The past season saw the show split up into three separate “pods” (smaller story arcs). Last night, all three of those pods came crashing together in a cacophony of destruction, death, mustaches, sadness, and awesomeness. At first I was bullish on this new format, but after last night, I’m sold.
THIS POST CONTAINS MCU SPOILERS. BE WARNED.
Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but this show has a very quick pace. Issues are raised and then addressed within an episode or two. People don’t withhold information for the sake of plot or have to clear the room or go in the hallway to talk (I’M LOOKING AT YOU ARROW AND FLASH). They could have made drinking the bottle of Haig the source of some filler-episode manufactured angst between Coulson and May, but instead, they bickered a little bit but within 20 minutes had gotten over it. Fitz may have withheld AIDA from Simmons at the beginning of the season for like half an episode, but that was it: like half an episode.
These Pods match up with the pace of the show perfectly. The Ghost Rider pod at the beginning of the season gave us just enough Ghost Riding to want more, and then the show shifted to the LMD story line. Then, the LMD story lasted just long enough to set up the Framework story, which carried us through the finale. Any one of these stories could have been a full season’s worth of fodder (for better or worse depending on the length of the season) for other shows, but SHIELD’s quick hit style of getting in, moving the plot, and moving on was more fitting, me thinks. This style cuts out the fat, and you don’t have to worry about making an eight episode story last for 22 episodes. The Walking Dead tries something similar, but some of their Pods (half-seasons?) stretch a little thin.
And guess fucking what? WE GOT RENEWED FOR SEASON 5 BABY! Now, the show was moved from Tuesdays at 10 p.m. to Fridays at 9 p.m. (my reviews will most likely come the following Monday), and it begins after Inhumans’ eight episode run which starts on September 22. Assuming there are no breaks taken, Inhumans should run from September 22 through November 10, 2017. That butts right up with Thanksgiving, so don’t expect Agents of SHIELD to start right away. Given the holidays, I’d venture that Agents of SHIELD starts right after the new year. If it starts January 5, 2018 and has no breaks (come on, this is ABC. It’s going to have breaks), the season would end on May 1, 2018. For reference, Infinity War comes out on May 8, 2018. Either they plan on running this show right up to the week before Infinity War, or there will be a break or two, which opens up the possibility of an Infinity War tie in episode or two or three.
It’s going to be a long wait, but if the ending of the season was any indication, god damn is it going to be worth it.
1. As serious as the stakes were this week, the humor was top notch. The best interactions were between Coulson and May, and for good reason. Besides FitzSummons, Coulson and May’s relationship is our other rock. They have been through so much together and go way way back, so it makes sense that they would be able to joke about, well, just about everything. If you’ve ever heard of someone’s “work wife” or “work husband,” these two are the epitome of the phrase.
Most of the episode had May prodding Coulson about his drinking the bottle of Haig without her, and she did it because she knew it was making him squirm. When May said that he had to tell her why he drank the bottle without her, Coulson responded that they would need a new bottle just to go over what happened with the first bottle (COMPUTER LOVE).
My favorite one liner of the night came right after Daisy and Robbie took out The Superior’s tag team style right before Coulson and May came around the corner. His disappointment was hilarious: “I missed it, didn’t I? You to together? Dangit.” I died.
In fact, with as much as Coulson had to do this week (more on that), he had the best lines of the night. When Talbot was having a BF because SHIELD was being taken apart because Mace’s autopsy confirmed that he was not Inhuman, Coulson suggested he blame it on “A vanishing banshee made from matter from another dimension.” When Talbot refused to put that in his report, Coulson reminded him that he had a bionic hand and that they had gone to another planet. SHIELD gets weird some times.
2. As an example of the highs and lows this show is able to take us to, I will transition from the jokes of Coulson and May and the gang to the Framework.
