Agents of SHIELD Season 4 Episode 21: The Return Recap



This week, it’s time for the agents of SHIELD to reacclimate to the real world. Some challenges and surprises await them, as you’d expect.

We start with a cheesy opening outside shot of the oil rig. This is why most of the season has been gray. It’s easier to make the CGM look good.

The Darkhold and Ivanov have a sense of humor! Ivanov talks to himself before he goes to check on the pod room, where Aida has just teleported Fitz away. Coulson makes a couple of his own dry jokes about the Framework before Ivanov interrupts them with the good news that he has free will now, and his first act as a free man is to become a murder bot.

May is surprised to see a robot as she and Coulson fend off LMD Ivanov, with Coulson’s energy shield popping out of his arm and saving the day in the end.

Oh, weird, I’d forgotten that May hasn’t been herself since all the way back to the end of the Ghostrider arc. And Coulson has his robot arm back. It’s going to be strange getting used to having only the original version of everyone running around again.

Ivanov’s been amusing himself by building a robot army that looks just like him. They get ready to attack, but Coulson locks the pod room door shut.

The regular title card is back. I’ll miss the Agents of HYDRA insert.

The Zephyr is still decloaked and under attack. The crew is tired, grouchy, and very snarky. Yo-Yo is not pleased that Daisy left Mack behind. Daisy eventually tells her that Mack refused to leave Hope. Yo-Yo is ready to go into the Framework herself to bring him out, but Daisy stops her. First they have to rescue his body, along with Coulson and May, then they can get his mind out of the Framework.

Coulson locks the door while filling May in on everything she missed. Except for the parts that are embarrassing, which is quite a bit of what happened between him and LMD May. I’m sure no one, like, say Daisy, will ever fill May in on how close he got to the LMD. Coulson expects the Zephyr to rescue them soon.

The Zephyr crew is literally putting out fires and trying to find enough power to fight back. After neutralizing the worst of the attack, they head for the oil rig.

Ophelia teleported Fitz to a beach. She revels in all of the new sensations that she’s experiencing. Fitz tries not to vomit. He’s trying to make sense of two lives worth of memories, and all of the terrible things that he did. Ophelia explains that he made all of his own choices in the Framework. The only things she changed were that he was raised by his father, and he met her the first day of classes, usurping his relationship with Jemma.

But she also explains that the other world was a simulation created by Radcliffe, in which she was a slave, forced to carry out her programming. Fitz accuses her of lying and allowing terrible things to be done in her name, but she says that she told him the truth about the real word, and she had no choice about her actions.

Ophelia says she has free choice now, and she chooses Fitz. They teleport away from the beach.

May asks Coulson more about what happened between him and her LMD, since he’s acting strange around her. When she asks if the LMD tried to kill him, he latches on to that excuse, and May accepts it, showing that she’s still off her game. Wonder how long it’ll be before she recovers enough to start figuring out the truth, and where they’ll go from there.


Then May discovers some emergency epinephrine, which she decides to use to help Coulson fight off the LMD Ivanovs. She’s all about the juicing now. She hulks out and kills an LMD with a hammer. Coulson electrocutes one. Mack’s body is nearby, and you can feel his fingers itching for a shotgun ax, even though he’s unconscious. Afterward, they both wonder why it was so easy, and why the Ivanovs don’t just flood the building if they want to kill the team. Cue the flood. Coulson drags May to the surface, figuring he’ll go back for Mack.

Back on the Zephyr, the crew reveals that they are considered terrorists, responsible for the explosion that partially destroyed the SHIELD base, and killing several agents. The ZEPHYR hasn’t been able to touch down and refuel because both Talbot and Ivanov are hunting them.

Fitz and Ophelia reappear in a room set up to look like Madame HYDRA’s quarters in the Framework. Ophelia has changed out of her robe, and into clothes that are similar to her Madame HYDRA outfit, but more casual. She thought the room would help Fitz with the transition. He’s still standing in the middle of the room, numbly wringing his hands.

