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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Return - Review

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “The Return” was written by the showrunning team of Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon and was directed by Kevin Tancharoen. We can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that this fabulous show has been renewed!! BUT it worries me a little that these three have done the second last episode of the season – and not the last which should set us up for next season. I do hope that we aren’t in danger of losing them – not that Jeffrey Bell and Billy Gierhart – writer and director of the season finale – aren’t great too… This episode was fantastic, and in an episode with some really terrific performances, I still have to single out Mallory Jansen for Ophelia’s EPIC meltdown on being the woman scorned.

The action picks up with Ivanov (Zach McGowan) reading the Darkhold – and that can’t be good. I loved the gimmick of him “talking to himself” and then we find out he means it literally and there’s an army of them – all controlled by his head-in-a-jar! I can’t wait until someone finds that… He goes to check on Aida to see if she’s a real girl yet, and comes upon Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May (Ming-Na Wen) just as Aida and Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) bamf out.

I loved Coulson freaking out that Aida now had powers – and wanting to know if they could maybe get a break! May suggests that HYDRA wasn’t assessing powers so much as collecting them. Perhaps that is what Fitz’s machine was doing – draining powers from Inhumans? Both are having some difficulty in sorting through the memories of two lives. The two’s reunion is cut short by the appearance of Ivanov.

Coulson fills May in with the short version of who Ivanov is – “you can shoot him” – but the trouble is that she can’t. In another favorite moment, Ivanov tells Coulson that he can’t hide behind his shield anymore, and Coulson takes his face off with it – “That’s not all they’re good for!”

It’s also clear that everyone is on the same page about robots now! Coulson and May are trapped by the army of Ivanovs. Coulson explains that Radcliffe (John Hannah) teamed up with the Russian for protection. May laments that she should have stayed in the spa! She’s sure that Coulson must have spotted her decoy right away, and I loved Coulson firing back at her “Yeah. Cuz you’re never robotic at all…” May then kids that they must not be as close as she thought and wants to know what finally tipped it. Coulson hedges with “a series of events” prompting May to ask if things got “messy” between them. It was clear that Gregg and Wen were having a blast shooting this scene! And of course, May is thinking messy in one way – and it was totally the other way! It’s such a relative term!

Coulson also catches May up on Robbie – which is a nice nod to the end of the episode. May insists that when this is all over, they definitely have to open that bottle of Haig – but of course robo-May and Coulson have already drank it… Coulson points out that they can’t just escape because they can’t disconnect Mack. They have to take control of the space by force even though they can barely stand.

Meanwhile, the Zephyr is still under attack. Davis (Maximilian Osinski) is at the controls and Piper (Briana Venskus) is ready to take the guns – just as soon as they can get power restored to them. Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) wants to know what happened with Mack (Henry Simmons), but Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) put her off as they have more pressing concerns – like the plane is on fire.

The team works together to get the power up and running, and Piper manages to nail the ship coming kamikaze at them in the nick of time. Then they are on the way to the oil rig to help save the rest of the team. Simmons worries about how Fitz will be doing. She knows that waking up to find out that he was the monster is going to be devastating.

And the action cuts to Aida and Fitz on the beach. She’s overwhelmed with actual emotion and sensation, but she knows that Fitz must also be overwhelmed with memories of two lives. But Fitz is devastated. He’s convinced that only a monster could do what he did in the Framework. I absolutely adored his coming to terms with what he did – and it leading him to an understanding – of sorts – of Ward (Brett Dalton). I’m so glad that the writers had a chance to revisit that storyline and make it really explicit that Ward wasn’t by his nature evil and that he was very much a product of his environment.

Surprisingly, Aida offers Fitz comfort by telling him that he only did what he had to to survive the Framework and more interestingly she reassures him that it wasn’t real – just an illusion. Of course, that illusion is the place where he was in love with her – not the real world. She also absolves herself of any culpability in what happened there by saying it was created by Radcliffe – which is definitely an over statement! But Fitz remember her as being there, encouraging him at his side to commit horrible acts!

Aida insists that she was a slave. Fitz insists that she manipulated him, but she denies it, saying all she did was restore his relationship with his father – everything else was completely Fitz’s choice. We do find out that Aida insinuated herself into his life at pretty much the exact moment he should have been meeting Simmons – the first day at the Academy. Aida tells him that she had to learn how to befriend someone, but she never actually felt anything until now. She tells him that she’s now free to make her own choices, and the first thing she chooses is him! Yeah. You might finally be able to feel Aida, but you totally don’t get how this works…

Once the crisis is averted, Yo-Yo insists on knowing why Daisy didn’t bring Mack back. Daisy insists she tried, but Mack didn’t want to come. Yo-Yo is furious and tells Daisy she should have hit him over the head or something and made him come. Cordova-Buckley is fantastic in this scene as we really see Yo-Yo’s love for Mack. Daisy tries to make the point that she’s known Mack longer, but it’s Yo-Yo who knew about Hope, not Daisy, proving who is really closer to Mack.

