Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD 4.17 Review – ‘Identity and Change’
Previously on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD: Simmons and Daisy went into the Framework, only to discover that May not killing the Inhuman girl in Bahrain led to a world where Hydra was able to usurp SHIELD and take over the world. Coulson is a teacher spouting pro-Hydra propaganda and allowing his students to be dragged off by Hydra goons, May is a high-ranking Hydra official with Fitz (as The Doctor) second in command only to Madame Hydra, better known in the real world as Aida, and Ward is a double agent, protecting his partner/girlfriend/Inhuman Daisy from Hydra.
Season 4, Episode 17: ‘Identity and Change’
Coulson runs through the information that Daisy has given him, and though he seems skeptical, he says he knew that he wasn’t crazy. He says Hydra always lies and references the Cambridge incident, which Hydra used to justify taking total control. Coulson goes a little conspiracy theorist in claiming that Hydra uses mind control soap to plant false memories, but Daisy gets a call from Ward that they’re sending a unit to collect Coulson.
Mack is working on something at his table, and he asks how someone could beat him putting a drone together, and his daughter tells him that the human brain peaks at twenty-four, so he’s slowing down. He finds out that she used parts from a Hydra drone to work on hers and he reminds her that they stay away from Hydra and off of their radar. He tells her to get ready for school and they head to the bus stop, where a group of Hydra agents start a shakedown. Mack’s daughter brought the drone in her bag and when she tells him about it during a contraband search, he takes the bag so that he can take the blame. However, the guy next to Mack in line bursts into a run, only to be taken down by Hydra and determined to be a potential Inhuman. They stop their search and take him away, leaving Mack to hug his daughter in relief.
Daisy takes Coulson to Simmons and they talk about whether or not they could trust Ward, and Ward sets up a time and place for them to meet the Resistance. Simmons tries to convince Daisy that she can change Ward’s mind like Daisy did Coulson’s, but Daisy insists that Coulson is the number two in Hydra. They discuss whether Radcliffe is the key and Daisy goes to try to find out where he is.
Fitz confronts Madame Hydra about keeping him in the dark and she finally relents and shows him a picture of Simmons. Fitz doesn’t recognize Simmons and says that he’ll assemble a team to eliminate her. Madame Hydra asks if he’d do anything for her and he says he’d cross the universe for her. She kisses Fitz and when they part, he kisses her back. Elsewhere in Hydra, Ward finds Daisy working at her computer workstation and he warns her that she’s lost her mind for hacking into restricted files to find Radcliffe’s location. As they leave, May and a pair of goons stop Daisy and says she needs to come with May. Daisy gives Ward Radcliffe’s location and tells her to take it Simmons, insisting she’ll be fine.
Simmons and Coulson meet Ward’s contact with the Resistance, and when Coulson recites the response to the man’s coded prompt, he holds out wrist restraints and both Coulson and Simmons have bags thrown over their heads and are taken in a van to meet Jeffrey Mace, the director of SHIELD/leader of the resistance, wearing his special suit. Mace apologizes for the hoods and says that trust is at a premium. Coulson gushes about “The Patriot” but Mace says it’s a little too much for his tastes. Simmons asks what happened to the building (which is the real world SHIELD headquarters) and Mace reveals that a brave agent named Billy Koenig died to give him the location and they started over, though it’s cost them many lives. Mace shows them a room full of potential Inhumans, people either with the Inhuman gene or with family who had it, and SHIELD works to find them new id’s and safe homes.
May and Daisy go to a situation room where Fitz outlines their mission, which is to neutralize Simmons with lethal force if necessary. He says they’ll make their world great again. Meanwhile, Mack and his daughter discuss Inhumans and agree to watch Chopping Mall. Back at SHIELD headquarters, Simmons and Ward joust verbally and Simmons reveals her in-Framework backstory, which earns the trust of both Mace and Ward. Mace can’t send a team to find Radcliffe, so Coulson volunteers, saying he’ll need all the help he can get. Ward agrees to fly and supervise the mission, and Mace relents. Daisy and May lead a team to the house of a suspected subversive, and it turns out to be Mack. May has her men pin him to a wall and she takes his daughter away as Daisy looks on in horror.
Mace gives the newcomers a tour and imagines a world where a fleet of Quinjets take off from SHIELD headquarters. He wishes them luck and Ward leads them to a Quinjet, which amazes Coulson. At Hydra headquarters, May interrogates Mack and he says he’d do anything for his daughter. Ward asks Simmons if Radcliffe is dangerous and she says that he might not be physically but the worst threats are the ones right in front of you. Ward says he’d die for Daisy and Simmons excuses herself. She ends up giving Coulson a pep talk and Ward says they’re thirty minutes away.
Fitz confronts Madame Hydra about Simmons and she reveals that Simmons has crossed over from the other side. Fitz demands to know what happened on the other side and Aida tells him her version – that she was treated as a slave, less than human, and that Project Looking Glass is her way of making sure that they can be together. She gets a text and says that they can finish their discussion later. In the other interrogation room, Daisy talks to Hope, Mack’s daughter, and tries to comfort her. Hope pleads with Daisy to keep Mack safe and Daisy has to leave the room. May joins her in the hallway and asks if she got anything from the girl. May says she hasn’t broken Mack yet and walks away. Daisy goes to Mack and tells him that Hope is safe, which is an immense relief to him. He says they need to talk and says that Skye is Daisy Johnson and they’re both SHIELD agents, but when Daisy tells him about Yo-Yo, his confusion reveals that he was playing a role. He says that he was saying what May told him to say and spreads his hands to show a recorder.
