What a surprise, Agents of SHIELD starts with a flashback, this time ten days ago. Focusing briefly on the real world, we see that the team members left behind have had to put themselves in great danger to protect Simmons and Daisy while they are in the Framework. Running low on fuel, and now power as well, they choose to uncloak the plane, buying themselves more time. After all there are still other threats out there so when the danger in the Framework is over there is still plenty to deal with to wrap things up. A pretty standard set up for tension. While our heroes try to escape the virtual world, their real bodies are being pursued by the Russian forces and danger creeps ever closer. Basically they went full Matrix.
Meanwhile back in the Framework, Coulson’s speech last week has sparked revolution and Aida’s plans are beginning to crumble. We do get one odd comment from an agent about how hot Madame Hydra is in her outfit, a weird time and place to bring that up SHIELD. They also doubled down on the political references this week, both using “fake news” and “alternative history” as phrases. I’m seeing so many shows trying to be “smart” by slipping these topical cues into their scripts. I feel that while putting an idea or touch of current events can be good, what these do is immediately date the episode, and anyone who watches this for the first time in a couple years will roll their eyes.
Things really began to tie all together as we find out that the Darkhold is still pushing the events we see. The machine to build human bodies in the real world is apparently built using the knowledge Aida gained from the Darkhold. Not surprisingly it has already been teased that Ghost Rider will return in this years finale. This season has been amazingly well crafted. By having three major story arcs while all being connected to one another. Other network shows would do well to take a page from their book. The twenty-two episode seasons generally get bogged down by filler and water-treading, but they have shown a different, better way.
An interesting element that’s brought up and almost immediately brushed aside is the prospect of immortality through the body building machine. I feel like the machine will end up being used to save a member of the team. Though we see Aida get her own new body, I got the feeling they were setting up for someone else to end up going through the process as well.
This episode felt particularly fast. It was the type where somehow a ton is happening all at once and it all really boils down to one thing: escaping the Framework. Before they do, the team deals with a few dangling threads inside the Framework. Simmons confronts Fitz’s father, trying to force him to help her reach Leo. Of course he ends up attacking her and the cliché fight over a gun occurs. Oh no, a gunshot heard over a phone! Who ever got shot? Yeah, we all knew it was the Senior Fitz, no one thought for a second that Simmons was going to get it.
This ends up being a lucky stroke for Simmons. We find out later that Radcliffe’s supposed traitorous actions are really his attempt to get Leo to the back door so he can escape. But Madame Hydra tries and stops Leo and would have succeeded if his rage didn’t make him disregard her orders and go after Gemma.
On the other side of the team, Daisy is dealing with May and Mack. May being a skeptic after Coulson tells her the truth and Mack being totally in the dark. Daisy just wants to get everyone to the doorway no matter what lies she has to tell.
Of course Aida has found the back door and rewrote the Framework to place a molten pit of a steel mill over it. I swear when I saw this I felt like they went into full videogame mode. A dark steel mill as the final level with the last challenge being the molten pit. I was completely wrong in my initial thought which was that the way out was a leap of faith into the molten metal. I thought they were building to a test of trust from the team, but nope, Daisy just has to quake her way to the doorway.
Some decent drama when Coulson gets shot heading for the door, though is there any way that any of us thought he wouldn’t make it? I liked his call back on how it felt oddly familiar. Of course he would be the first one to make the leap and prove to everyone the truth. Another nod to The Matrix here as his exit causes a glitch to ripple through the Framework, exposing it for the simulation it is. I loved how we switch perspectives here and only see Coulson waiting for May and not watching her decision making process. It makes their reunion that much more powerful. Remember they have been separated for most of the season. Between her LMD and the Framework, their long teased romance has been on the back burner quite a long time.
After Fitz confronts and shoots Simmons, Radcliffe ends up saving the day by knocking the boy out and shoving him back into the real world. A nice redemption for the character and I feel like we’ll get one more goodbye from him before all is said and done. I called it on Fitz, upon regaining his real body he, for lack of a better term, completely loses his shit. He is just a total wreck, even as a newly born Aida comes in and grabs him … teleporting away? So it appears her new “human” body has some extra tricks. Perhaps some engineered Inhuman powers. Maybe that’s what the experiments in the Framework were for.
Back to the Framework, I had a feeling there would be a sacrifice before it was all done and Mack ended up being that. Choosing to stay behind with his virtual daughter wasn’t surprising but it was heartbreaking. Both because his true self didn’t really get a say in things, and that he will be living a lie and knowing it everyday. Also SHIELD is going to start getting a rep like The Walking Dead for writing off all its popular black characters. Having Trip be there with his daughter was a fine way to send off both characters.
Amazing that there are only two episodes left for the season. Another fantastic episode full of action, character development, and heart. I am both completely engaged and clueless how things are going to wrap up.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us in the comments section below!