Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Farewell, Cruel World!

“Don’t blame yourself.”

This was an intense episode. Not action intense, although there was a lot of that. Emotions ran high as Daisy and Simmons pulled their final efforts to get the team out of the Framework. "Farewell, Cruel World" indeed, but not everybody was ready to leave.

Mack wasn’t, no matter how much Daisy tried to reason with him. We knew it would be hard for him to let go of his daughter, but I didn’t expect him to stay behind. It made sense, even after everybody got visual proof that they were inside a virtual world. Mack had no memories of the other world, he didn’t bond significantly with any of the “real” people, why jump? If he doesn’t know any of the joy and purpose his life has on the other side, surely he will hold on to the meaning it has in the Framework. Mack and Daisy shared a heartbreaking scene, beautifully played by Henry Simmons and Chloe Bennet, but one detail took me away from the moment a little bit. We had just seen Radcliffe knock Fitz out to save him, why didn’t Daisy do the same to Mack? I kept expecting her to go “sorry, bro, I really have to do this” and quake him against a wall or something.

So, Mack stayed behind. Now what? Will he stay there and die? I doubt it and I hope not. My guess is that we are not done with the Framework, and the writers left someone there to keep the stakes high. And since Mack is a religious person, maybe we will see how he reacts to the reality around him now that he knows it’s all virtual.

Coulson was the first one to jump back to reality, and for a second there, when he was shot multiple times, I thought he wouldn’t reach the backdoor. Clark Gregg did such a wonderful job playing a squirrelly version of Coulson, I enjoyed it a lot. He kept that persona even as Coulson bled and nonchalantly noted that that pain in the chest was oddly familiar. He managed to jump into the backdoor and May followed his leap of faith. Seeing Coulson and May reunited in the real world made me very happy, and their banter was on point.

While it was relatively easy to take most of the team to the exit point, Fitz wasn’t very rescue-able. But Simmons wouldn’t just sit still and leave Fitz behind, so she went after Fitz The Father. It was a stupid plan, one that blew up in her face, but it was comprehensible that she did it anyway. Simmons and Alistair are very different people and they are key to understanding how Fitz can have so different outcomes. When Simmons argues that Fitz is a good man, underscoring values of kindness and righteousness, Alistair replies that he is a great, where greatness here refers to power over others. It’s an interplay of opposites, similar to the one Simmons will later have with Fitz.

Iain De Caestecker has been amazing as evil Fitz, but he reaches new levels of extraordinaire as Fitz reacts to his father’s death, from the subtle, repressed shock of seeing Alistair's body, to his explosive yelling at Radcliffe. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a more award-friendly type of series, De Caestecker surely would have a collection of awards by now. Luckily for us, Henstridge is also amazing, which elevates every Fitzsimmons’ moment.

Their long-awaited confrontation in the Framework is powerful. Simmons, clearly tired of the whole Framework crap, presents a mix of frustration and resolve. I absolutely loved how she was not overly emotional, there was no falling to her knees to beg Fitz to wake up. When Fitz demands that she treat Aida as a person, Simmons is stubborn: “Its name is Aida.” Awesome. He needs to shoot her in the leg to bring her down, and even then she doesn’t lose her calm. It’s distressing to watch Fitz treat her so badly, responding to her “I love you” with a cold “you mean nothing to me” and pointing a gun to her head, both because we live in a world filled with men who do subjugate women that way and because we know how loving Fitz really is.

It’s a welcome surprise that Radcliffe comes to the rescue. Like LMayD was the wild card in the previous arc and sacrificed herself for the team, Radcliffe let go of his chance to “resurrect” in the real world so that Fitz and the others could be saved from the Framework madness. His final words to Fitz are those of a true friend, and you can’t help but feel bad for him when he takes responsibility for all that’s happened. After all, the only reason he glanced, glanced, at the Darkhold in the first place was to rescue Fitz, Coulson and Robbie.

Last week I wondered if the Looking Glass machine would build a second Fitz, but the writers didn’t go there. There are two Fitzes in the head of one and, damn it, he might have residual feelings for Aida. How dare you, Powers That Be? How. Dare. You? Fitzsimmons cannot catch a break. When Fitz, awake and aware, called newly human Aida by her preferred name, I was shook. When she treated him as her lover and he just stood there, troubled and enchanted, I could not believe my eyes. Then she hugged him and freaking teleported!!!

“How? What? How?”
“Three excellent questions.”

My compliments to the writers, they have done an incredible job plotting this season. They have mastered the art of breaking the story into several pieces and slowly bringing them together to show us the bigger picture. Only now we are seeing how threads from the Ghost Rider arc – an arc that at first appeared mostly isolated from the rest of the season – were laying the ground for the season’s endgame. Similarly, we learned a few episodes ago in the Framework that Hydra was testing pre-Terrigenesis Inhumans and now we know why: Aida was ravaging some Inhumans powers for herself. This is such a cool reveal, and I can’t wait to see what that smart, unpredictable villain has in store against Coulson’s team.

Intel and Assets

- Yo-Yo and the others weren’t really doing anything except for keeping Simmons and Daisy safe and waiting for them to wake up.

- Poor May, she was sedated for so long she could not stand.

- Did Fitz read the Darkhold? If so, that can’t be good.

- Come to think of it, Aida trying to win Fitz’ heart is very soapy. I love it.

- Aida hid the backdoor inside a pool of molten steel. She is full of tricks, that little robot witch.

- This was the second time Daisy used her powers to open a portal between worlds, although this time it was more taking out a barrier than really opening the gate.

- While this episode was great, it focused heavily on the team’s return to the real world, which meant the dystopian society was no longer at the center of the story. I know it’s a virtual world inside a TV show, but I wish we had seen more of the uprising.

