Agents of SHIELD Season 4 Episode 17: Identity and Change Recap


Picking up where we left off last episode, Coulson and Daisy have spent the night catching up and are back at school the next morning. Coulson summarizes everything Skye has revealed to him, ending by saying he knew he wasn’t crazy. He can tell the difference between fact and fiction because he’s stopped using the Kree-blue mind-control soap. Instead, he makes his own. This will be a running joke for the rest of the episode, but, remember, you’re not paranoid if they’re out to get you. There’ve been way stranger weapons in the MCU. And I can’t use most soaps either, so I totally believe it’s a weapon, Phil.

Clark Gregg’s daughter, Stella, stops by to ask for help. He tells her he’s having grown up time and sends her on her way. But just then, Good Guy Ward calls to tell Skye that Hydra is on their way, so it’s time to bring Coulson in.

Mack and his adorable robot-building daughter are having a race to see who can get their creation to fly first. Hope wins, but she cheated, using HYDRA drone parts that she found in the park. Mack has one of those quiet parental freak outs, where you don’t want to upset your child, but something terrible is happening, so your brain is exploding internally while you try to appear okay on the outside, as he reminds her that using HYDRA parts is really, really forbidden.

Later, they wait at the bus stop together when a HYDRA convoy of vehicles pulls up to search everyone, looking for “dangerous” illegal immigrants inhumans and drugs contraband. Hope tells Mack that she put the drone parts in her bag. He tries not to have a heart attack on the spot as he takes the bag from her. Luckily for them, a potential inhuman is hidden in the crowd and makes a run for it, so the HYDRA goons, having made their arrest quota for the morning, leave everyone else alone. Really, it seems like it’s a miracle Mack has survived parenting the kid this long. The Framework must be programmed to keep him alive.

Skye and Coulson meet Jemma at Skye’s apartment. They argue over Ward’s trustworthiness, then move on to Fitz and Radcliffe. Skye tries to tell Jemma that Fitz won’t be of any help, while trying to avoid straight up telling her that he’s evil now, which is especially kind of her given how adamantly Jemma is arguing against Skye’s use of her own judgement regarding Ward’s personality change. Jemma refers to the Framework as Radcliffe’s snowglobe. Coulson, ever the strong investigator, picks up on it and pulls out an article about Radcliffe from his file. Radcliffe hasn’t been seen in a long time, so they decide to find him and get his help in escaping the Framework.

Fitz walks in on Aida/Ophelia being briefed on the search for Jemma. She tries to hide it from him, but he insists she tell him what’s going on. When Ophelia shows Fitz Jemma’s photo, he doesn’t recognize her at all. He promises to find her and stop her from plotting against Ophelia. Ophelia is excited that Fitz will unknowingly betray Jemma for her. Fitz tells Ophelia he’d cross the universe for her, which he’s already done for Jemma. Wonder if she realizes he’s recycling that sentiment. Ophelia is thrilled, since her dream was to have Fitz see her as a person worth protecting and loving. Cue the make out session.

Daisy goes to her HYDRA cube to search for information on Radcliffe. She gets it, but has to break into Madame HYDRA’s restricted files to do so, with Ward looking over her shoulder. As they’re leaving the building, which apparently doesn’t have a back way out, May stops them next to the giant, gratuitous HYDRA statue, which is everything I love about the MCU. Ward is ready to fight their way out, but Daisy stops him, and goes with May willingly. Ward is left to bring the information Daisy retrieved on Radcliffe back to Jemma and the Resistance.

Meanwhile, Jemma and Coulson go through the Resistance’s cloak and dagger routine in order to enter their secret lair, which turns out to be the SHIELD base the LMD May blew up at the end of the last pod. Jeffrey Mace, in full Patriot regalia, welcomes them to SHIELD.