They talk about emotions, and what she’s now capable of. He tries to get her to see the complexity of his situation, as she explains her past and present motivations, which have changed now that she has free will and a better understanding of the world.

Fitz starts to ask exactly who was inserted into the framework from this world, and where they are now, when Ophelia realizes that the team is in a very bad situation. She is overwhelmed by her emotions, but Fitz talks her down and helps her sort through them, then guides her into choosing to help. It’s all about empathy, and making better choices, now that she can.

However, Ivanov has no interest in cooperating. He teaches Ophelia valuable lessons about irony, and the free will of others. Since she’s an emotional toddler, this doesn’t sit well with her. After threatening Ivanov for a minute, she pops back and picks up Fitz.

Coulson and May reach the top of the oil rig just as bombs start to go off. Ivanov has escaped in a submarine and set the rig to self-destruct. Just then, the Zephyr touches down. It’s not safe to go back for Mack, but Yo-Yo won’t leave without him. While they’re arguing, Ophelia teleports into the Zephyr with Fitz and Mack. Ophelia is thrilled that she was able to help someone. Jemma shoots both Ophelia and Fitz with the night-night gun. The rest of the team boards the Zephyr. They watch the rig explode as they fly away.

We’ve finally got the physical bodies, at least, of the entire team, relatively safe and in one place for the first time since the Ghostrider arc. Let’s all take a deep breath and savor this moment. It’s not going to last.

They take the Zephyr back to the base to refuel. They’re shocked at the condition of the base, especially Coulson, May, and the others who weren’t on base for the final fight with the LMDs of the team. Coulson and May have to be told that her LMD set off the explosives to stop his LMD. Another story I’m sure they can’t wait to hear.

Fitz and Ophelia are put into the inhuman containment room. The team debates what to do with them. Yo-Yo and Jemma want to kill her. Coulson says she’s a “real” person now, maybe she’s different since she made herself real to escape Radcliffe’s programming. May thinks there’s been enough killing.


Jemma asks Coulson and May about their memories of the Framework, in order to determine how it will affect Fitz long term. They tell her that they remember that life as well as this one, and it feels just as real. It’s not what Jemma wants to hear. They’ll have to wait until Fitz wakes up to find out where his loyalties lie.

When Fitz and Ophelia wake up, Ophelia wonders if SHIELD will be able to forgive her, or if they’ll need to make her feel pain. Fitz says they might forgive her. He thinks that he’s the one who doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. Like Ward, he fell into the trap of following  a father figure who taught him to be ruthless, selfish and sadistic. He’s devastated at the thought of everything he did, and everything Jemma saw him do, and how she could ever stand the sight of him again.

Jemma is watching their conversation through the surveillance camera. He says that his relationship with her is dead, past tense, no future. There isn’t room in his heart for two people. Ophelia was everything to him in the Framework. She understands him.

Ophelia is eating this up with a spoon. Then Fitz says there’s only room in his heart for Jemma, and everything changes. He was unwittingly leading her on, and she’s not okay with coming in second.

Fitz says that in the Framework Ophelia was his whole world, but in this world, he’s all about Jemma. Ophelia doesn’t think the timeshare is a concept she wants to work with. She chose Fitz. Fitz has to choose her. An emotional toddler in the body of a powerful inhuman is not what you want in a crazy ex-girlfriend. This crazy ex-girlfriend turns out to have Daisy’s ex-boyfriend Lincoln Campbell’s power of electrokinesis, in addition to teleportation.


Jemma gets Fitz out of the room pronto.

Talbot turns up with his own army to interfere. He assumes everyone is a robot. Still fighting the last battle. He also found Mace’s body, which Ivanov pummeled so that it appeared to have been quaked. Coulson gives Talbot a quick summary of recent events off camera.

Meanwhile, Ophelia, having escaped containment, goes on a base wide attack and Fitz tries to convince everyone that she is the most powerful inhuman they’ve ever seen, and basically unstoppable. Everyone feels a need to test the theory before they listen to him, because Fitz has somehow lost his brilliant scientist and seasoned agent credentials in the midst of the last two story arcs.

