Review: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Bids Framework ‘Farewell’ With ‘Cruel’ Twist
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Farewell, Cruel World!”:
I’ll be honest; my first reaction to “Farewell, Cruel World!” was a visceral one. Not only is Mack one of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s best characters to lose, but this “What If” Agents of Hydra arc has never made sense of the stakes here. Jeffrey Mace died saving a bunch of imaginary children – never once remembering his life in the real world – and for as much energy as the series puts into developing Mack’s bond with his daughter, it’s utterly ridiculous to leave him in this world over a virtual child. Weirder still, “Farewell, Cruel World!” went out of its way to remind us of Yo-Yo’s real-world concern for her comatose love, only to gloss over that relationship when Daisy needed to convince Mack to return with her.
It’s admittedly likely Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t done with the Framework just yet, despite returning near-everyone to reality. Last week’s “All the Madame’s Men” made a major point of needing to resolve this world’s Hydra crisis in order to return home, Wizard of Oz-style (which even garnered a namedrop here). “Farewell, Cruel World!” didn’t come anywhere close to completing that task after last week’s call to action, let alone providing closure for Brett Dalton’s digitally-resurrected* Ward. Granted, we’ve only two episodes** left in the season, something about the rushed timing tonight felt especially off.
*Executive producer Jed Whedon actually addressed the theory that Ward could take advantage of Aida’s machine for a real-world return, but given the effort and time we saw it take tonight, I’m inclined to agree that Ward, Trip or Hope gaining access to the process seems like a stretch.
**The series has never gone beyond twenty-two episodes a season, though it feels like Yo-Yo, Piper and the agents overseeing Daisy and Simmons should easily have carried their own hour. As is, evading the Russian fighters didn’t amount to any real threat, and Ivanov seemed to disappear from the episode altogether.
In earnest, a number of major points from the hour felt glossed-over or altogether missing. Neither Coulson, nor May, nor Fitz ever remembered their true selves before leaping back to reality, and in the case of Fitz and Simmons, it felt like the buildup of Fitz’s father as a major force in his life should force some a need to choose one or the other. Some grand revelation could easily have pushed Fitz to rediscover his love for Simmons, but redemption was instead offered to Radcliffe for forcing Fitz into the portal, and forsaking his own technological immortality. Even in the real world, “Farewell, Cruel World!” had only a few moments to contemplate Fitz’s remorse over his actions, before the arrival (and inexplicable teleportation) of a flesh-and-blood Aida stifled any real catharsis.
There’s enough unresolved to suggest that we’re not completely leaving the Framework behind, sure, but Season 4 has so much left to address that two episodes barely seems time enough to resolve it, let alone provide some meaningful series conclusion (if it came to that). Leaving this world behind is an extraordinarily unsatisfying way to lose Mack regardless, and there’s no reason Daisy couldn’t have forced him through the portal, and dealt with the consequences later. So much of “Farewell, Cruel World” seemed to jettison the Framework for time, that such a questionable choice would fit right in.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- Burrows was back in the base, but did I miss any explanation of why Ward wasn’t anywhere to be found?
- Daisy’s asides with Trip were a great reminder that – like Victoria Hand – the character never really got his due in such brief tenure. Especially with regard to the chemistry between he and Skye, or Simmons.
- Hope calls Daisy one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s biggest heroes, but … wasn’t she a dedicated Hydra agent only a week earlier? And couldn’t May find some clothes without the Hydra symbol, if she’s treating victims traumatized by them?
- Again, why is it Aida can rewrite the “backdoor” from an empty park to a smelting plant, but can’t undo her own avatar’s paralysis?
- Why does Aida have teleportation powers now? Did she build her body as an Inhuman?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 will continue Tuesday, May 9 with penultimate outing “The Return,” airing at 10:00 P.M. on ABC.
Check Out 100 TV Facts You May Not Know!