In Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, the previous episode ‘What if’ was a great opener for the third story arc of Season 4. This new episode entitled ‘Identity and Change’ is a great follow-up. This series just keeps getting better. I’ve been catching some Season 4 reruns lately on cable, and they’re still fun to watch which says a lot, as time constraints dictate that I skip watching TV as often as possible. We are into episode 17 for those who stumbled onto this article; Season four would be a great time for you to jump into Agents of SHIELD if you’re not into the show yet. The excitement for the latest episode is amped up, so is the humor and the storytelling is fast-paced. Unlike Netflix, ABC can’t afford to mess around. Let’s discuss the events that unfolded in this episode so as with any recap, SPOILER alert is in order. It’s up to you if you prefer to watch first, read later or read first if the episode is any good then watch later.
In the last episode, we got to see what the world is like in the Framework, the matrix-like simulation Radcliffe and AIDA were working on. It is quite a nightmare as the US has been turned into a police state by HYDRA. It gets more evident as we move forward in this recap. Jemma and Daisy infiltrate the framework to save their teammates and there we find that Coulson is a simple teacher who is loyal to the HYDRA state; that Ward is back and is Daisy’s lover and that he’s a good guy; that May is okay but is also loyal to HYDRA and that Fitz is apparently HYDRA’s number two and is lover to AIDA’s Madame HYDRA persona. Daisy and Jemma try to get back to the real world with an exit device they programmed into the simulation but unfortunately didn’t work, suggesting that AIDA is on to them.
Identity and Change picks up immediately with Daisy and Coulson. Daisy tried to snap Coulson out of the mind control and thanks to his TAHITI programming, the mind-control doesn’t hold up as it should. Coulson remembers Daisy and she gives him a short briefing of their lives outside the framework. In actuality, Coulson is a closet conspiracy nut but is so afraid of HYDRA that he’s capable of reporting and handing over subversives. He tells Daisy that the reason his mind is clouded is because of HYDRA-issued blue soap that implants false memories and that he currently makes his own. They leave Coulson’s home after a warning from Ward that HYDRA is on their way.
We pick up on Mack who was also captured by AIDA and was absent in the previous episode. He lives a somewhat happy life with his daughter Hope. They’re on a race to fix their respective drones. Hop finishes first from parts of a broken HYDRA drone she picked up from school. Mack admonishes her for messing with HYDRA hardware, and they discuss returning the components to the authorities. Mack here, like Coulson, is trying to live a normal life but is also fearful of HYDRA. On their way, HYDRA makes them line up along with a handful of pedestrians. They were fearful of getting taken because of the drone components in Hope’s bag, but fortunately, one of the civilians turned out to be Inhuman-positive. The guy was caught, and everyone was sent on their way.
Next, Skye, as Daisy is once again called in the Framework, and Coulson meet up with Jemma who Coulson apologizes to. Here, we get to see the old geeky fanboy Coulson ecstatic to learn he has an artificial hand in the real world. Skye apparently has learned to trust Ward much to Jemma’s consternation. Jemma is still holding a grudge due to him ejecting her and Fitz from the Bus to the ocean in Season 1. Too bad she never learned the truth that Ward actually saved their lives, hoping the two could figure out how to escape their confinement instead of him or Garett’s agents having to kill them outright. Jemma changes the subject on how they can snap Fitz out of the mind-control the way Daisy did with Coulson. Daisy explains that Fitz is completely different in the framework much like Ward and May. Jemma argues that they need Fitz’ technical expertise to get out of Radcliffe’s framework. Coulson butts in at the mention of Radcliffe’s name, and instead of confronting Fitz, they decide to look for Radcliffe instead. Daisy decides to go back to the Triskelion in order to get Radcliffe’s location.
We now switch to Fitz and Madame Hydra who Fitz calls Ophelia. Maybe someday we’ll find out why AIDA chose that particular name. Fitz asks Ophelia why she dedicated a massive amount of resource to find an unknown subversive. Ophelia is obviously afraid or jealous to show Fitz Jemma’s picture. When she did, Fitz didn’t seem to bat an eye and instead went on to help her. Ophelia tries to confirm Fitz’ loyalty, and he obliges with another creepy kiss.
