Saturday, May 6, 2017

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4, Episode 20: Goodbye, Cruel World!

This week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Framework storyline is seemingly wrapped up, as the agents finally manage to escape from the virtual world. Well, almost all of them. oddly enough there are still two more episodes to go in the season, so even though they're out of The Framework, they ain't out of the woods yet.

When this Framework storyline started, various old characters on the show began popping up in the virtual world. Trip, Bakshi, Burrows and even Grant Ward. I said that this story arc would be the perfect opportunity to bring Mockingbird and Hunter back for a couple of guest appearances. Sadly, that didn't happen.

A couple weeks ago I noted that Mack's daughter Hope was alive and well inside The Framework, and wondered if he'd want to leave her when the time came. Welp, looks like I was right. This week he declines to return to the real world with Daisy and the others, preferring to stay in The Framework with his fake daughter. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll eventually come back. There's no way they're gonna leave him in there from now on.

Where the hell was Framework Ward in this episode? He was conspicuous by his complete and total absence. The last time we saw him was in the previous episode, where he was preparing to sacrifice himself to make sure Coulson's call to arms TV message was broadcast.

He's too important a character to just fade away like that without a final appearance. I have a feeling that despite how it appears, we haven't seen the last of him.

Lastly, at the end of the episode, they said something about the "season finale." Note that they didn't say "SERIES" finale. So I'm taking that as a hopeful sign that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be back for a fifth season.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
We flash back to a few weeks ago, as Daisy and Simmons are about to hack into The Framework onboard Zephyr One. They warn Yo-yo and the handful of remaining S.H.I.E.L.D. agents NOT to yank them out of the virtual world, or their brains will be fried. A whopping TEN DAYS then pass (!), and the plane's STILL flying around, as Daisy and Simmons are STILL in The Framework.

In the present, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents discuss the situation, saying they're almost out of fuel and can't stay aloft much longer. One of them suggests that if they deactivate their cloaking device, it'll make their power last a bit longer. Yo-yo agrees, and shuts off the cloak.

Inside The Framework, Simmons and Trip return to the Resistance/S.H.I.E.L.D. base. Daisy's amazed to see Trip alive and well inside the virtual world and hugs him. She realizes he has no idea who she is and apologizes. Simmons tells Daisy about AIDA's plan to create an organic body for herself in the real world. Once she transfers her mind into this new body, she'll be freed her from her programming and be able to kill them all.

Daisy tells Simmons about Radcliffe's secret way out of The Framework, and says they need to get everyone there so they can exit immediately. Simmons says she can't leave without Fitz, but Daisy says it's impossible to reach him while he's sitting in the middle of the Hydra Triskelion. She promises once they're back in the real world, they'll figure out a way to save him.

Daisy goes to get Mack, and sees him leaving the Resistance with his daughter Hope. She tells him he can't leave, and makes up an excuse to get him to accompany her on a "special mission." He's reluctant to go, but eventually agrees. Coulson explains the concept of The Framework and the real world to May. Needless to say, she's skeptical.

Meanwhile at Hydra, Fitz interrogates Radcliffe, trying to find out where he placed The Framework's back door. When Radcliffe refuses to talk, Fitz tells him about Project Looking Glass. He says he knows Radcliffe's dead in the real world, and the Project could create a new living body for him. He could live forever in the real world, if only he'll talk. The temptation is seemingly too much for Radcliffe, and he agrees.

Simmons chats with May, who mentions Fitz's father Alistair. This is the first time Simmons has heard that Alistair's inside The Framework (Really? I could swear she already knew that, but whatever), and she realizes he's the one who turned Fitz into a supervillain. With May's help, she tracks down Alistair's address and appears at his home, holding him at gunpoint.

Simmons orders Alistair to call Fitz and tell him to meet them at the house, so she can try to fix him. Alistair calls Fitz, who's on his way to intercept the Rebellion at The Framework's back door. Alistair tells Fitz that he loves him, then throws the phone at Simmons. He attacks her and they struggle. Fitz listens intently on the phone, and hears a gunshot.

Daisy tries to round up everyone so they can exit The Framework. She can't find Simmons, and May tells her she went to see Alistair. Fitz and his Hydra goons arrive at Alistair's house, and find him dead on the floor. The Hydra soldiers start to search the neighborhood for Simmons, but Fitz calls them back, saying he knows where she's going.

In the real world, Yo-yo and the others nervously wait for Daisy and Simmons to wake up. Suddenly Zephyr One is attacked by one of the Superior's planes. Unfortunately they don't have enough power to fire back. The agents realize deactivating the cloaking device was a bad idea.

Simmons returns to the S.H.I.E.L.D. base, upset that she killed Alistair. Daisy reminds her that she didn't actually kill anyone, and all she did was "make some ones and zeroes disappear." Simmons worries that Fitz will never listen to them now, and she's lost him forever.

