"The Return" might be the most generic title in the history of television episodes (well, with the exception of "Pilot"), but this episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. managed to stand out despite its anonymous moniker.
On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 Episode 21, the team emerged from the Framework and found themselves in a whole different kind of trouble.
It was very much an out of the frying pan, into the fire type of situation. Except instead of a fire, it was a base hidden underneath an oil rig in the middle of the ocean, filled with killer Russian robot men.
Coulson and May managed to fight their way through a pack of Ivanovs before the base flooded following a missile strike. However, one thing they did NOT manage to do was talk about the state of their relationship.
Did something weird happen with my robot self? Did I make a move on you? Did I try to...kill you?May [to Coulson]
May could sense that something weird was going on with Coulson and wanted to know if she had done something weird while in LMD form.
Coulson, awkward as ever, was reluctant to admit that they had gotten borderline romantic, and decided it was better to let May think she had tried to kill him.
May seemed to have no problem with this, which perfectly encapsulates how emotionally twisted all of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team members are.
I got here unscathed. Jeffrey didn't. He should be here, still in the fight. I've got to take one for the team.May [to Coulson]
Speaking of being emotionally twisted: Fitz continued to wrestle with his actions within the Framework while Aida teleported him from one idyllic location to the next, begging him to love her human self the way she loved him.
Fortunately, Fitz managed to play on Aida's newfound sense of empathy and convinced her to use her powers to save the team from the Ivanovs.
But Aida's glorious feelings of heroism were quickly blunted when Fitz confessed that he only had room in his heart for one woman. and it was Simmons.
I'm sorry. I was just programmed to make you happy. To make all of you happy.Aida [to Fitz]
Does it make me totally cold-hearted to have been disappointed when Fitz chose Simmons over Aida?
I can't help it; I was really enjoying Evil Fitz and was secretly hoping that some of the darkness in the character would carry over into the real world. It would have added an interesting twist to the show.
After all, Coulson and May said that their lives within the Framework felt like more than just the hazy, dissolving stuff of dreams; the memories they had from the Framework felt like actual, concrete memories from another life lived.
Fitz has clearly carried the weight of those memories over from the Framework into the real world, but despite his worries that he unearthed some horrifying evil within himself, it's obvious from his actions that he's still the same sweet Fitz.
He woke from the worst nightmare of all, one in which he was the monster.Simmons [on Fitz]
Simmons comforted a crying Fitz following his romantic confession and Aida's explosive escape from the base, but I can't imagine their relationship will be able to go back to the way it was right away.
I hope S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have good health insurance plans because FitzSimmons are going to need a lot of couple's therapy.
The show's other power couple, Yo-Yo and Mack, are also dealing with some big drama.
Why don't we chop off her head, like last time? Need a volunteer?Yo-Yo [on Aida]
At first, Yo-Yo blamed Daisy and Simmons for leaving Mack behind in the Framework, claiming that they only saved the people most important to them.
A pretty petty remark, considering how close Daisy and Mack were as partners, but the girl was seriously upset, so I'll give her a break.
But, even after Daisy explained the real situation, Yo-Yo was unable to let Mack go. Instead, she went ahead and plugged herself into the Framework in the hope of pulling Mack out herself.
Has the little puppet finally made herself into a real girl?Ivanov [on Aida]
However, the Hydra-controlled world of the Framework isn't as kind to a known Inhuman as it was to the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team. Yo-Yo has gotten herself into a bad situation and I'm not sure how the rest of the team is going to extricate her or Mack.
I'm crossing my fingers that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn't ditch two characters as charismatic as Yo-Yo and Mack in one go, but then again, that's exactly what they did with Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter when those two departed for their failed spinoff.
I had no idea. I had only emulated human reactions, but to actually feel?Aida
I say bring back Bobbi and Lance and have them, Yo-Yo and Mack team up to kick all kinds of bad guy butt. That's what I'd really like to see on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
And Aida? Well, she might have a human body now, but she's still no ordinary girl.
You're far from human. I read that book. There are things far beyond this universe, and you may be one of them.Ivanov [to Aida]
With the power of the Darkhold at her disposal and all of the emotional maturity of a toddler, unable to control her newfound feelings, Aida is ready to tear apart the world to avenge her heartbreak at the hands of Fitz.
Mallory Jansen's big blowup was totally awesome. I have loved everything she has done with this character over the course of this season; from calm and cool LMD to fiery superpowered being, the evolution has been utterly remarkable.
The episode ended with a big reveal that would have had a lot more impact if it hadn't already been spilled to pretty much every entertainment media outlet: the return of Ghost Rider.
You assume each and every one of them is a damn C-3PO unless told so by me.Talbot
Gabriel Luna's soulful, tortured performance as the cursed petrolhead was by far one of the highlights of the entire Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series for me, and I was very disappointed when he disappeared following the fall finale.
So, I would have jumped out of my seat with joy if Robbie Reyes' return had actually been a surprise. Instead, while I was still happy to see him again, the whole thing felt quite anticlimactic.
The Ghost Rider story arc from the beginning of this season was well received by critics and audience members alike, so it's no wonder that the show decided to bring him back for a last hurrah in the finale.
They call him the Russian. Because, you know, he's Russian.Coulson [to May, on Ivanov]
However, I have no idea why his return was leaked before the episode aired unless it was a strategic move designed to re-ignite some sparks of interest in the show's flagging ratings. Personally, I would have preferred to have avoided this particular spoiler.
Still, I'm not going complain too much. Instead, I'm going to be waiting on the edge of my seat to see what the show has in store for the big finale.
(Well, that's not entirely true. First, I'm going to sleep for awhile. It's past my bedtime But you get the idea.)
What did you think of "The Return"? Will Coulson tell May about his burgeoning feelings for her? Will Simmons and Fitz be able to salvage their relationship? And what will happen when Ghost Rider and Aida inevitably face off?
Remember, you can watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. online via TV Fanatic.
Lee Jutton was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She went into retirement in July of 2017. Follow her on Twitter.