‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Recap: S4E16: “What If..”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns after a month and a half off, and is firing on all cylinders as we are now knee deep in The Framework.

Continuing from where we left off, Daisey and Jemma have entered “The Framework,” the virtual reality Radcliffe created to save their teammates who were kidnapped, replaced with LMDs, and placed in this technical reality.  When Daisy arrives, she awakens in bed, laying next to none other than Grant Ward.  We haven’t seen Grant technically since he was killed in halfway through season 3.  Although the Inhuman Hive took over his body for the rest of the season, he wasn’t “technically” Ward.  However, with this being an alternative reality/computer simulation, Ward’s back.

That’s not the only change that happens on this week’s episode.  In The Framework, there are a series of changes for each of our heroes.  For one, S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t exist as it’s been replaced by Hydra.  All the agents are now Agents of Hydra.  Hydra rules with an iron grip, forcing citizens to show their Hydra-sponsored IDs at various checkpoints.  Hydra is also hunting all Inhumans after “The Cambridge Incident,” which is an event when a young Inhuman committed a heinous act after coming to the US as a refugee.  S.H.I.E.L.D. is no more, in fact, the mere mention of the agency raises all sorts of red flags as Jemma finds out when she returns.  Coulson is a normal teacher at a school, who teaches schoolchildren Hydra propaganda.  It makes you think this is how life would be if the Nazis won World War II.  But remember as per Coulson’s class, Hydra aren’t Nazis.  Fitz is a mad scientist for Hydra, and May is the “Number Three” at Hydra as well.  Basically, everyone in The Framework is a “Mirror Universe” or Earth-2 version of themselves as they cannot remember anything beyond what is happening when they are “jacked in.”

Daisy knows something is wrong but does her best to blend in as an agent of Hydra.  Being partnered with Ward, and in this reality, they are lovers.  She also doesn’t have her “quake powers” and has to rely on her own S.H.I.E.L.D. skills.  Jemma isn’t having much luck either.  She awakens in the ground.  Turns out in The Framework, her character is dead.  After clawing her way out of a grave, she has to try and struggle with this newfound reality.  She doesn’t have a Hydra ID, only her S.H.I.E.L.D. ID, which freaks out someone who picks her up for a ride and afraid of what Hydra will do, kicks her out as she has to fend for herself.  After being stopped by an overpowering Hydra agents, she uses their computer to look up Coulson and try to talk to him.  However, Coulson in this reality has been brainwashed to be a Hydra loyalist.  He’s not buying anything she’s telling him, and he even rats her out to Hydra after he kicks her out of his class.

Daisy and Ward, trying to get information about “The Resistance,” Inhumans who will not go quietly into the night are then called to go after Jemma.  As soon as Daisy runs into Jemma, Ward also arrives.  Daisy pulls the gun on him, and to their surprise, Ward shoots a nearby Hydra agent.  Turns out Ward’s a turncoat mole, no matter what reality he’s in.  In the real world, he was a secret Hydra agent.  In this reality, he a secret agent of the resistance.  Ward knows that Daisy is an Inhuman, and didn’t want to turn her in, so he sought out the resistance and then joined their side.  Of course, this makes May and Fitz (who is known as The Doctor) angry as they know they have a mole (who gave an Inhuman a perfect ID), but they don’t know who it is.

Coulson after his meeting with Jemma, might be starting to question his reality.  Before he kicked her out and ratted on her, she pointed out that in his office, there is a doll on his shelf that is reminiscent of Tahiti, “the most magical place” which in our reality is Project T.A.H.I.T.I. (Terrestrialized Alien Host Integrative Tissue I.).  This is the program that brought him back to life after he was killed in The Avengers.  He’s starting to remember things, even though he doesn’t know why.  Daisy later sees him later and tries to talk to him.  After she leaves, he calls her by her name, he’s remembering.

Daisy and Jemma realize that in The Framework, people’s pain is taken away, allowing the reality to do what it wants and they accept it.  May, pained by killing the young Inhuman girl in Bahrain.  Daisy, pained by Lincoln’s death.  Fitz, without the thought of Jemma, was not centered and became an immoral scientist.  Of course, they Director of Hydra is ADA, who is maneuvering everything from a position of power within The Framework.

This is shaping a strong episode for the remainder of the season.  If the remainder of the season is within The Framework (since ADA ensured that Daisy and Jemma cannot escape), it is shaping up to be very promising.  It will be interesting to see the redemption of Ward, even though he’s just “code,” or is he?  Are the “people” in The Framework actual “people?”  And do they have a right to live in this new reality?  Time will tell.