With the finale next week, it’s hardly surprising that this was a gripping and emotionally-dense episode of the series. That said, the writers and Kevin Tancharoen managed to deliver one of the strongest hours of the season, weaving together the various plots, introducing a few new wrinkles, and giving everyone the chance to act the hell out what they were given. On that note, I want to start off by praising Mallory Jansen. I’ve noted before how her early work left something to be desired, but she’s really come into her own. Whether it was just the awkward translation of trying to play an emotionless robot, or the actor settling into the role, she’s been tasked with a lot this season and even more these past few weeks. She’s had to play newborn AIDA, Darkhold AIDA, Agnes, Madame Hydra, and now human AIDA/Ophelia. What’s more, but even this episode asks her to show a more human side in her initially calm interactions with Fitz, followed by a number of scenes where she’s overwhelmed by her new emotions. There’s still something stiff about her overall performance, but she deserves credit for all the work she’s had to do with her character.

Similarly, Simmons, Fitz, and Yo-Yo all get really strong moments this episode, each grappling with their relationships. One of my biggest pet peeves about superhero shows is the cheap drama of constantly throwing wrenches into relationships. While it’s likely to happen occasionally, there’s still plenty of conflict that can be found without always resorting to driving a wedge between two characters. Not all tension in a story has to come from misery and loneliness. That said, the way Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has handled the three on-and-off relationships this season looks downright mature compared to the weekly emotional chaos on the CW shows. I appreciated that Simmons and Fitz are still trying to make it work, that Yo-Yo hasn’t given up on Mack, and that there’s still a spark between Coulson and May.

On the latter front, we got some hilarious exposition at the top of the episode as Coulson catches May up on the whole season. While genre shows explaining their plot in-universe is always comically ludicrous, this instance also reminds you of how much the writers sidelined the actual May this season. Still, she’s finally back, and gets a couple of nice action moments this episode. Sadly, there’s a lot to get through and Tancharoen doesn’t really get to deliver anything like he did back in season two.

Billy Geirhart, however, will likely get to handle plenty of action next week as not only is Ghost Rider back, but AIDA gave herself an upgrade. As many of you predicted last week, her new teleportation powers come courtesy of Gordon and her Framework experimentation on Inhumans. This might also help explain why Hydra was hunting Inhumans in the first place. While the quantum field disruptors and Mack’s axe helped the team stop Gordon back in season two, it’s going to take a lot more to finish AIDA. Along with Gordon’s powers, she’s acquired Lincoln’s electrokinesis and an unknown Inhuman’s healing factor. And there’s no telling what other powers she’s given herself. But even if that’s all she has, she’s essentially Deadpool, Static, and Manifold combined, so things aren’t looking good for the team.

FINAL SCORE

4.5 Dead Agents out of 5. So long, Agents Davis and Prince. Long live Agent Piper!

ONE-SHOTS

  • That was pretty much the perfect way to callback Coulson’s shield.
  • Okay, ABC has to release those funny Darkhold passages.
  • Davis sure was being a sourpuss all episode. Not a great way to go out.
  • While I love how Simmons ruthlessly ICEs AIDA and Fitz, locking them up together made no sense.
  • I spotted Terminator and The Flash references.
  • Hey, the name ‘The Superior’ finally makes sense. Not only does he have tons of strong android bodies, but his original mind is the superior of them all!
  • Aaaand SHIELD are wanted criminals again. At some point, you’d think the Avengers would need to be called in to stop this rogue government agency with super-weapons and enhanced  operatives.