Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D 4×17 Review : “Identity and Change”

When this “Agents of HYDRA” storyarc was announced, everyone knew it wasn’t going to be all sunshine and lollypops. It was expected to be a complex, dark storyarc. However, it is was darker than I ever thought it was going to be. This had to be the most tense episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D since the end of season 1. So far we have seen heroes get beaten, innocent people get hurt and one of our beloved agents commit cold-blooded murder. And this is only the start!! I mean, we are this close to see May kick a puppy or HYDRA declare kittens illegal! So let’s start the review with a look at what Mack has been up to in the Frameworld aka HELL.

DADDY MACK 

So we get our first real view of Mack in the frameworld and he’s basically living his dream. He’s a father to his charming daughter Hope and everything is lovely…..except that Hope took a drone from Hydra. This leads to just the first tense moment of the show when HYDRA goons show up at Hope’s bus stop to search the people there. We share Mack’s fear that they will be caught especially as Hope has the drone in her bag. Luckily for them, HYDRA find Inhuman traces in one of the bus stop people and take them instead. This scene felt way too real and scary as this has happened so much in history that it felt like something that people would have had to live through in say Nazi Germany.*

*Remember that HYDRA is nothing but dirty stinking rotten Nazis.

This unfortunately is not the last we will see of Mack and Hope in “Identity and Change” but lets go learn more about brainwashing soap shall we?

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IF YOU THINK THINGS ARE BAD NOW…..

Meanwhile, Skye is helping Coulson remember more of his life. It’s going sort of well but Phil still is in his framework conspiracy mindset. After all, this Coulson believes HYDRA ‘s blue soap brainwashes you so he makes his own. As long as it doesn’t smell like my soap “Sweat and Regret”. In the midst of their convo, Skye slips that Radcliffe helped make this world and Phil jumps up and down like a puppy. Radcliffe is still alive here. A little bit of good news for our agents finally. Sadly though, it doesn’t last.

Daisy’s plan is to go with Ward , sneak back into HYDRA and get the info of where Radcliffe is hiding.  Skye finds the info thanks to hacking into Madame Hydra’s files (UH OH) but has to stay at the base when May calls onto her for a mission. Thankfully, Skye slips the info to Ward and tells him to meet back up with Simmons and Coulson.

Where’s Simmons and Coulson? They are at S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters meeting with the leader of Shield. Who’s that? Our old friend Jeffrey Maze in full-on leader mode, styling with his  Patriot gear. After a bit of the “Can we trust them” and being vouched by Ward, Maze agrees to send the trio to locate Radcliffe in his little bermuda island.

There is some great character work here as Coulson plays this as some sort of star-struck fan almost. His reaction to meeting Jeffrey was priceless. Jemma on the other hand is getting more and more angry and sad at this world. She is still weary of Ward and only lightens up a tad when Ward talks about his love for Skye. It’s lovely and also sad that this could have been the real world if only Grant hadn’t been recruited by Hydra.  A little secret is that I miss season 1 Grant Ward and while this isn’t him , it’s nice to see Ward on the side of the angels again so to speak. This version of SkyeWard is something a lot of people could and would love I think.

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THEY’RE ABOUT TO GET WORSE

So Madame HYDRA/AIDA and Doctor Fitz have found out about Skye’s hacking of the Radcliffe file. Fitz, though is still distracted by Simmons’s picture on his tablet. As I screamed “remember Fitz!!”, whatever faint trace of rememberence is wide out by more of AIDA’s half-truths to Fitz. The brainwashing of Fitz is comphensive and complete as this isn’t the Leo Fitz we know and love, this is a new Fitz. It was downright sickening hearing AIDA’s lies of the outside world and how she “suffered”. Yes, some of what happened to her wasn’t right but this isn’t either.

A friend of mine said they found this gross as hell because basically AIDA is making Fitz fall in love with her against his will. After this episode, I have to agree. Their kisses bring cold shivers down my spine. She is making him say things that only he ever meant for Simmons.

“I’d cross the universe for you.”

NO. HELL NO. That is only meant for Jemma Simmons. If you wanted me to hate AIDA as much as I’ve hated any character, then good work Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D writers. Good work.  This season better end with Simmons chopping AIDA’s head off and then smashing it into a million pieces.

Okay got a little of that out of my system, back to the episode.

