That was an intense episode. I know it’s all part of the
Matrix Framework and it doesn’t really matter unless one of the people plugged in (or downloaded, AGNES) die, but I couldn’t help but feel like even if it’s “fake,” punching Nazis and toppling Hydra should be priorities. This show is doing an awesome job of making the stakes feel real, even though in the show’s universe, we know them to be superficial beyond the main cast’s survival. The rest is just algorithms and such.
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This Framework is messing with my mind, man. When Daisy and Jemma first went in, Jemma was more analytical and amazed at the realness and complex coding involved and the fact that all the NPCs had such detail and manufactured feelings. It was a little weird when Daisy woke up and was shook to her core: Her powers were gone, her live in (temporarily) boyfriend was motherfucking GoodWard, and Fitz and May were hardline Hydra supporters. Since she has been in, Daisy has been emotionally invested in waking these people up, while Jemma was more calculated and cold. This isn’t real, so it doesn’t matter. They just need to snap Fitz out of it.
Then Fitzler had to go and shoot Agnes.
That moment pushed Jemma more towards Daisy’s state of mind. Even though they objectively know that they are in a simulation, they are trying to reconnect with their wayward teammates on an emotional level to get them to snap out of their HYDRAIDA trance. It worked for Coulson, who was already figuring shit out in his own soap making way. Mack always understood that Hydra was bad, and as he put it, he is the judge of what is true in his house. The seed of doubt was planted in May last week, and finally it sprouted a bud with Coulson’s five simple words. Fitz is the last to come around. I just hope he figures it out before more damage is done.
But it’s interesting to see Jemma struggle with this conflict of the events of the Framework mattering and having meaning while at the same time recognizing that it is all a simulation. She has to stand there next to motherfucking GoodWard and watch Mack maintain his Hope - her senses are lying to her despite what she knows to be true.
The bigger question, though, is how much of this is the Framework and how much is it the people involved. Aida explained to Daisy that she changed one big regret each of them had and then let the Framework’s systems of algorithms run with it. Fitz’s biggest “regret” (if you could call it that) was not having a relationship with his dad. Mack’s “regret” was losing Hope. Mace’s “regret” was not being the hero he wanted and pretended to be. May’s biggest “regret” was killing the girl in Bahrain. Coulson’s “regret” was not pursing a life outside of SHIELD. Those are the basic parameters of the Framework. The rest of the world was born from those changes.
The problem, though, was that Aida did not compensate in any way for the way those changes would have affected our team. The only information Aida had to populate the Framework was the brain scans of those stuck inside. So yes, Fitz gets a relationship with his dad, who is also a monster, which resulted in Fitz being raised as a monster. Yes, May saved the girl, who went on the kill a lot of people in Cambridge instead of being limited to the agents in Bahrain. Yes, Coulson got to be a teacher and Mack regained his Hope, but they have to live under the oppressive thumb of Hydra.
I have no doubt that (most of) the team will make it out of the Framework. My bigger concern is whether or not they will remember what happened inside it; and if so, how they will be changed in the long run. I think Fitz will have it the hardest. At least in May’s case, she can live knowing that her choice to kill the girl in Bahrain, as bad as it was, was better than being responsible for the deaths of hundreds and the rise of Hydra. For Fitz, though, he tortured countless NPC Inhumans (and wanted to) and “killed” Agnes, who was more than a NPC. He will have some solace in knowing he turned out better for not having his dad around, but will have to live with the memories of all the horrors his dad raised him to commit in the Framework.
These next few episodes are going to be wild.
1. Are Aida and Madame Hydra the same entity? I was leaning towards them being one in the same a la Ultron, existing as one entity across many. However, it seems that they may be separate, and Madame Hydra is just an avatar of Aida. For instance, Madame Hydra offered to give Daisy a “life” with Lincoln in exchange for the location of
the rebel fleet where they were plugged in. Then, at the end, when Mace died (sad face), Aida (in the real world) seemed perplexed or concerned when she saw that his vitals were flat-lined. If Madame Hydra was Aida, why not just unplug Mace in the real world (without killing him) in stead of worrying about Hydra tracking him in the Framework? Why not the same for Coulson? Or May, once she realizes what she did.
Because she can’t, because she is not Aida. She’s a version of Aida that is acting as a System Administrator but is still constrained by the rules of the system. As you recall, Aida can’t kill any of the team, based on Dr. Potter’s restrictions placed on her AI programming. That’s why she was able to kill the agent that found May, but hasn’t outright killed anyone on the team. It appears that the same safeguards were installed in the Framework, too. Madame Hydra couldn’t kill Agnes, but she goaded Fitz into it indirectly. Madame Hydra (and Fitz apparently) can’t kill Daisy, even though she’s locked in a cell and is now known to be an Inhuman. Hell, May and Mace couldn’t kill each other either, even though they were “fighting to the death.” Despite the reality of the Framework, there still are rules, and preservation of life (real life, not those of NPCs) is still paramount.
2. In another example of why I love this show so damn much, I’m starting to have doubts about the nature of the Framework itself. We know from before Jemma and Daisy got into the Framework that it was spread out across the internet as a way to spread the load of it’s processing requirements. There is also a backdoor (PHRASING) built in to the code of the Framework, which cannot be chanced by Aida or Madame Hydra. However, Aida and Fitz are working on “Project Looking Glass,” which seems to be connected to, well, connecting the real world and Framework, or at least facilitating travel between the two.
