Is it Halloween? No, it’s time for the return of Ghost Rider, back from the other dimensions to help with Aida! This week, we wrap up the season, tying up some dangling loose ends, but pulling a few new threads loose at the same time. What would be the fun in having a neat, tidy ending, anyway? We know we’re getting a 22 episode season 5, probably starting in November, so let’s enjoy this one and make it last all summer.
Robbie has found his way from the portal in the base to his haunted Charger, and is on the road again. May is not letting her lost bottle of Haig go. She’ll be interrogating Coulson about LMD May over the next bottle. For now, she’s got the Zephyr on automatic pilot, frequently switching altitude and thruster speed.
Jemma and Fitz discuss Ophelia’s inhuman powers, how she got them, and what they do to people. He’s a bit dramatic and self-loathing about it, and Jemma tells him that she doesn’t need his innocence, she needs his solutions that kill people, right now. He’s still uncertain and unenthusiastic, which leads Jemma to ask him if he even wants to kill Aida.
The Framework is beginning to shut down. Daisy and Coulson try to find ways to convince Mack and Yo-Yo to leave, while watching it disappear around them. Daisy feels guilty for leaving Mack behind her, but Coulson comforts her. He feels she made the best call she could, given the situation. It’s so nice to see them working together again, supportive and like a father and daughter team.
Daisy leads Radcliffe to the Triskelion, where Elena is locked up and under attack, by leaving a trail of yo-yo’s through the city. He finds her just in time. The building is disappearing around them. That building just isn’t safe in any reality.
Ivanov and Aida continue their lovingly violent relationship.
Aida: Are you laughing at me?
Ivanov: To see a creature of logic and calculation now consumed by rage and hate? It’s sweet.
Aida: Call me sweet one more time, and I’ll rip the titanium spines out of all of you tin cans.
Aida speaks for every single woman who’s ever been told that she can’t be both logical and emotional. And Ivanov, who was the original Mr. Crazypants, doesn’t get to mock anyone about being consumed with rage and hate.
There’s a new LMD in town. It’s not clear if he’s being controlled by Ivanov, or has his own personality. I suspect the new body is still controlled by Ivanov, given how comfortable he is mocking Aida.
Aida regrets creating any of them. She wants to burn this world, and SHIELD, to the ground, but according to the plan the Darkhold gave them, not recklessly. Fitz is her #1 target. How is this show not a CW show? Literally the same themes. Now we’re doing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Just then, Ghost Rider shows up and politely asks for the darkhold. Aida and the LMDs have no manners, so they attack him. He takes out the LMDs easily, but Aida uses Lincoln’s electrical powers, then teleports away. Cut to the Ghost Rider title card, bringing the season full circle. I miss the Agents of HYDRA card something fierce.
Commercial break. I predict that The Mummy, starring the egos of Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, will be the most bloated, awful remake in the history of awful remakes. Stick to the 1999 version starring Brendan Frasier and Rachel Weisz. Or the 1932 Boris Karloff version. Or the 1959 Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee version. With all of those in existence, the world doesn’t need to be inflicted with aging Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise competing for screen time.
Back to our previously scheduled program. The Framework has between 12-20 hours left to live. There’s no guarantee that Mack and Yo-Yo will survive until the end. Fitz and Daisy are doing everything they can to help them. Let’s all try not to think too much about Trip, Grant, Burrows, all of those cute kids they rescued, the rights of sentient beings and the fact that they’re winking out of existence with those numbers on the screen. How different is the code that allows them to exist from our DNA?
General Talbot calls Coulson. He wants another explanation about what the H*ll is going on. Coulson explains that their people were killed by a vanishing banshee made of matter from another dimension. These things happen in SHIELD, whatareyagonnado?
Talbot is buzzing like a hornet’s nest. Mace’s autopsy report leaked and everyone knows that SHIELD lied about Mace being an inhuman.
Coulson: That was your lie, not ours.
Talbot: D*mn it, Phil, you’re missing the point! There’s an international intelligence inquiry tomorrow morning and I need you there to defend SHIELD.
Coulson: That’s impossible.
Talbot: D*mn it, Coulson, so is a vanishing banshee! Listen, Phil, I’m not going to get up on my hind legs and beg for buttermilk, but you or one of your right hands needs to be there to take down these spooks before they take down SHIELD once and for all. That’s an order.
Coulson still refuses, on the grounds that he and the team are Aida’s main targets, so it’s too dangerous for them to attend. He hangs up on Talbot.