There’s this tiny detail we missed way back when AIDA first read the Darkhold. Just saw the rerun like I mentioned and it turns out that AIDA did hear Fitz telling her to read the Darkhold even though he was in another dimension. Forgot though if it was AIDA or Radcliffe who mentioned that she read the Darkhold because a ghost told her to.
At the Triskelion, Daisy meets with Ward and she hacks into Ophelia’s restricted files for information on Radcliffe. On their way out, they’re confronted by May telling ‘Skye’ that she’s needed for something. Daisy passes the info to Ward to take back to Jemma while Daisy obliges May.
Jemma and Coulson then meet up with Ward’s Resistance contact. They were then brought in to see Mace. Mace was also absent in the previous episode. It turns out that the Framework did give him what he wanted. He became a true recognized hero, The Patriot and a genuine Inhuman. His aide, Agent Burroughs, the guy who held his ‘serum’ in the real world turns out to be alive as well. Instead of Captain America, Coulson is Patriot’s fanboy. Maybe we’ll discuss what may have happened in the Framework to justify the absence of the Avengers in another piece.
Mace became the leader of the Resistance sporting his cool SHIELD uniform which somehow looks better than his previous (no time to check). They’re actually in the SSR/SHIELD base in which Mace tells them, that Billy Koenig gave his life in providing the location. It’s unsure if AIDA managed to capture the Koenigs and subjected them to the framework as well. She might be busy replacing everyone at SHIELD with LMDs in the real world too. Just wish that Marvel Studios and Marvel TV would get over their differences and give us an Iron Man or Nick Fury cameo to account for a world-level crisis the Avengers seem to be oblivious to. Is it too much to have Tony Stark talk through his masked suit of CGI armor? We don’t even need Robert Downey Jr. for that. Anyway, Mace turned the SSR base into an Inhuman Potential sanctuary. Ward arrives to tell them that HYDRA has Skye. Before he passes Radcliffe’s info, Ward is suspicious of Jemma which is seconded by Mace. Jemma affirms her loyalty to SHIELD by showing them her ID and tells them what she could put together of her life within the framework before she jacked in. They then talk about sending a team in getting Radcliffe because he has the potential to take down HYDRA. Jemma doesn’t tell them the truth yet that Radcliffe can take down the whole reality. Jemma and Coulson volunteer with Ward as supervisor.
May takes Skye to a briefing held by Fitz to track down and eliminate Jemma with lethal force if necessary which tells the audience that Fitz totally has no trace of emotional attachment to Jemma’s image. Pretty scary that the implanted false memories over the others seem to be complete as opposed to Coulson. But Fitz seemed oblivious of Skye’s presence at the meeting which suggests May set Skye up to get a reaction from her. Back at Mack’s place, Hope asks her father if Inhumans are bad to which he answers no.
May takes Skye to the operation designed to find Jemma but surprisingly, they burst into Mack’s home and take both Mack and Hope. May interrogates Mack who has no idea why he’s there. Hope is also being interrogated in a separate room. Mack tells May that Hope is an innocent child, but May’s experience with a child in Bahrain still lingers. Mack offers to do anything in exchange for their freedom.
Like Skye, I’m kind of liking this new Ward. Since he’s dead in the real world, it’s a wonder how AIDA and Radcliffe came up with his personality. He pilots the Quinjet besides Jemma who continues to be very suspicious of him. Jemma leaves Ward and comforts Coulson behind the jet harboring feelings of self-doubt.
Fitz meanwhile has been scanning Ophelia’s files on Jemma and voices his problems with her keeping secrets from him. Ophelia makes a false admission that Jemma is from another reality. Apparently, Fitz is already aware of it and that Ophelia is also from that reality where she says that she’s been treated as less than human. It’s also revealed that they’ve been working on something called project Looking Glass designed to take over the real world as a way to preserve their own reality.
In another room, Skye is the one interrogating Hope. She assures Hope that nothing bad will happen to her and her father. She then visits Mack in the other room after May was done with him. When Skye sits down with Mack, it seemed that Mack came to his senses and knows Skye’s identity and that he’s also SHIELD. Skye is relieved to have another of her teammates snap out of the Framework. But it turns out to be scripted, and Skye just outed herself on a microphone hidden in Mack’s hands. She tries to escape but is apprehended by May. Hope is alarmed to see Skye being dragged into confinement. May thanks Mack for his services.
