NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” are present in this review
Our heroes’ time in the Framework appears to draw to a close on this week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but with two episodes remaining in Season Four, the ‘Agents of HYDRA’ arc still has a couple of places to go as the season approaches a big climax. “Farewell, Cruel World!” delivered a tense and exciting Framework exit for the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew, marking another especially great episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., particularly as Aida’s grand plan reaches another troubling step.
With the Framework’s natural exit route having been pinpointed due to Daisy’s talk with Radcliffe at The Triskelion, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents prepare to return to the real world, even if some are noticeably more hesitant than others. The big wild cards are of course Fitz and Mack, as Fitz is still high up in HYDRA’s leadership, while Mack proves unwilling to leave his daughter. It’s only through some of Hope’s encouragement that Daisy is able to take Mack along on the mission to the Framework exit, even having to lie to him in the process.
There’s also another problem occurring in the real world, since the Zephyr has had to rely on reserve power to keep the Framework energized, leaving the jet threatening to drop out of the sky ten days later. Because of this, the supervising agents make the controversial decision to disable cloaking in order to buy Daisy and Simmons a bit more time in the Framework. This naturally has Ivanov targeting the Zephyr, which leaves Daisy, Simmons, Yo-Yo and the rest of their agents in grave danger!
This pressing real-world threat, along with the continued pursuit of HYDRA, provided an exciting race to the exit of the Framework. Another added wrinkle is also thrown into place when Simmons goes to confront Fitz’s father, without telling most of her S.H.I.E.L.D. allies. Simmons is desperate to do whatever it takes to find a trick to convince Fitz to return to reality with her, but the exchange only results in Simmons having to shoot Alistair dead, which only makes Fitz more determined to hunt Simmons down and kill her.
When everyone then converges on the steel mill that is built over the Framework’s exit point, they’re greeted by a vat of molten steel, with Aida/Madame HYDRA specifically placing the mill over the exit, so that the S.H.I.E.L.D. crew can’t escape back to reality. With Aida soon regaining humanity, which will allow her to disconnect the Framework and kill everyone in it, Daisy comes up with the solution of parting the molten steel to expose the portal home. Unfortunately, that’s the exact moment that Fitz and a squad of HYDRA soldiers locate everyone, having ignored Madame HYDRA’s orders to return to The Triskelion after Alistair is killed by Simmons.
Despite this pressing threat, complete with Simmons being at gunpoint however, the exit out of the Framework doesn’t end up amounting to much drama in the end, at least for the most part. Despite Coulson and Simmons both ending up shot and wounded, they both drop out of the Framework just fine, with Radcliffe also taking out Fitz’s bodyguards and clocking him, so that Fitz can also be dropped back into reality. Fitz’s return proved to be especially easy, considering how entrenched he seemed to be in HYDRA, but fortunately, that’s an acceptable story quibble, since the season only has two episodes left, and Fitz can’t very well be stuck in the Framework forever. On another note, Fitz’s agonized realization of who he was in the Framework was a fantastic moment and an episode highlight. I wish the show had given it at least a bit longer to gel, but we may have to wait for a potential Season Five to see this anguish with Fitz properly grow.
That said however, Mack refuses to return to reality, despite Coulson’s initial exit briefly exposing the world around him as a false reality. Daisy tries to persuade Mack to come back, for the good of herself, Yo-Yo, and everyone else that wants to see Mack again in the real world, but Mack won’t budge. Mack being the one person that couldn’t be convinced back, on account of his virtual daughter, helped to at least provide some resistance for S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep the season’s remaining two episodes going, especially since they won’t be paired together in a two-hour season finale event this time, unlike the prior three seasons. Is there any hope of rescuing Mack at this point? Obviously, the reunion with Trip and Ward seems to be well and truly over for most of the heroes, especially since Ward is conveniently absent this week. Hopefully Mack isn’t the show’s latest casualty by the end of the season.
The episode ending with Aida successfully transplanting herself into a human body, right after Coulson manages to decapitate and disable her original android form, was also a great dramatic turn that effectively sets up a climactic conflict for S.H.I.E.L.D. This is especially true when Aida somehow teleports Fitz somewhere else before May can shoot her dead, paving the way for another pretty exciting layer to a climactic final struggle against Aida to close out the season with. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents may have escaped the Framework (mostly), but Aida now has exactly what she wants, and her agenda no doubt doesn’t end with her joining humanity!
Some elements of the Framework escape had to be expedited, leaving Fitz’s return in particular a bit forced along, but regardless, “Farewell, Cruel World!” effectively has the pacing and excitement of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continuing to build as it quickly moves towards its season finale in a couple of weeks. Mack staying behind hopefully means that the Framework world isn’t being completely scuttled as Season Four winds down, but that’s likely the least of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s problems, considering that Aida is now human and free of protocol, on top of also apparently turning herself into an Enhanced with the powers of the Darkhold. Considering the brief stint of a powered Eli Morrow, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to be in big trouble with a threat like that having been created!… Well, at least this small corner of it anyway.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. provides a tense and thrilling race to the Framework's exit this week, as Aida also realizes her dream of being human.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Exciting escape from the Framework
Aida successfully becoming human right as the heroes escape
Mack staying behind in the Framework to be with his digital daughter