The season finale of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ is really three finales in one, as it combines and wraps up this season’s Ghost Rider, LMD, and Agents of HYDRA story “pods” all at once. For the most part, it plays out much as I expected, though I was wrong in one of my main predictions.
As we found out at the end of the last episode, Ghost Rider is back. Color me underwhelmed. I’ve never warmed to this character or his storyline. (At least we don’t see any more of his annoying kid brother, though.) After returning to our Earthly plane from some undescribed Hell dimension, he finds his car in storage and immediately sets out to retrieve the ‘Darkhold’ book.
Now rescued from Aida, Fitz is still having trouble reconciling all the terrible things he did in his Framework life. He feels responsible for giving Aida life as well as all her new Inhuman powers. He doesn’t know how to kill her, and isn’t even sure if he wants to.
Yo-Yo entered the Framework to find Mack. She wakes up strapped to a table in a burning building, but is recued by Dr. Radcliffe, who was led to her by clues dropped by Daisy as she monitors the situation from the real world. He explains that the Framework is collapsing due to Aida starting a deletion and shut-down program. (I picture a PC somewhere with a very slow progress bar on the screen.) People and chunks of the world are suddenly vanishing left and right.
Aida tells The Superior that she wants to burn the world (the real world) to the ground. Mostly, she wants Fitz to suffer for spurning her. The Superior has built several new androids under his control that look like someone else and is planning something with them. He tells Aida that they can use the ‘Darkhold’ to rebuild her Framework world here, in reality.
A very loud muscle car with flaming tires speeds up and screeches to a halt. Obviously, it’s Robbie, the Ghost Rider. Aida and The Superior are perplexed but assume that they’ll be able to take care of one guy. Robbie teaches them different when he tears through several androids and wounds Aida’s arm with his hellfire chain. (I may not be a fan of the character, but the VFX in this scene are pretty cool.) Aida teleports away, leaving the book behind.
Daisy estimates that the Framework has somewhere between 12-20 hours left before it’s totally erased. She’s taken steps to keep Mack and Yo-Yo alive for as long as she can, but she isn’t sure they’ll make it to the end.
Gen. Talbot calls Coulson to inform him that a big intelligence conference will take place the next morning to decide the fate of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he expects Coulson to be there to defend his agency. Coulson says that he’s a little busy at the moment and will have to pass. Talbot is pissed.
Upon learning that Robbie is back, Daisy tracks him down using a GPS tracker she planted on his car. He tells her very little about where he’s been other than some blather about how there are countless other worlds and “Hell is relative.” He also says that the demon inside him hates Aida with more anger than he’s ever experienced before.
In the Framework, Radcliffe brings Yo-Yo to the S.H.I.E.L.D. base to see Mack. He doesn’t recognize her.
It turns out that the other android The Superior built is an LMD copy of a Russian analyst invited to Talbot’s intelligence conference, and he brings along Ivanov (The Superior) as his plus-one. Ivanov stirs the pot and urges the other delegates to declare S.H.I.E.L.D. a terrorist organization. Suddenly, Daisy interrupts and storms into the room. Talbot assumes that Coulson sent her as a surrogate to defend S.H.I.E.L.D., but instead she pulls a gun and shoots Talbot in the head. Panic breaks out.
Coulson, Robbie and the real Daisy arrive soon after. The one who shot Talbot was an LMD copy, obviously. Ivanov is trying to set the stage for S.H.I.E.L.D. to be disbanded and HYDRA to take over the government, as it had within the Framework.
Daisy finds Aida, The Superior, and a robot clone of herself. Aida brags about how much she’ll enjoy watching Daisy have to fight herself, but Robbie puts an end to that fantasy quickly by incinerating the LMD. Daisy and Robbie then fight a bunch of other robots and smash a copy of The Superior to bits, but Aida gets away again.
General Talbot is alive but badly wounded. As he’s wheeled to an ambulance, S.H.I.E.L.D. is blamed for the attack and Coulson can’t convince anyone that it was a setup. By the time the team gets back to Zephyr One, news stories on TV make it clear that Daisy has been framed as a patsy.
Coulson wants to use the ‘Darkhold’ as bait to lure Aida to him. He says that he’s tired of hiding, and orders May to turn the plane toward headquarters.
While he’s trying to drive a bus full of survivors and refugees out of town, Yo-Yo tells Mack who she is and urges him to come back to the real world with her. He still insists that he won’t leave his daughter. As they talk, the bridge in front of their bus vanishes, as do most of the people he was transporting, leaving only himself, his daughter Hope, Yo-Yo, and Radcliffe. The little girl is scared and confused. Mack tells her he’s going to turn the bus around and bring her home.
