Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 4, Episode 22, “World’s End”
For all the creative mastery and breakneck plotting that has unfolded over the season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may have left a little too much on its plate to tie up in the season finale.
The final episode had thrills, twists and action in spades, though somehow, all of the quality components didn’t quite to combine into a satisfying whole.
The Framework lingering into this episode did generate tension in its race against the clock with Mack and YoYo still inside, as the program slowly erases itself. However, that plot line stole away time from the return of Ghost Rider, and his mission to return the rampaging Aida to the darkness from whence she came.
With so much going on, the journey was fun, but the final resolution felt a little rushed.
Aida spends much of the front half of the episode still wanting to burn down the world, and turn it into what it was in The Framework. The Russian does his part by bringing up anti-SHIELD, anti-Inhuman rhetoric in a meeting of the world’s intelligence community, right before a RoboDaisy strolls in and shoots Gen. Talbot in the head.
The whole thing is caught on tape (why are there cameras in a meeting of spies, exactly?) and once it comes out, there will be hell to pay with the public. The good thing about this meeting is that the bad guys left the Darkhold behind, and their evil robots get taken out by the 1-2 combo of Ghost Rider and Daisy.
Coulson is weary of playing chase and decides to lay a trap for Aida in the burnt out husk of the base, now that he’s sure that Ghost Rider can stop her.
In this trap, the show executes two of the best fake-outs in series history. First, they make it appear that Aida stabbed Jemma in the chest with a screwdriver, then finished the job with a jolt of electricity to the ready-made lightning rod.
In the second, it seems as if Coulson is trapped with The Darkhold. In fact, it was Aida who was trapped, because Jemma comes around the corner (Surprise! It was an LMD with Fitz!) with a machine gun. The gun does nothing but satisfy Jemma’s bloodlust, and stall long enough for Coulson to revel his surprise – the Sprit of Vengeance is inside him, instead of Robbie.
Aida and flaming-skull Coulson have an all-too-brief battle where they fall through various teleportation portals before they finally end up where they started, and Ghost Rider uses his power to turn Aida to ash, ending the threat.
The end goes off the rails only in the way S.H.I.E.L.D. can. After the team says their good-byes to Robbie and the Darkhold, they gather together in a diner for some post-arrest breakfast. Right as the dessert options are being discussed, a literally shadowy agency clears out the diner, and freezes the heroes Men in Black style for transport, wherever.
We discover in the stinger that “wherever” happens to be some kind of prison in deep space, where Coulson (and most likely the rest of the team) are doing hard labor. See you next season!
The season of AoS has been so consistently solid, it’s disappointing that the finale just felt slightly off because it was a little too busy. A bit more focus on the team coming together to resolve the Aida problem would have made it a perfect ending.
Make no mistake, just because the finale has a few flaws, doesn’t take away from the fact that despite being four years down the road, the series is as creatively fresh and inventive as it’s ever been.