Welcome back, Agents.
Listen, I’m just gonna say it: obviously I have no idea when this season is going to end. I know I kind of prematurely called it a few episodes ago, and I was (obviously) way off base here. But I’m willing to look past it if you are. Cool? Cool. Thanks.
With that out of the way: holy hell, this episode was straight bonkers, y’all. Let’s get to it then, shall we?
Spoilers. It’s a recap. I don’t know what you expected.
The episode opens with the Superior and Aida, with the latter playing some music for the otherwise disabled and close-to-death Superior, who’s confined to a table. He’s bloody and beaten, and he tells Aida that he knows what she’s doing: she’s going to put his brain into a LMD body. Aida says she isn’t going to do exactly that (ominous, no), then starts hacking away at him. Like, seriously? Horrifying.
You’ll remember that the last episode ended on one massive cliffhanger, with the revelation that four LMDs were loose in S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. Coulson, Mace, Mack, and Daisy were all suspected to be those LMDs by Fitz and Simmons after Simmons received an alert from the LMD detection systems that were otherwise disabled by… somebody.
After a small panic attack (because wow that’s horrifying), Fitz and Simmons agree that they need to just play it cool and try to make sure that none of the LMDs know what they know. As if on cue, Coulson, Mace, Mack, and Daisy enter the lab, with Coulson bringing up their plan of gathering up all the Inhumans to house them on base for their protection. You and I know, though, that they’re more likely to kill or imprison all the Inhumans, seeing as how the LMDs are, well, byproducts of an alliance between Radcliffe and the Watchdogs.
LMD Coulson tries to separate Fitz and Simmons, but Fitz intervenes, saying he needs to stick with Simmons while they analyze some random bit of hardware they pulled from the base in the last episode. Mack and Daisy head off to make arrangements to bring in the Inhumans, starting with… Yo-Yo. (Nooo, not Yo-Yo.) LMD Coulson and LMD Mace have a bit of a West Wing/Aaron Sorkin “walking through a hallway and talking” moment.
LMD Mace then heads off to oversee the unloading of “some hardware” from the Zephyr, and LMD Coulson goes to “activate” LMD May in the Director’s office.
There, LMD May is looking out at the snow, and in a truly classic sci-fi moment, she talks about having memories of snow, very specific memories about playing or being in the snow, but she knows that this is actually the first time she’s seen it at all. It’s at this point that LMD Coulson reveals that he’s actually an LMD, too, showing that his arm is whole—there’s no split or cut where his arm was chopped off way back when. LMD May freaks out, and LMD Coulson tries to calm her by talking about Radcliffe’s Framework and how it was created to erase regrets. LMD May asks, “Are you saying we’ll eventually be able to be… together?” LMD Coulson answers, “I’m saying that in the Framework, we already are.”
Elsewhere, Fitz and Simmons are wheeling away the hardware they mentioned earlier. As they bring it into the mechanics lab, though, a warning light goes off—apparently one of them tripped the LMD alarm. Oh, dang. Simmons catches the alarm first on her datapad, and she makes a move for a gun nearby. Then they have that impossible argument where they try to figure out who’s actually a robot. (Sidebar: try it sometime. The more evidence you try to present to prove your humanity only makes you sound like even more of a robot.)
Simmons, though, gets Fitz to take a nearby knife and slice is wrist. Fitz, horrified, tries to talk her out of having to do that, but eventually gets to it anyway. As he doubles over in pain, Simmons gets closer to see if he’s okay, at which point Fitz flips the knife in his hand and stabs Simmons in the leg. Fitz, you asshole.
Turns out Fitz was the fourth LMD—which means one of the earlier originally suspected four agents might actually be human.
But we don’t get to find out exactly who yet, as we’re taken to where Radcliffe is holding the other agents captive in the Framework.
Radcliffe is spending more and more time in the Framework, but Aida pulls him out (this time after 24 hours). Aida mentions to him that there are four LMDs in play now at HQ, and it’s only a matter of time until they replace the last two top agents: “Jemma and, of course, Daisy.” It’s also noted that their commands aren’t exactly subconscious—they’re all fully aware they’re LMDs, which Radcliffe angrily points out could result in loss of life, something he’s still adamantly against. Aida, though? Less so.
At HQ, LMD Fitz is trying to download Simmons’ memories. He has her heavily sedated, but she slowly frees herself from her bonds and crawls over to a hammer on the floor. Fitz then mentions something about being together forever, and Simmons stops to comment on that, saying that it’s the first time Fitz has ever said anything about getting married. Apparently Fitz (the real Fitz) was just afraid of bringing it up because while he thought he knew what the answer would be, nobody can ever really be 100% sure. Simmons says that she’ll tell Fitz when she sees him, then drops the hammer, releasing an engine block that was hanging from the ceiling.
It traps the LMD Fitz, and Simmons takes that opportunity to start stabbing at the LMD. Eventually she stabs it in the neck, deactivating it. I definitely can’t imagine that it’d be easy to stab my partner in the neck and chest, robot replicant or not, so Simmons is understandably torn up about it. Oof.
