‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ Season 4 Review: The Best ‘Comic-Book’ Show on TV Just Gets Even Better.
There has been a number of ”comic-book” shows to hit the airwaves since Agents of SHIELD made its debut in 2013. None of these shows however have been as consistently good as AoS has been over those years. As each season has gone, the show has gotten darker and grittier, making it a excellent counterpart to the flashy DC/CW shows.
This season of Agents of SHIELD not only connected us to the bigger Marvel universe, but showcased the best of SHIELD’s only little world it has carved out for its self on the show. A terrific season from almost start to finish, with only just a few little hiccups at the beginning, this season of AoS was not just one of the best for any “comic-book” show on the air, but it highlighted that Agents of SHIELD is one of the best shows on television, period.
Season 4 showcased not just what we have come to expect from AoS over the years – drama, suspense, action with a little bit of humor mixed in as well. Not only did we get all that but add on the emotions of the arcs this season especially in the Agents of HYDRA arc.
Multiple team members got long-lasting character arcs as the trip into the Framework during the HYDRA arc let us see new sides to some of these characters – both good and bad. Also we got returns of some old fan-favorite characters they were sorely missed. Ships like FitzSimmons, Philinda and even SkyeWard all had moments that left fans talking for days. If you love comic-book shows or just damn good television, then this season of Agents of SHIELD left you breathless and wanting for more.
Splitting the season into Three Arcs
One move that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did for season 4 that helped fuel this season was the move to split the season into three different arcs. (Ghost Rider, LMD and HYDRA). Unlike most of the CW/DC shows that suffer when they do a season-long arc, AoS was able to keep things fresh by using the multiple arc plan. Each character got moments to shine thanks to this, and the show always felt fresh and energetic each week. Another thing that worked with the multiple arcs format was that although they were three separate arcs, they connected to each other through one way or another, thanks to the Darkhold book and the villain of the season , AIDA.
One of the most impressive things this season was that for each different arc, it felt like a different actor got to shine and deliver some of the best performances of the TV season. Whether it was Chloe Bennet during the “Ghost Rider” arc, showcasing a vulnerable, on the run Daisy Johnson or Ming-Na Wen showcasing why she is one of the most underrated actors in the business as she showed the growing humanity of a robotic Melinda May in the “LMD” arc. During the “Agents of HYDRA” arc, Iain De Caestecker showed us a dark and frightening Leo Fitz twisted by his stay in the Framework. All of these performances (and many more not listed) would be considered MVP-worthy and you would get no argument….except for one stand-out performance all season long.
As the robotic AIDA, then the evil Madame Hydra in the framework to finally the newly human, inhumanly powered Ophelia, Mallory Jansen was always a bright spot for season 4. We go to see her go from ally to nemesis during the season and your attention is always on the screen when she showed up. Also Mallory was able to make AIDA/Ophelia one of the most sympathetic and most hated characters in the show’s history when she lured Fitz to her side in her Framework world. Mallory’s performance showed that it’s good to be good, but she’s great when’s she’s bad.
Agents of HYDRA arc
A truth of any long-running TV show, especially those in the “comic-book” genre is that in later season they decide to take more risks with their story-lines. Some can miss badly and some can hit fairly well. “Agents of HYDRA” ended up making this season of AoS turn from a really good one to the best one they’ve had yet. Among these risks taken by the show thanks to AIDA’s Framework was that the “What If” induced world was letting us see new sides of long-established characters like Coulson, May and Mack. We got to see Daisy and Simmons risk everything to save their friends. We got so many highlights from just this arc: Old faces from the past (more on that in a second) ,the dark side of Leo Fitz, the heroic death of The Patriot and so much more. It was a risky gamble to do this but it more than paid out in the the end.
Ward and Trip’s returns
Getting another chance to enjoy a favorite character is rare on a TV show. Getting to do it twice is damn near impossible. Thanks to the framework world, we got to say hello (and goodbye) once more to Grant Ward and Antonie (Trip) Triplett. Even though these weren’t really them, by the time it was time to leave the framework, we were ready to take both of them back to the real world!
