Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had it’s ups and downs over it’s 4 season run. It started in response to the success of The Avengers as a way for Disney to use ABC to get in on the popularity of Marvel. They have done a good job of bringing in some characters from the films, as well as introducing smaller characters from comic storylines that otherwise wouldn’t have been brought into the film series. They also follow the timeline of what is going on in the film series which is a great way to keep fans engaged in between theatrical releases. However it can be annoying when some plots or characters are introduced and ignored in the subsequent films.The ratings have dropped over the years, from 12 million for the series premiere, down to 2 million for the season 4 finale. So, it was on the cancellation bubble, but has been renewed again. In my opinion though, this season was the best since the first season.
The smartest decision they made this season was by taking advantage of the breaks in their schedule to separate the season into 3 distinct parts. It really made it feel like we got 3 shorter seasons of the show, and made the wait in between parts easier. The also moved the start time back to 10pm to allow the show to be darker and have more mature themes. Season 4 opened in September 2016 with an 8 episode run through December focusing on the search for more enhanced people/Inhumans and introducing The Ghost Rider (Robbie Reyes version). Gabriel Luna (True Detective season 2) did a great job in the role and I thought they adapted the character better here than in the Nicholas Cage films. This set of episodes also introduced Jason O’Mara (Life On Mars) in the role of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. director Jeffrey Mace, who we later find out is also an Inhuman, called The Patriot. Don’t worry, Coulson (Clark Gregg) is still there, but at the end of last season he was believed to be dead. So, they are using the new director as a public figurehead to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D. while Coulson takes more of a behind the scenes role just as an agent.
The second set of episodes from January to February 2017 was subtitled LMD (Life Model Decoy) and shifted the focus to the creation of AIDA (played by Mallory Jansen) created by John Hannah‘s (The Mummy) character Dr. Radcliffe by using a mystical book called The Darkhold. AIDA starts to turn on her creator in her desire to be more than just an android. They create an alternate reality called The Framework and are able to trap the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in this other world where things are very different.
After a 6 week break, we return to the final set of episodes from April through May 2017, subtitled Agents of Hydra. We are brought into a very different version of reality for everyone. These last few episodes were great as they had each character almost playing a polar opposite of themselves, and all the actors shined in their opportunity to play the roles differently. Mallory Jansen especially impressed me with the evolution of her character from android to human and gaining the ability to show emotion and understand consequence. I hope to see more from her in the future. We also got to see a few former favorite cast members return, Brett Dalton as Agent Grant Ward, and B.J. Britt as Tripp.
Overall, season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a lot of fun and I look forward to it’s return. However, I do wonder how much longer ABC will keep it on air considering it’s ratings decline. Also, with the addition of Inhumans to the lineup, further draw viewers away from S.H.I.E.L.D.? Or will they be able to use it their advantage and crossover some episodes to feed on the hype. We will have to wait and see as S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t return until 2018.