“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”- A Sneak Preview of Season 4’s Final Episodes

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As fans of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” know- or should I say, “Agents of HYDRA”?- the second “pod” of season 4 ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, before the show somewhat unexpectedly went on hiatus for well over a month. Fortunately, the wait is almost over, with the show at long last returning next week, on Tuesday, April 4th.

In the slam-bang finale, “Self Control”- which incidentally also marked the show directorial debut by co-creator, head writer, executive producer and bro o’ Joss, Jed Whedon- we ended with Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) entering the topsy-turvy, insane virtual world of the so-called “Framework,” which was created by Aida (Mallory Jansen), with an assist from Radcliffe (John Hannah) and the nefarious Darkhold. (Check out that mind-blowing final scene again here.)

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In this “Matrix”-esque world, Hydra rules supreme, with many of our favorite characters assuming decidedly different roles than one might expect. Mack (Henry Simmons) was seemingly reunited and living a happy, domesticated life with his daughter; May (Ming-Na Wen) was seemingly working for Hydra and seen ensconced in their headquarters looking oddly content- or perhaps in the midst of preparing to take them down, knowing her- Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) appeared to be in the money and involved with some mystery woman that wasn’t Jemma.

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In addition, the newly-arrived Daisy was shocked to discover herself involved in a romantic relationship with none other than the returning Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), and as we see in the brief scene that was recently released ahead of the premiere- which you can see here– also working as a Hydra agent. Daisy, who, unlike most everyone else in the Framework, knows exactly where she is and what the deal is, rolls with the punches as Hydra beckons her and Ward on a new assignment involving hunting down Inhumans.

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Meanwhile, Jemma appears to be dead (!) in the Framework, though one assumes that her own arrival will shake things up to that end, not in the least in terms of Fitz, who appears to have moved on in her absence with someone else, and with much success, from the looks of things. (See also the included photo.) Of course, I’m assuming Jemma will not be dead when she “wakes up” in the Framework, but it’s not out of the question that she might well wake up in a casket, “Kill Bill, Volume 2”-style, given her character’s fate there. We shall see.

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Also, we catch a glimpse of Coulson as a school teacher, teaching what appears to be a class on “Inhumans and their negative intentions.” In a recently-released illustration (see pic above), a sly Easter Egg also reveals his lesson plan on the so-called “History of the Cambridge Incident,” which can’t be meaningless, needless to say. It will be interesting to see how that plays out as well.

Insofar as we know, Radcliffe himself is also in the Framework, having been put there against his will by Aida, who felt his human emotions were interfering with their grand scheme to replace all of the team with LMDs. One assumes he is living it up with the “real” Aida (also played by Jansen), who is likewise plugged in to the Framework, having opted for that over a prolonged nasty death from a deadly disease.

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That about catches us up to speed with where we left off. So far, in addition to the aforementioned details, we know a few more things, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, maybe skip the next few paragraphs. The first episode back is entitled, appropriately enough, “What If…” and the official synopsis for it reads as follows: “Daisy and Simmons uncover secrets and lies in a world gone mad. With Hydra in control, they are our only hope to save everyone.”

The following episode is entitled “Identity and Change” and the synopsis for it reads: “As Daisy and Simmons struggle to discover an escape route to the real world, the identity of the Inhuman leader of the Resistance is revealed.” Obviously, from those descriptions alone we can gather that, regardless of the circumstances of Jemma’s arrival, she will indeed be okay enough to find and meet up with Daisy and resume their “real” mission- to take down the Framework from within and wake everyone up to defeat Aida and the LMDs, and one assumes, the VR version of Hydra, along the way.

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We also know from the finale that Aida intentionally changed one “regret” of each of the people they inserted into the Framework, and that seems to have had a sort of “ripple effect” that has caused changes throughout said “reality.” That factor may go a long way towards explaining why each character is in the role they are, as well as why things are the way they are. For instance, we know that the ever-bad-ass May kept finding her way out of the Framework, which is why Aida did this in the first place, and her solution to the May situation was to give her a particularly formidable foe- and what could be more formidable than Hydra in the Marvel-verse?

As to the whole “regret” thing and how it effects everything else, I suppose it all depends on what each individual character’s regrets are, some of which are easier to decipher than others. Mack, for example, regrets not spending more time with his daughter, hence in the Framework, he has all the time in the world to do so. Ditto Radcliffe wanting to be with the “real” Aida, aka Agnes, which he gets to do as well in the Framework.

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However, what “regret” is being addressed by, say, Coulson now becoming a teacher is harder to figure out, as is why Fitz would either want to live a life without Jemma and/or be a rich tech wizard instead of an agent. Daisy’s scenario makes a bit more sense- she regrets things turned out the way they did with Ward, and wishes he hadn’t turned out to be “bad,” as it were. Now, he isn’t- but only in the context of the Framework, where it turns out both of them are now Hydra agents, which probably isn’t what Daisy had in mind…literally.

Of course, remember that Daisy and Jemma entered the Framework of their own free will, both knowing they were doing so, which means, unlike the others, they are self aware- for now, at least. What effect that has on how their scenarios play out remains to be seen, as well as how much they can resist the “reality” of their surroundings and not get sucked in to treating it like the real deal.

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The only other thing I know from reading up on the show online is that Ward won’t be the only familiar face from the past we see. Who else will crop up? The possibilities are pretty endless, though I imagine at least some of them will involve who is available or not. (Sadly, the recent, shocking demise of Bill Paxton effectively takes him off the list of potential returnees.) Some I wouldn’t mind seeing include: Lance Hunter (Nick Blood), Lincoln Campbell (Luke Mitchell) and especially Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki).

It would also be cool to see Raina (Ruth Negga) and Calvin Zabo (Kyle MacLachlan), but both have a lot on their plates as of late, between the former’s Oscar-nominated turn in “Loving,” which I’m sure left her in high demand, and the latter’s upcoming turn in the- yay!- resurrected “Twin Peaks” revival. But who knows, maybe they snuck in some cameos in between everything else.

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One that is definitely confirmed is Director Mace (Jason O’Mara), but it’s not as if he’s been gone long, so that’s sort of to be expected- no offense to O’Mara, certainly. Other possibilities include: Antoine Triplett (B.J. Britt), Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez), Kara Lynn Palamas (Maya Stojan), Victoria Hand (Saffron Burrows), Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer), Franklin Hall (Ian Hart), Akela Amador (Pascale Armand), Anne Weaver (Christine Adams), Joey Gutierrez (Juan Pablo Raba), and, of course, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders).

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I’d also include Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), but he is so consistently working that I doubt he’d have the time. Still, you never know. There’s also the possibility of a Ghost Rider/Robbie Reyes (Gabriel Luna) return, but I figure they’ll hold off on that for the time being. You never know, though, as the character was among those featured in a “reimagining” of the posters of the season thus far, with a Hydra bent, some of which can be seen within the body of this article.

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In addition, the show has released some nifty Hydra-friendly posters on Twitter, which I’ve also included here for your enjoyment. They don’t really reveal much, per se, beyond the expected anti-inhuman stance, but they are pretty cool. It will also be interesting to see what, if anything in the show serves as an “in” to the upcoming “Inhumans” series as well. I can’t imagine there won’t be something in that regard, right?

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Well, that’s all I got for now. If you know anything else, be sure to add it to the comments below and I’ll try to shoehorn it into the article. Thanks for reading, and join me next month for a look at the first few episodes of the so-called third “pod” of the season!