Review — Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season Four

I’ve gotten so unaccustomed to watching network television that I don’t think I watched a single episode of season four of Agents Of SHIELD (I’m going to dispense with the periods cuz ain’t nobody got time for that) on ABC at its air time. Instead I mostly watched it via the ABC app on Apple TV, which means I was actually at least eight days behind air date. I’d go for periods where I regularly watched this season every week, and then periods where I’d forget about it and watch in three or four episode bursts. And then finally it came to Netflix very soon after the season ended and I actually watched the final three episodes that way.

I’ve become so used to binge-watching thirteen episode seasons over the course of a few days, that I’ve gotten to where I really dislike a twenty-two episode season spread out across several months. Due to the length of time and the number of episodes it becomes really difficult to follow the narrative. I actually just went back to Wikipedia to read through synopses of the early episodes of season four just to remind myself that these were in fact part of this season and I wasn’t trying to cram elements from season three together with season four in my head.

I’ll give this show credit for one thing. It’s always done a good job of re-inventing itself from season to season. This season started with the unexpected news that Daisy was off doing her own thing away from SHIELD, and Coulson was no longer director of SHIELD. In that role was new character Jeffrey Mace (the Patriot) played by Jason O’Mara from the delightful (but under seen) Life On Mars. I loved that show so much that it was delightful to see O’Mara on this show. (I tweeted as much and got a like from O’Mara himself.)

They also broke the season up into three distinct mini-storylines that were all tied together. The downside to this was it helped to highlight just how ridiculously long these network TV season lengths feel in 2017. The first arc dealt with the Darkhold, Ghost Rider, anti-Inhuman terrorists, etc. That all could have been one season in and of itself. I mostly enjoyed the way they portrayed Ghost Rider and thought actor Gabriel Luna was really good. The second part of the season dealt with the android Aida (built by Fitz and Radcliffe) and her collaboration with Radcliffe (played by the always delightful John Hannah) to replace members of the SHIELD team with LMDs (life model duplicates). That plot line culminated in the third phase of the season where key members of the SHIELD team were imprisoned in Radcliffe’s version of the Matrix called (quite unoriginally) the Framework.

Gracious. I feel exhausted just trying to summarize the season, and that summary only just barely skimmed the surface of all the various plots and subplots.

Honestly though, as much as this show isn’t up to the quality of most of what Marvel has done with its Netflix originals, I found myself mostly really enjoying season four of Agents of SHIELD. Somehow it mostly worked for me even though my brain felt like it probably shouldn’t have. I will say the the blatant anti-Trump references were unwelcome. I’ve got many issues with Trump, but putting in phrases like “fake news” and “she persisted” (among many others) was only going to appeal to Leftist viewers and besides — it just took me out of the show.

The Framework, while being an unashamed ripoff of the Matrix was still actually an enjoyable storyline. For one it got to reintroduce dead characters like Trip. And I even didn’t mind them bring back Grant Ward. I found him insufferable as a bad guy, but as a good guy he’s not that bad of a character. Also, the stuff with Mac and his daughter was pretty emotionally powerful.

I’m not sure what to make of the ending of the season with the SHIELD team apparently whisked away into space, but I’m mostly happy the show is coming back.

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