Synopsis 4×16: Daisy and Jemma must find their way through the Framework, searching for their friends, and trying to understand what could cause a world as controlled and evil as this. 

Returning from a short term hiatus, Agents of SHIELD has picked up immediately where it left off. And in this, almost immediately feels like what the show used to be, a team filled with emotions and espionage.

Daisy, in the Framework known as Skye, quickly proves her spy training acumen, by adjusting to the world in which she and Ward are together, and she is a member of Hydra. Long locks and awkward car rides lead us to the still standing Triskelion, which now bears the logo of Hydra. As Daisy quickly attempts to assimilate, she struggles with desiring to protect Inhumans without proving herself an imposter in the system. 

“You’re on another planet this morning.” Ironic, given that Ward is the one who died on another planet. (But it sure is good to have him back. Maybe AoS was simply missing him, a bad guy you can love and hate.)

With terrifying propaganda posters decking the office walls, Daisy arrives at her computer to search for her own existence, as well as Lincoln and Jemma. (Did it bother anyone else that she idiotically pounded the keyboard before noticing the thumb scanner? Like, you’re a hacker.) Encountering May, she struggles to understand just what the Framework has done to them all.

Finally cutting to Jemma, who emerges from a mass grave within a former SHIELD facility, the world of the Framework is further explored, proving that the Hydra-Framework world is a much darker and scarier place than perhaps even a Hydra-Cap could hope for. A kindly woman offers a ride when noticing her on the side of the road. Jemma herself is taken aback by just how real the entire system is, as the woman has dreams and creates her own art. A lot of detail for a computer system. A system set on propagating hate. Jemma unfortunately comes upon a checkpoint, with only a SHIELD ID in hand, and runs off into the woods. 

Within Hydra, Daisy realizes that the world of this system is incorporating individuals from the real world, including Vijay Nadeer, here pretending to be Jason Rajan. During interrogation, Daisy seems to be getting through to him, when confronting him about his true identity, only to have Ward knock him unconscious. Somewhat suspicious, if you ask me. 

Jemma arrives in a coffee shop, trying to understand this new world. She grabs a set of keys and then an overcoat, only to be stopped by two Hydra agents. As with the end of the LMD storyline, she is able to prove her worth, when, discovered to be a dead SHIELD agent, she easily incapacitates the two agents when she grabs one of their guns. 

Coulson seems to have settled into a world of teaching, explaining the dangers of the Inhumans, including the situation in Bahrain, which in this world, was a success, until the little girl that May saved, killed. When a student questions the Nazi ties of Hydra, Coulson spews the party line, before a student is removed from his class, likely for Inhuman DNA. This is not the Coulson we know.

Daisy encounters another (un)familiar face, in the form of Fitz, but this perfectly attired version has none of the quirks and charm of real-world Fitz. This one is cold and harsh. Living out the reality of who his former team member suggested he was at the end of the LMD fiasco (good going, Mack). This version, the Doctor, uses his intellect to control and uncover Inhumans, without turning them, so that they can then be experimented upon. 

Jemma confronts Coulson, trying to draw him out of the system with the memory of Tahiti – it’s a magical place. But he is so concerned about the dangers of Hydra that he reports her, regardless of the lingering whispers of memories…

When Daisy and Jemma finally find each other at their designated rendezvous point, Ward unfortunately confronts them. Daisy puts down her gun, hoping to convince Ward of their innocence, only to discover, that regardless of the reality, Ward is a turncoat. This time for the better. He has been protecting Skye, knowing she was an Inhuman. 

(Quick random question, why did the car they randomly picked up have a canister of gas in the trunk just ready for burning? Do normal people keep canisters full of gas in their trunks?)

After being saved by Ward, Jemma and Daisy attempt to leave the Framework, only to discover that they have been trapped within it. Someone knows they are there, and that someone is Madame – Aida. Who is the orchestrator of everything, including the manipulation of Fitz, who seems to be in a twisted relationship with her. He did have a fascination with Aida in the real world. 

As is the case with this show, it ends with one final clip: Daisy addressing Coulson. When she shows her emotions and fear, she seems to finally break through: “Daisy?”

Since the LMD storyline, Agents of SHIELD has been returning to what made it enjoyable in the first place. It is once again about building the relationships between these characters, that even against our better judgments, we have grown to like. I can only hope that they continue in this vein.

This episode was further improved by the overall political implications. Comics have often been a medium for addressing the larger political scenarios of the world. Hydra is, after all, representative of the Nazi party. And the fear of Inhumans, the identification of them and prosecution of them for simply being what they were born as, seems all to relevant in the current political atmosphere of fear.

If the show can continue to draw these parallels, while bringing together the characters that we know and love, then perhaps we are in for a satisfying conclusion to this season. I, for one, am looking forward to where this show has decided to take us. 

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