**Spoilers Gonna Spoil!**
When we last left our Agents, Daisy, Jemma and a few “redshirts” were the only non-LMD operatives left in S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, and they just barely made it out because LMD May had a change of her automated heart and blew the dang place up AFTER letting them go.
So, our heroines decided to meet up with Yo-Yo and go into the Framework where the rest of the team is plugged into and in la-la land (if only it was as nice as that movie in there). What they find is that Aida created a NIGHTMARE scenario. Basically, this is the world if Captain America lost the Winter Soldier movie and Hydra was never outed as the baddies they always were. They have replaced S.H.I.E.L.D. and established a nation-wide military state in the wake of the Inhuman outbreak. They now hunt down any known (and suspected) Inhumans and submit them to cruel testing. Basically, this is Bizarro World.
And the team is very much embedded into this world with their memories reprogrammed. It’s difficult to understand if they were given their ultimate desires, or Aida simply put them in places where they wouldn’t cause problems. Coulson is a high school teacher, preaching pro-Hydra propaganda. May is a top Hydra agent that (likely because she’s been in the Framework the longest) is as mean and uncompromising as ever. Fitz is second-in-command of Hydra and the head scientist (Scientist Supreme?!) in charge of the Inhuman testing. I never could have imagined Leo being such a loathsome prick...but he pulls that off quite easily! For Mack, we got a peek before the hiatus that he’s living a normal family life, and we have no idea where the heck Jeff Mace is in this hell-world.
As for Jemma and Daisy, well, Daisy is reverted back to Skye (long hair and all) and wakes up with her “boyfriend” in her bed. She immediately thinks it’s Lincoln, but no...it is GRANT WARD! Alive, well, and no tentacles on his face! Her Quake powers are gone and both she and Ward are high ranking Hydra assets answering to evil May and Fitz!!! All of the crap has hit the fan here, folks!
Jemma is even more S.O.L., because she is...well..dead! Not really, but in the Framework she is dead. We see her hand burst out of the ground full Romero-style, and it looks like she was shot and buried in an unmarked grave with some other poor shmuck. So, yes. Things are pretty messed up.
For most of the episode Jemma and Daisy are coming to grips with what Aida has created. Oh yeah. Aida. Well, she happens to be in the Framework too. Or at least, a version of her. She is none other than Madame Hydra, a classic Marvel baddie that has pestered the likes of Nick Fury and Wolverine for decades. She’s actually the same character as Viper in The Wolverine movie, but clearly Marvel and Fox have rights to different versions of the character, much like Quicksilver. At any rate, Aida has made herself the MCU version of Madame Hydra, green hair and all, and she has seduced Fitz (this is why he’s in such a high position). We eventually come to the conclusion that Aida must have realized that not having a Jemma Simmons in his life would leave him all to her and this is why she killed her completely.
Jemma does track down Coulson, who is “whammied” pretty bad. He truly thinks that Hydra are the good guys and saved the country from the “alien menace”. There is a young kid in his class though that questions the Nazi past of Hydra and Coulson shuts down the lad, stating that all of that is S.H.I.E.L.D. propaganda. When Jemma gets to him, she pleads with her leader that he is living a fake life, and his memories and beliefs are false. Of course, he doesn’t remember her and thinks this raving woman who very much looks like a zombie has lost her mind. Until she finds a Hawaiian hula doll on his shelf and reminds him about T.A.H.I.T.I., and how this must be a subconscious reminder that his mind has been altered before. Interestingly enough, I spotted that Daisy/Skye had the same doll on her dresser in her bedroom earlier in the episode! Very cool touch.
We soon learn that Tahiti is definitely a trigger for Coulson, as we find out he keeps a folder of clippings and postcards related to Tahiti, and he even wrote pages and pages of “Tahiti. It’s a magical place”, very much like The Shining. Of course it would be hard to brainwash someone that has already been there and done that, right?
To top it all off, Jemma and Daisy can’t break free of Hydra-World! The escape device they encrypted into the Framework is not working. Perhaps the Darkhold magic is responsible for that snafu. UH OH.
This was really a fun episode, right down to the title: “What If”! Kudos for the shout-out to one of my favorite titles from when I was a kid! The entire episode has a greyish green filter to it, and all of the computers and tech is green, very much like Arnim Zola’s digital avatar in Winter Soldier. All of these are amazing little touches that made this terrifying, twisted world that much more so.
Having Brett Dalton back as Grant Ward is indeed an awesome thing. And if you think we have the same old, nasty Ward, there’s a twist in there that somehow makes sense in the upside down Framework. It will also be interesting to see how Daisy interacts with this fabricated Ward in future episodes. I also can’t wait for Jemma to meet Evil Fitz. That will be heavy.
This episode worked for me on all cylinders. It reminded me of such comic stories as House of M or Age of Ultron, where everything is topsy-turvy and the heroes from the continuity we are familiar with need to find their way back to normal. It’s a fun, old fashioned comic storyline. I can’t wait to see more and learn more about Aida’s nightmare world. There’s still a lot of questions to be answered.
That will be all for this time, kiddos! Stay tuned for next week’s review and Bleed Out!