TV Show Review

TV Review: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 4, Episode 17: Identity & Change [ABC]

Iain De Caestecker Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Identity & Change

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Identity & Change Review

ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 4, episode 17, ‘Identity & Change,’ did a lot to mess with both those very things. More to the point, it did a lot to mess with fan notions of what those are. This was kind of the point of the Framework arc, well beyond just pitting Daisy & Simmons (Chloe BennetElizabeth Henstridge) against familiar faces, wearing unfamiliar identities.

The first act set the stage, by presenting us with alternate takes on some of the Framework’s remodeled. The next order of business, then, was to show us how the other half would’ve lived.

In the case of Mack (Henry Simmons), the Framework not only gave him back his favorite job – parenting – but gave  him what most parents seem to desire most: a mini version of themselves. Mini-Mack Hope (Jordan Rivera) was all brain, but short on worldly sense; giving Mack the job of dealing with the World-according-to-HYDRA from the everyman angle. An everyman angle with some precious precociousness to protect.

If Re-made Mack’s intro was warm-fuzzies-under-the-gun, then the Re-made Mace (Jason O’Mara) intro was just for the badass lover in you. I’ve always said O’Mara seemed made for that suit; but this might be the first time I’ve seen him actually wear it & mean it. His previous turns have all seemed like he was putting on a show (for the public, or his team mates). His Framework attitude adjustment made for a better fit.

Extra credit for the Agent Koenig shout-out, and the geek references that come with him.

So shame on all of us (but mostly you) for not giving Coulson (Clark Gregg) enough credit. Yes, he did rat out a few people; but he still needed someone like Daisy to present the out he already knew he needed. He also dropped the soap – but let’s not get into that….

It seems I owe Simmons a Coke, as well – there was sound logic to appealing to Coulson’s ‘memory,’ after all.

Bear with me, when I say that the most tragic make-over went to Holden Radcliffe (John Hannah), in that it wasn’t actually a make-over, at all. His shared life, as the literal Ghost in the Machine, might actually earn him future redemption status after all… but I since I expect some disagreement, regarding the real tragedy of the episode, I’ll just move on, for now.

Regarding Skyward, I imagine some fans found Web Ward (Brett Dalton) to be the current earner of redemption. Well, I hate to say it (only, not really), but Daisy & Co. were benefiting from the same thing HYDRA did, IRL: Ward’s tendency to imprint/ fixate. The fixation on Cyber Skye – minus family hangups & HYDRA imprinting – still makes him the same trainable puppy dog that the real one turned out to be. Come to think of it, the trainable bad boy aspect may be the very thing some Ward fans might find appealing about him. This has become a discussion for another wing of the treatment center.

Faux Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), on the other hand, has seemingly been under the direct manipulation of the Framwork’s custodian. It seemed odd to me that Aida’s Madam HYDRA (Mallory Jansen) upload was so easily rattled, over Faux-Fitz finding out about Simmons; but it was all part of the design – as was he.

The best way to gain power over someone is getting them to give it to you, after all (and a collective “eewww” goes out, from Fitz-Simmons fans).

Daisy should’ve had that in mind, or at least been mindful of just what kind of person May (Ming-Na Wen) is – Re-made, or otherwise – when fully unleashed. Considering she did try to just waltz out the Triskelion front door, however: maybe Daisy was set on plot-pilot.

In any case, I may have given Aida too much credit. It seems the Framework has one more thing in common with the Matrix – its caretaker’s gone emo, as well. Did we really need Ai – urhm, Madam HYDRA doing the whole Agent Smith spiel, about assigned indignities?

Okay, cards up – I’ve been reluctant to poke at any correlations between the Framework story, and current IRL politics. Fitz’s “make our society great, again” line kinda made that impossible.

Without naming names, or pointing fingers, the sad truth is that every Right-Wing Nationalist has promised a restoration of greatness, while singling out in-house elements as cancerous. It is what is – so no point in getting exited, or riled, over any similarities to persons living or dead. The words & deeds of the HYDRA State will always be relevant, because history’s repetitive that way.

Ah, but how few of you took that away from the ep? No, I’d say the real scuttlebutt revolved around a certain something Faux Fitz did, not say (and a collective “OMG/WTF” goes out, from Fitz-Simmons fans).

I’ll only say this: for every reason the character of Ward needed redeeming, the character of Fitz needed something to be redeemed of. Such redemptions ring hollow, if we can take some characters for granted as being beyond it, or – more to the point – incapable of ever needing it.

Like I said, the whole point of the Framework arc is to get everyone out of their comfort zones. Barring a few canon details, we’re not meant to fully know these alternates.

Heck, Faux Fitz practically broke the 4th wall to say as much.

For better or worse, Fitz-Simmons just got a whole lot more complicated, for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., going forward, and the Framework arc may have just had its Empire Strikes Back 2nd act ending. Now it just needs to do better with its 3rd.

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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