Daisy tries to escape, but May and a pair of goons are in hot pursuit. Daisy takes out another pair of goons and continues to flee, but May demands that they lock down the elevators and find her. Ward and Simmons gear up to grab Radcliffe and Ward tells Coulson to try not to get killed. They find Radcliffe in a bathrobe playing croquet, and he tries to figure out how they got into the Framework before assuring them that there is no escape. Meanwhile, at Hydra’s Triskelion, Daisy takes out a group of agents in an elevator but before she can escape, May and her goons surround her and start beating her down.
Radcliffe reveals that he can’t leave the island he’s on, because Aida killed him, so he’s stuck with Agnes on the island. He reveals where Aida is keeping the real bodies of their friends but he says Aida has removed any way out of the Framework and says they’ll have to get out the way they came in. Simmons says their way isn’t working and Radcliffe fears “she” knows who they are, which chagrins both Coulson and Ward, who are struggling to make sense of Radcliffe and Simmons’ conversation. Before they can clue the two men in, a huge plane that has a silhouette similar to Zephyr One appears overhead and Radcliffe urges them all to run and hide. Aida leaves the plane and sends her goons after the subversives. Radcliffe and Aida debate their philosophical differences until one of her goons brings Agnes to them.
At the Triskelion, Mack is reunited with Hope and they see the wounded Daisy being dragged down the hall by May’s goons. Hope is mortified but before Mack can comfort her, May comes and thanks him for his help. She waits until he says “Hail Hydra” and then says that they can go. On the Island, Ward aims a shot at Fitz, but Simmons begs him not to shoot. Fitz threatens to kill Agnes and Radcliffe tries to convince him that the Framework isn’t the real world and tells him about Simmons. Fitz hesitates, but then he says he knows exactly who he is and shoots Agnes in the chest. Simmons stands up and screams, revealing their position, and Coulson and Ward have to fire on the Hydra agents to make their way to the Quinjet and escape. Back at SHIELD headquarters, Mace is livid about Ward not taking the shot on Fitz, but an agent says that they found a civilian outside with quite the story. Mace has them bring him in, and it’s Mack, who says that he’s there to help because he couldn’t look his daughter in the eyes for the first time today.
In the Triskelion’s holding area, Daisy huddles in the corner, badly beaten, until Fitz comes to see her. She tries to convince him that this isn’t the real world, but he says that someone else already tried that today. He says he re-ran her test results and she’s a potential Inhuman. When she doesn’t talk, he has a pair of goons come in and drag her out. She insists that he doesn’t want to do it, but he assures her that he does, and that she really doesn’t know him.
First off, for anyone who missed last week’s not-so-subtle social commentary on America’s new leadership, I’m guessing it didn’t slip past after Fitz’ “let’s make our world great again” line this week. And while I preferred last week’s more subtle representations of Chancellor Cheeto’s regime, I respect the creators for potentially alienating what might be a significant portion of their fanbase by sticking to their guns on this one. This is the part where I note that my views probably don’t line up perfectly with the showrunners, nor do they reflect the position of 411Mania as a whole. That said, if reasonable discourse about current events breaks out in the comments section of this review, I’ll do my best to defend it from the moderators, though I’ll do my part to eradicate overt jackassery.
On to this week’s episode, there was a lot to like about it, including Coulson’s conspiracy theorist take on his regular character, Fitz doing his best Grant Ward and Grant Ward doing his best Fitz, dueling Aidas in the form of Madame Hydra and (briefly) Agnes, Mace as the Patriot, and especially the secret origin story of Henry Mackenzie, which showed that when a totalitarian regime pushes a citizen too far through a combination of fear and coercion, eventually a resistance will up.
And I’ll admit – I bit like a sucker when Mack told Daisy what May wanted him to, probably because I wanted so badly to believe that Mack wasn’t just a scared dad trying to keep his daughter safe. And while that made it all the more devastating when he revealed the recording device and Daisy’s subsequent beating(s), it made his appearance at the end of the episode at SHIELD headquarters that much more amazing. (I almost went with ‘triumphant’ there, but since they haven’t actually triumphed a single time in the face of Madame Hydra’s forces yet, it didn’t feel appropriate.)
Also, while I know a lot of the speculation over the last week has been about downloading Framework Ward into an LMD body and giving the team a good guy Ward, but as much as I love that idea, I’m just not sure it would work. Remember how boring Ward was in season one prior to the big reveal near the end of the season? I think a large part of how compelling he’s been since then has been that you just never quite know what he’s going to do, and a strictly good guy Ward would eliminate a lot of that uncertainty. Having seen what Brett Dalton is actually capable of in subsequent seasons, though, I have confidence that with the proper writer, that scenario could actually work if that’s the route that they decide to go in.
Overall, I really liked this episode,and other than my initial disappointment with Mack tricking Daisy at May’s behest, I really have nothing to complain about. Iain de Caestecker might be more impressive as The Doctor (aka Evil Fitz) than he is in the regular timeline, and John Hannah legitimately stole the show in his brief scenes simply for bringing a great deal of humanity to a character who had largely been defined prior to this arc by his greed. And, as mentioned, Clark Gregg’s conspiracy theorist Coulson was as excellent addition to the episode. “I make my own soap”, “Can you believe I have an alternate hand?”, and the “Rebel Force is a good look for you”.