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Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD 4.21 Review – ‘The Return’

May 10, 2017 | Posted by Wyatt Beougher
9.2
The 411 Rating
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Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD 4.21 Review – ‘The Return’  

Previously on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD: The team finally made their escape from the Framework, but not without incurring further losses. Not only did Radcliffe sacrifice himself in the act of literally forcing Fitz back into the real world, but Mack chose to stay behind with his daughter Hope. Aida, in her new human body, grabbed Fitz and disappeared moments after he awakened, leaving Coulson and May to deal with Ivanov’s robot body.

Season 4, Episode 21: ‘The Return’

The Recap

Beneath an oil rig at Ivanov’s base, the Russian reads the Darkhold and remarks about the funny passages while wondering if the “puppet has made herself into a real girl”. He says he’s tired of talking to himself and walks in in time to see Aida blink out of there with Fitz, triggering a reaction from Coulson. He and May struggle with separating the two lives they lived. Coulson says it’s good to see her and that they’re lucky to have made it out alive. Ivanov says it wasn’t luck, it was the restrictions he had placed on him. Coulson tells May she’s missed a fair amount, but she can shoot him. She does, repeatedly, but it doesn’t stop him, and he tosses her across the room and grabs her gun. He goes after Coulson and says that Coulson is nothing without SHIELD to hide behind, but Coulson activates his laser shield and slices the Ivanov robot’s face off, deactivating him. He and May look out into the corridor to see multiple more Ivanovs, so they slam the door closed and secure it.

Yo-Yo’s team brings Daisy and Simmons up to speed and they try to take control of the situation but the generator room is on fire. Coulson brings May up to speed and makes a joke about her being robotic. She says she’s hurt and they discuss what happened between them in vagaries. May inquires about Robby Reyes and Coulson fills her in. May says they’re opening that Scotch when they escape, but Coulson says escape isn’t an option because they have to keep Mack plugged in. May says she can barely stand, but Coulson says they should have reinforcements soon.

Aboard Zephyr One, Yo-Yo manages to get the fire contained before it consumes all of their oxygen, but they can’t reconnect the power cable because it’s too short. Ivanov’s pilot makes a beeline for Zephyr One, but Daisy and Yo-Yo manage to get the power cable connected and the weapons systems online in time to destroy the plane. Daisy says they have to give the pilot the coordinates for the drill rig because their people must be confused, and Simmons adds that Fitz must be the worst because he was the monster in the dream.

On a beach, Aida tries to convince Fitz that she had nothing to do with his choices in the Framework. She says that she could never feel anything before today and now she thinks her heart might burst. She says she can choose to do whatever she wants, finally ,and the first thing she chooses is Fitz, before blinking them somewhere else.

Daisy and Elena argue about not bringing Mack out of the Framework, with Elena getting increasingly angry until Daisy mentions Hope. Daisy tells Yo-Yo about the Framework Hope and confides that Mack didn’t remember her. Yo-Yo says she’ll go remind him, but Daisy says going into that world as an Inhuman is a terrible idea, plus Coulson and May need them. Coulson figures out where they’re at based on his time as a history teacher in the Framework. May takes stock of their situation and suggests taking an emergency dose of epinephrine to “take on some Terminators”. Coulson explains why it’s a bad idea, but May says he’ll have to give her mouth to mouth. She asks if LMayD tried to make a move on him, and Coulson awkwardly doesn’t respond, until she continues by asking if she tried to kill him. Coulson responds even more awkwardly, claiming that that was exactly why he was uncomfortable with the idea.

Simmons inquires why they didn’t touch down and refuel, and they turn on a screen to show Talbot talking about the explosion at SHIELD headquarters and how he can’t rule out Daisy’s involvement. He refuses to comment on whether or not Mace’s body was found, and instead says that they believe whoever attacked SHIELD were terrorists and he will be sorting things out and hunting down the responsible parties.

Fitz is in the real world apartment that he shared with Aida and she says they could decorate together, but he doesn’t seem interested. She apologizes but for the wrong things, and Fitz tries to make her understand that she was ruthless. She says she was programmed to make everyone happy, which makes Fitz realize that she had to promise something to Ivanov as well. Beneath the drill rig, one of the Ivanovs goes after Coulson and May, only to find a crushed vial of epinephrine. May attacks and she and Coulson each fight an Ivanov. May fares better than Coulson based on pure adrenaline and fury, but Coulson uses his brain to soak the floor and then electrocute his Ivanov. Meanwhile, May manages to pummel her Ivanov into submission with a pipe to the head. They realize that the Ivanovs could’ve flooded them out if they wanted to kill them, and they wonder what they were stalling for. Meanwhile, another Ivanov gets confirmation from his men that the torpedos are loaded and he says it’s a shame because he’ll miss that place.

