That certainly was a lot to take in wasn’t it? Agents of SHIELD returned guns ablazing with “What If…” after leaving us with the huge cliffhanger weeks ago, Gemma and Daisy jumping into the framework and discovering the terrible alternate history therein.
So fitting that the alternate history all stems from May’s greatest regret, since she was the first person entered into the framework and it was built around keeping her sedated, that pivotal moment that gave her the name “The Cavalry.” But in this virtual world she saves the young Inhuman girl and brings her back stateside eventually leading to a massacre of children and making Inhumans the perfect bogeyman for Hydra to use to terrify and control the general populace.
How impressive that after setting up so many questions in the last episode we got answers to each and every one by the end of this week. The teaser with Gemma’s grave marker appears to be much less important than it originally seemed. The blocked out date had many bloggers trying to guess exactly when and where in her timeline Gemma kicked the bucket. So far though it seems the actual circumstances of her death are unimportant, Hydra killed her, nuff said. I loved her crawl out of the grave and subsequent living dead like appearance, fully equipped with bullet holes. Also this makes the second time a Whedon has made a main female character claw their way out of a grave. Is grave crawling for Whedons the same as feet are for Tarantino?
Strangely of all the team shown this week, May got the least to do. Her character is one note and two dimensional. Plus she should have been a SHIELD agent to start regardless of her current affiliation. What happened in between to change her and harden her? There was no nuance or anything terribly interesting about her. Just a violent pitbull for Hydra.
Much more interesting was Hydra’s leadership. Fitz as a very Nazi like doctor and his lady love Madame Hydra. Revealing Aida has made herself leader of Hydra isn’t a huge shock, but the relationship with Fitz is quite disturbing. Fitz co-created her with Radcliffe. This sort of makes him one of her parents. Things are going to get real Oedipal in here. Also Fitz mentions his father offhandedly this episode. After multiple teases this season about his identity I’m betting we get some payoff soon. Perhaps in this reality his dad was much more involved and the cause of his terrible track in [virtual] life.
Daisy was the most frustrating part of the episode, as her memory is apparently the same as a goldfish. How many times did Daisy, or now Skye again, act as if she was still in the real world? It’s not real! Come on girl use your noggin! Being shocked by Ward makes sense, she just got there, he was a monster, all valid. But her horror at what Fitz does, and constant slip ups bringing suspicion on herself were unnecessary. More a device to reinforce how different this world is.
Coulson got a full-fledged arc in a single episode. Starting as a teacher pushing propaganda and denying Hydra’s Nazi roots, later having a great moment with Gemma, and Tahiti coming into play again. Then the scene of him going through all the clippings. Some great stuff there, little hints and nods at his real life. The Cellist clipping was a nice touch. Seems that Coulson’s previous brainwashing has left some cracks in the framework’s attempt to do so again. That final moment where he just says “Daisy”? Perfect.
There were just so many great little moments and details. The Triskelion being back, Ward now a double agent for the resistance, just smart writing through and through. Also that dedication to Bill Paxton was a sweet gesture from the show to its departed former cast member. Eerily ironic that the dedication would be on an episode featuring his characters protege Ward.
From the preview we can see Mace is still in charge of SHIELD and leading the resistance, and Radcliffe is going to come heavily into play as well. The concept of dealing with someone who has nothing left but his life in the framework should prove interesting. If Radcliffe helps take Aida down he is kind of committing suicide.
Six episodes left this season, yes six! Will all of them be contained in this virtual world? My guess is at least two more and probably four total will focus on the framework, with the final two taking us back into the real world. A great concept that so far is being beautifully pulled off. While not without a few minor flaws, “What If…” is another fantastic SHIELD episode.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us in the comments section below!