Piper and Davis load Ophelia full of bullets and think they’re fine, even as Fitz is still screaming at them that she’s not dead. Piper drags Fitz away, out to the Zephyr, where he tells the team they have to take off before she finds them and kills them. He finally gets May’s attention and reminds her of the inhumans they tested. May races to get the Zephyr ready to take off. Talbot and his men leave to search the base again.

Davis stayed behind with Ophelia. Fitz tells Piper that Davis is already dead. We see Ophelia stand up as her bullet wounds heal and she chases Davis. My guess is that she has Jiaying’s healing abilities, and is going to suck the life out of Davis to recharge. Which is ironic, because in real life, the actor who plays Davis is married to the actress who plays Jiaying.

After the Zephyr takes off, Fitz sits in the containment pod, head down and weeping. Jemma goes in and sits next to him, putting her arm around him. He grabs her hand and they lean into each other, crying together. She had her astronaut, he had Ophelia. She had to kill LMD Fitz, the Framework made him believe that he needed to execute her for the death of his father. He had his traumatic brain injury from saving her life and sacrificing his own. It’s probably about time for her to be paralyzed from saving him. They are an epic romance.

Ophelia has gone back to Ivanov and the submarine. She’s learning that great truth, life is suffering. Now she’s also learning about drowning your sorrows with vodka, fights, and possibly meaningless sex, if she can work her way past the fights. And dramatic monologues.

Ivanov proposes using the Darkhold to build the Framework into a complete world. Ophelia likes the idea, as long as they can make this one suffer in the process.

Back at the base, Talbot mysteriously loses three more men before he clears out. Did it take four people for Aida to recharge? She’s got a high metabolism, with all of those powers to keep running.

As Talbot leaves, Aida’s original portal comes to life, and Ghostrider walks through it, returned to our plane of existence from wherever he took his Uncle Eli.

Yo-Yo hooked herself up to one of the Framework pods in the Zephyr when no one was looking, determined to bring Mack back. (He’s hooked up to the other one.) Inside the Framework, she wakes up strapped to a gurney in a burning office or lab, with the sound of the riots still going on outside. The Framework is out of control, having lost the leaders of both HYDRA and the Resistance. There’s no one left in either organization with the recognized authority to restore order.


I understand Yo-Yo’s pain, but forcing Mack to go back to the real world the way Fitz was forced would have meant forcing him to lose his daughter twice. That’s a terrible thing to do to a person. Mack made his own choice, being fully informed of the situation. Fitz was rescued from being coerced into doing terrible things that will haunt him for the rest of his life. There was no way to give him the kind of truly informed choice that Mack made, because of Aida’s insidious influence on him. They had resolved to leave Fitz behind, but Radcliffe found a way to save him. Mack made the informed decision to risk death rather than lose his daughter. Daisy hoped they’d get another chance to bring him back. It makes for great dramatic TV.

Ophelia and Ivanov are the best evil power couple since Jiaying and Cal or Raina and anyone (Cal? Garrett? Probably Garrett.)

How many other powers does Ophelia have? Did she absorb the powers of every inhuman they tested?

If the oil rig is destroyed, does this mean we can’t bring anyone back from the Framework, except for Mack? Or can the Project Looking Glass machine be salvaged, since Ghostrider just used a half-destroyed portal? Or, can Fitz build a new one, since he designed it? It’s going to be very difficult to get Mack to leave Hope behind in a city that’s in the midst of violent riots and chaos.

Jemma had such a good time insulting Ward in the Framework, and insisting that Ward was bad no matter what, while Fitz was good. Will she be able to come to terms with what Fitz already knows, that both men have the capacity for good and evil, depending on the circumstances? Many of Fitz and Ward’s individual personality traits remained consistent through it all, but their behavior and attitudes changed according to their influences.

Now that the series has been renewed for season 5, the wait for next week’s season finale is a little easier.