Meanwhile, AIDA, aka Madame Hydra, is informed that Alistair's dead. She orders Fitz to return to the Triskelion immediately. He receives the order but rejects it, determined to meet Simmons at the back door of The Framework and kill her.

Daisy and the others finally prepare to leave. She says goodbye to Trip, and encourages him to become the new Patriot. She, Coulson, May, Simmons and Mack take off for the back door of The Framework. According to Radcliffe, it was supposed to be in a secluded spot in a park. Apparently AIDA discovered its location and rearranged the virtual world so it's now inside a steel mill.

The group lands in the mill and search for the door. Unfortunately it's now under a pool of molten steel, which they can't penetrate.

AIDA's secretary reports that Fitz received her message to return, but ignored it. AIDA's furious, and orders Project Looking Glass to proceed. A group of scientists wheel in a device that scans her. In the real world, the Project Looking Glass device begins weaving her a new, organic body.

In the mill, the S.H.I.E.L.D agents wonder what to do next. Daisy tries quaking the molten pit, which disrupts the digital world and reveals a deep portal. Suddenly Fitz's forces arrive. Both sides begin firing at one another, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents manage to wipe them all out.

Daisy quakes the portal again, and Coulson starts to jump through it. Suddenly he's shot several times by more Hydra agents. May kills them all, and tends to Coulson. She tells him she'll get him help, but he says to push him through the portal now, before he dies on this side. May's reluctant, as she still doesn't believe all the real world stuff. She helps him up, and he pitches forward. He falls into the portal and disappears. As he does so, shockwaves ripple through The Framework, momentarily revealing the wireframe it's built around. Mack looks at himself and the world around him, realizing that Daisy was right, and his world isn't real.

In the real world, Coulson gasps and removes his headset. He jumps off his table and stands in front of May, practically willing her to hurry up and follow. Suddenly May wakes up as well, indicating she jumped through the portal. He sees the unconscious AIDA hooked up to The Framework, and grabs a scalpel.

Somewhere in the real world (on the Superior's oil platform?), AIDA's new body is almost complete...

In The Framework, Daisy quakes the pit and tells Simmons she's up next. As she starts to jump in, she's grabbed by Fitz, who pulls her into an office. She apologizes for killing his father, and pleads with him to follow her into the portal so she can save him. He orders her to her knees, but she refuses. He then shoots her in the leg, forcing her to kneel. He holds his gun to her head and orders her to say, "I am nothing to you."

Suddenly Radcliffe punches Fitz in the face and takes his gun. He apologizes to Simmons for everything he's done, and says pretending to go along with Fitz was the only way he could think of to get him out of The Framework. They toss Fitz into the portal, and then Simmons jumps through as well.

Simmons wakes on Zephyr One, as she wasn't hooked up to The Framework by AIDA. The plane rocks and shudders, as the Superior's forces continue their attack.

Back in The Framework, Daisy tells Mack it's his turn. He asks about his daughter Hope, and if he'll see her in the real world. Daisy tells him no, that Hope isn't alive there, and was someone AIDA created here inside The Framework. Mack says he can't leave her, and decides to stay. Daisy begs him to come with her, but he refuses.

Daisy jumps through the portal and wakes up on Zephyr One. Yo-yo asks about Mack, and Daisy tells her he's staying behind. Meanwhile at AIDA's HQ, Fitz is awake and freaking out over what he did in The Framework. Coulson tries to calm him down. We see AIDA's robot body crumpled in the corner, her severed head lying nearby (!).

Suddenly the new, flesh and blood AIDA appears, marveling at her new sensations. She sees Fitz and greets him. May grabs a gun and tries to shoot her, but Fitz is in the way. Coulson yells for her to take the shot anyway. Suddenly AIDA grabs Fitz and they teleport away, which is apparently a thing she can do now. I guess she gave her new body super powers while she was at it?

Mack returns to the Resistance base inside The Framework, where Trip is babysitting Hope. She wakes and asks Mack what happened to "Skye" and all the other agents. He says they went back to Kansas, like Dorothy did in The Wizard Of Oz.

Thoughts:
• According to the on-screen caption at the beginning of the episode, Daisy and Simmons have been inside The Framework for TEN days. All while Yo-yo and the other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have been flying them around the world non-stop in Zephyr One. A couple things here.

First off, most jets can fly about for around eighteen hours on a standard load of fuel (it varies depending on the type of jet, its speed, etc). They can extend their time aloft to around forty hours with periodic mid-air refueling. 
Supposedly the agents we see onboard Zephyr One are the last members of S.H.I.E.L.D., so it's unlikely anyone's going to come by and refuel them. It doesn't matter anyway, because once a jet hits the forty hour mark, the engines run out of oil and will burn up if they don't land.