My god. Aida was turning off the Framework (why waste valuable computing power when it can be used for other things, once you re-create the fascism from the Framework in the real world?) but apparently couldn’t just pull the plug. That makes sense: She spread the Framework out on the internet, so there was no one central place where it resided. Instead of simply making everything stop all at once, it was being erased section by section, which played out in real time within the Framework.
YoYo woke up at the Triskelion (called it!) and was helped out by Dr. Potter, who led her to FrameSHIELD headquarters to find Mack. It wasn’t just a race against time, because parts of the Framework were disappearing left and right. It was a race against existence.
I loved the effects of things just being gone without any explanation (even if some of them happened off screen) and the confusion it caused for those in the Framework, algorithms and all. Who knew buildings and pictures and furniture could get raptured, too. I guess Supply Side Jesus wants to recoup his overhead.
The worst part, and I mean absolute worst part of the episode (although it was a close second to the most heart-wrenching scene of the series with Simmons and Fitz just sitting there without saying a word last week DAMMIT WHO IS CUTTING ONIONS AGAIN) was Mack and Hope. Mack saw the Framework up close, but refused to believe because he didn’t want to live in any world where Hope wasn’t. It was crazy sad watching the world disappear around them bit by bit (that freeway and city were just GONE), but it hurt even more when Hope found out she wasn’t real by overhearing YoYo and Dr. Potter. I legit wanted to cry when Mack held on tight and then she wasn’t there. WHEEEDOOONNNNN!
It’s interesting, though. Mack was the most connected to the Framework and most resistant to leaving (he literally decided to stay) than anyone else on the team, Fitz included, but had the easiest time once getting out of it. Mack was just happy to have been able to “experience” being a father for “10 years” and will always cherish the memory of his daughter, even though he never had the chance before. He wasn’t mad at YoYo for pulling them apart, and wasn’t devastated by what happened in the Framework. Of all the members of the team, the Framework actually helped Mack find closure with his Hope. That was the real twist of the episode, and I liked it.
3. I can’t think of a more fitting way to say goodbye to Dr. Potter, either. And I mean that without any malice or sarcasm. The way he disappeared on the beach mid-sentence, accepting his fate was perfect. I loved how they did it, and he just wasn’t there anymore. Hopefully he’s with his Agnes now, on some other level of existence.
4. Fitz is going to get better and I am happy his predicament wasn’t used to put a wedge between he and Simmons for more than about 20 minutes. Fitz still blamed himself for all the bad shit Fitzler did in the Framework, but Simmons and the team weren’t having any of that. Fitz tried to pull a Quake and dye his hair and go find himself, but Daisy wasn’t about to listen to that bullshit. She lived it, and lo and behold, FITZ was the one that brought her back. This isn’t just a team - it’s a family, and they’ll roll with the punches together, however it may end up.
It was interesting to see the parallels between how Fitz tried to get Aida to channel her empathy to help his friends and how Simmons tried to channel Fitz’s inner Fitzler to help kill Aida. Fitz tried to do it again with Aida during the Simmons Switcheroo scene (I called that shit right away, Fitz was too cavalier with Aida while “Simmons” was beign skewered (PHRASING)) but Aida had a smartass come back for every line. I do have to admit that I laughed when Fitz tried to get her to remember what they had talked about, and she kept responding with more and more fucked up shit. “No, not that. Not that either. Nope” I was rolling. It was really close to the “shitshitshit” Fitz did when he told Aida he only had room in his heart for Simmons.
But I digress. Simmons tried the same technique with Fitz. Fitz was still wallowing that he experimented on all those Inhumans (Nadir’s brother included - which is probably where Aida got her healing powers instead of Extremis because Fitz only mentioned Inhumans as the source of her powers) and that all he remembered was the killing, and Simmons jumped at the chance. YES. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT WE WANT. HOW DO WE KILL SIMMONS.
Because Aida only liked one human emotion: Vengeance. It was hot and clean like a knife.