Unlike everyone else, Mace gets total wish fulfillment and becomes the inhuman hero everyone thought he was after the bombing in Vienna. Coulson is as excited about the Patriot uniform as he was about the Captain America uniform he helped design in the real world. Mace has his righthand man Agent Burrows back, but the world still lost a Koenig brother to the fight. The SHIELD base helps and relocates the potential inhumans that HYDRA is hunting. As Mace finishes showing Jemma and Coulson around the base, Ward shows up with the information that Skye gave him. Mace greets him warmly.AOS417Fitz:Jemma

Skye is pulled into a briefing with Fitz. She’ll be part of the team hunting down Jemma. Lethal force is authorized, and we will make our society great again. Hail Hydra. Fitz is as determined and single-minded as ever, but in a scary, scary direction. Seeing Jemma doesn’t appear to be stirring any memories of the past.


Mace, Ward, Coulson, and Jemma discuss Radcliffe’s location. Mace doesn’t want to trust Jemma, until she tells him that she went down during the massacre at the SHIELD Academy. He still can’t spare a team to go retrieve Radcliffe from the fictional island off Bermuda that he’s being held on. Coulson suggests that Mace send him, Jemma and Ward, and, in a case of even more wish fulfillment for Jeffrey Mace, he gets to tell Coulson that this is a spy organization, not a day care. Ward says he’ll mind the kids, so Mace agrees to the mission.

The first stop on HYDRA’s search for Jemma is Mack’s house, to trash search the house and arrest Mack and Hope. Back at the Triskelion, May intimidates Mack, while Skye talks to Hope. Hope begs Skye to make sure nothing happens to her dad.

Fitz does more research on Jemma, and discovers that she was supposed to have died at SHIELD Academy, which leads him to conclude that she must have survived due to being an inhuman. Ophelia explains that Jemma crossed over from “the other side.” She explains that SHIELD won on the other side, and treated her like a slave. She escaped to this world, but now they have followed her here. Project Looking Glass is meant to make Ophelia and Fitz safe from the other side forever. That’s why she’s made the project such a priority.

When Skye is done with Hope, she sees May in the corridor, who tells her that Mack hasn’t talked yet. Skye goes to talk to Mack herself. Mack pretends that he remembers Skye and the real world, but it turns out the May put him up to it. Ophelia probably gave May the assignment to see who remembers what amongst the trio, besides trying to catch Skye. As soon as Skye realizes what’s going on she’s fights her way through the corridors and into an elevator. She gets her very own Triskelion elevator fight, though it’s empty when she arrives at the grand staircase. Not sure Steve Rogers would approve of the way she probably disposed of those bodies.

She heads straight for the stairs and the front door. Seriously, this is a building that Nick Fury worked in. Surely there are multiple entrances and secret passages, tunnels, and the helicarrier bay. All kinds of ways these people could sneak in and out besides the front door. They are spies, after all. But no, Skye runs for the most open, camera and security-filled exit possible, cause she’ll miss that HYDRA statue and wants to say goodbye.

Except, oh no. May has predicted she’d be there and is waiting for her. She’s captured.

Jemma, Ward and Coulson take the Resistance’s lone quinjet to Ogygia, Radcliffe’s island. Once they arrive and find Radcliffe, he explains that he and Agnes are both dead in the real world. He never intended the Framework to turn into the dark place it’s become. Aida and the Darkhold made it that way. He built himself a backdoor to escape through, but Aida knows where it is. He reveals that Aida is keeping the team’s bodies on a drilling platform in the Baltic Sea owned by Ivanov.

Aida and Fitz arrive on the Zephyr before they can discuss anything further. Jemma, Ward, and Coulson hide nearby and watch as Madame HYDRA and the Doctor question and threaten Radcliffe and Agnes. Agnes is confused and doesn’t remember the real world. Aida let’s Radcliffe know just how much she resents the way he treated her in the real world. She tries to goad Fitz into shooting and killing Agnes. Radcliffe tells him who he is in the real world, trying to get Fitz to spare Agnes. It spurs Fitz into shooting Agnes to prove he belongs in the Framework with Ophelia, instead.

