This season of S.H.I.E.L.D. was split into three consecutive pods of episodes -- Ghost Rider, Life Model Decoys, and the Framework reality-based Agents of HYDRA -- but now, the three storylines are coming together for one epic season closer, as Dr. Radcliffe’s former android assistant (played brilliantly by Mallory Jansen) has built herself a human body and is out for revenge!
As the team recovers from their time in the Framework’s alternate reality, the LMD-turned-all-powerful Inhuman is hell bent on global destruction after getting an overdose of human emotion in her new, organic body, and the agents will need every trick in the book if they hope to stop the super-powered being.
Robbie Reyes (Gabriel Luna) returned in last week’s penultimate episode, and revealed in ET’s exclusive finale sneak peek that the Ghost Rider hopes to drag Aida -- and the mysterious Darkhold that helped create her -- back to another hellish dimension. But will that be as easy as it sounds?
ET hopped on the phone with S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer and writer Jeff Bell to talk all things Aida, and what to expect in the world-changing series finale.
ET: It’s so awesome to see all the season four pods coming together to close out the season. Can you talk to me about planning this storyline and what you’re building toward in the finale?
Jeff Bell: Even though it’s been three separate pods, in our heads, it’s one theme, so all those stories had to come together. Bringing Ghost Rider back for the finale made sense to us for that very reason. We’ve got LMDs, and the Darkhold, and Ghost Rider, and the Framework, and a super-powered Aida -- it won’t be boring!
Did you always know that Ghost Rider was going to return for the season finale? What kind of role will he play in helping to fight Aida?
Yes, we always knew he was coming back. The easiest way to talk about his role, and the way we’ve thought about it is, when Aida made herself human, she used the Darkhold to do it, and the technology that she found from that. And that is the same stuff from the place where… Robbie was from, so it made sense to us that he’d come back to fight something that honestly, seems kind of hard for [our team] to beat.
After Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) broke her newly-beating heart, Aida went off the rails, and now, with her Inhuman powers, she’s taking the “woman scorned” trope to a whole new level! What does she have planned for the S.H.I.E.L.D. team in the finale?
Nothing much, just pain and destruction and making [the team] feel as horrible as she does. [Laughs.] It’s Thursday to her, it’s just another day.
Part of the fun was having a character who approximated emotions for her whole life, suddenly get emotions, and then [there’s] truly no user’s manual on how to operate them. She gets her heart broken, and much merriment ensues.
Aida has been one of the most entertaining S.H.I.E.L.D. villains in the series’ run, and Mallory Jansen has been so dynamic in that role -- especially in the last few episodes, when the android assistant discovered her consciousness, evolved into the villainous Madame HYDRA in the Framework universe and then built herself a organic, human body back in the real world. Can you talk to me a little bit about planning that character arc and casting the role?
I have to give credit, because we had plans, and Mallory just exploded those for us. She just… we felt like we could do anything, she was such a revelation to us… And this is true of all of [the season four cast additions], this is true of Jason O’Mara, this is true of John Hannah, and it’s true of all of our regular cast. But we brought these guest actors in who have jumped right in as part of the family, who are fantastic actors and bring qualities to the characters that are so much richer than you could have ever imagined. And we kept leaning into that.
So for Mallory, to go from a very submissive, simple binary creature, to something that suddenly figures out loopholes, to Madame HYDRA, to a real, live human being, the layers and textures and depth of that, we really have to say Mallory inspired us all the way.
Their time spent in the Framework obviously has had consequences for all of the agents -- perhaps none more so than Fitz, whose alternate reality self was a ruthless killer. Is he going to be OK? What’s next for him and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge)?
I would say that Fitz’s journey will continue long past the finale. I don’t think the consequences of some of his actions can go away overnight. And whether or not others forgive you, you also have to forgive yourself.
As we’ve talked about in the writers’ room, there’s a lot of story to mine. He’s expressed his forever love for Simmons, and she heard that, so we know they love each other. But whether that means they get to end up together or not is to be determined.
Another pair struggling with their return to the real world is Coulson (Clark Gregg) and May (Ming-Na Wen). Will Coulson ever come clean about what really happened when May was an LMD -- specifically, that they shared a kiss? What’s next for that relationship?
I would say that, historically, there’s great trust in their relationship. And part of that trust is that they’re honest with each other, even when it’s not pleasant. I would expect them to continue to have conversations about that… we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.
And, as we know, not everyone returned from the Framework. At the end of the penultimate episode, we saw Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) going back for Mack (Henry Simmons), who chose to stay in the reality where his daughter was still alive. However, she seems to wake up in some kind of dystopian hellscape -- what’s happened in the Framework since the agents left?
With Aida gone and Madame HYDRA toppled and people finding the truth, things aren’t going so well in the Framework. So, in addition to Mack choosing his daughter, it looks to me like there are going to be other complications for her to succeed.
You guys just got picked up for a fifth season, but didn’t have the official news when planning this final episode. Did you plan for a possible series finale?
We wrote a season finale, not a series finale. We did that out of the hope and optimism and joy in our hearts, and hoped that [translated] to another season. We tried to answer all the questions in this season and bring those stories to conclusion, but also, as we have in the past, set up questions and mysteries and things for next year.