5. Which brings me to Ghost Rider. Robbie came back, and he is more knowledgeable and experienced than when we last saw him. For the whole time he was gone, he learned some new tricks, but was otherwise in the passenger seat letting Ghost Rider drive. When talking to the team about the Darkhold and Aida and the Framework, Robbie gave them some knowledge about the universe they lived in: The Earth is just one territory in a war that has been going on forever. Robbie went to many different dimensions, many of whom qualified as Hell because “Hell” is relative. As Robbie said, It’s all connected.
That made me think of two things: One, Hell being relative means that it is subjective depending on the person experiencing it. Therefore, Fitz arguably was in hell in the Framework, and YoYo literally went to hell and back to save Mack.
The second thing, though, is how consistent Marvel has been with certain aspects of the MCU. At the end we learned that Ghost Rider’s chain is his own personal sling ring, allowing him to travel between locations and dimensions at will. I’ll talk more about the sling ring in a bit, but my point is how consistent Marvel is at depicting travel between two places. Hear me out: In Captain America: The First Avenger and Avengers, the Tesseract acted as a doorway between two points. When used, it literally created an opening to another location. In The First Avenger, it opened a door that lead directly to space, and Red Skull fell in. In Avengers, it opened a portal over Stark Tower. Remember the scenes with the Chitauri riding through directly over New York and the Iron Man flying into and falling out of the portal? It was an instantaneous transition from location A to location B. Like the Tesseract literally pulled back the fabric of space to allow something to simply take a step into the next location.
Then, in The Dark World, the Convergence caused the Nine Realms to align, and when they did, a breach in space time appeared, allowing instantaneous travel between two realms. It was as if the fabric of space was pulled back, allowing instantaneous transitions from one place to the next. It was very similar to the Tesseract, with minor changes in how it worked. Remember: In The Dark World and in Avengers, it was like looking through a window.
THEN, in Dr. Strange and Agents of SHIELD, sling rings were introduced, and sorcerers and Ghost Riders were shown to be conjuring up a window in space time, allowing them to instantaneously travel between two points and dimensions. The sling ring created the window, and the user could simply walk through it. Also, the Sanctum Sanctorum had those awesome doors to random locations on Earth, as if they were maintained portals. When one of the baddies was in the desert trying to come back, to her it looked like a window hanging in the sky. Remember in Dr. Strange and Agents of SHIELD, while the doorway was open, it was like looking through a window, just like the Convergence and Tesseract.
AND THEN, in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we finally saw how ships jump from locations all across the galaxy and universe, and it mirrored the effects shown throughout the MCU: A window in space time being held open by some technology (in Guardians, it looked more digital or artificial than a sling ring or infinity stone causing the window) allowing instantaneous travel between two points. When the Milano was fleeing the Sovereign’s ships, it went through the window, and was immediately somewhere else. Again, it was like looking through a window.
The only exception that I can tell is the Bifrost. Besides the Bifrost, every version of cross-space/dimensional travel is depicted the same, with the only differences being the methods of maintaining those windows. The Bifrost is the exception to the rule, and I believe it’s because Asgard is on a different level than the rest of the universe and dimensions, requiring the “tunnel” effect. Thor said that Magic and Technology are one in the same, so maybe Asgard discovered some other form of hyperspace travel that the rest of the universe has yet to unlock.
6. Again, I digress. The best scene of the night was the reveal that Coulson was harboring the Ghost Rider so that it could get close enough to Aida to end her. GHOST MOTHERFUCKING COULSON RIDER! I like the sassy Coulson Ghost Rider, because he didn’t just burn Aida, but he picked up her husk mid burn and threw it at the floor because FUCK Aida.
But that lead to an interesting exchange between Robbie and Coulson, once Ghost Rider was happily back with Robbie: Robbie asked if Coulson understood why Ghost Rider agreed to the temporary change in host, and Coulson indicated that he did, and that he’d go when ready, but that it wasn’t time yet. Then, at the end as Ghost Rider went away, he told Coulson “I’ll remember you,” and Coulson responded that he would do the same. May immediately saw that something was up, but that will require a case of bottles of Haig.