Maybe S.H.I.E.L.D. powers its planes with something besides jet fuel? If that's the case, then I suppose it might be possible to be aloft for ten days.

Secondly, I was surprised to hear that Daisy and Simmons have been inside The Framework for so long. I kind of figured time would move much faster inside the virtual world, so that one Framework day would equal maybe an hour in the real world.

Lastly, Daisy and Simmons have been lying on those tables for ten whole days. I hope someone's been feeding them somehow, and um... cleaning up after them!


• At the Resistance HQ, ex-Hydra Agent Melinda May does her part by passing out blankets to some Inhuman refugees. Say, Agent May, you know what would be a good idea? How about after you switch sides, you stop wearing the uniform of the oppressive enemy organization you used to work for? That way the people of the Resistance wouldn't be so terrified, and might be a bit more inclined to  trust you.

• As Daisy's preparing to leave for The Framework's back door, she takes time to say goodbye to Trip. She encourages him to take up Mace's mantle and become the new Patriot.

It's a nice little scene, but what's the point of trying to inspire him? Is she just being nice here, and trying to make him feel better for some reason? Surely she knows The Framework's likely going to be switched off at some point, at he'll cease to exist, right? Or do they plan to leave it running, so as not to "kill" all the simulated people inside?

• Inside The Framework, AIDA has her minions scan her body with a high tech device. This scan is then emailed to the real world, where it's used by Project Looking Glass to build her a real flesh and blood body.

I'm assuming it's not an EXACT scan, since her Framework body currently has a shattered spine. Obviously after the procedure, somebody must have edited the scan a bit to give her a fully functioning spinal column.


By the way, that was one freaky-ass visual when Project Looking Glass started knitting AIDA's new body!

• AIDA reprograms The Framework so that the back door is no longer in a park, but under a pit of molten steel. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are now trapped, as they can't penetrate the pit and go through the portal.

At first I couldn't figure out why this would matter, but after thinking about it more I think I finally understand. The molten pit probably had a solid bottom to it, which covered up the portal, so they couldn't go through. Even if it didn't have a bottom, jumping into molten steel would likely be fatal, and they'd die a split second before entering the portal, and then they'd die in the real world too.

So kudos to the writers, for thinking of an effective barrier for exiting The Framework.

• Oddly enough, the steel mill seems to be fully functioning, as there's an active pit of molten steel in it. Yet it seems to be completely devoid of workers. I guess this is one of those incongruities we can chalk up to The Framework not being a completely perfect world.

• In the real world, Daisy can't use her quake power for long without her protective gauntlets, or her bones will be vibrated into dust. I guess she doesn't have that problem in The Framework?

• This is the second time S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have had to save themselves by diving through an interdimensional portal. Last time it happened was in Season 3, in Maveth.

• For weeks now I've been wondering just where in the real world AIDA's Framework machine is located, and where she's holding Coulson and the others. This week I think I finally figured it out it's in the Superior's oil rig! 

See, last week Simmons and Trip went to the oil rig inside The Framework, to find Project Looking Glass. It wasn't there, and Simmons realized it was actually being built in the real world, so AIDA could construct a human body for herself.

And that's just what happens this week. We see the Looking Glass device knit a real, flesh and blood body for her inside the oil rig. Seconds after it's finished, she downloads her mind into her new body, then wanders into the Framework room, where she confronts Coulson and the others.

It's entirely possible that they mentioned this in a previous episode, but if they did I didn't notice it. And I'm sure many other viewers figured this out weeks ago, but I just didn't pick up on it until now.

• So about AIDA's new human body. She can apparently now teleport, and may or may not have additional powers. Did she tweak a few lines of genetic code while her new body was being built, and turn herself into an Inhuman? That'd be an interesting twist, considering she spent all of her time inside The Framework hunting them down.

• As I expected, Mack can't bear to leave his fake daughter Hope, and chooses to stay with her inside The Framework. At one point he tells Daisy to leave without him, saying, "I don't want to live in a world without hope."  Ouch! I just sprained my eyeballs rolling them so hard.

It's left up to the viewer to decide whether Mack meant "hope" or "Hope."

• Daisy tries to get Mack to come back to the real world with her, but he refuses. She seems powerless to stop him, and ends up returning by herself.

Here's an idea. What if she told him The Framework is likely to be switched off at some point in the near future, and if he's still hooked up to it when it is, he's going to die in both the virtual and real worlds. Maybe that would have lit a fire under his ass.

• Now that Project Looking Glass is a thing, I foresee a ninety five percent chance that Framework Ward is going to scan himself, have a new body constructed and live out his life in the real world. It would be a clever way and logical way for the character to return to the show.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Hope doesn't get scanned as well, so she and Mack can be together in the real world as well.

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