Agents of SHIELD Season 4 recap: All Madame's Men
Agents of SHIELD hands Daisy her powers back, but her actions only complicate things further both in the Framework and the real world.
When we left off last week, we’d lost one of our season regulars, in a bid to pair he cast back down to their core people before Season 5, as well as prove how high the stakes are in the “alternate reality” Framework. This week, we started off with another high-profile attack, as Daisy shoved AIDA/Madame Hydra out a 20th story window. (Or thereabouts anyway.) Being an android, she survived what would have killed anyone else just fine, just a few shattered discs in the Framework body she’s not going to need much longer anyway..
Daisy: “And me, what I don’t make the list?”
A striking thing, when you keep front and center than the Framework is not the reality but a program, is how much energy AIDA is putting into keeping Fitz under control. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, since Daisy and Simmons, broke in, she’s slowly lost control of her charges one by one. From Coulson, who never fully integrated in the first place, to Mack, who was never a fan of oppressive regimes, to last week’s turning of Agent May after she saw the Patriot’s last act of bravery.
With each of these, the moment they saw something she wasn’t directly controlling, she lost them. But with Fitz, who remains her lapdog, she has a back up in the Framework–his father–so that he never sees or hears anything she doesn’t want him to. Whenever he might be about to go somewhere or make a choice that wouldn’t directly keep him under her thumb, his father is there. Encouraging him to bomb the crap out of people, or offering to be the one to go be on site, so there’s no risk of Fitz running into Simmons. He’s like a guide bumper, keeping Fitz in AIDA’s preferred lane. And if Fitz snaps back, like he did tonight, the old man is there to crack the whip, and keep her puppy cowed.
It turns out that the same oil drilling platform where the core cast is being held is actually where Fitz is building his “Project Looking Glass” from inside the Framework, and that the digital pieces we see him manipulating correspond to real pieces aboard the platform. That’s a really neat concept, but more importantly, it saves the team from having to fight anything within the Framework itself. AIDA’s machine–in which she will make herself, as any proper Disney character would want “into a real girl”–is not a thing that needs to exist in the Framework. After all, what good is being a real world in a digital world? She wants to be a real girl in the real world. One might argue, the entire Framework has been engineered so she can con Fitz into building it for her, which she couldn’t do outside of it. (In fact, Radcliffe all but does argue that at one point this evening.) She’s also promising to make her android buddy Cheap Russian Wolverine Knockoff into a real boy again–skipping over the part that she was the one who unmade him from being a real boy in the first place. We assume those promises are lies.
Daisy: “Maybe she’s just racist”
May: “Or startstruck.”
More importantly, she wants the Fitz she’s brainwashed into being her lapdog to come with her–I assume the plan is to download him into his actual body, erasing the Fitz we know. That’s a helluva twist to keep the FitzSimmons romance on the rocks for next season (assuming there is a next season). This also suggests she’s not going to throw away Fitz once she’s achieved what she wanted. Though one wonders how she can keep Fitz properly brainwashed into being “in love” with her, if she doesn’t have Daddy Program as back up, there’s not Hydra, and Simmons will actually be alive and in his face. We have to assume this will be the fatal flaw in her plan.
But since in the end, the danger is actually in the real world, and the Framework, like communism, is just a red herring, the goal now is simply to get out as fast as they can. Last week, Daisy got the coördinates from Radcliffe. Now it’s just a matter of getting to them before Fitz and AIDA figure out where the program backdoor is themselves.
Tripp: “C’mon girl. That’s way too crazy a story to make up.”
The choice to turn as much of the program against Hydra and AIDA by airing May’s bodycam footage from Mace’s death last week on Hydra’s equivalent of FOX News O’Reilly Factor adds a new level of political commentary. Our host of The Bakshi Report (they’re pulling out all the old faces for this) even gets a moment of uncomfortable sexual harassment with a female employee while getting his makeup done. Timely!
Whether causing an uprising in the code sequence actually works remains to be seen next week. (Though I assume, since our heroes probably aren’t go to to die in the Framework, it probably will.) This means it’s also time to start tying up loose ends. Ward may yet still have a line or two before the end. But by the end of the episode, the team had basically left him behind to hope that when Daisy leaves, there will still be a program filled with code for him to live on, with his version of Skye happily ever after, or until Simmons shuts it down.
Coulson: “Heard you were looking for some enemies of the state.”
It will be harder to separate Mack from his daughter Hope–partly because of all the characters who need to cross back, he’s the only one who hasn’t caught on to that reality yet. (Tripp, on the other hand, just rolled with it, thought that might be because Simmons didn’t mention to him he’s actually dead.)
Next week’s episode is entitled “Farewell, Cruel World”, suggesting that it’s about time to leave this program for everyone still alive to leave it–including maybe Radcliffe, since Fitz is promising him a “way to be reborn”. Personally I’m miffed they missed the far more obvious reference “Escape from the Framework”. We could even rename Cheap Russian Wolverine Knockoff to Snake.