This Agents of SHIELD review contains spoilers.
Agents of SHIELD Season 4 Episode 20
I’m not crying, you’re crying.
We kick off with a quick look at outside the Framework as the SHIELD B team of Yo Yo, Piper, and a bunch of red shirts whose names I can’t remember are being chased by AIDA’s Russian minions in a riveting air battle sequence that kind of takes place off screen (oh, budget). At first, it is disconcerting being out of the Framework and seeing the MCU proper, but the sequence also acts as a place setter as we prepare for what might be the final Framework adventure.
These past few weeks, I haven’t hidden my love for the Framework at all. In fact, since our agents entered it, Agents of SHIELD has hit a crescendo of awesome character beats, story moments, and colon puckering intensity. This week, we kick things off with Daisy and Tripp warmly reuniting even though Framework Tripp has no earthly clue who Daisy is and things just get more emotional from there.
Spoiler: tears are coming.
Meanwhile, Coulson has to prove the reality of the Framework to May. These moments just emphasize the trust between Coulson and May. Think about it, is there a more pragmatic person than May in the Marvel Universe? If she can’t punch it, it ain’t real to Melinda, and here she is being asked to accept that the world she is standing in is a computer simulation. Even though she requires proof, you can tell she is totally willing to buy it because Phil Coulson is selling it and even in a world where May was a HYDRA puppet, she trusts him. To May, Coulson is reality, her grounding force, and her center. Now that Coulson has May back, one just gets the sense that everything is going to be okay.
Well, not really because martial law has been declared by HYDRA with Fitz wielding the truncheon. The main victim of evil Fitz’s brutality is his former football and drinking pal Doctor Radcliffe. Even though we only saw their friendship for a brief period in the real world, there is still an undercurrent of tragedy. Think about it, most of the Radcliffe/Fitz friendship happened off camera, but I am totally buying into the fact that when Fitz is hurting Radcliffe, he’s hurting a man who is very important to him. Keep in mind now, this whole Framework thing is Radcliffe’s fault but he still has become a sympathetic, even tragic, figure. But Fitz finds a way to insure Radcliffe’s loyalties as he tempts the good doctor with the prospect of a new body outside the Framework. We’ve certainly seen Radcliffe sell people out for a lot less.
When May and Simmons reunite, she’s surprised that a “little pop tart” like Simmons can cause HYDRA so much consternation (that line is so beyond tremendous), but our fun ends with Simmons making a horrific realization: that it must have been something profound to make Fitz turn to the dark side, and she takes it upon herself to save the soul of her beloved.
Fitz’s relationship with his father is worth noting. In the real world, Fitz never really had a father and his lack of confidence comes from that loss. But in the Framework, we can see what an utter piece of filth his father truly is and the bond with this awful man has turned Fitz into one of Marvel TV’s greatest villains.
Simmons is forced to kill Fitz’s father, insuring that Framework Fitz will be determined to hunt and kill her. When Fitz arrives to find his father’s corpse, his emotionless reaction is absolutely chilling. On the one hand, it’s great to see Simmons take out that goose-stepping sunnuvabitch, but on the other hand, how will Marvel’s best romance survive this?
As a palate cleanser from that family tragedy, we get a few moments with Yo Yo. It’s been awhile since we checked in with Yo Yo, and hopefully if and when Agents of SHIELD is renewed for season five, Yo Yo will play a bigger role and we get to see her and Mack have lots of romantic moments, and babies, and live happily ever after, and yes I know how this week’s episode ends so shut up! I’m allowed my denial!
Of course when SHIELD finds a backdoor out of the Framework, it’s in a pool of molten lava…because what’s a video game without a lava pit? After all, the team is indeed trapped in a video game. Remember before when we talked about how May had to buy into the Framework? Well, now she not only has to believe wholeheartedly in what Coulson was selling, but she has to jump into molten freakin’ metal to test her trust. But others have serious issues to solve before they follow.
How hard was it to watch Fitz force Simmons to her knees, torturing her before he ends the life of his beloved? Just think, if Fitz killed Simmons, what would the guilt be like if he escapes the Framework. Once Fitz returns to the real world, he still has to deal with his past sins, since some of his Framework past came with him, as AIDA is now housed in a human body. I guess that’s Ophelia now? But Ophelia has Darkhold powers, so there is no real world reunification of Fitzsimmons as AIDA Ophelia Miss Darkhold Crazy Pants promptly abducts him.
Not everyone makes it back, though. Despite Daisy’s protestations, Mack stays in the virtual world because to him, his daughter’s love is real, and that’s more powerful than anything. But hey, Tripp and Ward are still in the Framework so I guess we have two realties protected by SHIELD, and in the virtual world, it looks like Tripp is going to take up the mantle of the Patriot from Jeff Mace. You can make a whole spinoff about the Framework world, I swear to God.
So Mack is left behind, Fitz is broken and MIA and the rest of SHIELD must take on AIDA’s forces as things stay hot even though we have now exited the Framework. Awesome stuff.
The Patriot as a legacy character is nothing new, and neither is the second Patriot being an African American. Marvel’s second Patriot was introduced in Young Avengers #1 (2005) and was created by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung. This legacy hero was Elijah “Eli” Bradley, the grandson of Isiah Bradley, the first man to wear the identity of Captain America.
Bradley was a Tuskegee airman experimented on by the US government during the development of the Super Soldier Project. Bradley went AWOL and for a brief time, wore the mantle of Captain America. Eli inherited some of grandpa’s strength and stamina and took up his forbearer’s shield as the Patriot.
With Marvel’s welcome push for diversity, I’m surprised it isn’t pushing both Isiah and Eli more in all media. Whatever the case, as a new Patriot, Tripp has become a new part of one of Marvel’s most fascinating, if little known, legacies. Let’s hope we get to see some Framework Patriot adventures at some point in the future.