'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' S4E22: World's End

★ ★ ★

When it comes to abrupt endings, nothing will ever top Agent Carter's series finale and the way it closed off the storylines for its second season, but "World's End" faces several of the same problems: too much for a 40-minute episode to work.

It's one thing to try to close up the Framework storyline by having Mack stay behind to see out the consequences of shutting off the machine, but tossing in Aida's LMD scheme and Ghost Rider to boot leaves a lot wanted in an episode where characters barely have the opportunity to register the darker implications of their time in the Framework. Given how S.H.I.E.L.D. is known for using one season to lead into the next, this season finale does little to set up the shift besides having its agents get in trouble with the government. That said, Aida being the only thing to come out of the Framework is a pretty disappointing result of half of a season being spent there given how quickly Aida came and went. It was problematic to have Aida be overpowered as soon she got out of the Framework in the first place, but having her Hulk out over Fitz breaking her heart sealed her fate to not make it past the the finale whatsoever.

Agents of SHIELD: S4E22

The biggest issue with the episode, however, was its pacing. Drifting back and forth between worlds is tough to do, especially when the tones of both tend to have to match up in order to feel satisfying. The Framework's demise was one of the show's best set-ups for the drama that ensued, but it felt more like it was too well-timed in terms of who went and who didn't. The fact that Hope stuck around for so long compared to the other Framework NPGs (for lack of a better term) didn't add up for either her or Radcliffe because why would S.H.I.E.L.D. waste resources keeping those two around when the only people worth keeping around are Mack and Yo-Yo?

Radcliffe's sendoff, like several others on S.H.I.E.L.D. before it, was a nice beat to have rounding out the demise of the Framework. Radcliffe was a problematic, need-be antagonist whose story arc changed based on a plot device level of evil, but it was the way S.H.I.E.L.D. approached the end to his character that helped ease the transition. Radcliffe questioned his motives and reasoning for creating the Framework. It gave Radcliffe dimensions to his character upon leaving that Ward and Lincoln definitely didn't have the opportunity to experience.

Bringing in Ghost Rider for what is, presumably, the last time S.H.I.E.L.D. will be seeing him for a really long while had some interesting beats over the course of the episode, but beyond the connection to the Darkhold, there wasn't much of a reason to have him brought back besides some good action sequences with Daisy. Ghost Rider being brought in at all in time to defeat Aida (along with the "her creation opened a portal" thing) felt too convenient for a character who wound up seemingly sacrificing himself to save the others. What little time "World's End" had left was spent on setting up Ghost Rider's disappointing fight with Aida. A lot of time and energy was used to give Aida powers, but what use was that when all it took was a quick switcheroo with Ghost Rider's host to get her out of the picture.

The ending of the episode opens a lot of questions, mainly about what they're doing in outer space, but it's a pretty abrupt transition even for S.H.I.E.L.D., a show whose bread and butter is based on comic book-type twists.

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