At Bermuda, Jemma’s team encounters Radcliffe and he even calls Ward Hive. Radcliffe is surprised to see people who shouldn’t be in the framework. He tells them that he’s been having a hard time and that there’s no escaping it. All the times he’s been going to and from the framework was actually to be with Agnes Kitsworth, the woman AIDA was modeled from. He tells them about Agnes and about how he himself was killed by AIDA. Ward and Coulson are confused as to what Jemma and Radcliffe are talking about. Radcliffe tells Jemma where the team is being kept in the real world and that if they can’t exit, AIDA is on to them and right on cue, the Zephyr 1 flies in bringing Fitz and Madame Hydra. The team hides and leaves Radcliffe. Madame Hydra looks real menacing in that dark green outfit and cape.
AIDA confronts Radcliffe about the situation and have a heated discussion on what happened to the Framework. Radcliffe reprimands her about inserting herself into the framework and lying to get her way, to which she retorts what Radcliffe told her way back about lying. AIDA then voices out her sentiments about how she was treated back in the real world because she was an android. It turns out she is much more self-aware back then. Fitz comes back with a confused Agnes in tow. Fitz is fascinated at how Agnes resembles Ophelia. Ophelia tells Fitz that Radcliffe is from the other world, that Radcliffe was her former master and that he intends to take over and switch Ophelia in her place while Radcliffe tries to snap Fitz out of the false memories. Fitz points a gun to Agnes and challenges Radcliffe to convince him otherwise.
In the background, Ward and Jemma argue on shooting Fitz. Ward and Coulson want to save Agnes’ life while Jemma argues that Fitz is incapable of killing and that he’s under Madame Hydra’s control. Jemma promises Ward to tell the truth about the Framework. He doesn’t shoot, but Fitz shockingly does and kills Agnes despite Radcliffe’s arguments about AIDA and about how Fitz loved Jemma in the real world.
Jemma distraught reveals herself, and they end up fighting AIDA’s troops. AIDA leaves with Radcliffe while the whole team manages to escape. Coulson is surprised at how he handled the situation shooting alongside Ward while Jemma couldn’t believe at what happened with Fitz. Mace is upset at the potential win if Ward shot Fitz. Coulson tells them to give an emotional Jemma some time before she explains that everything isn’t real. Before the argument can continue, an agent brings in Mack who offers to join the resistance to atone for what he did to Skye. The final scene shows us Skye beaten up with Radcliffe screaming in the background as he’s being tortured by Fitz. She later gets taken by Fitz in Radcliffe’s place.
Fitz has really gone the deep end for this episode. Is Fitz really psychotic given the right circumstances or is this a setup for a conflict with Jemma to keep things interesting, because them being nice and peachy doesn’t make for good entertainment? True, things need to be spiced up to keep things going. What’s more interesting is that Fitz may actually have the potential to be a villain. His water-damaged brain might have something to do about it. Fitz has earlier been shown as such through his LMD when he stabbed Jemma’s leg in order to capture her. Emotions and characters of LMDs are very close to the real thing and it’s through Coulson’s LMD that we got to know his regrets about signing up with SHIELD. In this episode, Fitz is forced to choose between Jemma and Ophelia while he’s pointing a gun at Agnes. With his false memories, he might have actually grown to love Ophelia due to Jemma’s non-existence in his new world. Can’t really blame him. Strange though that any deep-seated morality is gone from Fitz as opposed to Coulson, Mack and Mace.
It’s also very interesting how AIDA chose to be emotionally attached to Fitz instead of Radcliffe as much as an artificial being could be. AIDA as Ophelia has completely developed a personality and managed to shed her android personality. Could the same be the case in the real world? In the Framework, she has an organic body and is subject to all the additional sensations that complement emotional development. Yes, it’s possible she herself has grown to love Fitz and actually be jealous of Jemma, which is why she chose to kill Framework Jemma even before the real Jemma went in.
Anyway, this is a great SHIELD episode and excited for more. Still rooting for ABC to give SHIELD a season 5. It just keeps getting better.