Review: Agents of SHIELD 4×21 – The Return

Our agents wake from a dream and are immediately plunged into a nightmare in an episode stuffed with riveting plot, action and poignant emotional beats…


Written by Maisie Williams. 

‘The Return’ is an episode title that can be taken both metaphorically and literally, but more on the latter later. We first join Coulson and May, who shakily return to reality, attempting to figure out how to defeat the Russian and escape the rig. The conversation the two share really brings home how long the Real May has been out of action this season, with Coulson explaining to her how things ended with Robbie Reyes and his uncle. It reminded me just how much has happened this season in a relatively short amount of time. However, on the down side, also just how much May’s character has been either absent or coerced within the narrative. Because of this, I feel the potential romantic relationship between her and Coulson would feel somewhat underdeveloped if something were to happen in the finale.

But let’s move onto another character who’s been put through the ringer this season – Fitz. And, my oh my, was it nice to have our version of Fitz back! Iain de Caestecker is undoubtedly a superb actor but after weeks of ruthless Hydra-Fitz it was wonderful, if not also tragic, to see him return to the version of the character we all know and love. Seeing Fitz immediately disgusted by the horrific acts he’d committed in the Framework as well as understanding that Aida (and yes, I refuse to call her ‘Ophelia’) was behind these manipulations was delicious to watch. I was worried last week we’d get the echoes of Fitz’s Framework version coming through, especially in regards to his romantic feelings for Aida, but thankfully the writers chose not to go in that direction. I did also find it quite darkly humorous when Fitz admitted to Aida his heart was filled only with love for Jemma – cue the sharpest record scratch moment and the crazy ex-girlfriend from Hell.

Alongside Iain for standout performance this week was his partner in crime, Elizabeth Henstridge. Admittedly Jemma didn’t do much this episode yet she still managed to deliver heartbreakingly beautiful emotional beats. Watching Jemma react to Fitz and Aida talking, then wordlessly comforting him later was gut wrenching, yet amazing. These two convey emotional authenticity time after time without even saying a word. In the words of Coulson: “Can we get a break?!”

Aida has also become an interesting character at this point. It’s fascinating to see her struggle to comprehend the plethora of human emotions, and while Fitz succeeded in appealing to her empathy, one good act in saving Mack doesn’t erase all the pain she’s caused, whether it was in the real world or not. I’m intrigued to see her go on a vengeful rampage next week, as she’ll undoubtedly cross paths with Robbie. Yep, Ghost Rider returned at the end of this episode, and I for one am so excited to see what he’ll do next week as we dive head first into the season finale!




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