This season marked new territory for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. With the move to the later timeslot of 10pm meant the possibility of darker and maybe more mature subject matter. Of course it did not go as far as the Netflix Marvel shows but it was definitely different. This along with this season’s new style of storytelling with three separate storylines encompassing the season.
Last season ended with a flashforward of Coulson and a much different S.H.I.E.L.D. hunting Daisy. We learned that she had indeed gone rogue, hunting Watchdogs on her own. During her time, she ran into a man named Robbie Reyes (Gabriel Luna), also known as Ghost Rider, who appeared to be on the same mission. He and Daisy were great together so seeing what he can do, she wanted them to team up but he was reluctant. They eventually ended up working together.
A group of mystical ghosts related to Robbie’s uncle Eli (José Zuniga) needed the Darkhold to try and become humans again. Robbie decided to help them with Eli but his Ghost Rider side wanted to put an end to this as well. The team broke Eli out of prison but it wasn’t easy to keep Daisy, Robbie, and their abilities out of the public eye, especially at a time where Inhumans were a big issue.
The new director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Jeffrey Mace (Jason O’Mara) was also an Inhuman, or so it seemed, and he had a drastically different way of doing things. He was more of a face for the organization who wanted to take the it public. In doing so, he faced opposition from Senator Nadeer (Parminder Nagra) who was publically against Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D.. We later learned that she was working for someone else called Anton Ivanov/The Superior (Zach McGowan). He was related to the Russian general who betrayed Bobbi and Hunter. Once Mace was exposed for not being an Inhuman, he took a backseat to Coulson while he remained the face of S.H.I.E.L.D..
We later learned that Eli was responsible for the scientists who he was working with becoming ghosts because he wanted the power from the Darkhold all to himself. Now that he was out of prison, he took another crack at getting that power but that was short lived when Ghost Rider finally took him to another dimension. Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider was a fun addition to the show, and still is, because of his great chemistry with Daisy.
That was the end of the first storyline but before we move on, there is one more thing worth mentioning and that was Radcliffe and the Life Model Decoy (or LMD) his was building in secret. After he was saved by S.H.I.E.L.D., he had to follow a strict set of rules where building this LMD was obviously not allowed. Fitz reminded him as much when he first saw his creation, a realistic android named Aida (Mallory Jansen). Radcliffe convinced Fitz to help him finish her and to keep it a secret that ended up not lasting very long. It didn’t seem like it at the time but Aida would end up playing a significant role this entire season.
The middle storyline dealt with LMDs but the characters didn’t know that until much later and that was what made it exciting to watch. Because the LMDs were so realistic, it was hard to tell whether certain characters were real or not. First, they had to deal with Aida who appeared to have gone rogue in a failed attempt to steal the Darkhold, however, it was revealed that Radcliffe had programmed her to do it because he wanted the Darkhold for himself. Not only did they have to deal with that, the team had to deal with that along with Nadeer and the Watchdogs.
Another interesting part of this storyline was the addition of a May LMD created by Radcliffe to retrieve the Darkhold. This was definitely a showcase for Ming-Na Wen, playing different versions of the same character. The fake May had a fun relationship with Coulson but she was unsuccessful in retrieving the Darkhold. Radcliffe’s plan was to replace himself within S.H.I.E.L.D. with a LMD of himself while he was under Nadeer and the Superior’s protection.
On a mission at an old Russian submarine base, the team got separated and lost communications under odd circumstances which did not become prevalent until the following episode entitled Self Control (read my 10/10 review here). In this episode, it was revealed that most of the team were replaced by LMDs so what made this episode in particular so exciting was that it was hard to tell who was real and who wasn’t. The tension was there, the action was there, the emotion was there and it was eventually revealed that Daisy and Simmons were the only ones remaining.
Since May was replaced by an LMD, her consciousness was connected to a computer simulation called the framework. The simulation created a new that felt so real that it was hard to tell the difference between this world and the real world. Since Coulson, Mace, Mack, and Fitz were replaced, they were also in the framework. To try and save them, Daisy and Simmons managed to hack into the framework and entered it.
The majority of the last storyline occurred in the framework. The difference was that this world and the other characters within the framework were much different. Below are some of the main differences:
- May: In the framework, May didn’t kill Katya in Bahrain instead she saved her and May is now an agent of Hydra.
- Coulson: In the framework, Coulson never joined S.H.I.E.L.D. and instead became a high school history teacher.
- Fitz: In the framework, Fitz is a scientist working for Hydra, experimenting on inhumans. Fitz is also in a romantic relationship with AIDA.
- S.H.I.E.L.D.: In the framework, Hydra destroyed S.H.I.E.L.D. and now controls the government.
- AIDA: In the framework, AIDA is the director of Hydra and is in a romantic relationship with Fitz.
- Simmons: In the framework, Simmons was killed in lab accident at the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy for Science and Technology. However, this was a cover up and the truth is Simmons was murdered by Hydra along with hundreds of other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
- Daisy: In the framework, Daisy still goes by Skye, doesn’t know she’s an inhuman, and is an agent of Hydra.
- Mack: In the framework, Mack lives a solitary life with his daughter Hope who passed away in the real world.
- Mace: In the framework, Mace was the leader of the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D., serving as the resistance to Hydra.
- Radcliffe: Believing him to be a threat to the framework, Radcliffe is connected to the framework and is then killed by Aida.
It was fun to see these great actors play different versions of their characters and this new dynamic was compelling to watch. To them, they felt like they’ve lived completely different lives so it wasn’t going to be easy for Daisy and Simmons to convince them that it wasn’t real. There was just something that was very emotional about pulling them away from these new lives and it was exciting to watch as it was easy to relate to Daisy and Simmons’ sense of urgency, being the only normal people in this bizarro world.
While this was happening, Daisy and Simmons were in the middle of a battle between Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D.. Now that Hydra controlled the government, they’ve enacted martial law after rallying the people against Inhumans. Things appeared to be hopeless but a resistance was building thanks to the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. which was thought to be destroyed.
On the other hand, Aida and Fitz were in a romantic relationship while leading Hydra in the framework. This was definitely a big difference for Fitz where he got to show more of an evil side and it worked marvelously thanks to Iain De Caestecker’s performance. He has consistently been great throughout the series and he was even better here. Fitz’s evolving relationship with Simmons was one of the most compelling things to watch this season thanks to De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge’s performances. There was already some friction between them but Simmons seeing Fitz do the evil things he did took it to another level.
Coming out of the framework, they did not only have to deal with the repercussions of their actions in the framework but they also had to deal with Aida and her new super-powered body that she created for herself with the help of the Darkhold. Just like the other actors had their showcase moments, Mallory Jansen had many as Aida with this perhaps best of those being here with Aida getting used to her newfound humanity and dealing with Fitz’s rejection that sent her over the edge.
She was stopped by Ghost Rider who returned for the finale but Coulson and the gang could not get away from the damage they’ve caused over the course of the season. While the team had their “shawarma” moment, they were taken by a mysterious group with the last shot of the season being of Coulson in space.
Overall, this was an excellent season, the best season so far, which just got better as the season went on, elevated by the performances and the amazing chemistry between the cast. Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider was a fun addition to the story, the LMD arc was both exciting and suspenseful (leading to the best episode so far), and the framework kept the suspense and excitement while taking things to another emotional level. After the cliffhanger, I can’t wait to see what will happen next. Although next season will again move to a new timeslot on Fridays, I’m not worried.