Daisy tells Yo-Yo that in the Framework, Hope is 10 – and adorable and smart and Mack’s whole world – and he refused to leave her. Yo-Yo adds “even for me,” but Daisy points out that Mack didn’t remember her in the Framework. Yo-Yo is ready to go and remind him, but Daisy insists it’s too dangerous and they need Yo-Yo in the real world, helping to protect Mack and rescue Coulson and the others. I loved the transitions throughout this episode, but this was a great one. Daisy says that the others have woken up with no idea where they are and….

We’re back in the oil rig with Coulson telling May he thinks he knows where they are! It’s actually funny that he knows from being a history teacher – not a S.H.I.E.L.D. briefing! May has found some epinephrine and insists on taking one for the team to power up to fight the robots. She insists that Mace should be there – and it’s clear that she’s feeling guilty over what happened too. Coulson points out that she’ll be useless after the epinephrine wears off. We get another uncomfortable moment when May tells Coulson he can give her mouth to mouth if it comes to it.

May realizes that something is up with Coulson – and once again she comes to the wrong conclusion. She asks if her robot-self made a move on him… but once again, she thinks robo-May tried to kill Coulson! He deflects her by saying that was it – and it was messed up! I loved the look on Coulson’s face! Is he embarrassed? Worried she doesn’t really feel that way?

Simmons is frantic to get to the oil rig and wants to know why they haven’t put down to re-charge and re-fuel, and they discover that Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) is all over the news. Mace’s body was discovered – and we learn later that Ivanov broke every bone in his body to make it look like Daisy killed him. He’s declared the S.H.I.E.L.D. members behind it terrorists and criminals.

Aida has prepared a “familiar place” for Fitz to sort through all his memories. She sees that Fitz is not happy. She gushes over all her senses. Fitz asks if she can feel empathy – and if she can imagine how her actions could be perceived. He points out that she was ruthless. She defends herself by saying she was ruthless to win the heart of the man she loved – which, of course, she couldn’t feel then… Aida explains that she was programed to make them all happy – she thought the presence of his father would make him happy. Fitz wants to know who else is on the list – and wants to know what she promised the Russian! What’s waiting for his friends?

And that brought us right back to the Russian – love how carefully structured this episode is! We get a great fight scene with May totally hopped up on adrenaline – until she collapses. They both wonder why they haven’t simply flooded the place – they know they’re stalling but not why. Ivanov needed time to box up and remove all the equipment – and likely his head.

Coulson tells May that he drank the bottle of Haig, just as the flooding starts. Coulson is determined to help May to get to the surface and then he’ll go back to get Mack out.

Aida suddenly has to deal with all the emotions. She can’t think clearly to know what to do – to analyze the situation. She realizes that she’s afraid to die. Fitz keeps his head and persuades her to put herself in their position, to feel compassion. They don’t want to die either.

Aida tries to call off Ivanov. She realizes that what she did was wrong, that she hurt people and she doesn’t want to hurt anyone else. Ivanov is clearly enjoying her suffering and rubs in the fact that she is now suffering from the one thing she tried to remove for everyone else: regret. It’s deliciously ironic! And Ivanov points out that it’s a good example of irony! He also points out that they are both free now. Ivanov also points out that she is like an infant with her emotions – she doesn’t know how to process them.

Ivanov tells Aida that his plan is in motion and there’s nothing she can do to stop it. He also points out that only he knows where his head is. Aida does do the right thing, however, and bamfs in with Fitz to bring Mack out. Luckily, Daisy and Yo-Yo are there with the containment pod to bring out Coulson and May. Aida feels the rush of having saved a life, right before Simmons ices both Fitz and Aida where they’ve bamfed into the Zephyr. Simmons gives the order to go “home.”

The team arrives back at the base and are all appalled at what the base looks like – and they have to tell May and Coulson that it was them – or their robot-selfs – who destroyed it. They get one of the special rooms prepared for Fitz and Aida – it’s set to contain her teleportation and is based on the one they’d designed for Gordon. Yo-Yo is ready to take care of her by taking of her head – like last time. I loved Coulson calling her Sweeney Todd! He points out that unlike last time, she’s now a “real” person – but is she really? Daisy points out that she saved Mack.

Simmons argues in favor of killing Madame Hydra, but May also insists that there’s been enough killing. Simmons wants to know what they remember from the Framework. May says it wasn’t real – and Simmons jumps on that as hope that it was just like a dream. But May corrects her – “a life.” Simmons presses, wanting to know that this is real. Daisy points out that Simmons is afraid that Fritz will be the same person he was in the framework, but Yo-Yo corrects her. Simmons is afraid that he still loves someone else.

Once again, we have a terrific segue into the next scene. Fitz tells Aida that she did a good thing saving Mack, and she tells him that it was the best moment of her life. She wonders if the others will ever be able to forgive her. Fitz tells her that he thinks they’ll be able to forgive her, but not him. He’s still struggling with who he is. I loved that this scene was intercut with Simmons watching on a monitor – and Henstridge and De Caestecker are both amazing in this scene as we see the depth of both of their pain.