Daisy let’s Coulson know that Robbie Reyes, aka Ghost Rider, is back in town. She goes to pick him up from the lair where he fought Aida. He explains to Daisy and Coulson that Aida is made of dark matter, same as the Darkhold. She created a tear in the Dark World when she was created that allowed Robbie to escape. The Ghost Rider demon can sense where she is and hates her with a passion. It wants to send her and the Darkhold back where they came from, which is someplace terrible, like H*ll, but probably just a really nasty dimension.
“The Earth is just one territory in a war that’s been going on forever.” Why do I feel like that’s going to come up again some day?
May wanders by with the severed head of one of the new LMDs. She’s curious about his identity, too.
Ivanov is playing Aida like a fiddle. (Talbot has inspired me to up my metaphor game a bit.) He and the new guy are all dressed up, admiring each other in unison, and assuring Aida that they live to please her. Aida’s still spooked from her fight with Ghost Rider. He left a deep burn on her arm from his fire chain that isn’t healing. Since he comes from the same place that she does, he can harm her more easily than others can.
Radcliffe and Yo-o find Mack and Hope at the base, trying to evacuate the survivors before the base disappears completely. They don’t give a rationale for where they think they can go that will be safe, they’re just running blindly. Mack doesn’t recognize Yo-Yo and still isn’t interested in hearing about the other world.
The unidentified LMD is a senior Russian analyst who was on his way to the SHIELD inquiry. He’s bringing Ivanov as his plus one. That should go well.
At the inquiry, Ivanov takes over the meeting. He claims that SHIELD are secret police rather than spies, and running an inhuman recruiting, breeding, and weaponizing program. Then he pulls out the Darkhold and says it holds the answer to their problems. Talbot tries to stop Ivanov, but LMD Daisy walks into the room and shoots him in the forehead. Noooo!!!
We will not even discuss Pirates of the Caribean 5.
SHIELD arrives right after Talbot is shot. Daisy finds Aida with the Daisybot. Aida thought it would be fun to watch Daisy be killed by herself. She hasn’t been paying attention to how strong Daisy is. An LMD isn’t a problem for her. Robbie sneaks up behind Aida. He burns up the Daisybot, but Aida teleports out.
Coulson and May chase Ivanov and his mini me out of the meeting room so that Talbot can be given medical attention. He’s still alive, somehow. His brilliant assistant points to the facility’s cameras and says that she knows it was Quake who did this. SHIELD and Quake won’t get away with it. With Talbot unconscious and in critical condition, they can’t change her mind. At least Ivanov left the Darkhold behind for Ghost Rider.
Robbie and Daisy continue to fight LMDs and guards together. Robbie does a cool slow motion turning transformation into Ghost Rider. They team up to flame and quake LMD Ivanov together. Coulson runs in afterwards and is all sad that he missed the epic team up. Phil, two words. Body cams. Look into it. Also, have Daisy hack the building’s security footage later. Brainless assistant just told you it exists.
Back on the Zephyr, they realize that Aida is trying to recreate the Framework paradigm by using Daisy to instigate fear of inhumans the same way the Cambridge incident did in the Framework. Coulson comes up with a plan to use the Darkhold as bait to catch and kill Aida. They are all awake, united, and desperate to destroy Aida. Things will go differently from the Framework. They decide to go back to the base to fight on their home territory.
Back in what’s left of the Framework, Mack, Hope, YoYo, Radcliffe, and Burrows are on a bus, on a bridge, stuck in traffic. Yo-Yo tries again to talk sense into Mack. Everyone on the bus except for Mack, Yo-Yo, Hope and Radcliffe disappears, along with the bridge. Mack decides they should go back to his house.
Coulson and May are patrolling through the base. May tells him that his plan is terrible. He tells her that robot May was way more supportive. Truth, but she also wanted into his pants. They decide to have The Talk about what happened between Coulson and LMD May now, since they don’t know what the future will bring. They agree to take a couple of steps back away from how close Coulson and LMD May had gotten, then try again when the current crisis is over.
Robbie and Daisy have a moment alone together. He tells her about life in the Dark World, where he was the Rider’s passenger, and all they did was fight and kill. He’s happy to be back home. They send some wistful looks at each other. Then Daisy needs to build Yo-Yo’s new back door out of the Framework.
Yo-Yo vents to Radcliffe once they get to Mack’s house. Yo-Yo thinks it’s a private conversation, but Hope overhears them talking about death, and her not being real.
