They are on a roll, aren't they?
Let's start with Mack. He seems to be pretty much the same Mack we know, except that he is not an agent and his number one priority is to take care of his daughter Hope. It was lovely to see big guy Mack be so protective of his child. The writers finally gave Henry Simmons some emotional material to work with and he delivered. I'm telling you, though, this story is doomed. It's doomed. There is no happy outcome for Mack here. Come the conclusion of this arc and the likely destruction of the Framework, he will either need to let his daughter go or die within the Framework with her. Evil writers.
When Madame Hydra sent May and Daisy after him and his daughter, it was clear Hydra wanted to see how Daisy would react. Very clever, Madame. At first, Daisy kept her cool but she ended up falling into the trap and was outed as (1) a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and (2) a [potential] Inhuman. Mack's guilt over the part he played woke the courageous man inside him and led him to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secret headquarters. He still doesn't remember anything from his real life, but his urge to do what is right is true to his nature, and that he has not lost.
Coulson is a few steps ahead of Mack, but not by much. There are inconsistencies in the Framework that bother him and he remembers just enough of the real world to trust Daisy and Simmons. Apart from that, though, he behaves like a regular Joe who has no clue of the agent he is, which just made him adorable and Clark Gregg nailed that incarnation of his character. Coulson thought Hydra drugged soaps to brainwash everyone, for crying out loud, so he made his own soaps, which became a recurring joke during the episode. Can they make fun of Coulson's soaps when they leave the Framework? Please?
I loved how reassuring Simmons was to Coulson, guiding him through the mission and telling him about the great man he was. Have Simmons and Coulson ever bonded before? Like, really bonded? I don't remember. By the end of the episode, he was there to retribute the friendship and console a devastated Simmons. I love naïve Coulson. Can we keep him?
While Coulson provided a lot of fun, I was a little suspicious of him. I mean, last episode he was all "I'm loyal to Hydra" and indoctrinating the young. Now he is "I always suspected something was wrong." What if Aida brainwashed him to be a double agent, I thought. But then he saved Simmons and overall he is just too cute to be a traitor. Don't play with my feelings, writers. There is enough darkness in this arc already.
There was a sense, even more so than in the last episode, that what was going down was real. When Simmons and Coulson are taken to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s base, the one Simmons is so familiar with, she asks what happened there. Everything is darker, you can almost feel the danger and fear in which the place is immersed. Simmons doesn't react as if this is all just a simulation. She can't. It starts to weigh on her as reality. Fiction within fiction can go awry very quickly if not done right. Thankfully, TPTB know exactly what they are doing.
Simmons could not stand being around Ward and I LIVED for it. God, it was awesome. But who is this Ward exactly? He is very similar to the Ward we met before. I guess he has the same family issues, both as abused and abuser. It's likely that John Garret initiated him into S.H.I.E.L.D. (and Hydra), but because of his love for Daisy (err, Skye) and of how far things went with Hydra on control, he switched sides. For what we know, he is a good guy. What if "real" Ward had followed a different path? What if he had realized that Hydra was a danger to Daisy? Maybe he would have never killed the first Koenig. Maybe he would have never dropped Fitzsimmons into the ocean to their deaths. Maybe he could have been redeemed. But the events happened in a way that kept taking Ward further and further to darker side of the force, to the point of no return.
Now we are watching the other side of the coin. The "what if" story. Both Wards started in the same place. Their identities, the way they developed, has a lot to do with the events surrounding them. It changes them to the point that one must die and the other one is the team's best ally. I guess this will make the team reflect, reflect on what could've been, on the good man that Ward carried somewhere underneath all the mess. It will definitely cast a different light on Ward. In a way, this is the redemption storyline he never had.
The complete opposite is happening to Fitz. In the Framework, Fitz is the personification of evil. Keep in mind that while the two Wards are completely separated personas, this Fitz is our Fitz. Brainwashed, yes, but still... And he murdered Agnes, an innocent woman, in cold blood. What does this say about him? Does he have it in him? I bet he does. Sure, in the Framework he grew up under his dad's terrible influence. But in order for the Framework to process that, it collected from Fitz' mind what was already there, the little his father had given him in the real world and he had absorbed. It has been inside of him all this time. Remember when Fitz took the air out of Ward's cell room? Fitz is capable of evil, but he has carried a life surrounded by goodness and good people, and even when he became a member of Coulson's team, he was still surrounded by good people. Not in the Framework.