Aida tries again to make Fitz feel better by telling him his actions weren’t his fault. They were programmed into him by an overbearing father figure. And the penny drops for Fitz: He’s just like Ward. Fitz immediately thinks of Simmons and how she’ll ever be able to look him in the eye again – especially after having seen him shoot that woman. Simmons is equally torn up about Fitz’s pain. Both Aida and Simmons know he’s talking about losing Simmons’ respect and love.

Aida tells Fitz that one of the reasons she wanted to get close to him in the first place was to understand the love between Fitz and Simmons. Fitz refers to it in the past tense. Fitz thinks his future with Jemma is dead. Aida has killed that too. At this point, it seems likely that Simmons thinks that Fitz doesn’t love her any more – rather than that he thinks she can’t possibly still love him. Aida clearly thinks the same thing as she scoots closer to him.

Fitz goes on that there isn’t room in his heart for two people. He tells Aida that she was everything to him in the Framework, and she tells him that she understands him better now – how deeply he loves. Fitz looks at her and tells her that she does understand him. She understands that his love will never fade. Fitz says yes. There’s only love in his heart for… Jemma! Simmons and Aida both look stunned – but only one of them is happy…

And this explains why Fitz has always had problems with women! It takes him a minute to realize that he’s just said the very, very wrong thing and he attempts to backtrack. And then Aida has an epic meltdown. Mallory Jansen is every screaming, scorned harpy ever – all rolled up in one! She nails this scene because of course Aida is a toddler having a tantrum.

Aida insists that she chose Fitz, so he must chose her – and he tries to explain to her that that’s not how it works. She insists that they’ll build a life together whether she wants to or not. She tries to bampf out but can’t. Fitz gets into the containment pod and is rescued by Piper, Davis, and Prince (Ricardo Walker). They think that she’s contained, but Fitz tells them that teleportation isn’t her only power. There’s been some discussion of whether she should have been able to get out of the containment room because it would have been programmed for Lincoln too – and that seems to be the power she uses to get out. I was sure that each room was programmed for the specific power it was meant to contain, but others dispute this. Robbie got out of the containment pod because he’s supernatural as opposed to Inhuman – or so the theory goes. Regardless, Aida does get out…

Simmons goes for help to get Fitz out of the room only to run right into Talbot arriving with his men to take them all into custody. Talbot is sure that they are all robots – you can’t really blame him this time. Talbot once an explanation for Mace’s body, dead Agents, and finding the base in flames. Coulson says he can try…

Meanwhile, Aida bamfs in just as Fitz and our Agents are challenged by Talbot’s men. She kills one of the soldiers. Talbot and the others hear “it’s everywhere” and Talbot wants to know what that means. He immediately thinks it’s “Speedy Gonzalez” – and isn’t that the perfect nickname for Yo-Yo?!?! But May immediately says – ominously – “she got out.” Yo-Yo is mysteriously missing of course.

Meanwhile, Aida bamfs in and kills Prince. Piper escapes with Fitz in the containment pod and Davis pumps Aida full of bullets – but Fitz screams that she can’t be killed and begs Piper to leave him. It sure looks like we may have just lost Davis – BUT we don’t see his actual death or a body… so basic rules apply. He’s alive until we see a body…

Fitz tells them to take off or Aida will kill them all. He screams at May that she’s the only other one who knows about the Inhumans that were tested in the Framework. That suggests to me that Aida’s power is actually something they haven’t seen in reality – or why not just say she’s got Lincoln’s powers or someone else’s?

Daisy tells Talbot that he and his men can come with them if they drop their guns. Coulson suggests they don’t stay, but Talbot falls back with his men. It's particularly interesting that Daisy takes the lead here, not Coulson. Is she moving into Mace's position already?

In a wonderful scene with no words – but that speaks volumes, Simmons comes to Fitz where he’s still sitting in the containment pod. He can’t bring himself to even look at her, but she sits down and takes him into her arms to comfort him as he sobs like his heart is breaking.

Coulson and Daisy finally wonder where Yo-Yo is, and of course, they find her hooked up to the Framework. She’s going after Mack. One has to wonder how they are going to get out without someone to quake open the backdoor. More to the point, of course, Yo-Yo wakes up tied to a table somewhere – how is she going to get out of that? It’s going to be interesting to see what the Framework world is like now that Fitz and Madam Hydra are gone…

Meanwhile, Aida has bamfed back to Ivanov’s submarine. She is distraught – she doesn’t want the twisted, torn up feeling she is now consumed by. Nothing Ivanov suggests is enough. She wants them all to suffer. And then she tells Ivanov to make her feel something else – she’s not interested in having sex, though – she kills him.

Talbot’s men find nothing in the base, so he tells them to clear out. He’s sending hazmat in at dawn. He’s no sooner out the door than the threshold that Aida created suddenly bursts into light and Ghost Rider returns!!!

This was another great episode. The writing on the show is terrific – with great humor and pathos. I loved all the clever transitions in this episode too. Great fight scenes and acting in this episode. De Caestecker, Henstridge, and Mallory all delivered superlative performances. It’s a shame that genre shows like this will never get awards nominations. I can’t wait to see the reunion between Mack and Yo-Yo and to see what brought Ghost Rider back. I can’t believe there’s only one episode left to the season! What did you think of the episode? What are you hoping to see before the end of the season? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!