LMD Mack, on the Zephyr, notices that Daisy is missing. He asks another agent where she might be, and finds out that she’s downstairs in the Inhuman containment area checking up on the accommodations before they leave to pick them all up. Mack’s not happy about that, and goes to check on her. Daisy’s, well, doing just that, but in the last room she checks, she finds… a whole bunch of Daisy LMDs.
Seriously, S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ really is Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Surprises and twists around every turn, but unlike the confectionery, these are absolutely hecking dangerous. Mack enters, but a little late, as the real Daisy stripped down to match the LMDs, who were all in stripped-out athletic gear. Just as he thinks he’s found the real Daisy, he finds out he’s wrong when he’s quaked into the wall and knocked out.
Daisy takes his shotgun axe and her clothes and gets the heck out of dodge to hide in a supply room. There, she goes over the security camera feeds, and watches as Mace, Mack, and Coulson come upon Fitz’s body along with a few other agents. Before Coulson could lay the accusation that Simmons is an LMD, one of the other agents spots that Fitz actually is an LMD himself. Coulson, Mace, and Mack then proceed to just kill the agents in the room before they can let a warning out. Then, the security feeds go dead.
A horrified Daisy then realizes she’s not alone in the room—Simmons is there, recovering from her own wounds. They have a standoff, too, as they each don’t know whether the other is a LMD or not. Daisy suggests that she can use her powers to quake Simmons’ bones, which would otherwise not be present if she were an LMD. Simmons doesn’t want to be touched, but Daisy disarms her and pulls her into a hug, where she quakes them both and they find out they’re both real.
Over at Radcliffe’s lab, it’s shown that Aida’s building a brand new LMD (likely for the Superior, despite his wishes). She and Radcliffe have a conversation regarding her primary parameters, which are to protect the Framework at all costs while at the same time protecting Radcliffe at all costs. She feels this is a paradox, as she’s convinced that Radcliffe could one day change his mind and have her dismantle the Framework. Radcliffe, of course, finds this ridiculous. He truly believes he’s relieving people’s pain with the Framework. Aida mentions that though their minds might be at peace, their physical bodies will give out eventually.
Radcliffe says that doesn’t matter, explaining that reality is just perception. “They perceive it as real, which makes it real.” Aida argues that they might not believe that, which Radcliffe counters by saying that he does, truly and wholeheartedly. This eases the paradox in Aida’s mind, at least according to her. She takes Radcliffe’s arms… then slices his wrists open before shoving him into the Framework. He’s dying as he’s being uploaded (much in the same way his ex died while she was being uploaded).
I want to stop right here real quick and mention: this is a particularly horrifying scene, at least to me. Just watching Radcliffe watch himself bleed out as he’s going into the Framework is kind of a frightening scene. I can’t stop thinking about his eyes as he’s realizing what’s going on and, well, something about the thought of permanently being sent somewhere that, deep down, you know isn’t real just gives me all kinds of existential anxiety. Anyway.
With Radcliffe gone, it’s just Aida running the show.
Back at HQ, Mace, Coulson, and Mack gather up the agents stationed there to tell them that Daisy and Simmons are LMDs. They send everybody out to go find them, but only to disable them—they still need them conscious to “find the rest of the team” (read: download their consciousnesses into the LMDs). Daisy and Simmons come up with a plan to escape, involving sleeping gas and a run for the Zephyr. The plan, though, requires Daisy to basically go up against the three LMDs all on her own, which Simmons isn’t cool with.
But, in what I feel was one of the best talks of the season, Daisy calms Simmons down with a talk, reassuring her that “this is not how your story ends.” She’d always believed that Fitz and Simmons would be together, and she truly believes that’s what’s going to happen. Ah, my heart.
Their plan mostly goes off without a hitch, with the sleeping gas knocking out the human agents while leaving up the LMDs. It takes them out of the equation, limiting the combatants Daisy would have to fight off. She squares off against LMD Mace first, and they really go at it, trading blows and showing that they’re nearly evenly matched. Daisy gets the upper hand eventually, though, and stabs LMD Mace in the head, disabling him.
Simmons is elsewhere, applying a sleeping gas antidote (I didn’t know they had those things, I thought that would just be, you know, coffee) to a few human agents. They don’t believe that she’s not an LMD, but Simmons has them at gunpoint, so she “doesn’t really care,” and has them start helping her bring out some hardware to the Zephyr.
Daisy, on the other hand, after her fight with Mace, is shot in the shoulder and the leg by LMDs Mack and Coulson. They each approach, trying to corner her and talk her into letting them download her memories before she bleeds out. As they get closer, though, Daisy’s making some kind of (honestly) “quake ball” in her hands, which she then releases, destroying the LMD Mack and at least temporarily disabling the LMD Coulson.
