Agents of SHIELD 4.16 “What If….”
Remember in Captain America: The Winter Soldier when Cap and Black Widow learn from a digitized version of Professor Zola that HYDRA had wormed its way into all governments after World War II, including SHIELD?
What if it won?
Well, such a world would also exist in digitized form, called The Framework.
That’s where most of the agents have been trapped for weeks, and two of them must get them all out. They’ll learn it won’t easy be the deadly virus destroying the Framework and it’s current architect, Aida.
We pick up where we left off when Daisy wakes up in a bathtub, and gets a text to get her boyfriend to work.
The bad news is that it’s Ward (Brett Dalton). Even worse, he works for HYDRA…and so does she. She’s also gone back to being “Skye”. The Triskelion is back, which proves this is the Upside Down version of the end of Winter Soldier.
It doesn’t take long for Daisy to figure out the Framework is a very cruel world. HYDRA thinks all Inhumans are a threat, so it keeps the world “safe”. Everyone must have an ID or be accused of being a subversive, or worse. She also finds out Ward isn’t that interested in living together with her.
Jemma, meanwhile, literally rises from the dead. She shot twice and then was buried at the remains of the SHIELD academy. Jemma has a more difficult time getting used to the Framework, especially with no ID.
What’s interesting is how HYDRA took over this world: instead of force, it took advantage of a tragedy. As high school teacher Coulson says, someone brought an Inhuman child from Bahrain to the States, where she went to a school and killed a lot of people in what was called “the Cambridge incident.” The child, of course, was Katia, who really died in Bahrain in that mission that deeply affected Agent May to the core. The child’s death prevented something even worse, namely HYDRA taking over by promising law, order and purpose. It’s determined to emphasize that, rather than its Nazi ties that a student points out to his peril.
Back at HYDRA, Daisy and Ward talk to a suspected Inhuman, Vijay Nadeer (Manish Dayal). Yep, it’s Senator Nadeer’s brother who is still under the sea in the real world in a Terrigenesis husk. Daisy tries to interrogate him about smuggling terrigen crystals, which he denies. He does remember May, who is known to the Inhuman community as the one who brought Katia to the States and caused the “incident”. She got off scot free while Inhumans got the blame, but some fans speculated this version of May feels guilty about saving Katia as much as the real May feels guilty she didn’t. Whether this means HYDRA May will turn against them is still uncertain.
May sends Vijay to “the Doctor”, who has nasty equipment to test Vijay’s powers. Worse than that, the Doctor is Fitz, which stuns Daisy. It’s amazing how cold, clinical and unfeeling Fitz is in the Framework. Could it be that he never knew Jemma…or is it worse than that?
Jemma learns that in the Framework Daisy doesn’t exist, Fitz does (but his files are classified), and Coulson is a teacher. She goes there to try to convince him his world isn’t real, but he swears he doesn’t know her. She even uses a hula girl doll to tell him about how Tahiti is a magical place. That doesn’t work either, and it is heartbreaking. He even calls HYDRA to report her as a subversive.
Later, though, he looks back at some clippings on how Felix Blake was a HYDRA hero, and an article about a doctor named Winslow (from Milwaukee?) who was arrested for subversion. He also has a Tahiti postcard, and a piece of paper where “It’s a magical place” is written 1200 times. It starts him thinking.
Surprise! He’s a double agent who’s helping the Inhumans. The girls are stunned Ward hasn’t changed at all, but at least he’s on their side. In a hidden apartment, they’re stunned on how the world was changed because things were slightly different, such as what happened to Katia or if Fitz never met Jemma. They decide to use the “extraction beacon” to wake themselves up, but it doesn’t work. Not only that, Daisy doesn’t have her Inhuman powers (which seemed like a last-minute decision or it would have been revealed sooner).
May and Fitz discuss how to find Jemma and Daisy, and Fitz heads to the office of Madame HYDRA, who looks very familiar.
It’s HYDRAida (Mallory Jansen), who turned off the extraction beacon. Not only that, she’s Fitz’s girlfriend. She did mention she wanted to experience joy and love, and decided to have it with Fitz. She also doesn’t want Fitz involved in the search for Jemma and Daisy.
The reason is obvious: if he sees Jemma, he’ll wake up and it’s over. Let’s also say in the Framework, she killed Jemma, too… with no regrets.
That’s all that matters to Aida. She’s the queen of the Framework, and this is more than setting up a simulated world to keep a bunch of agents in storage “content” in a world with no regrets. Maybe she’ll decide the real world should also be HYDRA World, including getting rid of Inhumans since that’s Ivanov’s goal. The agents will eventually die if they don’t get out, but Aida prefers building a world to worrying about agents.
All is not lost, though. As Coulson is about to go home, Daisy tries to get him to remember her. She says that he’s the closest thing to family to her…. and that is enough to jog his memory.
It’ll also get him in trouble with HYDRA next week, along with finding out what happened to Mace and Mac. It’s still unclear when the agents will get out of the Framework. It’s got to happen at least with two episodes to go in the season, or they won’t be able to stop Aida, Ivanov and the Darkhold.