There is something to think about after last night’s episode of Agents of SHIELD: It’s weird how they are “being political” by pointing out propaganda and sexual harassment. I am old enough to remember when “being political” meant talking about how tax cuts affect different areas of the country or whether we are or are not spending enough on infrastructure. Now? All you have to do is show a caricature of a perv television host and call propaganda lies and people get on you for “being political.”
SPOILERS LIVE HERE! SPOILERS LIVE HERE! ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Think about it: Bakshi is back as a news anchor who acts as the information (really, disinformation) branch of Hydra. He gets on air and does whatever those in charge deem the public needs to hear. Straight propaganda. And to top it all off, Bakshi is a perv news anchor, sexually harassing his staff. Did you catch the part about taking the woman furniture shopping before SHIELD busted in? That wasn’t just creepy, but that’s a tactic that our fucking President has used AND BRAGGED ABOUT in the past. That was a direct quote.
We are now in a time where noting a lack of common decency is considered being political. This is nuts. I’m glad the writers are taking advantage of our very tenuous political environment to pull examples that, in any other year, would have been laughed out of the script for being too cartoonish and too on the nose. These people are bad and should feel bad, and it’s delightful that real world examples are being repeated VERBATIM (remember Fitzler telling the Hydra operatives that he was going to Make America Great Again?) as examples of cartoon evil.
Throughout history, writers have used the medium of fiction to shed light on the hardships and hypocrisies and evils of the real world in a palatable form. Just look at Star Trek or Star Wars or any number of other properties. Fiction is a way to address social issues without being too ham-fisted or imposing on people’s sensibilities. But here we are in 2017 and quoting the President of the United States verbatim is an example of how evil Hydra is in the Framework. Fuck me.
On a somewhat related note, Season 4 of Agents of SHIELD has wrapped (check out the fun pictures from the wrap party as posted by various cast members on social media) and now we wait to see if a Season 5 is in our future. I bring this up because just recently, the Writers’ Guild of America just voted to give their Union the authority to call a strike in the near future. The last big strike was in 2007 and although the disputes were eventually resolved, it left a bunch of good shows out on the battlefield. Heroes never recovered, and a reboot/sequel couldn’t save that mess. Hell, even Battlestar Galactica got weird.
I bring this up because if the WGA and the production companies cannot work their differences out (at this point, it’s writers’ pay and health coverage issues), production of a Season 5 may be interrupted if it is approved. Alternatively, if the writers strike, it’s possible that the stuido might use that as a factor in deciding whether or not to renew the show, if the choice hasn’t already been made. Just keep your head on a swivel out there, folks. There I go, being political and shit.
1. I brought up the whole propaganda issue for a few reasons, but one was that obvious Fox News show hosted by
Bill O’Reilly Bakshi at the behest of Hydra. A few episodes ago, we saw in Coulson’s conspiracy pile a news article praising Bakshi for some Hydra shit he did. Now we have more context, and it appears that Bakshi is the information arm of Hydra. He keeps parroting their directives and keeping the populace “informed” of the Inhuman menace. There was also a quick blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shout out to Bill Paxton: “In Memoriam: John Garrett, American Hero.” As much as I love Bill Paxton, Jason Garrett was a Hydra operative from a young age (He originally recruited SquidWard). More propaganda.
This was more than just an interesting aside and memorial to a fallen co-star, though. John Garrett had life-threatening injuries and needed the Deathlok program to survive. But, it goes back farther: Garrett joined SHIELD and served under Fury, and was later partnered with Coulson. Since Coulson never joined up, it’s possible that Garrett wasn’t ever injured on a mission as he was in the real world. That, or Hydra turned him some other way, as he knew Alexander Pierce.
2. Speaking of Garrett: I am conflicted as all hell with GoodWard. Apparently in the Framework, Agent Hand recruited him from the juvenile detention center instead of Garrett. Hand was the first person to tell Ward he was a good person, and the rest is alternative-history. All of that stemmed from Coulson not joining SHIELD and not being partnered with Garrett, who was somewhere else instead of recruiting Ward in jail. That one small(ish) change is what made Ward Good instead of Squid. And I agree with Daisy: Seeing GoodWard in the Framework has helped me better understand SquidWard. he was just a victim of some fucked up circumstances, and was loyal to a fault. And he did have some good in him.
It was hard to watch GoodWard ask Daisy if, when she leaves, he would get his Skye back. I hope he does, because GoodWard deserves some happiness, even if Skye is still Hydra and they’re going to have some shit to work through. He finally accepted that she is from a different world, too. When GoodWard offered to hold the control room, he told her good luck and called her Daisy.
3. Earlier I opined that the Framework would give these characters a chance to find closure and forgiveness for their fallen friends and enemies, and it appears that this is the case. Daisy hasn’t forgiven SquidWard, but she better understands him. She can leave that part of her life behind without any lingering questions.
The same is happening with Tripp and Simmons. They were good friends in the real world, and just like that, he was gone. Simmons mentioned never having a chance to ask him about his grandpa and the Howling Commandos, and she is using this extra time to get to know him one last time before the great escape.
4. There was an interesting callback to the first season that I don’t know if anyone else caught, or even if it was intentional: After May gave Daisy the Terrigen, they had to escape Hydra HQ. Daisy had to cover May as she moved over and through the cubicles. In the first Season, when the team assaults Cybertek to get to John Garrett and fresh-villain Ward, Daisy and May fight through a cubicle bank. I believe it was in Episode 21 or 22 of Season 1.
