AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
SEASON FOUR, EPISODE SIXTEEN- "WHAT IF"
"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has had itself a little hiatus and now we are finally returning after a little over a month. When we last saw our heroes, they got trapped in The Framework, a virtual world created by Radcliffe and Aida using The Darkhold. Now, our heroes are living in a world where HYDRA rules, Inhumans are hunted, and aside from Daisy and Jemma, nobody knows who they once were in the real world. I think titling this episode "What If" is a sly joke toward Marvel comics in general. They used to write one-shot comics called "What If" and they'd take a popular storyline from their arsenal and reveres the results, they were always fun to read, and now, in a way, they are doing it now.
So how about this world that Aida created? Well, Daisy isn't going by Daisy anymore, Daisy is Skye. She's dating Grant Ward, who is alive and well. They work for HYDRA, which apparently prevailed with their Project Insight mission (although its never outright said that Project Insight is the reason why they are in power, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is now a resistance movement.) May is a high-ranking HYDRA enforcer that doesn't recognize Daisy. Fitz is a high-ranking HYDRA officer that Daisy doesn't recognize. Coulson is a history teacher somewhere. Jemma is believed to be dead, although she later digs herself out of a grave early in the episode. Who is the body that she is buried to? Nobody knows yet. Most of this episode is dedicated to Jemma trying to hide from HYDRA officers, and we get a glimpse of just how fascist the world has become under HYDRA rule.
Why is HYDRA hunting Inhumans? Well, it has to do with the Cambridge Incident, which again, is vaguely discussed in this episode (It was made pretty clear this episode that we will be spending some time in The Framework, so get comfortable people!) but it had to do with the young Inhuman May discussed meeting on a mission back in season two. In this world, May didn't kill the girl, which led to her powers manifesting and killing several people in Cambridge. So okay, it makes sense why people fear Inhumans in this world, but it doesn't explain how HYDRA came to power, but I have a feeling we'll learn more next week. Remember that anti-Inhuman senator at the beginning of this season? Remember how she killed her brother for being Inhuman? Well, the brother shows up this episode, being interrogated by Skye and Ward for smuggling terrogen crystals. He doesn't show much significance yet, but we will surely keep an eye on his progress. I figured we'd see him again.
Skye and Jemma eventually hook up, trying to formulate a plan to stop this Framework. Things turn bad when they figure out that they can't get out and that their only way to get out of this world is through the S.H.I.E.L.D. resistance, which Ward is a member of. OOOOHHHH! Didn't see that coming, did you? Yep, in this world, Ward is a good guy. Ward will be taking Skye and Jemma to S.H.I.E.L.D. next week. After so many seasons of noting knowing what to do with Ward as a character, I suppose remaking him was stunningly appropriate.
The other big reveal tonight was revealing the leader of this HYDRA. Once again, the show is introducing a popular character from the comics, who was a major leader of HYDRA in the books. This is Madame Hydra, but in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Madame Hydra is Aida. The same actress plays both parts and I think Madame Hydra is just Aida's role in The Framework, and she's dating Fitz. That's a fun connection and all, but this is REALLY all they plan to do with Madame Hydra in the MCU? That's disastrously disappointing to me. A very memorable and great character in the comics books just gets reduced to a personality in an unreal world. A waste, if you ask me. But I will keep watching.
More than anything else, tonight's episode raised lots of questions. Is The Framework really a virtual world, or just an alternate reality made real through The Darkhold? Skye gets Coulson to remember her at the end of the episode, how? If Aida designed this to be a world without pain, why is HYDRA in control and everyone seemingly miserable? There is tons to discuss and debate for fans of this show and that's something that has been missing from this show all season, something to talk about. I initially thought three storylines in one season was pushing it, but it may turn out to be good in the long run. I also want to thank ABC for remembering Bill Paxton tonight, and if he were alive, his inclusion in this episode would have been insane.
(Keep a close eye out for clues tonight, there is one in particular that I think helps my theory that Project Insight ended up being successful!)
What did everyone else think?