Remember: This all started when Aida read that damn Darkhold. When Ghost Rider and Fitz and Coulson got blasted into that dark mirror like dimsension, Aida created a mechanical Sling Ring to get them back. I am beginning to think that the Framework is more than just a digital simulation, but is partially (in some way) a separate dimension. Maybe the Framework created by Dr. Potter is actually a pocket dimension with digital and code-like physical laws. That’s why Madame Hydra was able to seal Jemma’s artificial exit, but can’t touch the one Dr. Potter hardwired into the system. The Project Looking Glass Madame Hydra is having Fitz build (which she seems to be involved in as well) is a Sling Ring based on the physical and metaphysical laws of the Framework. Madame Hydra has some limited communications with Aida (she asked Daisy for the location they were plugged in and logically would pass that on to Aida to handle), so it is possible that this “Looking Glass” is an extension of that influence. Maybe Madame Hydra wants out of the Framework, because in the Framework, she is a “person,” and not an AI, and once out, will not be restricted by Aida’s physical and programming based limitations.
I’m so confused.
Also, how fast does time pass in relation to the real world? Is the Framework real time, or compressed over a few hours?
3. Since coming into the Framework, we got to meet motherfucking GOOD Ward and found our Tripp. I wonder if the “Looking Glass” will be a way to bring these characters back into the real world and back to the team once more. Personally, I don’t think they will. Just like Mack (if he wants to leave the Framework) would have to say goodbye to Hope, I think the team will have to say goodbye to Tripp and (gasp) GoodWard.
This is the team’s last chance to put these people behind them. Tripp died and no one was able to have any closure. Now is their chance. Technically, this Tripp is a NPC, as is GoodWard. And speaking of Ward. Now the team not only has to exist for a moment with Ward, but this Ward actually feels bad for whatever SquidWard did. Not only will the team have a chance to say goodbye to “Tripp,” but they can use the opportunity to “forgive” GoodWard, to put it all behind them. The best way to move on is to find forgiveness, I guess.
Which is interesting, because in this episode, Madame Hydra told May not to dwell on the past, while she was looking at the memorial from the Cambridge Incident. That flies in the face of what we know about Hydra, because so far, everyone keeps rubbing the Cambridge Incident in May’s face. The best way to move on is to find forgiveness not just for others, but yourself as well.
4. Speaking of: TRIPP! That was the best surprise I didn’t even know I needed. I loved how Coulson immediately called him Tripp, because it felt right. I also loved Jemma’s reaction upon seeing him at the indoctrination camp. In the Framework, Tripp and GoodWard have been working together for at least five years. I love that he retained the traits Fitz and Mack and May and Coulson remembered (the Framework and specific people are based on the memories of those plugged in). He still used his grandpa’s antique spy gear to get the job done. Perfect.
5. Coulson never changes. Even when he’s brainwashed in a virtual? world teaching kids Hydra propaganda, he still will risk everything for those that rely on him. Sure, he may have let those kids down by letting Hydra take them, but he won’t make that decision twice.
The best part of the episode was when Coulson was able to get May to snap out of it by saying, well, “Snap out of it, May!” Remember: So far as we know, Coulson and May have not yet interacted in the Framework: While Jemma and Coulson met up with Patriot, Daisy was captured as the Triskelion by May. So when Coulson told May to snap out of it by name, that was Real World Coulson breaking through the noise.
And May heard him.
First, she was shook when she saw kids running out of the quarantine facility. Then, she finally snapped out of it when Coulson ordered her to. She was under strict orders from Fitz and Madame Hydra to make sure Patriot was dead and find the body, and refused those orders. Finally, when Patriot got everyone out, that head nod sealed the deal. May is coming back.
6. That was a crazy emotional scene. We got May back, the team had to say goodbye to Mace, and Mace got to be the hero he always wanted to be, all in one scene. If you recall, Mace was “outed” when he “saved” those people in Vienna after Zemo bombed the Accords signing event. Now, Mace died doing what he admits was falsely attributed to him for publicity’s sake. Mace really was a hero, and finally got to show his full potential in the Framework. Which begs the question: We know the Framework is a simulation, but does it matter. I think GoodWard and Mace had a point: What they do matters, even if it’s driven by algorithm. The duty to punch Nazis and topple Hydra is as much a constant across the universes as is Big Belly Burger.
7. It was noted that GoodWard wasn’t acting the same since watching Fitz kill Agnes through the scope last episode. That felt like a nice callback to Season 1, where we had to watch YougWard be ordered to kill the dog he was caring for for years as a show of loyalty to Garrett. That messed him up, too.
8. We finally got our Bus back. Sure, it doesn’t fly and still doesn’t have a fish tank, but it’s ours and we love it. Thank’s Mack!
9. Despite the best part of the episode being Coulson’s order for May to snap out of it, the best line has to be Coulson talking about the weird feeling he gets every time he’s around GoodWard. “It’s like hives!” WHAT. I loved Jemma’s response: Well, you did crush his chest and leave him to die on an alien planet...” Perfect. I also loved how Dr. Potter is (alive, because they won’t kill anyone) in the next cell calling bullshit on Madame Hydra in real time while she talks to Daisy. I laughed out loud at that part. Honorable mentions: “Nice to meet you, British lady!” Hope is good. Also: “Did you hear about the Inhuman that had lion’s paws? JUST THE PAWS. So weird!” God damn I love everyman Coulson.
10. I’ll say it again: the Framework and the facts built into the algorithms are based on the thoughts and memories of those plugged in. So when May gets juiced with the motherfucking HYDE formula (with a pinch of peppermint!), that probably came from Fitz. There was another interesting callback: The Hydra suit that showed May the formula was one of Jemma’s handlers when she was undercover at Hydra, Incorporated.
11. That ending. Me oh my, is my body ready. May is finally back, but doesn’t quite know what the fuck is going on. She gave Daisy some terrigen, and she immediately started transforming. I am so fucking ready to see Daisy and May fight their way out of Hydra and back into the real world, powers (any maybe some Hyde formula) and all.