Warning: major spoilers ahead for the Season 3 finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ahead.
Season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. felt at times like an entirely different show than the one we’d gotten to know from the first two seasons. Big changes happened that ranged from expansion on Inhuman mythology to Bobbi and Hunter going on the run to Fitz and Simmons finally getting together. Now, the tragic events of the Season 3 finale have split up the merry band of good guys to change the game even further for Season 4. The big death that was foreshadowed back in the midseason premiere finally came to pass: Lincoln sacrificed himself to save Daisy and the rest of humanity.
In the grand scheme of things, poor Lincoln was the logical choice for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to kill off. He was around for long enough that there’s an emotional attachment to his character, but he hasn’t been such a major player that the show is likely to lose many fans over his death. Simmons can cover the medical field well enough without him, and his abilities as an Inhuman were more helpful than essential. Logically, he made sense as the character to lift right out of the narrative.
Emotionally, his death seems to have devastated all of his surviving pals. His farewell conversation with Daisy was positively heartbreaking, and both Luke Mitchell and Chloe Bennett delivered performances that sold that the relationship had been very real for both of their characters. Their conversation over the comms as Lincoln waited for the warhead in the Quinjet to blow him and Hive into space smithereens was sad enough that the rest of the good guys began exchanging heavy looks with their loved ones. Simmons wept and shared a look with Fitz, and Coulson and May locked eyes as well. Elena wasn’t on board for Mack to gaze at, but he probably spared a moment for his shiny new shotgun axe off-camera. The characters were ready to move on from the S.H.I.E.L.D. that had been as soon as Lincoln flew off to die.
Thanks to the flashforward six months into the future, we did get a glimpse of what the characters will be up to in Season 4. Considering that they were armed and on a field mission for an undisclosed agency in their final Season 3 scene, Coulson and Mack evidently didn’t move too far on from their S.H.I.E.L.D. work. Daisy seems to have gone rogue in the wake of Lincoln’s death and her own trauma. Her incognito look in a wig and dark makeup combined with newspaper clippings about earthquake activity indicate that she’s been using her powers in some seriously unsanctioned ways. Fitz and Simmons are still together, and Fitz has worked with Dr. Holden Radcliffe to develop what appears to be an A.I. that is definitely not going to backfire in any way in Season 4. May didn’t get a scene after Lincoln’s death, but we can assume that she’s doing something suitably badass somewhere.
Personally, I’m pleasantly surprised by how well Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pulled off the big death. The finale basically spent an hour and forty-five minutes pulling switcheroo after switcheroo to keep us guessing about who would be wearing the jacket and carrying the cross from the death flashforward. Lincoln almost felt like a cop out when big characters like Daisy and Coulson were dangled as possibilities, so S.H.I.E.L.D. showing that Lincoln’s death has had lasting consequences on the team was the right way to add extra gravity to his sacrifice.
Luckily, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been renewed for a Season 4, so we don’t have to worry about never getting to see any more of how the characters react to the new status quo after Lincoln’s death. In fact, ABC has already announced that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been bumped from its regular 9 p.m. EST timeslot on Tuesdays to 10 p.m. EST on Tuesdays. The change will reportedly allow the show to get edgier, darker, and riskier in the next set of adventures.
To see what you can watch during the wait for Season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., check out our summer TV premiere schedule.