Zephyr One returns to what’s left of S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. The team splits up to secure what they can of the base. In the process of that, Aida teleports into a room with Fitz and Jemma. Fitz tries to talk some sense into Aida and even says that he’ll go with her so long as she doesn’t harm Jemma. Aida is too consumed with vengeance and wants to watch him suffer. She stabs Jemma in the chest with a needle. Fitz then offers to give Aida the ‘Darkhold’, but even that’s not enough to placate her. Vowing to kill everyone he loves, Aida electrocutes Jemma and tosses her dead body to the floor. Fitz cries in anguish as Aida teleports away again.
If that seems like a pretty dark plot twist, it doesn’t last long. Aida teleports to Coulson to get the ‘Darkhold’ from him, but he reveals that it’s a trap when Jemma steps out from behind and guns down Aida with a machine gun. Yes, the dead Jemma was an LMD. Fitz was acting. He’s perfectly fine.
Aida instantly heals from her injuries and chides Coulson and Jemma for assuming they could kill her with bullets. Jemma quips that she already knew, but just wanted the satisfaction of shooting her. Coulson then grabs Aida by the wrist and his head transforms into a flaming skull. This was the real trap. The Spirit of Vengeance transferred to Coulson.
Aida tries to teleport away but brings Coulson with her as she pops from location to location trying to shake him. Finally, they return to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and the demon immolates her. Fitz watches as Aida, the woman he loved in the other world, dies violently.
Meanwhile, Daisy conjures a backdoor exit in Mack’s living room. However, Mack tells Yo-Yo that he’s willing to die in the Framework. He won’t leave Hope. She then sits with him and says she won’t leave without him. They’ll die together. As more of the world collapses right in front of them, little Hope panics. Mack holds her in his arms and tells her it’s going to be all right, but, in a blink, she vanishes too. His daughter is gone.
Yo-Yo wakes up in the real world. She jumped through the exit after all. She looks to Mack, hoping he followed. For a moment, it seems that he didn’t. Fortunately, he then wakes up as well.
The Spirit of Vengeance transfers back to Robbie, and Coulson is glad to be rid of it. They discuss a secret deal that Coulson had to make with the demon, and Coulson asks Robbie not to tell anyone else about it. We don’t learn the details.
Mack makes peace with the loss of his daughter and kisses Yo-Yo.
Robbie takes possession of the ‘Darkhold’, says goodbye to Daisy, and uses his fiery chain to create a portal (a trick he learned since the last time they saw each other). He steps through onto a different world and the portal closes behind him.
With Talbot in a coma, the Army is on its way to take the S.H.I.E.L.D.ies into custody. Fitz offers to stay behind and take the heat, because he still feels responsible. Daisy gives a pep talk about how they’re all in this together, and Coulson suggests that they should stop and get a bite to eat before facing the music.
Inside the Framework, Radcliffe sits alone on a beach, half-drunk from a bottle of booze. He raises a toast to the end of the world and, halfway through it, vanishes in mid-sentence. His glass drops to the sand.
Coulson and his team sit at a diner counter eating when the lights go out and soldiers storm in. None of them are fazed. The leader stands in shadow, his face unseen. Coulson commends him on the showmanship of cutting the power. The man pulls a button-trigger device that causes Coulson and the others to freeze in place like mannequins, and tells his troops that they have a two-minute window.
Coulson wakes up in a cell. He stretches and walks to a window. Apparently, he’s been there a while, because he’s not at all surprised to see outer space and asteroids on the other side of the glass. He says something about needing to get back to work and the episode ends.
I was certain that we’d see Grant Ward again in the finale, and that he’d make his way to the real world in a new flesh-and-blood body. I’m not a fan of Ward, but I am disappointed that didn’t happen. The character didn’t get much closure the last we saw him. Then again, I won’t rule out the possibility that it happened off-camera and we’ll see him again at some point.
This has not been my favorite season of the show. It’s been very uneven, and I had a lot of reservations and disappointments with each of the three pod storylines, especially this last one. As a conclusion to them, however, the finale is pretty decent.
I’m not sure what to make of the plot twist epilogue. Does this have something to do with the deal Coulson made with the demon? Or will it tie in with Marvel’s upcoming ‘Inhumans’ series? The prospect of a season of the show (or a story pod arc, at least) in outer space doesn’t strike me as very appealing, personally.
After stalling on a decision for a long time, ABC has confirmed that ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ will return for a fifth season, though it will premiere at midseason next year. In its place, ABC will premiere ‘Inhumans’ in the fall following a two-week IMAX theatrical run for that show’s first two episodes.