I believe this is because the Ghost Rider saw that Coulson had cheated death through Tahiti, and shouldn’t be around. Coulson made a deal just like Robbie did: Ghost Rider helped this one time, but when the time comes, Coulson is going to have to pay the tab. Coulson isn’t going to tell the others, yet, because it isn’t his time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Series Finale includes Ghost Rider coming to take Coulson to the other side.
7. Going back to the whole “It’s connected” thing: When Robbie walked through his portal at the end with the Darkhold, he went somewhere with mountains and snow. Unless hell froze over, I’d venture to say that he was taking the Darkhold back to Kamar-Taj for safe keeping with Wong. Robbie didn’t destroy the book, and I don’t think he can. If you recall, there were some books missing from the library at Kamar-Taj in Dr. Strange. I think the Darkhold was one of them, and Dr. Strange wants it back where it belongs.
8. Lets all take a moment to recognize how fucking awesome Mallory Jensen was at playing AIDA/Madame Hydra/Ophelia/Aida. That took some god damn range, and she nailed it. From the cold calculating AIDA to the manipulating Madame Hydra to the batshit Aida, it was one wild ride. I’m sad to see her go...
9. That ending. I liked how the team ended up at a diner (it reminded me of Iron Man suggesting they go eat after defeating Loki). My favorite part of the diner scene was the use of the freezing device. Although it was green instead of blue, it has to be derived from the technology Obadiah Stane used to paralyze Stark in his mansion when he stole the Arc Reactor out of his chest. It’s been 9 years. The technology definitely had time to improve.
But that ending. Coulson woke up from the diner in a ratty bed in a grungy metal room, and opened a window, revealing NOT ONLY that he was in space, but that he was SOMEWHERE close to an asteroid belt of some kind. The only asteroid belt close to Earth is between Mars and Jupiter, so my first question is: WHERE THE FUCK IS HE? Then, Coulson tells himself to get to work, and he leaves the room, suggesting that he’s been there for a while, so my second question is: HOW LONG HAS HE FUCKING BEEN THERE? Then, you look at the room and notice that it isn’t new and clean and modern, but rather resembles something that has been used for a while, so my third question is again: WHERE THE FUCK IS HE?
I want to say this is a tease for S.W.O.R.D., which stands for Sentient World Observation and Response Department, is a sister-organization of SHIELD. We know that SHIELD is mostly gone again due to the the world’s distrust of the organization YET AGAIN, so this may be their fall-back plan. It makes sense with Infinity War and Captain Marvel coming in the next year or so, but I’m unsure how much of the rights Marvel has. Last night, one of the graphic artists for the show suggested that it WASN’T SWORD, because it was owned by Fox and debuted in an X-Men comic. However, it was introduced in an X-Men comic written by JOSS WHEDON, the brother of the guy making this show. Also, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were introduced as Mutants, but were also used extensively as Avengers, so both Marvel and Fox shared them (Fox as Mutants; Marvel as Avengers.) Maybe the same is true here: SWORD started as a Mutant thing, but is heavily involved with SHIELD. Maybe Fox has the rights as it pertains to mutants (Brand, the current director in the comics, is a Mutant) and Marvel has the rights as it pertains to SHIELD and the Avengers. We can dream.
But the state of the room and facility Coulson was in appeared to be old and used and broken in. How old is this organization? Also, is it even human? Will it tie in to Inhumans (maybe it was created as a watching post to keep an eye on Attilan on the dark side of the Moon?) Or, is it a tie in to the more Cosmic side of the MCU? I got some serious Ravager vibes from that room.
Only time will tell.
So that does it for this season. Have a fun summer, see a bunch of movies, spend time with friends and family, vote asshole representatives out of office, and pay attention to the world around you. Be the change you want to see in your life and in the world. We’re all in this together.