Leave it to Henry Simmons to bring on the waterworks. When Bobbi and Hunter (sigh) left the show, it was pretty heart-wrenching. But it was the moment the camera cut to Simmons as tears filled Mack’s eyes and he raised his drink that really sold it. While neither moment served as a definitive exit, it’s hard to not get emotional in this final arc of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s stellar fourth season. The whole Framework story has been designed to play with the past of the show, reminding us about the journey we’ve gone on in this little corner of the MCU. Naturally, there’s a lot of emotional baggage that comes with that, and that’s before you even consider the complications of whether or not certain characters will want to leave this new reality.

For the most part, we’ve known that almost everyone would willingly exit the Framework when the time came, but Fitz and Mack have always been the likely hold outs. As such, it’s fitting they’re both carrying the most emotional weight moving forward, as teased by their equally tragic final moments in last night’s “Farewell, Cruel World!” With two episodes left this season, anything could still happen. We could see Mack bid a tearful farewell to his daughter and return to the real world, or even see the Framework story somehow survive into next season (if we even get a next season). Even if Mack does stay, however, he’ll be leaving a lot behind. There’s Daisy, of course, his close friend and partner of the past few years. Then there’s Yo-Yo, who barely even got a moment to register the potential loss of Mack before the episode moved to the next threat. Hopefully, if Mack does stay behind, Yo-Yo will get her due, as she’s sadly been absent for too long. And let’s not forget Mack’s brother. We have no idea if he exists in the Framework, so if Mack happens to regain his memories of the real world, he’ll have a bitter choice to make.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Framework continue to exist into next season. There’s so much untapped potential there, from the return of old characters to the alternate history of the MCU. And as a huge fan of Fringe, I’m all for a season that hops between two parallel realities. With the Darkhold in play, AIDA’s mysterious new powers, and the return of Ghost Rider on the horizon, it’s not hard to imagine all of the plot elements that began in this season carrying over into the next. The Inhumans arc defined much of season two and three, so all of this year’s stories could easily be expanded upon across another season of the show. The nature of the Framework also opens the door for lots of swan song moments for various characters and plots, which would be fitting if next season is the last one of SHIELD.

All told, last night was an intense and emotional episode, continuing to up the stakes for the two final episodes in a way that would likely serve as a fitting end for the series if it doesn’t get renewed. The prospects are looking good, however, so this likely won’t be the end. That said, it’s easy to imagine a number of characters failing to make it out of the season alive.

FINAL SCORE

4.5 Terrible ‘Hope’ Puns out of 5. Come on, writers, cut that out.

ONE-SHOTS

  • Really thought Fitz’s brain from the Framework would be brought back into his body, keeping him evil. Instead, he’ll be carrying some serious baggage around with him. It’s been clear from the start that the writers would never let FitzSimmons be happy, but I never saw this being the wedge that came between them so points for originality.
  • I wonder if Yo-Yo, Piper, and the others are in the Framework somewhere?
  • Fitz playing right into Radcliffe’s transhumanist beliefs about immortality was a good callback, but it also makes sense Radcliffe’s love for Fitz would win in the end.
  • Alistair is a lot less threatening in his cardigan.
  • Davis is being frosty towards Daisy and Simmons considering they’re his bosses. I think. Not sure how the SHIELD hierarchy works.
  • Was thinking they’d have to pass through the literal crucible and risk death to get out. The metaphor is still there but not as harrowing. Also, couldn’t Daisy have just obliterated that vat altogether?
  • Side note: I really hope that before the season ends (or at least the series does), Quake uses the full extent of her powers and does something truly epic.
  • Wouldn’t everyone be super atrophied in the real world? Especially May, who’s basically been in a coma all season.
  • Was in the middle of writing a note that said “No offense to AIDA but without robot powers she’s hardly a threat” and then she teleported so well played. What other powers does she have?