“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is close to wrapping up Season 4, a season that has felt noticeably different than the prior three seasons. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” typically covers one storyline per season: Season 1 followed Hydra and the Clairvoyant, Season 2 focused on Hydra and the Inhumans and Season 3 tackled the ancient Inhuman Hive and his origin. Season 4, however, was divided into three storylines, or “pods”: the first pod covered Ghost Rider, the second focused on Life Model Decoys and the third takes place in the Framework, a virtual world where Hydra rules and S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone.
This divergence from the traditional single-season storyline has provided the writers, cast and crew with opportunities to tell three stories at once, a style choice that Clark Gregg says has resulted in “the best season we’ve ever done.” During a press roundtable at WonderCon, Gregg said, “In fact, it’s the best three seasons we’ve ever done because it’s got these three separate sections that I really stack up against anything.” Gregg added that he is “really proud” of what “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” did this season.
What they did this season was cover a hefty amount of comic book canon and character development. Season 4 first introduced Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider, the Spirit of Vengence, his little brother Gabe, the iconic hell charger and the mystical Darkhold book. The Darkhold — which was first introduced to Marvel Comics in 1972 — is the item that has connected this entire season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” As Robbie, Mack and Coulson were trapped in another dimension, the Life Model Decoy Aida — who made her Marvel Comics debut in 1986 — read the book and used its power to bring them back.
The Darkhold has since altered Aida’s programming, giving her the idea to expand the Framework and replace S.H.I.E.L.D.’s top agents with more LMDs. While the Darkhold is the connective tissue between these three pods, they each served a purpose and a focus, which made the show feel, as Gregg pointed out, like three separate seasons rolled into one. Henry Simmons, who plays Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie, praised the producers for this, saying, “It’s so brave of the producers to do this. They had a format and this season they just tore it to shreds.” Referencing the current Framework storyline, Simmons said, “The last one [pod] is unlike anything we’ve ever done — I love it.”
Executive Producer Jeph Loeb also honored the series’ writers and producers. “Big hats of to showrunner Jed [Whedon], Maurissa [Tancharoen], Jeff Bell and all the writing staff,” Loeb shared. “It’s hard to believe that we actually began this season introducing Ghost Rider… then to shift those gears and go into LMD, which is a ‘who do you trust’ paranoid thriller, and then to change it again and have it become an alt-reality that comments on the real world… having all of those elements put together is extraordinary.” Loeb also encouraged people to not wait until a season is over to binge it: “‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ has become the show you need to watch the night that it’s on.”
Chloe Bennet, who plays Daisy “Quake” Johnson, went through the most changes this season. During the first pod, she was on the run, taking down Watchdog packs as a superpowered Inhuman rebel. In the second, Daisy came back to S.H.I.E.L.D. and was eventually reinstated as an agent. In this third pod, which began last week in “What If…,” Daisy is a Hydra agent, self-aware but stuck inside the Framework. According to Bennet, “It’s the land of miniseries right now, so to make 22 episodes and turn it into three different seasons — that’s what people want to watch right now. It’s crazy to think that this season I was running around the east side of L.A. with 8 lbs of goth makeup on and chains in 100-degree heat.”
Daisy has come a long way since the Ghost Rider arc. She was considered a fallen agent and was even disavowed by S.H.I.E.L.D. for her Robin Hood-esque vigilante actions. Now, Daisy and Simmons are the only people standing between Aida and her insidious Framework. The two of them need to wake up everyone who is trapped inside the Framework — which is currently Agent May, Coulson, Fitz, and Director Mace — and stop Aida, as well as somehow recover and destroy the Darkhold. If they can accomplish that in the next five episodes, they will have singlehandedly saved their friends from a Hydra-run nightmare and the world from whatever Aida has planned as her end game.
Airing Tuesdays at 10 pm ET/PT on ABC, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” stars Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, Chloe Bennet as Daisy “Quake” Johnson, Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May, Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz, Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons, Henry Simmons as Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie and more.