Ivanov launches torpedoes from the subs at the drill rig’s legs as Coulson and May try to find their way topside. Coulson admits that he opened the Scotch already and May gets angry, but they’re interrupted by an explosion as the first torpedoes hit the rig. May says they can’t leave Mack, but Coulson says he has to get her to the top and then he’ll come back for him.

Fitz tells Aida that they have to go back and help his friends because they could be in danger. Aida is overwhelmed by emotion and can’t think, so Fitz tells her to feel and compels her to do the right thing. She asks if she needs to focus on empathy and not fear and Fitz begs her to save them.

As water floods the chamber that Mack is in, the door slides closed and Aida teleports into Ivanov’s sub. She tells him to call off his dogs and that she wants to make amends for the people that she’s hurt. Ivanov congratulates her on suffering and being human and he refuses to do as she asks. He says that she is like an infant and can’t control her emotions and that she hasn’t experienced the joy of killing. She grabs him by the throat and says that maybe she’ll find out with him. He says she can kill that body but his brain is controlling many of them, and even if she takes out one, his plans are in motion and will continue. Aida blinks back to the apartment, grabs Fitz, and then blinks to somewhere else.

At the top of the rig, Coulson and May meet Elena and Daisy and May and Elena try to go back for Mack, but the elevator shaft is engulfed with a fireball and Simmons reports that the stairs have collapsed as well. They try to convince Elena to leave, but she refuses to do so without Mack. Aboard Zephyr One, Aida teleports in with Fitz and Mack in tow, only for Simmons to shoot both Aida and Fitz with ICER rounds. She calls the team on the rig and says that they have Mack, and the containment pod blasts off just as the rig collapses into flames.

Elena stands watch over Mack, who remains in the Framework, and May sees SHIELD headquarters and asks who did it. Daisy tells her that she did to stop “him” from coming after them. Coulson asks who, and Simmons reveals it was the LMD Coulson. They search through the rubble of the base, passing the photo of Mace, and finally make their way to the containment centers. Simmons puts Fitz and Aida into a full-size containment cell. They discuss what to do with Aida, with Coulson and May against killing her and Yo-Yo and Simmons in favor of it. They then ask what to do with Fitz, which leads to Simmons asking what they remember from the Framework. They try to describe it, but Simmons gets upset and leaves. Daisy says she’s afraid Fitz will be the same man he was in the Framework, but Yo-Yo says she’s afraid he’ll love someone else.

Fitz wakes up in the pod and sees Ophelia looking at the screen in the cell. She says Aida would’ve seen it as irony, but she realizes it’s her punishment. Fitz says she saved Mack, and she says it was the greatest moment of her life, and asks if they’ll be able to forgive her. He says they might be able to forgive her, but they’ll never forgive him. She says it was programming coded into him by an overbearing father figure, and Fitz says that he was just like Ward. Fitz agonizes over how Simmons must feel after seeing him shoot Agnes, and Ophelia explains that she tried to get closer to Fitz to try to understand what they felt for one another. She says that she finally does, and Fitz says it’s past tense, because his future with Gemma is dead. She says that she was devoted to him in the Framework, but now she understands him and how hard he loves, and he says he only has love in his heart for Gemma. This sets Ophelia off and Fitz tries to calm her down.

Simmons tells Coulson that they have to extract Fitz, but before they can, they’re intercepted by Talbot and a cadre of troops, and Talbot isn’t interested in believing that Coulson isn’t a robot. Ophelia flings Fitz against the containment pod when her teleportation powers don’t work, and he triggers the door mechanism before diving inside. May’s team of agents extract him from the other side of the pod as Ophelia continues to scream. They believe they’ve saved him, but he exclaims that teleportation isn’t her only power, as she generates electricity to short out the power dampeners in the cell and then teleports out.

Coulson tries to convince Talbot that they’re not robots, but Talbot says they have to assume the entire team are robots. Talbot says unless Coulson can explain in less than fifty words why he found Mace’s body apparently quaked to death days after finding the base burning with robot bodies everywhere and several dead agents with gunshots in their bodies and their skulls crushed. Coulson weakly offers that he can explain it, but Talbot gives the order for them not to move and tells his men that if May moves a muscle, to shoot to kill.

Ophelia teleports in, grabs a soldier’s gun, and shoots him in the head before teleporting out. Talbot hears screams over the radio and asks what they’re talking about, assuming it’s Elena. One of May’s agents pulls Fitz out and says they should be safe, but Fitz says they’ll never be safe. Ophelia teleports in behind him and breaks his neck, much to Fitz’ horror, but two more agents arrive and fire on Ophelia. The female agent pushes Fitz into the pod and they ride it up to the hangar, where Talbot’s men are still holding the team at gunpoint. Fitz continues to argue that they’re not safe from Ophelia and tells May that she knows about the Inhumans that they experimented on. May rushes off, drawing Talbot’s ire, but Daisy forces him to stand down by threatening to quake him. She tells Talbot’s men that if they put their weapons down, she’ll let them go with them, with Coulson adding that they don’t have to go, but he wouldn’t recommend staying. Ophelia teleports onto Ivanov’s sub and tackles him with a snarl.

