Daisy and Simmons wake up in a brave, terrifying new world, but it isn’t just the Framework; it’s Hell.
Created to replace the pain and loss of the real world, Radcliffe and Aida have built the Framework based on changing key moments in the lives of the Agents of SHIELD; but those changes take a drastic turn for the worst, making Inhumans the enemy, and Hydra a Big Brother of the state, an America driven by fear. This is the world Daisy and Simmons find themselves in.
Coming to terms with her new framework life, an Agent of Hydra, in a loving relationship with Grant Ward, working in DC at Hydra’s Triskelion, Daisy does her best to gather information quietly. Though with a much more strict Agent May and evil Dr. Fittz over her shoulder, reuniting with Simmons becomes more complicated. Across the city, Simmons has her own troubles when she wakes up in a mass grave where the SHIELD Academy once stood. Without ID, she puts her skills as an agent to work dodging Hydra operatives and finding Mr. Coulson, high school teacher, instilling the lesson of the state above the individual into his students and denying their fake news.
Unable to wake their friends from their roles in the Framework, Daisy and Simmons reunite with the help of Ward, double agent to the Resistance, fighting to protect Inhumans from Hydra. Discovering Daisy’s tests showing her to be Inhuman, Ward hid her secret and joined the resistance with the intentions of protecting her. Now, with the Framework much worse than they imagined, Simmons and Daisy try to get out and form a new plan, but their access out of the system has been re-coded by the director of Hydra herself; Aida.
“What if…” does a great job introducing this new and frightening reality for Daisy and Simmons. From the beginning, it’s clear how different this reality is, even just in the way the colors of the world are muted. The tentacle skulls all over the place helps as well. But, as interesting and backwards as this world is, is this really the better place that keeps the Agents content to live their lives in? In the beginning of the Framework, May was constantly waking up because she knew something was off, so Radcliffe and Aida designed a new world where they thought her biggest regret was rewritten. Giving this treatment to everyone inside the Framework, this new world doesn’t seem off to them? Or maybe it’s the complacency and simplistic ways of Hydra, Inhumans bad, the state good, that keeps them docile?
The episode also brings the show back to it’s cloak and dagger basics, or, I feel, what their basics should have been. Spies and double agents and espionage, instead of more and more focus on Inhuman heroes. I can’t deny that it’s even great to not only have Brett Dalton back, but to have Ward as one of the good guys again. As interesting as his character arc was over the first few seasons, stripping away the complexities that developed within him and bringing back the Grant Ward we knew in the beginning of season one, it’s just nice to have that cool character back.
Now, to get personal, and apologies, political, this new world in the Framework has obvious nods to current events in America. So far, Marvel has not been one to shy away from making a statement, even if not directly. Captain America: Winter Soldier did something similar about Hydra monitoring citizens, drawing parallels to the leaks of how the NSA monitors the citizens they are meant to protect. This new world, this state, while very similar to what we imagine an evil communist regime overseas to be, is also a glaring warning of what we as a nation are heading towards. Restricted access to technology and information to keep the citizens complacent, denying any fact that doesn’t fit their narrative, instilling fear that YOUR NEIGHBOR could be one of the dreaded Inhumans. Being an Inhuman was once compared to being gay with Joey Gutierrez , a secret about yourself that you are scared to reveal to your loved ones for fear of how they’ll perceive you. Now, you could put Inhuman next to any minority label and see that same fear that American citizens now live with under this Trump administration.
Make Hydra Great Again.