- It was nice that Daisy saw Trip again and got to say goodbye to him, even if he was just an avatar. She told him to take The Patriot’s mantle, and he sure liked the idea.

- Last week I wrote a million paragraphs about Ward either returning for good or going out with a bang, and he was not even in this episode. What gives? Was last episode his goodbye? If so, it was a good run, Ward.

- The Zephyr could fly for a very long time, but what about food and water? Speaking of it, how did Daisy and the others who were inside the Framework eat and, uh, go to the bathroom in the real world? You die in the real world if you die in the Framework, but more importantly, do you pee in the real world if you pee in the Framework?

- Hydra's head of security didn't have any personnel securing his apartment? I call shenanigans.

- Daisy and Mack heard gunshots coming from Simmons’ location and just stood still waiting for things to turn out okay? Shenanigans!

- How did Mack return to the Base? I call shenanigans a third time.

Fitz: “Tell me what you and Skye were discussing yesterday.”
Radcliffe: “Uh, we spoke many things. Our favorite breads, hers brioche, mine a home-baked pumpernickel.”

Fitz: “What if I told you there was a way to be reborn?”
Radcliffe: “Take your pamphlet, go knock on someone else’s door.”

May [to Simmons]: “How did a little pop-tart like you evade capture?”

Trip [to Daisy]: “What’s with this team of yours? A Hydra agent, a schoolteacher, a dad? Looks pretty Bad News Bears to me.”

May: “I don’t answer to you, not here or any other fantasy world you two might have cooked up.”
Daisy: “You told her?”
Coulson: “It came up in conversation.”
Daisy: “How does the existence of an alternate reality come up in casual conversation?”
Coulson: “I’d like to think it’s because we were bonding, though I don’t really want to speak for her.”
Clarke Gregg’s line delivery is so cute here.

Mack: “There is no back door. Just like she is not Moses about to take you to the Promised Land.”
Daisy: “That’s it. What if I quake that thing?”
Simmons: “And part the Red Sea.”
Mack: “They did not just go and use the Bible against me.”

Coulson: “I was a little squirrelly on the other side.”
May: “It was kind of cute.”
Yes, it was.

Even though the plot was fairly simple, this episode was emotionally charged and it had several amazing moments. Three and a half out of four home-baked pumpernickels.
--
Lamounier

11 comments:

migmit said...

Wow. When they mentioned Hope's mother, I was sure that Mack would come through, trusting his ex-wife to take a good care of their daughter. Did not happen... yet. We'll see.

Another shenanigans for your collection: nobody is guarding the room with several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents — unconscious, but capable of waking up. Given that Aida can walk between worlds at will, she should've notified Ivanov (seriously, I thought US filmmakers would know some other Russian last names by now). He probably couldn't order to just kill them... But he definitely could order to restrain them. Or, you know, he could at least keep them handcuffed.

But hey, we got a really great episode, quite worthy of the previous one. Some bits of fridge logic here and there aren't going to change this. And, I guess, Skye didn't come back after Daisy left.

migmit said...

Some more thoughts:

I also wanted Daisy to just Quake Mack. But, I guess, she respects him too much. And, unlike Fitz, he remained himself in the Framework.

Aida Gordoning away with Fitz in tow was... not a really great idea. He kinda killed Gordon, outrunning Mack at this.

And for political quotes: this time they talked about chalking the ugly truth up as "fake news".

Patryk said...

I guess Radcliffe is still in the framework and Hydra has lost all of it's leadership so if they don't destroy the system he can still try to get a hold of the body building technology and come back, or make even Mack's daughter, Tripp or Ward real. So I don't think the framework is done quite yet.

How clever of Aida to design herself not a human body but an inhuman body. A robot-souled inhuman, now that's one scary villian, definately much more then Hive. What if she has multiple inhuman powers not just teleporting.

Lamounier said...

migmit, I agree that this was a great episode despite some logic flaws here and there. And, yep, it’s likely that Skye didn’t come back after Daisy left. Poor Framework Ward.

I also wanted Daisy to just Quake Mack. But, I guess, she respects him too much.

I get that, but I think I would agree with it if Mack had his real memories and could make a fully informed decision. As it was, she left behind a friend whose decision was biased by his fake memories. But, again, it’s a detail. I understand why the writers wanted to leave a main character behind.

Patryk, I don’t think it would be the best move to have Hope become real. Unless, like I’ve been saying, they create a dilemma for Mack of what is real, what means to be human, can an “artificial” creature have a soul and so on. Actually, I’m wondering if they’ll kill Mack in the real world and have him return through the body building machine, so that he’ll question his own existence. That would be an interesting turn for the character.

I think Aida has multiple Inhuman powers.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Congrats on the renewal!

Lamounier said...

Thank you, Thomas. :) AoS deserves it.

Marianna said...

I think the big difference between Fitz and Mack is that Fitz from their world would definitely have wanted them to get him out of the Framework to stop him from doing the horrible things he was doing. There's no question about it. Can you say the same about Mack from their world? It's harder to say. He's not doing anything bad and he gets to be with his daughter, even though it's only his virtual daughter. It's entirely possible that if Daisy forced Mack out of the Framework he might never forgive her.

migmit said...

2Thomas: Yesss! I was really worried.

Patryk said...

I don't know if syndication deals are still a big thing, but the next season will push them above 100 episodes so it was a no-brainer from ABC, but I'd brace myself that season five will be the last season.

Billie Doux said...

Congratulations on the renewal! I've been hearing such great things about this season that I've been considering catching up.

Lamounier said...

Billie, do catch up. It was a hell of a ride.