5. Apparently Aida in the real world is Madame Hydra in the Framework, and she travels between the realities by plugging herself in and out as needed. I still have questions about the passage of time in and out of the Framework, because Daisy and Simmons are plugged in in the Zephyr which hasn’t landed since they got in. I know SHIELD has some Stark tech and the Zephyr can fly for extended periods of time, but in the Framework, a few days at least have passed. I think that Framework time is sped up somewhat, but am not sure how much. Otherwise, Daisy and Simmons better have some IVs plugged in to keep them hydrated.
6. There was another interesting tidbit revealed by Madame Hydra this episode: No matter the circumstances, the team cannot escape their true nature. May is a warrior and Fitz is a romantic. Despite the changes to regrets and histories made by Aida, it’s still the same people under the surface and their true selves eventually shine through. Dr. Potter said that Fitz was too thick to realize he was in the Framework and that his “father” was just some altered code with an attitude and drinking problem, but we did see some signs of Fitz shine through when the stress was high. When Madame Hydra was hurting and the traitors got away, Fitz started to panic a little bit, and his “father” told him that if he wanted him to be a manic every time things got tough, he’d have left him with his mother. Fitz is there, but the changes Aida made are so deep that it’ll take him the longest to come back around.
Mack is in deep too, but in another way: He has his Hope back, and isn’t so deep that he can’t find his way back, but rather is in a position where he won’t want to find a way back. The odds are good that Mack will want to stay behind. Who could blame him, even if Hydra is in charge at the moment?
7. When May finally started coming back around, she admitted that she was the one who called in the air strike that killed Mace. Daisy immediately told her that she didn’t know what she was doing, and May quickly responded by saying that it didn’t change what she did. Just like Bahrain in the real world and the Cambridge Incident in the Framework, she is going to have to deal with it going forward.
Which is another example of May’s warrior nature. She has faced untold hardship in her life and career as an agent (of SHIELD and HYDRA), and yet she keeps fighting. Any number of the tragedies she has experienced could have knocked her down, but she keeps fighting. Being a warrior is more than physicality - having the fortitude to continue on with all that she has experienced makes her a warrior no matter how physically strong she is. In the real world, May killed the girl in Bahrain and carried on, with that burden on her back. Then Andrew left, and the burden got heavier. And now she is responsible for killing Mace (even though she didn’t realize what she was doing), and the burden will be heavier still. But this is May, so despite everything, she will fight on.
8. Madame Hydra fucking bounced and I laughed at my screen. That’s what you get, Nazi.
9. So we discovered the true nature (puns!) of Project Looking Glass: It’s a means for Aida to escape her android chains and be born into a human body. Simmons found the in-Framework location of the device, which is based on Darkhold technology, but nothing was there. That’s because the physical machine was being built by Aida and the Superior in the same location in the real world. Fitzler has been creating the Framework - software side of the project within the Framework. There had to be something in the Framework to coordinate with the hardware in the real world for the plan to work. The project is the same as the matter-creation device at the heart of the Ghost Rider story arc, but on a larger scale. Instead of just creating carbon and water, Aida figured out how to create living biological material.
10. Then Fitzler had to go and ask Aida if he could go with her. Here’s the thing: I think if Fitzler goes with Aida, Looking Glass will create a new body for him instead of simply replacing Fitz with Fitzler’s memories and personality. Project Looking Glass had two components: A physical device in the real world that physically “printed” a body, and a software side that uploaded the Framework consciousness into that body. Had Aida been able to simply download into a body, she wouldn’t have needed the hardware side of things at all, and could simply live inside May or some random person she kidnapped off the street. That’s why I think if Fitzler goes with her, he will get his own body.
Which may lead to an interesting showdown: Fitzler v. Fitz (and possibly Simmons) in the real world. Could you imagine: Fitz confronting his dark side in person and using it as closure (common theme is starting to show for this season...) regarding his father? Then he could end that conflict once and for all.
11. “Maybe she’s racist.” FUCK YOU, Trump!
12. My favorite line of the night was Daisy trying to explain to May how she was able to control her powers so quickly after coming out of Terrigenesis, by saying that she had practice. You know what? I’m not going there. I died.
I also loved when the Hydra goon squad showed up to the safe house after the Racist’s tip, and Daisy used her powers to push the grenade back into the Jeep through the windshield. Fuck Nazis.
13. I love Tripp. This story arc is making me miss him more and more. Even though this is just an avatar of what Tripp would have been like based on records and memories and code, you can see how well he and Simmons clicked with no effort at all. Come On, Girl. That’s too crazy a story to just make up. Of COURSE Tripp believes Simmons. He’s awesome. As bad as it was seeing GoodWard ask if Skye was coming back to him, it’s going to be much worse saying goodbye to Tripp. Dammit.
14. Coulson is the best Avenger in any reality. Hand(s) down. I loved how throughout the episode, Coulson got more and more comfortable with a leadership role, which was an arc he followed in a more detailed manner over a few seasons. Mace’s death left a vacuum at SHIELD, and Coulson naturally did what was necessary to make it work. I also loved the callback to Fury’s speech in Avengers: “A wise man once told me that a person can do anything once apart of something bigger.” This is real-world Coulson shining through, because we learned that int he Framework, “someone” (probably Fury) tried to recruit him out of High School but Framework Coulson was scared and turned down the offer. I wanted to join the resistance after listening to that broadcast, just like those people showing up outside the station. WE ARE ALL PHIL COULSON, AGENTS OF SHIELD.