Agnes' death was a powerful moment. The scene was already terrific when Ophelia (Aida’s alter ego in the Framework) confronted Radcliffe. Mallory Jansen freaking dominated the screen as creature confronted creator. John Hannah, Iain DeCaestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge were great as well. Simmons, Coulson and Ward watched from afar. Ward had a clear shot at Fitz, who had his gun pointed at Agnes. Simmons was desperate. She kept Ward out of the loop, she didn't hide she despises him, but at that moment she needed him like she had never needed Ward before. I had my hand covering my mouth. The scene was intense. Simmons claimed her Fitz would never kill an innocent. But that was not her Fitz. She shouted in despair when Agnes fell dead. Fitz was a killer. The Framework is not all codes and data. There are things you simply can't come back from unscathed.
Intel and Assets
- I didn't talk much about Daisy. Daisy is awesome, per usual. She put herself in danger to get the info on Radcliffe's location and then to keep an eye of protection over Mack and Hope. When she falls captive to Hydra, it's not pretty. The end tag has Fitz paying her a visit. She is bloodied and wounded. And he will put her through more now that he is done with Radcliffe. Where is a Terrigen crystal when you need one?
- I barely said anything about May. She is awesome too, but the evil kind of awesome. If she doesn't do anything terrible until she wakes up, the Framework will actually take some burden off her shoulders. She will look at Bahrein with other eyes.
- I didn't talk about Mace. He is officially The Patriot and runs S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, he is Inhuman. I guess he is the only one who got all his wishes without much of an evil twist.
- Coulson fanboyed over The Patriot, obviously.
- There is no mention of Mack's wife, so they either divorced, like in the real world, or she died. That's a smart writing choice because it puts all the emotional weight of the story on Mack and Hope's connection, so that when Mack needs to let her go, he will be crushed and we will be heart broken. Evil, evil writers.
- I kind of pity Radcliffe now. He is an idiot and all that is happening is his fault, but at least his intentions weren't really evil. I'm sure he will join the team to take down Aida now. Maybe even sacrifice himself.
- Evil Fitz is a terrific villain. I forgot to mention before, but he is known as "the Doctor".
- Fitz knows there is another world. In fact, he is working to open some kind of portal from the Framework to the real world.
- Aida says she only fixed everyone’s regrets, she didn’t control what would happen. Liar. Radcliffe calls her out on that.
- Fitz said “we will make society great again”. I laughed out loud at this not at all subtle reference to a certain slogan.
- The potential Inhumans hidden in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s HQ were a clear reference to Jews under Nazism.
- S.H.I.E.L.D.'s HQ are the same as in the real world, which is actually a liability, because Aida knows where it is.
- Hail the internet for giving us stuff like this:
- Coulson's theory on soaps reminded me of Orphan Black's Chrystal coming up with a conspiracy theory involving cosmetics.
- The actors must be loving this season. A lot of opportunities to play alternate versions of their characters. The only ones who haven't played an LMD or whose characters haven't been brainwashed are Elizabeth Henstridge and Chloe Bennet. But they are carrying the story right now, so I bet they are pretty happy too.
- The student who walked into Coulson's classroom is Clark Gregg's daughter. :)
- Again, we didn't pay a visit to the real world.
- A message to any of you who plan to build an AI with feelings: don't.
Coulson: "So, we're both from the real world. We are S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, our bodies are being held captive and this is all a virtual prison to keep us sedated. Am I missing anything?"
Coulson: "Apparently, in the real world I have a robot hand. Pretty cool, right?"
Daisy: "And here he makes his own soap."
Simmons (sarcastically): "Thank goodness for Grant Ward."
This arc has been amazing so far and this episode was another series high. Four out of four soaps.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4
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- Watch this episode or the entire season on Amazon now