NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, including a major character death, are present in this review
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has upheld its reputation for being a complex series through much of this season, but Season Four’s many ongoing story developments did reach an effectively satisfying climax in this week’s season finale. “World’s End” managed to find a dramatic, exciting and memorable way to close out the fourth season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as Robbie Reyes returns from whatever dark dimension he was stored in after the season’s original ‘Ghost Rider’ arc, and Aida/Ophelia tries to rewrite the reality of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to resemble that of the Framework.
It’s really quite clever how the many separate threats from this season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., between the Darkhold, the rise of LMD’s, the continued hatred and persecution of Inhumans, the Framework, and most of all, Aida, all managed to come together and play connected parts in this season finale. It’s all a part of Aida’s complex endgame, as she tries to manipulate the world authorities to begin the HYDRA-esque takeover of the real world, framing Daisy for murdering General Talbot. Somehow, someway, General Talbot survives being shot in the head (even by the standards of the MCU, this is a massive stretch, but whatever), but that doesn’t stop Aida from seeking the Darkhold, having seemingly successfully portrayed Daisy, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Inhumans at large as dangerous threats.
Thanks to the return of Robbie, we got some fairly solid action at various points in the episode, as Robbie helps to take on whatever remains of Aida’s LMD’s. This seems to more or less spell the end of Ivanov for now, although seeing as his disembodied head is still out there somewhere, there’s always the possibility that this isn’t the last that we’ve seen of LMD’s on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The team-up between Robbie and Daisy in battle is particularly exciting too, if frustratingly short-lived, due to no doubt being constrained by this show’s limited budget. Still, Coulson remarking with disappointment that he and May missed this team-up is pretty amusing.
Speaking of Coulson and May, May continues to grill Coulson about what exactly happened with her LMD doppelganger. This was mostly played for chuckles, though this did mean that the show didn’t just close the book on the quite clearly budding romance between Coulson and May. Coulson does insist that the two have to take some steps back, which is a bit irritating, though it does make sense to a point. Besides, if a Coulson/May romance is going to happen, it feels like something that should be saved for the series finale, whenever that comes. These two deserve a chance to retire together in peace, and I hope they get that chance.
Fitz and Simmons meanwhile are left to do what they can to buy Yo-Yo time in the Framework. Fitz is still struggling with his actions and behaviour in the Framework, but as I said, we probably won’t see the true depth of this internal struggle until next season. Alongside Coulson and May, these two also try to hide the Darkhold from Aida, after Coulson manages to grab it during the chaos at the S.H.I.E.L.D. hearing that the LMD Daisy shot Talbot at. Before long though, Aida manages to return to Fitz, and get the location of the Darkhold out of him. She even murders Simmons in the process, declaring that she will kill everyone that Fitz loves. Holy crap! The show just killed off Simmons!
Nah, psyche, it was an LMD Simmons, of course. Turns out, this was all part of the plan, as Coulson counted on Aida coming after the Darkhold. After it comes out that the Ghost Rider is capable of hurting Aida, even with her healing factor, Coulson takes the Ghost Rider spirit into himself, temporarily becoming a Ghost Rider in his own right! This was totally badass, and resulted in a brief scuffle between the two, before Coulson successfully uses the Hellfire Chains to destroy Aida for good! Finally. The world of the MCU is safe from Aida, and it’s an incredible relief!
Robbie naturally goes away with the Ghost Rider spirit afterward, to take the Darkhold somewhere safe where it can never hurt anyone ever again, and yes, the portal he warps away with is very blatantly built with the same dimension-manipulating sorcery as seen in Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange from last year. This was not only yet another cool Darkhold-related nod to Doctor Strange, but the snowy landscape glimpsed on the other end of the portal does vaguely suggest that Robbie could indeed be traveling to pay a visit to the Sorcerer Supreme. We no doubt won’t see that meeting, but we can certainly fantasize about it for now!
While the climactic confrontation with Aida was going on, Yo-Yo also managed to be rescued from her confinement at The Triskelion by Radcliffe, who urges her to escape by any means necessary. Yo-Yo tries to convince Mack to go with her, but to no avail. As the world of the Framework quite literally disappears around them, this created a really effectively tense device to perpetuate a sense of urgency, even when this conflict was removed from the real-world issue of Aida. There was also some really standout drama here too, as Mack vainly tries to hold Hope as she vanishes, while Yo-Yo wakes up in the real world, while Mack continues to sleep. Mack does eventually awaken though, now having the courage to pursue a relationship with Yo-Yo in the real world. This was a heartfelt and poignant way to end the saga of the Framework, with a great final note being glimpsed as Radcliffe has a drink on the beach, vanishing mid-speech as he muses about the end of the world.
As you can expect from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season Four has a nicely weird, intriguing conclusion to it too. When the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew decides to grab a bite at a diner, they’re arrested by a mysterious and shadowy force of government agents, who appear to stop time as they prepare to take them away. An epilogue then shows Coulson wandering around a spaceship, before remarking that he needs to, “Get back to work.” What could this be about?! It’s certainly very interesting to have the S.H.I.E.L.D. protagonists lost in space, even if we could be waiting a while to see what comes of this mystery. With Inhumans airing in place of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC this Fall, it looks like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. potentially won’t be resuming until 2018, despite ABC confirming that the now-official Season Five will span the usual 22-episode length. If the show’s fifth season is indeed being held until 2018 though, could this be a way to tie Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into next year’s climactic Marvel Studios movie, Avengers: Infinity War somehow? That’s probably a stretch, but it would be nice nonetheless.
There was a lot to wrap up in this season finale, but, “World’s End” rose to the occasion with an exciting and memorable episode, one that managed to close the book on the many developments of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s fourth season to great effect. The climactic battle between Aida and a Ghost Rider-fueled Coulson is all too brief, which is the only small disadvantage to this episode, and no doubt another casualty of the limited TV budget, but that’s really a minor issue. Even as this show gets weirder, darker and more intense, it doesn’t let up with the excitement and entertainment value either, as the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew now find themselves drifting in the cosmos. Like I said, with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. currently looking like it’s taking the rest of 2017 off, to accommodate the eight-episode run of Inhumans this Fall, it could be a while before we get an answer to this huge mystery. With the show continuing to top itself every season though, that difficult wait will no doubt be worth it, whenever Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally returns to the ABC schedule!
- Awesome return for Robbie/Ghost Rider
- Many great, dramatic character moments between the protagonists
- Interesting space mystery in the epilogue
- Coulson/Aida duel is frustratingly brief