One of the things the writers really seem to be enjoying with this ongoing Framework story is bringing back various characters that have been killed along the way. “All The Madame’s Men” opens with a news broadcast called the Bakshi Report, as reported by Suni Bakshi. Here, he’s a propaganda agent, while in the real world, he worked for Hydra boss Daniel Whitehall. His spin is that Hydra was attacked by terrorist and that public enemy Jeffrey “The Patriot” Mace has been killed. Well, at least the last part of that is true.
At the Triskelion, May buys time for Daisy’s transformation to finish. Finally, she comes out of the cocoon, powered and fully healed from her earlier beatings. Daisy and May fight their way through the building, with May pulling off some really amazing moves. While I know she’s one of the best out there, to me, it was more like a reminder that they’re still in this giant video game. Finally, Madame Hydra confronts them with a group of thugs, and muses on them not being able to escape their true nature, even here. Daisy’s response is a bit more practical and a bit less philosophical; she uses her newly-returned Quake powers to blow Aida out of the building. Remember when Captain America jumped out of the same building in Winter Soldier? This doesn’t go anywhere near as well for Aida.
In the real world, Aida disconnects from the Framework and shoots a very dirty look at the imprisoned SHIELD agents. She and mad Russian Anton Ivanov banter a bit. Well, as much banter as you can get between a crazed robot and psychocitic bigot. Ivanov learns that his new circumstances come with some limitations, and he’s not happy about it. Then again, I’m not sure we’ve ever seen him happy. With her tortured logic, Aida determines that, while they can’t kill the SHIELD agents in their custody, Daisy and Simmons are a danger to the Framework and have to be dealt with.
Mac, Ward, and Trip listen to Bakshi’s news with varying degrees of disgust. Ward likens the broadcast to sipping poison. After some debate, they agree to honor Mace’s promises and put the welfare of the Inhuman refugees ahead of vengeance. Then, they all get surprised when Bakshi breaks another story, about an attack at the Triskelion against Madame Hydra herself. Ward is happy to hear it, now sure that Daisy has escaped.
May and Daisy are on the run, their faces plastered everywhere as terrorists. This is when Daisy finds out that Mace is dead. His loss, their first one in this virtual prison, clearly shakes her up. As they try to find a place to hide, Madame Hydra is examined. Her spine has been shattered, and she’s in a coma. Of course, that part is because she’s not in the fake world at the moment. Fitz is distraught at her injuries, and his father offers his own dark brand of encouragement.
Fitz prevents Bakshi from interviewing Madame Hydra (kind of hard when she’s out cold, but that would reveal the lie) and rants about Inhumans as the ever present threat. Bakshi goes on air with pictures of Skye and a terrorist “Inhumans First” movement that doesn’t exist. All this causes some more debate among the SHIELD agents, and has Mac lie to his daughter Hope about what’s going on.
Ward and Coulson share their origin stories in this world. Someone tried to recruit Coulson for SHIELD and he turned them down. Victoria Hand, apparently long-dead in both worlds, recruited Ward out of prison where he was in for arson. They never clarify, but that’s probably when he killed his family. Ward is determined to go hunt for Daisy, in spite of Coulson’s advice. As this goes on, Daisy and May are playing very high-stakes hide and seek. Ward going off on his own isn’t enough of an unauthorized mission for this episode, so we get another one. After Simmons goes over the intel Trip captured, and makes an awkward comment about his grandfather’s time in the Howling Commandos, she figures out where the power source for the machine Hydra is working on probably is. Since the Patriot is dead and there’s not exactly a formal command structure, she and Trip take off to do a quick recon.
Daisy is still trying to hold on to hope that Mace might have survived. Even in this world, May isn’t an optimist and tells her more detail about what happened, and that she has body cam footage to prove it. They end up making contact at a SHIELD site, and then dealing with a Hydra attack almost immediately afterward. Word gets back to headquarters, and Coulson and Mac decide to go retrieve Daisy and May.
Daisy and May talk about what’s going to happen next, and May admits her role in Mace’s death. While Daisy reassures her, Fitz visits the stricken Aida. Alastair is with him, and tells him tips are coming in. Aida finally wakes up (I guess she logged back in), and urges Fitz to finish Project Looking Glass. Alastair looks disgusted at the exchange of affection between them.
Coulson, Mac, May, and Daisy all finally link up, although Mac isn’t pleased to be teamed up with the woman who held his daughter hostage. Coulson makes peace between them, and they get away from the increasing Hydra presence through some old, Prohibition era tunnels. Man, those things are everywhere.
Trip and Simmons’ trip has some mixed results. The oil platform they get to has been modified a lot, but it’s not the location of Project Looking Glass. Simmons figures out where it really is, and what Aida’s up to. The machine is very nearly done, as best Simmons can figure. Over in the real word, Ivanov tries again to break past his limitations and fails. Trip, meanwhile and elsewhere, believes Simmons’ tale of another world with some decent, if skewed, logic.
Fitz is heeding Madame Ophelia Hydra’s request, and throwing himself in to finishing the machine. Whatever he’s doing, it looks a lot like what Aida was working with under the sway of the Darkhold. When Alastair reports that the traitor (May) got away, Fitz has a very cold answer for him, which, with their warped dynamic, should make Alastair proud, I guess.
The team arrives back at their base, united finally (barring Fitz), and Daisy wryly comments she should have figured out where they were on her own. There are some mixed feelings about how things are progressing. The outlook from two different worlds doesn’t always match up well, and Ward especially has reason to not like what’s coming.
Alastair goes to Radcliffe’s cell. You know, despite his betrayals and being responsible for so much of this, I actually feel a bit sorry for Radcliffe at this point. He knows he’s dead in the real world, and I doubt SHIELD is going to let the Framework keep running once this is over. Alastair’s visit goes poorly for Radcliffe, who picked a bad time to show some backbone.
SHIELD looks over May’s body-cam footage. To her credit, May looks on regretfully now. Daisy is all for returning to the real world and being done with all this, but Coulson has a plan that helps both worlds, clever man that he is. SHIELD stages a raid on Bakshi’s studio, interrupting a talk about taking a woman furniture shopping that has some overtones from the most recent Presidential Election. They gain control of the studio and use Bakshi’s network to air May’s footage, hoping to win over at least some of the people.
Things get chaotic quickly. Coulson, in a suit and looking a lot more like his real world self, airs the footage and gives a good talk. As the team leaves, Ward decides he’s staying behind to hold the studio and keep the broadcast on the air as long as possible. Daisy is impressed, and makes a few interesting observations. Fitz makes plans with Ophelia, and then listens as his father suggests a way to come at Radcliffe, since the beating isn’t working.
Coulson’s statement makes the air, and contains a reference to “alternative facts.” I really don’t think the writers are trying to be subtle anymore. Ward’s position at the studio has a lot of incoming, but they get a pleasant surprise for once. And, back in the real world, Ivanov gets a clue that bodes ill for Simmons’ and Daisy’s bodies (no, not THAT way).
What I liked: This alternate world has some good points to it. I’m thrilled to see Trip again. I also really like this Ward. Maybe he’s just born to be a traitor, but he’s being a good one here. Coulson’s address was great and a good rallying point. Even in this shadow of the real world, the Coulson/May byplay is amusing.
What I didn’t: They can end this alternate reality idea any time now. It’s getting a bit old, no matter how many nice twists it has. They’re doing a good job of making me dislike Ophelia/Aida/Madame Hydra and Alastair Fitz.
I’ll give this one a 3.5. I’m ready for Morpheus to pop up and offer them that colored pill now.