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Warning: major spoilers ahead for Episode 15 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, entitled "Self Control."
Season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been broken up into three chapters. The first dealt with the introduction of Ghost Rider and the Darkhold, the second introduced Life Model Decoys as a major threat to Coulson and Co., and the third will apparently feature the return of one not-so-dearly departed character who caused a lot of trouble for the good guys in the first three seasons of the show. The finale of the L.M.D. arc ended with a scene set in A.I.D.A.'s framework reality, where most of the major characters were trapped. Daisy woke up in the reality to discover a man in a bed, and that man is none other than Grant Ward himself.
That's right, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has somehow managed to find a brand new way to reinvent the character of Grant Ward. He's already shown up as an agent, a traitor, a rogue, a Hydra soldier, and a reanimated corpse inhabited by the alien Hive. The good guys seemed to be finally free of their adversary at the end of Season 3 when his body was literally blasted to smithereens in outer space, but S.H.I.E.L.D. found a way to bring him back that doesn't actually require a physical body. Who needs flesh and blood when you can exist as a representation within a digital framework?
We didn't actually see much of Ward in "Self Control," all things considered. He was simply a man that Daisy discovered asleep in a bed, and even she didn't seem to get a very good look at him at first. Brett Dalton's triumphant return to the character of Ward didn't get much fanfare. That said, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen have already confirmed to EW that Dalton is back on board in the final leg of Season 4, so we can bet that we'll see plenty of Ward beyond the quick glimpse in "Self Control."
It should be interesting to discover just why Ward has turned up in the framework reality. A.I.D.A. constructed the reality as a place for people to escape their regrets, and Ward's appearance in Daisy's corner of the reality indicates that she has some kind of regret about him. She might simply regret that she didn't push him out of the plane back in the beginning of Season 1 to spare S.H.I.E.L.D. all the damage he would ultimately cause, but we'll have to wait and see. Who knows? Maybe in the framework, Daisy never became Daisy. She might still be Skye.
My reaction to the reveal that Ward is back was a combination of "Holy shit, is that Ward?!" and "Of course that's Ward." I thought that we might see Ward again in Season 4, but my guess was that it would be in the form of a Life Model Decoy programmed by Radcliffe and/or A.I.D.A. I definitely could not have predicted that he'd be back as a digital character in a framework reality created by an L.M.D. with the use of a handy dandy evil book, so kudos to the show for getting creative. I'm on board to see how this new incarnation of Ward will fit into the rest of Season 4.
Of course, Ward alive and well wasn't the only bizarro aspect of the framework reality. In the world free of regret, we saw a Coulson who became a teacher rather than joined S.H.I.E.L.D., a Mack who lived in suburbia with his daughter, a Fitz who doesn't exactly seem strapped for cash, a May who works at the Hydra-controlled (and still intact) Triskelion, and the grave of Jemma Simmons. The final scene in the framework was a hell of a way to end an episode, and it's a cliffhanger that will undoubtedly keep us fans talking until the next episode hits the airwaves and answers some of our questions.
Unfortunately, we have a while to wait before the next episode. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't return to ABC until Tuesday, April 4 at 10 p.m. ET. Take a look at our midseason TV premiere schedule to see what you can catch on the small screen in the meantime.