LMD Mack’s head disintegrates and goes flying out the door, right in front of Simmons and the other agents. One of the agents was about to stab Simmons in the back, but stops short as Mack’s head goes clattering across the floor. It’s a real “told you so moment” for Simmons. Daisy reunites with them and they all make for the hangar door, only to run smack dab into May, who’s sitting on a bunch of explosives and a few oil drums of gasoline. She tells Coulson that she has Daisy and Simmons.
After a chat, Simmons asks, “Do you want us to die?” May replies, “Coulson says that doesn’t matter.” Daisy says, “That doesn’t sound like Coulson,” to which May doesn’t have an immediate response. She simply says, “Either way, I won’t have to regret this decision.”
Cut to: Coulson coming up to the hangar door, only to watch as it closes with Daisy and Simmons gone. LMD May let them go. Coulson tries his best to sweet talk his way into getting May to open the door, and they have a really heartbreaking conversation about what May’s feelings truly are about Coulson (she says she loved him, ahh).
But she knows that isn’t the real Coulson, and she isn’t the real May, and despite feeling sad about her impending death, she doesn’t regret her decision for a moment. Then, she detonates the explosives, destroying herself and the LMD Coulson.
Daisy, Simmons, and three other human agents make it out on the Zephyr alive.
After a while, they proceed with their plan to plug Daisy and Simmons into the Framework to try to “hack” into it (uh, okay) to find out where their teammates are. It seems weird, but honestly, it’s Marvel. We’ve already got weird Darkhold magic, why the heck can’t we have one weird hacking solution. Why not.
They end up going under, and I shit you not, the most bonkers god damn montage plays, showing us what each of the main team’s “dream lives” without regrets are. Here, I’ll list them for you.
- Daisy wakes up in a bubble bath, then gets a text saying they’re being called in and that she should wake her boyfriend. She thinks it’s Lincoln, but as she goes out into the bedroom of the apartment she’s in, there’s a slow focus and zoom on a picture of her and god damn Ward on what looks like a honeymoon or a date. HIM AGAIN?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
- We already know through LMD Coulson’s conversation with LMD May that Coulson often wonders what life would be like had he not signed up for S.H.I.E.L.D. Turns out he’s a teacher, but not just any teacher: he’s an anti-Inhuman teacher. He’s writing “Inhumans and why we FEAR THEM” on a chalk board and stop playing with my emotions, Marvel.
- Mack’s got a good suburban lifestyle going, looking incredibly happy cleaning up after what looks to be a daughter (it’s a girl’s bike he picks up, if you notice). It’s likely he’s imagining life had his daughter not died and thus he and his ex-wife had not broken up over it. (Wait, am I the first to make this joke: he’s a Mack daddy! HA.)
- The door to a luxury car opens (complete with weird, oddly placed mist and smoke), and Fitz steps out in a fancy suit and scarf. He looks to all the world like some techy millionaire. He turns around to help someone out of the car, but before we find out who, we’re shown…
- … Jemma Simmons’ motherfucking grave. Dude, WHAT?! The date of her death is covered up by some dried out flowers left on her grave marker.
- May’s suited up for combat and riding up a fancy glass elevator. The shot pulls back a bit to show the Triskelion (you know, the S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ before the events of The Winter Soldier destroyed it), but instead of it being marked with the S.H.I.E.L.D. symbol, it’s marked with a god damn Hydra symbol. May is Hydra, what the hell?
After the cut, we’re taken back to Radcliffe’s—now Aida’s—lab. She’s waking up the Superior, who’s now in control of a brand new mechanical body. It’s identical to his own, but unlike the other LMDs where a person’s memories are implanted into a robot brain and body, Aida actually kept the Superior’s head alive, and wired it up so that he’s controlling this body remotely. There’s a really surreal moment where the LMD Superior watches his own head on a table.
- Damn, Aida. You scary.
- I don’t think I can recover from this episode. At least not without a lot of alcohol. This one went on a real emotional tear.
- That being said, it was a brilliant damned episode, and certainly was a massive, massive highlight for me. Kudos, Marvel. You nailed it with this one.
- So, okay. Every agent has a “Framework dream,” right? Where they live in a world where their biggest regret is wiped away. Who the fuck regrets Simmons being alive? What kind of monster would rather see her dead? Oh my god, is that Simmons’ dream? Is she in the Framework believing she’s dead?! We know if you die in the Framework you die for real, but wait, does this mean Simmons is dead?! What’s going on here?!
- The “return” of Hydra and Ward mean one hell of a reset for this next arc, which (I think) may close out the season. Each season’s been about 21-22 episodes long, and here, we’re only at 15. So we can maybe expect six to seven more episodes of wild and crazy Framework antics, most likely, and along with that, the return of some old faces. This must be the MCU’s take on Flashpoint, right?
- It’s a super nice touch to use the same song from the beginning of the episode to close it out. The Superior mentioned that he likes the song because he imagined it would be a good song to “be born to, not the opposite,” since Aida’s technically about to kill him. Using the song to represent Daisy and Simmons’ descent into the Framework is just *chef kiss* excellent.
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