May leads a HYDRA unit to capture Mack and Hope as Skye looks on sickened to her stomach. This leads to a few interrogation scenes that reveal two things to us — 1. Hope is a adorable little girl and 2. Skye is still way too trusting.  Skye goes to check on Mack and after Mack tells her a few things from the real world –like she is Daisy Johnson, Skye believes that he might remember things. Exceeeeppptt he hasn’t. It was a trick by May to confirm that Skye is the S.H.I.E.L.D mole. Damn you Madame Hydra.

I don’t blame Mack for betraying Skye as his daughter’s life was on the line. As any parent would tell you, you do anything to protect your child’s life. ANYTHING.

Her cover blown, we see Skye try to get the hell out of the buliding in a few excellent but very very short scenes. Sadly, Skye doesn’t get to far as May and the HYDRA lackeys capture her and start putting the boots to her. Literally.

I haven’t said much about May in this HYDRA Frameworld but just think of May without a shred of humanity left. She might be more robot than AIDA is at this point.

FAITH BETRAYED

So the trio of Simmons, Ward and Coulson are at the island Radcliffe lives on now. It only takes a few moments after finding him to realize that the puppet master is now just another puppet of AIDA’s. He is just as stuck in here as his lover Agnes is now. No body left to go back to, just a sould stuck in a make-believe land.

Just then, Fitz and Madame Hydra (with a few goons) show up with a entrance that Darth Vader would see and copy notes from. The good guys hide as Radcliffe goes to chat with his creation. It gets very heated here as both have excellent points as AIDA talks about how she wanted to be real and not to be used while Radcliffe clearly points out that she is just a robot.  AIDA is now doing what she hated others to do to her — Using others for her gain. Now she is the puppet master in a fake world just so she can feel like a real person.

Now this is when things get really bad. Hydra goons find Agnes and FItz’s points a gun at her threatening to kill her. This is when you know Fitz has been completely brainwashed by AIDA. Leo pointing a gun at at anyone?? NOOOO.

Ward has a clear shot to take out “The Doctor” fitz but in a wonderful monologue Simmons explains that the Fitz she loves , cares for and knows would never kill a innocent woman. It’s a really beautiful moment and showcases Elizabeth Henstridge ability to make you feel her emotions as Jemma pleads for the life of the man she loves. Simmons knows Fitz will make the right choice.

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Except he doesn’t.

Yes Leo Fitz, ends up killing Agnes with a bullet to the chest. This was shocking to watch and behold. The ramifications of this will be felt for the rest of the series I believe. Fitz has crossed that line and even though this is a make-believe world, Agnes wasn’t a make-believe person. She was real. And that is going to haunt Leo for a long time when/if he ever gets out of the Frameworld. The scars from this is going to be with a ot of team members when this ends — Mack and his child, Daisy with Ward , Fitz’s here. Even if it is just the frameworld, these things will never go away for the team.

As it happens, Simmons screams out and Her and Fitz’s eyes meet for a second. I refuse to believe that Leo didn’t have a split-second of remembering Jemma from the real world. Fitz’s needs to get his shit together and remember his love for Jemma ASAP.

A firefight ensues and the trio barely escape. Simmons is stunned that Fitz could do such a thing but brainwashing a man can make them do anything. Madame Hydra’s claws are firmly in Fitz’s head. Ward is despondant abot Skye’s capture and my heart hurts for Grant Ward for the first time in a long time. Things are looking pretty shitty for S.H.I.E.L.D but it gets a little boost when Mack walks in. His daughter is so disgusted by his actions that Hope won’t even look him in the eye. He wants to join up with the resistance to get that love and respect back. Remember what I said about a dad will do ANYTHING for their daughter. This is it.

So ends another fantastic episode albeit one that made me tense the whole time. Things are pretty damn dark and HYDRA/AIDA is in full control. I don’t want to say that the team is screwed but things aren’t looking good. Perfect.

QUICK THOUGHTS:

  • We see Skye at the end of the episode the worst for wear as she hears the screams of Radcliffe in the other room. FItz’s comes in and basically plays evil bastard to Daisy as she begs him to remember. Ian’s delivery of “Guess you don’t know me that well” is chilling as hell.
  • I’m with Simmons – Frameworld truly is hell.
  • In this place, Mack hates scary movies and his daughter loves them. Hehehe
  • I like this Grant Ward. Can we keep him somehow after all this ends?
  • Now I want to make my own soap.

Agents of SHIELD airs Tuesdays at 10 pm on ABC.

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