Fitz and Jemma are working in one of the server rooms on the base when Aida captures them. Aida grabs Jemma and wants to hear Fitz beg for her life. He tries to convince Aida to try healthier coping mechanisms, like country music or art, but she’s not interested. Murder and mayhem are working out just fine for her so far. She stabs Jemma in the chest. Fitz offers various things in exchange for Jemma’s life, but Aida doesn’t buy it. She electrocutes Jemma and drops her on the floor to die.
Fitz told Aida that Coulson had the Darkhold at the portal, so she teleports there to confront him. While she’s monologuing at him, Jemma shoots her several times from behind, just cause. The other Jemma was an LMD, as it turns out. Then Coulson goes Ghost Rider and attacks her. Aida teleports them through several places, Dr Strange style, trying to get Coulson to let go. He holds on and incinerates her into ashes.
Mack tries to calm Hope down as she panics while their house disappears around them, and she tries to process what she heard Yo-Yo and Radcliffe say. The backdoor appears, but he refuses to leave, or consider abandoning the doomed world. Yo-Yo decides that if Mack isn’t leaving, neither is she. Radcliffe is in the unique position of being the only sane man in the scene. Mack continues to tell Hope that he’ll never leave her, as she disappears from his arms.
Yo-Yo wakes up back at the base, then finally Mack does.
Coulson tells Robbie that he’s glad that Ghost Rider kept his part of the deal and went back into Robbie once Aida was dead. Robbie asks if Coulson is going to tell the rest of the team about the deal that he made with Ghost Rider. Coulson says no, not yet. He will when it’s time. He asks Robbie not to say anything.
Uh oh. Is Coulson dying? Will he be the next Ghost Rider when Robbie’s done? Is Ghost Rider mad about TAHITI?
Once he’s back in the real world, Mack recovers quickly, having already dealt with this loss once before. Guess Daisy should have knocked him out and pushed him through before she jumped. He’s glad to have his new memories. He tells Yo-Yo that they gave him hope for what he and Yo-Yo could have together someday. He seems more open to her emotionally than he ever was before.
Robbie has to take the Darkhold back where it belongs. He uses his fire chain to open a sling ring portal to another dimension, then tells Coulson he doesn’t envy him, casts some more longing looks at Daisy (which she returns), and steps through the portal.
Mack and Yo-Yo report that Talbot is alive, but the authorities are on the way to the base to arrest them. Fitz tells the rest of them to leave. This whole thing is his fault, so he’ll stay behind and take the fall. His voice shakes as he talks.
Daisy stops Fitz and tells him that they are all in it together. Everyone lost themselves in the Framework. They will all face the consequences, together. Everyone agrees. Fitz is moved to tears. Coulson suggests the traditional Avengers post mission meal out.
Radcliffe sits on the beach and watches the sunset, toasting the end of the world. He disappears just before he gets to drink his shot, or finish his quote. Aida’s last revenge.
The entire team finishes their meal at a classic diner. Just as the waitress offers them pie, the lights go out, and armed men in black hold them at gunpoint. One asks if Coulson is Coulson. When Coulson says yes, the man activates a gizmo that freezes the team. He says they have a two minute window to take them.
The stinger shows Phil alone in a cell-like room. We hear a metal clang, like a door being unlocked. Phil was asleep, but he wakes up, sits up, and flips a couple of switches, one of which opens a panel on his wall to reveal a floor to ceiling window, showing that he’s on a space ship in an asteroid field. There’s a blue light in the distance. He says, “Alright Phil, enough sight seeing. Time to get to work.” He’s wearing loose, comfortable clothing, and has some beard stubble. He’s been on the ship long enough to have a routine and have grown a few days worth of beard, at the least.
Fitz seemed kind of uncharacteristically calm while Aida had Jemma. Should have known it was an LMD.
The base still has the LMD-making workshop that the Mace, Fitz, Coulson, and Mack LMDs made. Ivanov also still has the ability to create new LMDs. That means we could continue to see anyone as an LMD next season. Ivanov may also still have some version of Aida’s brain “scan/code” as well, so he could make a new version of her at some point that wouldn’t remember this fiasco.
Aida and the Darkhold may be gone, but Ivanov and his LMD army are still out there, and he knows what the Darkhold’s design for a Hydra-run world looks like. He doesn’t need either Aida or the Darkhold to enact it. He’s rich and has his own organization of devotees to enforce his will already, the Watchdogs. Ivanov seemed like he was trying to get rid of Aida, with the way he goaded her into destroying herself, while making sure he was safe.
