Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 4, Episode 21, “The Return”
Given her origins as the creation of the skeevy Dr. Radcliffe, it was easy to dismiss Aida as just a Girl Friday/sex robot, and just as easy to dismiss the performance of Mallory Jansen.
In this penultimate episode of this season of S.H.I.E.L.D., there were a lot of pieces to move into place to prepare for next week’s finale, and the show’s creative team leaned heavily on the series’ newcomer to carry most of the emotional weight of this episode.
This choice was a good one.
Jansen significantly changed up her performance to create a measured difference between android Aida and the flesh and bone one. It wasn’t a change on a Tatiana Maslany scale (Orphan Black, look it up), but Jansen’s movements as a “human” were more fluid, her speech quicker and free flowing than the measured in every way the android behaved.
Aida experiencing every human emotion at once added energy to what could have been a chaotic episode, because there were a lot of moving parts around her:
- Coulson and May got caught up with a little Philinda flirting and beating down of Russian robot duplicates. Phil was adorably embarrassed by the fact it took him so long to figure out May was an android duplicate.
- Daisy and Simmons had to prevent their Quinjet from getting shot down. Thanks to a little help from YoYo, they managed to survive that encounter.
- Then there was Fitz, who got the double whammy of trying to come to grips with the horrors he wrought in the Framework, while leading Aida through her new range of emotions.
- Oh and by the way, the world went on while everyone was in the framework. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team LMDs blew up the bas,e and now S.H.I.E.L.D. is once again on Gen. Talbot’s bad side.
Supporting it all was Aida’s emotional journey, and her desire for Fitz to love her the way he did in the Framework. It seems like Fitz is conflicted by it all for a second, but he later reveals that once he got back to the real world, it was his love for Jemma that anchored him.
This sets Aida off. As The Russian points out, Aida is experiencing all these emotions but has the emotional maturity of a toddler, so she doesn’t know how to process them all. Aida does what every toddler does when it doesn’t get its way – lashes out. Unfortunately for the world, this toddler has Inhuman powers, can’t be killed and wants to plunge the world into chaos because she was rejected by Fitz.
This sets up the season finale with S.H.I.E.L.D. sans a base, Aida on the warpath, YoYo trapped in the Framework trying to rescue Mack, and Ghost Rider back from the great beyond. It going to be a wild ride seeing how it all gets wrapped up.