While it is not uncommon for shows to split their seasons in two in terms of story arcs, Marvel’s Agents of Shield takes the season-splitting to a new level as it divided into three creatively and aptly titled arcs. With a season five and another new time-slot on the horizon, what do we hope for as our agents enter uncharted territory?
During Agents of Shield Season 4, loyal viewers were introduced to the Ghost Rider, to LMDs, and a Hydra-headed reality, through three separate story arcs tied together by one slightly unsettling robot storyline.
When we left our heroine Daisy Johnson in Season 3, she was reeling from the loss of Lincoln Campbell, arguably the love of her life, and she had gone on the run. Away from home, without her work family, she found an appropriate foil in the form of the arc’s eponymous fire-powered Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes. In a show that had gotten almost downright depressing after Season 1’s Hydra reveal, Robbie Reyes was a breath of fresh air. His love for his disabled brother, Gabe, was absolutely heartwarming. Meanwhile, his banter and chemistry with Daisy was one hundred times more riveting than half of what was going on at Shield HQ.
Back at the playground, our favorite agents struggled under the weight of new Director Jeffrey Mace, while also grappling with the departure of one of their own. It’s not that Mace wasn’t an interesting character, but that the storyline feels like a cop-out. When we’d first heard the words “new director” during the Season 3 finale, we’d expected it to be Melinda May or Maria Hill, not a barely competent man who only got the job because he was the White Knight Figurehead the organization needed.
Even when the antics at Shield finally connected with Daisy and Robbie’s vigilante shenanigans through the Darkhold storyline, it still wasn’t enough. The Darkhold provided the driving force throughout the arc, but since the race for it occurred against villains not even close to as charismatic as John Garrett, emotionally devastating as Jiaying, or as powerful as Hydra, the storyline fell flat.
If we’d had to suffer through 11 episodes of a Darkhold-driven arc, it’s no doubt that viewers would have lost their minds. However, Agents of Shield‘s risky new arc division worked to its advantage. There wasn’t as much boring filler that padded the show’s previous half-season arcs, and the writers were able to deliver some really strong episodes as it all came down to the wire. The only flaw of the season structure was the fact that Robbie Reyes had to leave at the end, having served his purpose. But, that loss was soothed by the work of breakout star Mallory Jansen as LMD Aida. Though Agents of Shield pretty much followed the “Robot searching for sentience and autonomy” storyline from every robot media ever, Jansen’s work throughout this arc and the latter two kept Aida’s character compelling, even if she was a villain.
With the departure of the Ghost Rider, the second piece of Agents of Shield Season 4 focused on the replacement of Melinda May, along with the new realities of inhuman persecution.
While it was a bit frustrating to see all of our heroes just walk by and not notice that their friend was simply gone and replaced, there’s no denying that Ming Na Wen acted the hell out of LMD May. The romantic tension and unfortunate kiss between the LMD May and Phil Coulson was well-played. The heroic actions of LMD May in the Season 4 Episode 15 episode “Self Control” should go down as one of the Agents of Shield‘s best moments.
Less entertaining was the rising prominence of Senator Ellen Nadeer and introduction of Inhuman-hater Anton Ivanov. I couldn’t help but feel discomfort as I saw a woman of color portray an allegory for a racist. Meanwhile, despite actor Zach McGowan’s best efforts, Anton Ivanov’s Russian accent was just shy of believable.
If the Ghost Rider arc was just shy of solid, then the LMD arc truly set a foundation for Shield’s best arc yet. The arc’s finale, Season 4 Episode 15 episode “Self Control” was soul-shattering, heart-stopping, and blood-pounding all at once. Our heroes were betrayed and replaced, while their base was exploded after a fight with LMDs. The episode, and the arc itself, gave us some of the best reveals since the Grant Ward reveal first graced our screens during Season 1, and it’s all thanks to the new format. The arc format kept everything fresh and prevented the Darkhold-AI storyline from feeling like it was dragging out.
Agents of Hydra
While the previous arcs stayed in relatively familiar territory, Agents of Shield‘s “What If” arc thrust its heroes into a new world, called “the Framework”. A new world where the bad guys won, where the villains are heroes, and the fallen heroes can return.
In this real world where the bad guys did win, it was absolutely refreshing to see a world where two of our fictional female heroines join the resistance and fight the man (even if the man looked like Richard Spencer gave Leopold Fitz a slightly horrifying makeover).
Unexpectedly, this arc saw Jeffrey Mace fight and die for the resistance, which provided an extremely vital moment of emotional gravitas and reverse-fridging. If that wasn’t enough, longtime fans got to see longtime favorite Antoine Triplett return. Triplett had always been too good, and too moral, for a show that had since tried to become realistic and gritty. But, you can’t deny how he really did create a bright spot in a dark arc. Even a heroic Grant Ward got in on the fun. Somehow, against all expectations, he created an extremely compelling hero out of an established villain. I would wholeheartedly watch a show about Framework Grant Ward and his friends fighting the man, if I could. But this isn’t that show. This is Agents of Shield, and it is politically relevant in its own, not-so-subtle way.
While some could argue that the Framework shenanigans were extremely entertaining and they ended far too soon, there’s no denying that the universe was almost wholly filler. There would have been no ramifications for anything that happened in that world, because nothing in that world was real. In a normally formatted show, the Framework would have dragged on for 8 or more episodes, eating away at true story time. However, with the new format, Agents of Shield managed to deliver entertaining filler, an impactful overarching storyline, and an interesting conclusion.
And that’s not even touching on the cliffhanger, yet.
When we last left our eponymous agents, they had been kidnapped in the middle of meal by some shady government agents. Just before the credits rolled, we saw a forlorn-looking Phil Coulson looking into the vastness of space from the emptiness of his own space station, with no clue of how the characters were doing.
It would be a great injustice if Agents of Shield didn’t continue its successful and enticing 3-arc format. The best option would be one flashback-filled arc of the team’s new life in space, one arc revolving around the race to get back to the ground after the discovery of a new issue, and one arc refocusing the show around inhuman drama.
An even greater injustice would be had if Robbie Reyes did not return as the Ghost Rider. After his arc, he returned for one episode, where he flirted with Daisy, destroyed some bad guys, and then left again. Now that Daisy has had some time to mourn her beloved Lincoln, she could be ready to start a new relationship, and Robbie would be the perfect candidate. If not, then he and Elena could start a Latinx superheroes squad. They could even invite Joey Gutierrez back on the show and into the mix, if actor Juan Pablo Raba was into it.
After seasons and seasons of romantic drama, it’s time for Agents of Shield Season 5 to have its couples and characters happy. Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons should not have any more big, dramatic separations. Phil Coulson and Melinda May should stop skirting around their feelings. Alphonso Mackenzie and Elena Rodriguez should just continue without any pressing issue. Daisy Johnson should find happiness, with or without a romantic partner.
With the move to Fridays and the push back to midseason, there’s been speculation amongst fans that Agents of Shield will end with Season 5. Whether that is true or not, let’s hope our favorite forgotten Marvel show will end on a high note.
What did you think of the new format and the Aida arc? Let us know in the comments below!