s plan.

- Ivanov is still out there with his head in a jar controlling his robot bodies. There is another guy in that same situation. I sincerely won’t care if this plot point is dropped altogether.

- There were too many bait-and-switch moments. Talbot gets shot in the head. Talbot is not dead. Aida kills Simmons. That wasn’t Simmons. Mack and Elena die. Nope, Elena is back and alive. Wait for it, so is Mack. The only one that seemed necessary to the story was Simmons’. The others are there just for shock value or unnecessary prolonging of tension.

- I know this has been brought up before, but what is with the costume design? It’s kind of silly to have the entire team wear black and gray clothing all the time to match the darker tone Agents has adopted for the last couple of seasons. A little more color won’t hurt the tone, people.

- No Piper, which was weird. Seriously, bad continuity. Where the hell was she?

- There was a Buffy reference (when Daisy mentioned the hellmouth)! :)

Radcliffe: “I kept discovering these [yo-yos] in my pockets, in the streets. I felt like a Pac-Man gobbling up biscuits.”

Talbot: “I smell a load of L. Ron Horsecrap.”

Daisy: “Aida, seriously, therapy. Just consider it.”
LOL. Daisy has always had a Buffyesque snark, but that line particularly was very Buffy.

Coulson: “I missed it, didn’t I? You two together and we missed it. Damn.”

Coulson: “Robot May was way more supportive.”

May: “If there is a price to pay, we pay it together.”

If I were to rate this episode with my heart, it would be four out of four sunsets, but my critic eye knows it’s a three out of four. An awesome finale to a terrific season.
--
Lamounier

11 comments:

migmit said...

I totally agree. They delivered on their promise: it would be a perfect series finale, but it's also great as just a season finale. Most of the loose threads are tied, the ones still loose are not that important, but have potential, and there is a cliffhanger on top of that. Perfect.

One thing that was bothering me with Ivanov: how is he managing controlling all of his bodies? He still has one head, one brain. Try doing this: make a circle with your right hand, square with your left hand, and triangle with one of your feet. It's possible, but damn hard. I'm pretty sure, if I have to control even two bodies at once, they'd be constantly bumping into walls, furniture, other people, and each other. And yes, I remember about Alisha Whitley — but she probably had a lot of time to practice, and just four bodies. And each of those bodies was probably equipped with extra processing power, erm, I mean extra brain. Does Ivanov switch between bodies, while those he's not "in" right now do some mundane tasks that even dumb robots can do?

Coulson, it seems, expected to wake up in space. OK, well, here is one thing I have to disagree with: I hate "Guardians". But I have nothing against space, and a more realistic approach can certainly help. Again, yes, I understand that I used the word "realistic" regarding a show that features demons, teleportation, parallel worlds... It's a relative concept.

Back to the point; was the secret deal Coulson struck with the Rider somehow related to him and the team getting to space? I can't imagine, how, but we'll see.

migmit said...

BTW, Buffy reference wasn't the only one I've noticed. When Aida teleported (with Coulson-on-fire) to somewhere high above the ground, and, while falling, teleported again — it could've been a reference to Sanctuary. Jack the Ripper did pretty much the same thing there.

yane said...

Personally, I thought of Buffy when Daisy said to Robbie: 'I didn't think I'd see you again, not after you fell through that hell mouth'. :)

Lamounier said...

migmit, good point about Ivanov. Maybe each body has its own quantum brain and Ivanov’s actual brain picks one “main” body at a time, but supervises all the other bodies.

I don’t think they have the budget to go too unrealistic, so don’t worry. What I like the most about Guardians is how much fun the team has during their crazy adventures, and Agents could use some fun after the intensity of the Framework arc.

yane, in one of my drafts of the review (I wrote two separately) I mentioned there was a Buffy reference. I think that bit got lost when I combined the two parts of the review. I added it to the “Intel and Assets” section now. :)

migmit said...

No, it didn't.

Patryk said...

Well season 5 will probably be the last one anyways so they should go hog wild and do a complete season in space. Why the hell not? :)

There was too many fakeouts, but I wasn't even concerned about anyone dying even before the first one. At least Radcliffe was erased out of existance so they can say they didn't play it completely safe.

I guess Coulson is the only one the Ghost Rider could ride in as he was actually dead before. Just like Robbie made the deal moments before dying in a car crash. But I don't know if the deal with the devil has anything to do with the cliffhanger. Maybe Coulson will have to go to "hell" after he dies like in a normal devilish deal.

Patryk said...

One more thing: too bad they did not have tiem to show Ward and Triplett one last time in the framework. The episode was too busy, but not showing them did not fit the "possible series finale" angle.

Lamounier said...

I guess Coulson is the only one the Ghost Rider could ride in as he was actually dead before.

Oh, nice catch. I don't really know the specifics of the Ghost Rider mythology.

Re: Coulson in hell. That would be way too sad. I hope that's not it.

Anonymous said...

We have seen so many facets of Aida's personality and different versions, her going out as an insane bunny boiler didn't really bother me..I was more annoyed that they missed the opportunity to use Ghost Riders penance stare to give her a 'special move' death rather than the burning the ghosts received.
All the rushed emotional developments (Mack) and others will be addressed during next season..This show doe's not really forget what it puts it's characters through..As you saw Daisy just came full circle from Lincolns death an entire season after it happened..I expect them to fully explore the emotional ramifications next season..In a far more interesting place.
They can go anywhere from here...There is no coincidence that they are in space and the films slated to come out are all the cosmic ones (Thor, Infinity war)..There is also the Inhumans show which could probably do with a crossover boost after the terrible first photos.
Really want to see Ghost Rider get a netflix gig and for that matter when AOS finishes its season 5 i think it would also work on netflix as a 10 episode season while interacting and having cameos with the netflix characters.

Marianna said...

I interpreted the ending to be a time jump like the end of last season. I don't think Coulson or Robbie knew about the whole space thing ahead of time. It definitely doesn't seem likely for Robbie/Ghost Rider to have known because he's not at all connected and doesn't care much about government ongoings. When we saw Coulson waking up he seemed to be familiar with his surroundings (he knew what all the buttons did) so I think he's been there a while.

Overall I liked the season ending. I can't argue with any of the points that were brought up. (How is Talbot alive?) My favorite part was the pep talk Daisy gave Fitz because, as you said, it shows how much she's grown. I was one of the few who understood why Fitz was so angry with her at the beginning of the season. I liked that she finally gets it now and if she's ever not wanted she might be able to take on a leadership role. =)

yodudeyo100 said...

Thinking about how much I loved this season, and how happy I am with where Fitz/simmons has gone this year. I found this video, I have shipped them since season 1! I am very excited for all that could happen with everyone in Season 5!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw7p5mjWSwc