NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, including a major character death, are present in this review
With the stakes and battle against the Framework’s newly-revived HYDRA fully underway at this point, this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gave us a pretty by-the-book conflict to start, at least by this show’s standards, though one that also ended with a huge bang. “No Regrets” took a bit of a breather after the heavy development of Fitz murdering Agnes in cold blood during last week’s episode, taking a moment to build on some of the characters, namely by introducing Fitz’s foreshadowed father.
It turns out that Fitz’s newly ruthless and violent turn is mostly caused by his father being alive and close by in this reality as well. This was a pretty interesting twist that avoided blaming Madame HYDRA for Fitz’s recent sadistic streak, and that was pretty effective, while also filling in some of the blanks of Fitz’s angst surrounding his father, who is absent in the real world. Sure enough, Fitz’s father wasn’t a very nice guy, and that remains true in the Framework, where he actively pushes his son never to feel any compassion or shame in the name of his dirty work.
In fact, Madame HYDRA didn’t have much of a role in this episode, which felt like it was more about the turned heroes than it was their puppet master. Madame HYDRA still visited with an imprisoned Daisy, who also largely sat out this week’s events on account of being stuck in a prison cell next to Radcliffe, but that’s about it. On the bright side however, we did get some pretty good character exchanges with Daisy, as she debates with Madame HYDRA about her real-world incarnation, Aida taking away one regret and leading to a whole other world from the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s reality, plus how Aida can’t seem to see how that’s wrong. Radcliffe’s own regrets with Daisy proved similarly effective, as Radcliffe would rather just be killed than have to spend any more time in his own creation, which Aida has twisted beyond recognition. This also serves as a convenient excuse to tell Daisy that, yes, there is another backdoor out of the Framework to boot, one that Madame HYDRA can’t destroy, of course.
Outside of these exchanges, we got to spend some proper time in the resistance’s base too, where Mace finally got a big role in this episode, which marks the first time in a little while. Mace nicely came to the fore throughout this episode, especially as we see how little we ultimately knew about the man he was (something Mace also points out to Simmons in this episode), while also getting a taste of the man that Mace truly wanted to be. Mace is allowed to be the hero he hoped to be within the reality of the Framework, to the point where he sees his alleged real-world self as, “Cheesy”, after Simmons inevitably blabs to him that the world around them is a computer simulation.
Simmons’ inability to see the world and the various characters around her as anything other than data also came into play pretty cleverly, while also contrasting nicely with Fitz’s own increasingly cold nature in the world of the Framework. We see a few glimmers of the old Fitz and Simmons here and there, but in a way, the Framework is bringing out the worst in both of them. Fortunately, Mack bringing Hope into the resistance base was a good way to demonstrate how uncanny the false reality is. It may be based on data, but it does feel like it’s taken on a life of its own. In a strange way, it makes Aida/Madame HYDRA a bit easier to sympathize with, since her world can’t easily be called fake when one can see how genuinely these people interact with one another.
Beyond these character moments, the big mission of the episode involved a pretty simple prisoner extract, which had the episode going through the motions at first. The operation did however lead to the surprise re-introduction of the late Antoine Triplett, who is alive and well in the reality of the Framework! Trip’s surprise return was very cool, considering that he’s been dead since halfway through Season Two, and was rather short-changed in the overall canon of the show. Hopefully, that’s rectified with this second chance for his character in the Framework. Even during a rescue operation, he gets to hit the ground running too, as he’s one of Mace’s right-hand resistance agents, and gets to go bail out Coulson, after Coulson discovers where HYDRA is keeping the kids that they’ve snatched, including some from his own classroom!
Unfortunately though, May is after Mace’s team, and even juices up with her own super-strength serum, which lets her go toe-to-toe with Mace in combat!… And that’s it. May’s powered-up state is ultimately a disappointing waste, since it basically just serves to give her an action scene with Mace, one where she’s even defeated to boot! May doesn’t take the loss well though, as she has a missile shot into the prison building, before going in to try and confirm that Mace is dead. The surprisingly considerate missile only took out one chunk of the building however, leaving May enough time to discover that HYDRA was keeping children there against their will and brainwashing them. Uh, how did she not know that? Considering May’s huge ranking at HYDRA, that feels like a bit of a plot hole.
Nonetheless, May is left to finally question HYDRA when she does find Mace, as Mace tries to save the kid that was mostly recently grabbed from Coulson’s class. The team tries to formulate a plan to save Mace from having the building come down on top of them, but, shockingly, they have no means to do so. Forced to escape, they have no choice but to let the building come down on Mace, which kills him… Even in the real world. Mace’s death came out of nowhere, but it did feel effective, especially since he was finally allowed to be The Patriot for at least a short while in the Framework, as he always deserved to be. Mace’s death is also a good motivator for May to finally sever her loyalties to HYDRA, with the episode ending on an epilogue that has May swiping a Terrigen Crystal, which she drops before Daisy to activate her Inhuman abilities in the Framework! Yes! Finally!
It felt like the show had to strain a bit to get May back to the heroes’ side, but the unexpected death of Mace and the re-activation of Daisy’s powers do nicely up the ante for our heroes in the continued fight against HYDRA. “No Regrets” may have started out with a pretty by-the-numbers conflict, but the way it ends definitely presents lots of excitement for the rest of the season. The good guys are getting a huge power boost with the return of May and the re-activation of Daisy, but they’ll probably need to fight for it, since May probably won’t be allowed to just walk out of The Triskelion with HYDRA’s most valuable prisoner! What we can imagine in the weeks to come however is that Jeffrey Mace’s sacrifice definitely won’t be in vain!
- Chilling introduction to Fitz's father
- Trip's surprise return to the show
- Mace sacrificing his life and becoming the hero he wished he was
- A few story stretches to get May back to the good guys
- The story's first half is a bit uneventful