REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S4E17 – Identity And Change

Guys, this whole Framework universe is really upsetting.

He’s in over his head, but he’s loving it. Yes, sir.

First of all, I wanted to apologize for missing last week’s spring premiere, “What If…” – I wasn’t able to watch it until last night. It was both more and less stressful than I thought it would be. I’m so glad Coulson is still Coulson, no matter what universe he’s in! Sure, he started out as a teacher just parroting Hydra propaganda, and sure, he called Hydra on Simmons, but at least he apologized. It makes me happy that this alternate version of Coulson is juuuuust a little crazy – much like the real-world version was, back when he was carving alien symbols into every surface. Without Coulson being as Coulson-y as he still is, things in the Framework would be just too bleak.

Not that they’re not plenty bleak the way they are. It’s very unpleasant, for instance, to see May basically evil, and even more emotionally damaged than she was in the real world. But Fitz … Fitz’s Framework identity is the most upsetting of them all, by far. It seems that Aida, or Madame Hydra as she prefers to be called now, has been focusing most of her manipulative talent on Fitz. She’s turned him into someone who believes he loves her (and that she loves him) – someone who will basically do whatever the real-life Fitz would do for Jemma. And it is awful to behold. It breaks Jemma’s heart, for sure, when she witnesses him coldly dispatching the innocent Agnes. One wonders just how anyone could break Aida’s hold over this Doctor Fitz, at this point. He even seems pleased to subject the captured Daisy to the same kind of tortures he inflicts on other captured potential Inhumans. Nooooo!

Though I must say, watching Aida revel in her evilness even as she continues to try to figure out what it means to be human is interesting to watch. And Mallory Jansen sells everything from her triumphant smirks and long black cape, to her attempts to love/use Fitz, very well.

But there are a few bright spots in the darkness. Number one is, oddly enough, Grant Ward. (Yeah, I know! I never would have expected that, either.) He’s Hydra, yes, but apparently he turned double agent to save “Skye” when he found out she was a potential Inhuman. The Director of the underground SHIELD Resistance even trusts him. This is another bright spot: Jeffrey Mace, as the Patriot once again. Watching Coulson fanboy over him was pretty delightful.

Last but not least, there’s Mack – the only one of the team in the Framework who really got what he wanted. He’s been living with his daughter Hope, who is exceedingly adorable and whip-smart. Of course he calls her Sparkplug. Awww. Mack, I love you and your nicknames. He feels guilty for allowing May to make him lead Daisy to capture and torment, so he finds the underground SHIELD base (which … how did he manage that, anyway?) and says he wants to help. Another true SHIELD agent, through and through. I’m not going to enjoy watching him lose his daughter again, though, when they get back to the real world. Henry Simmons as Mack is going to break my heart into tiny, tiny pieces, I just know it.

Yeah, she’s really cute. I’m not looking forward to her vanishing.

So at the end of the episode, Dr. Radcliffe is being tortured back at the Hydra Triskelion, right next to Daisy’s cell. As usual, I can only sort of summon up pity for him. After all, if it weren’t for him, none of this would be happening. But of course the fact that he can’t actually help the team escape the Framework is bad news. If Jemma can’t convince what remains of SHIELD that this world isn’t real, I don’t know how they’ll get out of this. Which, of course, is the mark of a well-written show: the solution is not obvious.

What do you think of the final block of episodes so far? Are you on the edge of your seat, or impatient for the end? Let us know in the comments.