One thing Ward fans have always bemoaned is that Grant never got the chance at a redemption story-arc. Here they were able to get their wish, with highly positive results. Having him be a double agent but this time for the good guys at SHIELD was a nice touch. Also SkyeWard fans got to see him and Skye interact again and Skye got to see what a good man Grant could have been if not for people like John Garrett. His final scene of the season — his talk with Skye was a definite highlight, and a fitting farewell to him (Unless he comes back, which you can never rule out on here!)
Also returning was the man who brought the noise and the funk, Agent Trip. It was wonderful to see him again and even better that he was not HYDRA but still a good guy. Although he didn’t get to do much in this arc, it was still a great to see him again. #TripLives one more time.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Over the course of the season, The Superior was built up as a tough, bad-ass bent on revenge on Coulson. Sadly, however, not only was his reason for wanting to get revenge on Culson so lame (I couldn’t even remember it till I re-watched the episode.) Also, I lost count of how many times The Superior was beaten. Then when he returned as a LMD, the amount of times he was killed became almost laughable. In a season that delivered a all-time villain like AIDA, this guy looked like chump change next to her.
WHAT WE WANTED TO SEE MORE OF
While we did get a few moments of cuteness between the two in the”Ghost Rider” arc the last two lack for long stretches of time. Although I understand why, I had hoped we would get a little of it in the second arc at least. I’m not upset but just would have liked to have seen just a touch more of them away from SHIELD (Also for everyone else as well to be honest)
I always like seeing the stories of the agents behind the scenes. We got a little taste of that with us meeting normal agents like Agent Piper, Agent Burrows. It would’ve been nice if we found out a little more about them, even for just a episode. From the little we got to see of Agent Piper, I really enjoyed her. It would have been nice to see I would have felt that way about any other agents.
WHAT WE WANTED TO SEE LESS OF
It just felt icky at times to see all the bad stuff Fitz was doing in the framework world. Causing The Patriot’s death was just one of many different things that Fitz’s cruelly did in that world. Having hi say he cared nothing at all about Jemma in there was just the tip of the awfulness “The Doctor” pulled in there. I hope we never see that evil version of Fitz ever again.
“WHAT IF” (Episode 4×16) – We get to see how one decision has changed the team as Daisy and Jemma try to rescue them from a world they are unwilling to leave from.
“Self Control” (Episode 4×15) – The Best episode of the season, part thriller, part horror film, the base is overrun by LMD’s, we get FitzSimmons angst and a very surprising ending.
“The Laws of Inferno Dynamics” (Episode 4×08)- The ending of the Ghost Rider arc goes out with a bang as we also get our first glmipse at how bad AIDA will be.
“Farewell Cruel World” (Episode 4×20)- As the team finally escapes out of the framework , we see how the arc has scarred some of them permanently.
LEAST FAVORITE EPISODES
“Hot Potato Soup” (Episode 4×12) – A venture into adding a little humor to the LMD with the return of the Koenig Brothers, instead it just feels a little bit sloppy.
“Lockup” (Episode 4×05) – Probably the only filler episode of the season, the main story gets side-tracked somewhat with a plot invloving a inhuman becoming inhuman.
SEASON FINALE IMPRESSION
“World’s End’ not only felt like a solid season finale for the show but also for the direction the show has been on for the last few years. AIDA was taken down , thanks to a Ghost Rider-powered Coulson but also left many characters and their relationships still left unanswered. It felt like a definite “to be continued” ending to the season at the end as a mysterious group kidnapped the team and took them into space. One door closes as one door opens.
NEXT SEASON SPECULATION
After the cliffhanger of seeing Coulson looking out the ship’s window and seeing…well that he’s in space, one must ask “what’s next?” Early guesses would indicate a space adventure for our team as a time-jump is also very possible. How does this affect Fitz and Simmons and their hopes of mending their emotional wounds? Unknown but I have strong faith in the writing staff to do it right. Also having AoS in space gives the show lots of different Marvel characters to choose from that are in space. Whatever is next, the show and it’s creative team has earned the viewer’s faith that they will take them on a new and wondrous adventure that could be as great as season 4 was.
What did you think of Marvel’s Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D Season 4?