Refugees seeking sanctuary. Outcry over fake news. Leaders claiming a desire to make the world great again.
On Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 Episode 17, there were many moments where it was all too easy to mistake the world of the Framework for our own.
Focused on the importance of resisting an authoritarian regime and full of references to the topics most often in the headlines nowadays, the show's latest arc can easily be read as commentary on the political situation in the United States.
I don't know how much of the Agents of Hydra arc is adapted straight from the comics, or how much was plotted out before the election, but even if all of the similarities are entirely coincidental, the timing has definitely given the storyline extra emotional heft.
Trust is a luxury these days.Mace
Whether you agree with the current administration or not, there's no denying how the fears voiced by characters in the Framework echo the fears of so many living in the United States right now.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. speaks to my own concerns about the way our world is turning, and I find myself so much more invested in the show as a result.
So, what went down on "Identity and Change"?
Simmons: You're not crazy!
Coulson: I live alone and make my own soap.
Simmons: It's quaint. Hipster, even!
After Daisy was able to jog Coulson's memory, she left him with Simmons so she could investigate Radcliffe's whereabouts via the Hydra computers.
Coulson proceeded to reveal that while he might not be a director of S.H.I.E.L.D. in this world, he is most definitely still a fanboy (so many Star Wars references – I blame ABC brand synergy).
Oh, and he thinks Hydra is controlling their minds through soap. That's a conspiracy theory I hadn't heard before! I really hope we hear more about that later. I'm just intrigued as to how that would work.
Daisy managed to pass the coordinates of Radcliffe's location to Good Ward before May pulled her into a Hydra briefing. And, thanks to Good Ward's contacts, Coulson and Simmons are introduced to the leader of the Resistance – the Patriot himself, Jeffrey Mace.
Coulson: Got to say, the whole Rebel Alliance aesthetic is really working for me.
Mace: I'll take that as a compliment. I think.
In this world, Mace is finally the heroic leader of the Inhumans that he could never quite manage to be in real life. No need for juicing his powers with weird drugs, no obsession with public relations overtaking real action – he's a legitimate badass, with armor to match.
Mace lent a quinjet to Ward, Simmons and Coulson so they could track down Radcliffe on the island where he has been spending his days lounging in a bathrobe with his beloved Agnes.
However, he quickly informed them that his life in the Framework was not as idyllic as it initially appeared. Aida killed him and trapped him in the Framework, and warped the original programming to suit her own purposes.
Said purposes apparently involve seducing Fitz, because he is so in love with Aida in the guise of Madame Hydra that he claimed he'd cross the universe for her.
Uh, no, buddy, you already did that for another girl, and it wasn't the Green-Haired Monster.
Madame Hydra: You'd really do anything for me, wouldn't you?
Fitz: I'd cross the universe for you.
Naturally, Madame Hydra and Fitz showed up to crash Radcliffe's little Resistance party. While the others hid, Radcliffe did his best to force Fitz to remember his lie in the outside world. But, it didn't work – and Agnes died as a result.
I already thought there was no way the FitzSimmons relationship could survive Simmons having stabbed Fitz's android doppelganger to death, but now that Simmons has seen Framework Fitz execute an innocent woman at point blank range, I think they must be doomed.
Yes, I know Simmons didn't really brutally murder Fitz. And yes, I know the real Fitz with his real memories, would not shoot a woman to death in cold blood. And of course, the real Fitz wouldn't be holding Daisy hostage for scientific experiments either.
Nonetheless, having those images seared in your mind must drastically alter how you feel about that person. How can Simmons ever look at Fitz again without being reminded of these terrible things?
I am fresh out of sympathy for liars who kidnapped my friends and replaced them with killer robots.Simmons [to Radcliffe]
If they survive, and are able to move beyond these pretty sizable (and emotional) obstacles, then FitzSimmons are clearly the most devoted, madly-in-love soul mates of all time. And because it's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I'm sure they will. But I don't find it very realistic.
I do find it interesting that Madame Hydra/Aida isn't hiding the idea of the outside world to Fitz; she's just painting it as an awful world ruled by S.H.I.E.L.D., where she was little more than a slave.
While she's obviously distorted the roles of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra, it is true that Aida was treated as little more than a slave in the outside world. I could feel her righteous feminist rage when she lectured Radcliffe about how it felt to be kept in the closet, like an object.
It's me again. Phil Coulson. I called Hydra on you. My bad.Coulson [to Simmons]
Madame Hydra has reworked the programming of the Framework to make it impossible to escape, but you know our team will think of something. Especially now that Mace and Mack have been brought into the fold.
Poor Mack! He was finally getting to live a quiet life with the daughter he lost. He's joined the Resistance now, but will he be willing to leave the Framework when the time comes? Will he give up his daughter to return to Yo-Yo, a woman he cannot remember?
One thing's for certain: everyone's relationships have been royally screwed up by the Framework. And yes, I consider Good Ward declaring his love for Daisy in the "screwed up" category.
However, Good Ward told Simmons he'd be willing to give his life for Daisy, and something tells me that is exactly what will happen.
I am fresh out of sympathy for liars who kidnapped my friends and replaced them with killer robots.
Daisy won't have to feel bad about leaving him behind because he'll already be gone – and he'll have finally made up for at least some of the horrible things Bad Ward did in the outside world. It will be a tearjerker.
This is my new Ward-related prediction – you heard it here first.
Overall, this was a really enjoyable episode that pushed the Agents of Hydra arc into uncharted emotional waters. I really hope the show stays on its current trajectory, complete with the none-too-subtle political messaging.
What did you think of the episode? Were you shocked when Fitz shot Aida? Do you think Simmons and Fitz can ever go back to the way they were? How do you think the Resistance will triumph over Madame Hydra?
Remember you can watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. online via TV Fanatic.
Lee Jutton was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She went into retirement in July of 2017. Follow her on Twitter.