Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Farewell, Cruel World!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. served up yet another great episode in the Framework story arc. The world may be fake, but the ramifications for the characters are real.

Radcliffe finally did the decent thing, only pretending to sell out the team so he could get Fitz to the Framework exit portal. This was a great payoff for the father-son tones in their relationship, a parental figure sacrificing for the child, and far more layered than just having Radcliffe turn cloak again.

But the real parental sacrifice, of course, came when Mack chose to stay behind with his daughter, even knowing that she and the rest of the world were a simulation. The love was real, and that was enough for Mack. His choice was a nice twist, particularly given the TV trope of easily abandoning/sidelining a child to make way for adventure. It was a powerful moment for his character, and pays off well whether that's indeed the last we see of him, or he's forcibly removed from the Framework later and we see the fallout of that.

Speaking of forcibly removing him, I did have to question Daisy's behavior in that climactic scene. I wasn't convinced she wouldn't just Quake-knock his ass backwards into the portal. Or that she wouldn't hide the absence of his daughter in the real world until he'd taken the plunge. Or that she wouldn't at least try to lobby harder by telling him explicitly about Yo-Yo and their relationship. That last option would have twisted the knife just a bit more when he still presumably chose his daughter and the Framework, while the other options could have caused an interesting rift between Daisy and Mack in the future. But perhaps this was Mack's time to be written off the show? We'll see if the writers have a rescue for him in the coming episodes.

And as for being written off the show, where was Ward this week? His absence felt significant to me, to a degree where I wondered briefly if I'd forgotten them killing him off last week. (They didn't, but I guess now I know why they were hitting his goodbye with Daisy so hard last episode: he wasn't going to be in this episode.) It feels like a missed opportunity to not kill Ward off for the third time on the show, inside the Framework. Which makes me suspect that the writers have plans to use Aida's new machine to give him a body before all this is done, potentially restoring him to the series on a more permanent basis (if there's a season five, anyway).

Aida's machine is a wild card in the two remaining episodes -- are we going to get a real world Ward? Triplett? But the machine has already done the job of converting Aida into a flesh-and-blood human, complete with emotion. Plus, apparently, either some added Inhuman-style powers, or the ability to perform some Darkhold-inspired trickery, as she teleported away with Fitz at the end of the episode. It certainly seems her love for him was not merely a means to an end, and she'll be trying to continue her relationship with him despite radically altered circumstances.

Poor Fitz. His horror at what he did in the Framework was every bit as strong as you'd imagine, and we'll surely be seeing more of it. The writers were doubly clever (and cruel to Fitz) in how the whole scenario was set up -- Simmons is the one person who might have been able to help ground him in the moment he awoke, but she wasn't there, having plugged in from another place. Then again, maybe having her there in the moment would have only added more anguish, as just one minute earlier, Fitz had shot her in the leg and was about to kill her. And the cherry on the misery sundae? All the feelings from inside the Framework remain very real and quite accessible, as evidenced by Fitz's complicated reaction to seeing Aida -- Ophelia -- walk into the room.

Our heroes may be back in the real world now, but there's plenty of drama (and that little matter of taking out Aida and securing the Darkhold) still to come before the season ends. As for this episode, I give it an A-.

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