Before it went on hiatus, “Agents of SHIELD” entered a whole new world, a virtual reality called the framework. Daisy and Jemma went inside to find their team members who were forced inside. The duo had a plan to wake up their team, meet up, and get out. That doesn’t exactly go as smoothly as they want it to though as Daisy is with Ward and a Hydra member and Jemma has to crawl out of a mass grave.

Ward is back

The audience knew in the last episode that Ward was the man in Daisy’s room, though she hoped it was Lincoln.

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Throughout the episode, we see a very different Ward than we’re used to. While he’s got elements of the Ward audiences were first introduced to in season one, he’s also the Ward that could have been if he hadn’t been as psychotic as he became over the course of the series.

It’s fitting that he’s in the Inhuman resistance since the memories of him that live within Coulson, May, Mack, Mace, and Fitz would include the SHIELD files on him as a double agent, and his death and his body becoming Hive - the first Inhuman and someone who was protecting Inhumans from humanity.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.': 'What If…' Review - heroichollywood.com
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.': 'What If…' Review - heroichollywood.com

It’s a nice twist on his character, giving him a virtual redemption arc for the fans of Brett Dalton, even if we all know the real Ward would never care about anyone but himself.

Jemma’s journey

Murdered during a mass killing at the SHIELD Academy, Jemma has to crawl out of a mass grave and find her way to the rendezvous point with no knowledge of what’s actually going on in the framework and no identification that would be accepted.

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She proves herself resourceful and tough, taking out a pair of Hydra agents and stealing their car.

Elizabeth Henstridge’s scene with Clark Gregg as she tries to jog Coulson’s memory in particular is fantastic. Henstridge had to perform for this episode while sick, adding to her just-crawled-out-of-my-grave demeanor. The hoarseness in her voice as it broke while trying to appeal to Coulson might not have been intentional, but it definitely breaks your heart.

The doctor is in

When the world is completely different, so are the characters. Instead of being the guy who always wants to do the right thing, Fitz is Hydra’s Doctor, the man behind the technology being used against Inhumans. He’s cold, he’s dark, and he’s controlling, manipulating May’s emotions to get her to do her job. And Iain de Caestecker plays him perfectly. If anything, this episode just demonstrates, yet again, how versatile de Caestecker is.

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Anything the writers throw at him, he pulls off effortlessly. I'm both intrigued and terrified to see how dark the writers will have him go.

Daisy might not be too far off in her estimation that eliminating Jemma from Fitz’s life is part of the major change in him. His protective streak has been transferred from Jemma and his friends to Madame Hydra (an avatar for AIDA) herself and the organization she’s built. He’s still creative and pushing the boundaries of science, but he’s definitely going to be difficult for Daisy and Jemma to wake up.

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Those Easter eggs

While Ward sarcastically remarks that Skye’s on another planet when they walk into the Triskelion, reminiscent of the last time Grant Ward was alive and not the Inhuman leader Hive, there are tons of other Easter eggs in the framework that let you know the world being built has touches of the real one inside - like Jemma throwing out that Tahiti is a magical place. Check out just how many nods to the show’s previous storylines Coulson might be remembering:

The verdict and what’s next

While a lot of what happens in this episode is relatively predictable if you’ve been a fan of “Agents of SHIELD” since the beginning, that doesn’t stop it from being fun. It’s easy to know which heartstrings the writers want to pull and just what twists they’re interested in, but seeing them in the framework is more fun.

4 out of 5 stars.

Next week, Jemma seeks out Radcliffe for help after discovering she and Daisy can't use their backdoor out of the framework.

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