Ward wants to kill Fitz before he can kill Agnes, but Jemma talks him out of it. She can’t believe that her Fitz would kill an innocent woman in cold blood. Ward tells her that the Doctor is a sadist who will find it easy to shoot Agnes, but Jemma has to see it to believe it. When Fitz shoots Agnes, Jemma jumps up and screams his name. A shoot out ensues. Everyone escapes to their respective jets. Aida and Fitz have Radcliffe. Jemma is devastated.

Back at SHIELD, Mace is livid that Jemma stopped Ward from shooting Fitz. Jemma has had enough of the whole Framework fiction and just wants to stop playing along.

Burrows brings Mack into the room. He tells them that HYDRA used him to help take Skye captive. May thanked him for his service to HYDRA in front of Hope. He can’t face his daughter or himself, knowing what he’s done. He wants to help the Resistance.

Skye is being held in a cell at the Triskelion. We can hear Radcliffe being tortured next door. Skye tries to tell Fitz that they care about each other in real life and he doesn’t really want to hurt her, but he has the same response to her that he did with Radcliffe. He also tells her that he reran her inhuman screening test and she came out positive this time. Off to the inhuman torture/testing room she goes.

Coulson gets to fanboy his own life this episode, with his robot arm, secret base and codewords and fleet of quinjets. It’s a nice callback to Avengers 1 era Phil.

Mallory Jansen is doing a hybrid version of Aida as Ophelia, more human and expressive than she is in the real world, but still not fully human in her range of expressions and emotions. The subtle differences between each version of Aida are cool to see, especially as compared to the bit of Agnes that we got this episode.

Taking away one regret has ended up being a powerful weapon in Aida’s arsenal, since it makes the Framework versions of the characters fight to stay there. They inadvertently defend the status quo because their innermost needs are being met, and they don’t want to give that up, even if overall they live in an unsatisfactory world. The one exception is Coulson. He’s ready to go back to the real world not just because he has fragments of his memory back, but because his regret wasn’t a true regret. It was more of a “what if?” Mace, Mack, and Fitz have all had empty holes in their lives filled. Coulson didn’t end up with the love and family life he’d hoped for, and he doesn’t have a satisfying career either. May is the wild card, since her Framework life is close to what she was in the real world, but now she’s working for an evil organization. She doesn’t seem to have the close friendships she had at SHIELD, but she is #3 or 4 at HYDRA. Are May and Coulson ultimately starcrossed lovers or platonic soulmates in every world?

The island of Ogygia is from Homer’s The Odyssey, a mythical place where Odysseus was held hostage for 7 years by the nymph Calypso. It was, like Radcliffe’s island prison, a lush, beautiful place with all of the creature comforts anyone could want, including Calypso offering herself to him. But Odysseus eventually rejected Calypso and spent the rest of his time on the island pining for his lost wife, Penelope, and his old life, in which he had a sense of purpose and usefulness, instead of the forced isolation and servitude as Calypso’s companion that he faces on Ogygia.

Radcliffe’s relationship with Aida is the obvious comparison here, since he is the one on Ogygia and has just had Agnes taken away from him by the woman he rejected. But I’m betting that we’ll see many variations on this theme before the Agents of Hydra pod is done. The entire Framework is Ogygia, and everyone stands to lose someone or something important, whether they originate in the Framework or the real world. Mack has to leave Hope, Ward will lose Skye, Mace will lose the sense of purpose and fulfillment he’s finally found, Coulson’s going to feel like he failed his surrogate children.

Fitz is going to be a disaster no matter how this turns out, both because he’ll lose one of the loves of his life, since the emotions he feels in the Framework are real for him, and because his work will be tainted with the memory of the ways he used it in the Framework. Fitz will probably turn out to be the real Odysseus in this scenario, who will be so brainwashed, and so close to Aida/Ophelia, that he’ll be the hardest to save. By the time he wakes up, he’ll be in the same position as Radcliffe, enmeshed in Aida’s plot and unable to get himself out of it, but also having driven the rest of the team away. Trapped on Ogygia with an angry Calypso. But Aida has a habit of underestimating Jemma Simmons, who owes Fitz a daring rescue or two.