There has been an underlying theme of perception this entire season, not including the Ghost Rider arc that I already forgot about. It began with AIDA and her quest to become sentient, but then it was really Android May who made the audience begin to question what qualifies something as real. When Radcliffe programmed her to be unaware of her android nature there was the existential question of “if she thinks she’s real, doesn’t that make her real?” That question comes up again in this new nightmare of a reality inside the Framework.
What we suspected all along was confirmed in the episode “Identity and Change,” that AIDA is Madame Hydra and that she has reconfigured the Framework from what Radcliffe originally intended to one where she has complete control. In this role, she has manipulated Fitz, our lovable scientist, into a tortuous doctor who would go to the ends of the Earth for his girl, Madame Hydra. Fitz has been the most transformed character in the Framework, which was believed to be solely due to AIDA’s manipulation. But in “No Regrets” we learn that in this Framework, Fitz’s terrible father is not only alive and well, but an integral part of Fitz’s life, offering his guidance that makes your skin crawl. It’s hard to say exactly what regret AIDA took away from Fitz, but the result was him having a good relationship with his father, resulting in an evil version of Fitz.
This version of Fitz has no qualms with killing if it serves the greater good, and in this world the greater good is Hydra’s success, more specifically Madame Hydra’s (AIDA’s) success. This transformation of Fitz centers around the idea of perception as well. Fitz knows that another world exists, one that he and Madame Hydra came from. But he has been manipulated by Madame Hydra into thinking that world is fake and the Framework is real. And if the Framework world is the real one, then Fitz will do anything to maintain it. That loyalty and determination hasn’t changed in Fitz, it just has been manipulated toward an evil cause.
While Fitz is still the last on the team to see the truth, it took May until the end of “No Regrets” to come around. I feel like we haven’t seen the real May in so long that even the slightest glimpse of her had me jumping out of my seat. Of course, it was Coulson scolding her to get her s*** together that snapped her out of it a little. Thank god. Despite probably not having all of her memories back, she still breaks a Terrigen crystal for Daisy so she can be an Inhuman in this world as well. It looks like it will take the whole team to bring Fitz back and take down AIDA.
Speaking of team members, we gained one back and lost one all in the same sequence of events in “No Regrets.” Antoine Tripplet – better known as Trip – returns in the Framework, and it’s good to see him again.
I assume this is the writers apologizing for his untimely death, and while he may not be permanent it is still lovely to have him back for a while. Unfortunately, the excitement of his return was cut short as the episode concluded and Mace (who actually has Inhuman powers?), died a hero’s death in what appears to not only be the Framework but in real life as well. Thinking back on it, while his character was likable and his relationship with Jemma was humorous, we should have known that the Patriot was a temporary character, especially when his powers were revealed to be false. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and I am glad that at the very least he died as the man he always wanted to be.
Mack and his daughter are adorable and definitely play into the theme of perception. The love he has for her is real, their relationship seems so real both Mack and Hope don’t actually know anything different… yet. So it goes without saying that Ward’s conversation with Jemma holds some merit. If what you believe is real isn’t, then what is?
There is still a lot to be done in the last couple episodes of the season. We have yet to see the entirety of Ward’s return and while it would be nice to believe that in some world Ward was a decent human being, I don’t trust him at all. Daisy now has her Inhuman powers and an escape plan, courtesy of Radcliffe, and May is finally fighting on the right side. I want to see Coulson’s homemade soap at some point, and of course, we have to get Fitz back. So much to do, so little time left in the season.
GEEK Grade: B+/A
Next week it looks like AIDA gets taken down, at least temporarily, and we get to see some May action finally. Tune into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Tuesdays on ABC at 10PM.
Images: Marvel, ABC