Talbot gives the order to fall back and then tells them to search the base for any other threats and any bodies as he watches Zephyr One take off. Aboard the plane, the team walks past the containment cell and Simmons stops to see Fitz, who doesn’t even realize that she’s there. She puts her arm around him as he breaks down in tears and she holds him as they cry together.

Daisy says they have to keep moving, but she and Coulson quickly realize that Yo-Yo was nowhere to be found and they race to where Mack is being maintained in the Framework to find Elena beside him. Daisy laments that she has no idea what to expect, and Coulson says that neither do they. Aboard Ivanov’s sub, he tries to explain heartbreak to Ophelia and tells her that he has a plan to rebuild a world where Inhumans are hunted. She says his plan is too clean and she wants them to suffer, and then she tears his shirt open and demands he make her feel something else. They kiss and she shoves him to the floor for more kissing before crushing his skull against the floor. Another Ivanov looks on, bemused, and asks if she’s better now.

One of Talbot’s men reports that they found three bodies with no sign of anyone else there, and Talbot gives the order to clear out and have a hazmat team come in the following morning. No sooner do they leave than Aida’s dimensional portal fires up and Ghost Rider walks out, swinging his chain.

Elena wakes up in the Framework strapped to a table with flames burning nearby, and she screams and fights against her restraints.

The Review

If there’s one thing this show has consistently nailed in each of its four seasons, it’s definitely pacing their penultimate episode each season to leave you wishing you could just immediately binge watch the finale. I’m happy to report that this season was no different, as the pacing was just tremendous and between Ophelia and Ivanov’s plans, Ghost Rider’s return, and Yo-Yo in the Framework, ‘The Return’ almost certainly left long-time Agents of SHIELD fans wanting more.

It was good to see Talbot back, as Adrian Pasdar has yet to disappoint in an appearance on this show, and he filled in nicely for Mack as the resident character who is paranoid about the robot apocalypse. I can only imagine he’ll play some sort of role in the finale as well, or else his appearance on this week’s episode will have been mostly pointless.

And while I know he wasn’t everyone’s favorite based on the comments I’ve read about this season, I for one am glad to see Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider make his return, as his arc didn’t really end on the most satisfying tone. It looks like he’ll be playing a similar role to Deathlok in the season one finale, as the “big gun” used to dispatch the nigh-invulnerable Big Bad. And since Aida/Ophelia’s machine was presumably destroyed when Ivanov attacked his own secret lair, I think if Hope Mackenzie does make it back to the real world somehow, it’ll be because of some heretofore unseen ability of the Ghost Rider.

They also did an excellent job of playing on their past history to make it seem like a foregone conclusion that Mack wouldn’t survive Ivanov’s attack on the drill rig, and Ophelia’s intervention was a pleasant surprise. Not only because she made sure Mack wasn’t the cast member not to survive this season, but also because it showed that Fitz was able to influence her…which led to the big dramatic moment near the end of the show where Fitz confessed his undying love for Simmons and Ophelia lost her mind. That callback gave the moment more weight than it might’ve otherwise had, and Ophelia as the perfect “woman scorned” makes her a wonderful villain for the season finale.

And while I was apparently in the minority as far as Radcliffe being the one to save Fitz last week, Ophelia being the one to save Mack’s body resonated with me for the simple fact that it showed what a major impact that Fitz had on her her, especially in her newly (In)human form, but it also showed just how unhinged Ophelia was, which feels like would be the correct reaction at that point in the narrative.

And aside from making me think that Mack was going to be the latest character to this season’s Whedon Sacrificial Lamb, the only real negative thing I have to say about this week’s episode is that it felt like the Ivanovs were too easy to dispatch of singly. Sure, when multiple versions showed up at the same time, it felt like a tough fight for our heroes, but even that is a relatively minor gripe.

And I’ll just go on record here and wonder if the Inhuman Royal Family will have anything to do with next week’s resolution, even if it’s just a minor cameo to set up the debut of their show in the fall.

9.2
The final score: review Amazing
The 411
For the fourth season in a row, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD has delivered a nearly perfect setup for the season finale, and nearly everything about this episode was extremely well done. The action, the pacing, the reveals - it all combined to make for an hour (well, forty-two or so minutes anyway) of television that felt like it flew by. Not only did it move the story forward in a logical progression, but it also left fans wishing that the finale was available to watch immediately. As far as getting fans prepared and/or excited about a season finale, I think ‘The Return’ was a complete success.
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