shallowness: Black and white close up of Natasha's tilted face (Natasha Avengers intensity)
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Agents of SHIELD 4.17 Identity and Change

Much that was gripping about this episode, although there were down moments for me, too.

My favourite bits still involved Simmons’ attitude around Framework!Ward, because if you’ve been through everything with her it is perfectly understandable, but from his POV, it’s a bit much and he just Really Loves Skye who calls herself Daisy, okay? I don’t think he’d always grasped Skye is Daisy now and has been for the last couple of days. It’s a bit of a stretch for them to be conflating SkyeWard and FitzSimmons, although Fitz in the Framework has betrayed what Jemma thinks of him. Anyway, I loved Jemma bossing everyone about, and Madam HYDRA/Ophelia making her out to be the MOST DANGEROUS PERSON EVAH while I thought ‘Yes, she is, when the show lets her be’.

Although by the end of the episode, she wasn’t. It was a shame given that Mack had turned up and nobody else fully knew the implications of that. And I note that she didn’t even try to convince Mace about the Framework. Okay, it was probably because she was focused on getting to Radcliffe, but was it also a little because the original team matters more, especially as Ward is making her go over season 1 issues? (Am mildly curious about whether he’ll be an Inhuman in the Framework – it could be a way of heroically writing him out.)

You couldn’t have much more contrast between the robot playing at being human, thinking control is love, embodying HYDRA and Our Jemma Simmons. Ophelia’s use of ‘across the universe’ was callous, and her cape was basically channelling Darth Vader, which okay… I noted the Alice in Wonderland referencing (which The Matrix also does), and though there were times I wished they could have gone even deeper, I appreciated the layering of this virtual/alternate reality and mining of the show’s own history a lot. It’s clever that Ophelia gave Fitz enough of the truth, but hugely falsified.

However, she hasn’t accounted for the human heart. I know that Fitz has gone evil here (so has May, but the episode seemed much less concerned with her) and shattered Jemma’s heart (and Radcliffe’s which is less important, but whoa, despatching Agnes like that was brutal, especially as I thought they’d make more use of the person with the same face as AIDA, but now she’s definitely dead). But Fitz was taken with Jemma’s picture, and I think I can take it that this wasn’t just because he was acute enough to see that Ophelia had lied. Jemma’s crying out his name seemed to get through to him. I am sure there will be much angst in the next episode and onwards,

Sidebar: so Ophelia IS AIDA’s consciousness, and is it me – because I was spelling it ‘Ada’ forever, but was this the first time we learned AIDA is an acronym, not a personal name? First, ouch. Second, the spiel Radcliffe gave decoy AIDA to spout when she was trying to get the Darkhold is true. Ha. Third, ‘Ophelia’ – to me that’s not a strong name for her Madam HYDRA persona. It’s probably from the comics, I guess, but I’d have gone for Decima, Boudiccea or Catherine…if I were going to be the robot overlady of the organisation in charge in a virtual reality world I’d programmed. Which I’m not. My point is: unless if she dies dead of drowning, I’m still going to be unimpressed by the name choice.

The other angsty thing, as set up at the end of the episode before last, was seeing Mack be cute and anxious with the daughter who’d never got to live in the real world. She was such a daddy’s girl with the engineering and the recognising motorbikes. Seeing them be at HYDRA’s ‘mercy’ was powerful. Okay, she was old enough to have listened to her daddy about letting him dispose of the scavenged parts, but she can’t have foreseen HYDRA’s treatment of her. They touched on the interesting question of how you raise a kid in a fascist state there.

I’m curious about Daisy knowing about Hope, though. IIRC Mack told Yo-Yo all about her. But in a sense, of course it would have to be Daisy who knew that in this world Mack had his daughter (while for most of the others, the life they’re living in the Framework would be abhorrent to them).

The scene where he betrayed Daisy was great – I fell for him having remembered something too, as it was plausible given some of the ambiguous staring he’d been doing in previous scenes. The moment where Daisy realised he didn’t remember was great. Well played, May, even though there doesn’t seem to be a twinge about working for a HYDRA. I would like more of the spotlight to fall on May (I was thinking of her when AIDA/Ophelia upbraided Radcliffe for keeping her in a closet etc., which was probably an intentional allusion – carry on trusting your viewers like that, show, pls.)

And so we ended on Fitz about to torture Daisy – eek. I thought she should have tried to mention Jemma, but she’d already been beaten up so her mind wasn’t at its clearest. BUT DAMAGE.

They deployed Coulson BEAUTIFULLY BTW. I thought that now he remembered, he’d take over, but he only half-remembered, he also mixed up his conspiracies (beautiful) but was self-aware enough to realise the soap thing was ridiculous, and in the midst of Daisy and Jemma’s grim determination and Framework!SHIELD’s resistance, he was like fanboy!Phil getting to play out his fantasies, with the irony that that’s his real life. His kindness and protectiveness towards Simmons was lovely and the returning competence with the shooting was relatively subtle characterisation.

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