Coulson is in space, but is everyone else? Who do the men in black that took Coulson work for? My pet theory is that they work for Fury, and he was just being dramatic with the way Coulson was brought in, as usual. The space ship is Fury’s helicarrier, all tricked out for space travel now. Fury and Hill have been investigating the infinity stones, they need to follow the trail into space, or have someone follow it, until it’s time for the movie. Or, they’re going to be SHIELD in space for a while, since they’re on the run (known as SWORD?). Or maybe Phil’s been shanghaied and pressed into service on a mining ship or something similar.
It seems like Coulson’s probably the only one in space, or the team is split, because someone’s got to be fighting Ivanov down on Earth. Maybe Ivanov’s going to have free rein on Earth during the first arc, then the team will fight him when he’s become very powerful and has LMDs everywhere in the second arc. That would be a repeat of this season, though. Ivanov must be thinking bigger. He’ll be replacing Talbot and more government officials with LMDs who are really him, or programmed by him.
This was a good episode in many ways. The dialog was especially fun and snappy, it pulled all of the story arcs together from the beginning of the season, and it wasn’t a terrible blood bath. But it was also rushed and abrupt. We didn’t really need to spent so much time watching the Framework disappear, worrying about Hope, and hearing YoYo beg Mack to remember her, when he was going to be fine as soon as he got back to reality anyway. Some of that time could have been given over to Aida’s death, which ended up being blink-and-you-miss-it. Aida could have been allowed to die as more than a caricature of herself.
Of course, I would have preferred it if Aida had gotten to do more as a real girl than to lose control of herself over a boy choosing to love someone else. As Ivanov said, there was always so much more to her. Why did she suddenly lose all patience and ability to reason? With her looks and intelligence, she could have found another man. No need to obsess over the first one to come along, much as Fitz is totally obsession worthy. She said herself that she’d known all along that he was devoted to Jemma. Was her entire, season-long plan really based on getting Fitz to love her? REALLY?? Was he really worth throwing everything else away for, since she knew Ghost Rider was very dangerous to her? Wouldn’t it have made more sense, and have been more in character, for her to lay low and try to wait Ghost Rider out, to kidnap Fitz again, or to try to logically research Ghost Rider and figure out a way to beat him?
It’s disappointing that Aida died so quickly while Ivanov lived. It’s outrageous that Aida was viewed as the sole evil villain, when Radcliffe and Fitz created her, and Ivanov was her willing accomplice. No one was calling for any of the other three to be sent to H*ll as quickly and painfully as possible. Only the woman, who was created to be enslaved. She was justifiably angry at her situation. and had the power to act on that anger. The three men were either experimenting out of hubris and curiosity, or angry over smaller slights. But Fitz is forgiven, and Radcliffe was allowed to fade away in peace. No one even bothered to specifically go after Ivanov in this episode.
In the end, Agents of SHIELD took an amazing, complex female character and reduced her to another Whedonverse cliche of a powerful woman who was ruled by her emotions. As usual with this trope, having emotions makes the woman weaker than the men around her, who are able to juggle their emotions and responsibilities just fine. Mack ultimately solved his emotional crisis, and came out of it better off than he was before, while Aida became Frankenstein’s harridan, free but rejected by her creators, left to navigate an angry, unjust world on her own, and turning to extreme evil to cope. She did terrible things, but, since she was created to be a slave, it can be argued that she had understandable reasons for her anger, and deserved more than an abrupt, out of control, out of character ending.
Here is the real life story of an enslaved woman, kept by a Filipino-American family for much of the 20th century. The story was published this month by The Atlantic, and is the story of the family life of one of their Pulitzer prize-winning journalists. Lola, as she was known, dealt with her lifelong enslavement with bravery, grace, love and intelligence, despite the deprivation and abuse she endured. There are other stories in the reaction pieces, with other reactions to enslavement. Aida’s story would have been a much better story if her side of it had been given more attention. There are still tens of millions of enslaved people in the world, including in the US, many of them women who are kept as servants, like Aida. For Agents of SHIELD to touch on that issue, and then breeze past it, while making the enslaved person the supervillain, is criminal in and of itself. So many writers, filmmakers and TV shows have shown the justification for granting human rights to sentient artificial beings that it’s ludicrous to try to deny that someone like Aida was still just a robot. She was her own person and she deserved more.