As with previous seasons time management in regards to subplots and characters has always been somewhat of an issue for this show. During the course of season 4, a handful of subplots were dropped in favour of the ‘A plot’. Whilst this may be a non-issue to some, for us dedicated fans it becomes tiresome when interesting routes for the storyline to go down are dropped and then seemingly forgotten about. Anyone ever wonder what happened to Vijay Nadeer in the real world? This issue also meant other aspects of the show suffered too. The Superior was presented as a major threat before he was physically introduced and yet he always felt like a cardboard cut-out villain. Maybe more focus early on could have prevented this.
Whilst romance has never been the sole focus of Agents of Shield it has been a theme that has run throughout the series. However, season 4 seemed to handle that theme quite poorly. Mack and Elena felt an especially underdeveloped relationship early on, mainly because some of that development took place elsewhere in the webseries spinoff Slingshot, meaning that it was difficult to root for their relationship when they’d had it so easy compared to other couples on the show.
A lot of time was also wasted for May and Coulson, given that the majority of their romance developed when May was an LMD, meaning that when they attempt to touch on those feelings in the finale its left open-ended, on hold to explore more next season. Fitzsimmons on the other hand fared worse (*pretends to be shocked*). Whilst admittedly it was unrealistic to expect for this show to give us cute coupley moments, putting Fitzsimmons through the emotional ringer YET AGAIN becomes incredibly frustrating and tiresome for fans. Can we please just get a soft epilogue for them in the series finale.
The Framework, the third and last pod of this season, gave me mixed feelings. As a long-term diehard fan of this show, I enjoyed seeing an Alternative Universe storyline happen on the show. A portrayal of a butterfly effect, a ‘What would happen if this character never did this? Or never met that person?’. And whilst the Framework was one of the most creative storylines of this series, it was also difficult to watch in places.
Seeing characters like Fitz and Coulson be so fundamentally different and morally guided was somewhat disturbing, and I don’t think I could forgive the show for their attempt to give Grant Ward a redemption arc and place him on the side of good, when he was always at his most interesting as the bad guy. Mostly the Framework storyline just felt too dragged out. There was never any doubt that the team wouldn’t escape that virtual hell, and by leaving it to happen so late in the season gave the audience very little time to see their beloved characters come to terms with the horrors that had happened to them there.
Marvel’s Agents of Shield returns to ABC, January 2018