EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to a technical issue, last week’s review wasn’t able to be posted until now and this week’s review will just be short thoughts/discussion points. Everything will be back to normal next week, so thanks for bearing with us. Totally our bad!!

Last episode, I went pretty deep into the politics pool, mostly because the show did the same. By laying that foundation, they set up the new world and the type of story they’ll be telling the rest of the season. As such, I felt the need to address it and analyze it before we moved into more concrete bits of plot and action in future episodes. This week, “Identity and Change” used last week’s table-setting to give viewers a feast that was equal parts fun and dramatic. While everyone is in top form, Iain De Caestecker and Clark Gregg are the MVPs this week. De Caestecker has turned Fitz into one of the most emotionally rich characters on TV, so watching him turn all of that wholesomeness and love into darkness is a joy to watch. Obviously, Evil Fitz is not long for this world, but letting the actor dive into the role with such relish was a smart choice.

Gregg, meanwhile, gets to almost go back to OG Coulson with a little doofy naivety thrown in for good measure. The results are some of the funniest lines and moments this show has ever done. From his status as a soap truther to his return to being a superhero fanboy, Gregg was the standout for tonight’s episode. Mace’s grizzled persona is a nice reversal of his usual meek character, and it’s always great to see Mack. They don’t get much to do tonight, but it looks like that’ll change next week. And Elizabeth Henstridge and Chloe Bennett continue their work from two episodes back by serving as the heart and brains of the whole show. Honestly, the only dig I have is that the writers once again fail May. Yes, her going full evil is fun, but we haven’t had much of her. And on top of that, she isn’t given any shades like Fitz. She just has a scowl and looks tough. She didn’t even fight Daisy, which would have made for the perfect action scene.

But the most welcome surprise was Mallory Jansen. As AIDA, she always left something to be desired for me. Of course, it’s hard to play an emotionless automaton. Then, she got to pull double duty when she appeared as Agnes. Within the Framework, she’s now Madame Hydra. And she didn’t just take the mantle. Fitz calls her Ophelia, meaning she’s the original Madame Hydra (now called Viper in the comics), Ophelia Sarkissian. Jansen excels at playing both the campy villain and the wounded AIDA. In fact, she has to play three roles tonight, as she switches between her two personas and does side work as Agnes. And she owns that outfit. Her and Hela need to team up ASAP. It’s been a long time, but the MCU has gained two female big bads this year and the glimpses we’ve seen so far are amazing.

Despite this episode featuring a lot more action and plot, it’s still doing a lot of set-up. We still had to meet Mack, Mace, and Radcliffe, and get a better sense of Ophelia and Fitz. Now that everything’s been teed up, I expect things will get fairly crazy in the final batch of episodes. And we haven’t even checked back in with Yo-Yo and the handful of SHIELD agents that survived. This season was already going down as the best the show has done, but this final arc may elevate it to something truly unique in genre television.

FINAL SCORE

4 Evil Zephyrs out of 5. Everything’s just a little more evil in Hydra.

ONE-SHOTS

  • I wanted to say a quick word about comments. I’ve always been pleased with the levels of comments here on MCU Exchange. Lord knows the Internet is full of some nasty comment sections. I enjoy how questions or points I raise will be addressed and discussed, and they often shine a light on things I’m not clear about. As we don’t have the luxury of getting screeners for the site, it can be difficult diving into each episode as much as I’d like, so sometimes I’ll miss something. Other times, it’s just not clear. As I’ve said before, I have full faith in the writers of the show, so please never take my snarky comments or even outright critiques as condemning them. Sometimes, I just like to point out something as a way to generate a conversation. Most of you seem to get that and respond accordingly. Of course, trolls will be trolls. So thanks to everyone who weighed in last week about the Hydra/Inhuman thing. I think the idea that there’s a bunch of Hydra factions makes sense, but this week also made it clear that AIDA just picked Hydra as the antithesis of SHIELD, who she hates. I still think the writers should address it, considering they built the entirety of last season around the idea that Hydra worships Inhumans, but I suspect they will. If not, it’s safe to assume this is just some wacky interpretation by AIDA.

  • And as for the whole “Are Hydra Nazis?” debate that the Internet is weirdly fascinated by: Yes, Hydra are 100% Nazis, now and forever. No matter what retconning or sympathizing writers attempt, they were created as Nazis. That’s just the reality of it. They’ve also never stopped for one second acting like Nazis, so it’s odd how many people seem offended by this. Obviously, they’re make-believe characters and so aren’t as bad as real Nazis, so it’s fine to enjoy Hydra Bob or Baron Zemo or whatever. But it’s also hard to ignore that they want to exterminate and enslave entire groups of people, experiment on them, and hate democracy and America and all that, so it’s worth considering why you’re so protective of them.

  • “Make our society great again,” said the torturer with the fashy haircut to his jackbooted colleagues.

  • Is it just me or is their a faint bluish/blackish tint added to the Framework? If so, I like it. Adds to the dreamlike state.

  • I love the idea of an action movie that kicks off with the line “You’re gonna need a substitute.” Imagine that in Schwarzenegger’s voice.

  • Seeing Mack’s daughter makes me want Moon Girl in the MCU.

  • Also, is it weird Mack calls his daughter by the nickname he had for Lincoln? Let me answer that for you: Yes.

  • “Hi. It’s me again. Phil Coulson. I called Hydra on you. Sorry about that.” Such a great line reading. Reminds me of one of my favorite line readings from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

  • I paused on the Wall of Valor but didn’t recognize any names.

  • Burrows is back! Now bring back Trip.

  • It’s the little things that get me sometimes. Like the guy who batters down the door and then throws the ram behind him. Is that protocol? His buddy had to jump over it so he wouldn’t get his toes smashed. Come on, Hydra!

  • This arc has shades of Fringe with the false war on an alternate reality. That’s an interesting wrinkle too that I didn’t discuss. We’ll get into it more next week I’m sure, but Fitz and possibly other higher-ups have some idea of the “real world.”

  • Gotta love those elevator fights.


“No Regrets” One-Shots and Rogue Thoughts

  • It’s fun seeing Mace as a straight up gruff superhero. Part of me wishes we could spend longer in this reality. Maybe they’ll manage something like Fringe where we can jump back and forth. I don’t know how, but if they can write it in a halfway decent manner, I’m down.

  • Sometimes I wish they’d leave out guest stars on the opening credits so we could be surprised. That said, TRIPP!

  • Paused on the Cambridge Incident memorial plaque but didn’t recognize any names.

  • I love the glib recaps of the comic book events from the show.

  • In case you couldn’t place him, the Hydra scientist who gives May the serum is Kenneth Turgeon, Simmons’ lab partner from her time undercover at Hydra back in season two.

  • We gotta see one of those t-shirts of Mace’s slogan as a callback at some point.

  • I’m glad this hasn’t been like the recent Legends of Tomorrow alternate reality where there was no tension or drama to the people waking up. Mace makes some good points about how hard it would be to convince someone this was all fake.

  • “Nevertheless, she persisted.” While I wouldn’t expect Fitz to be the one to say it, this show has been great with weaving in subtle social commentary.

  • Project: Looking Glass further connects this to an Abrams show as Looking Glass was the facility underwater on Lost.

  • God, please don’t bring Lincoln back.

  • Sadly, there’s not much to the Whitehall chapter in the book. It’s all about how he found a cure for polio. There’s also a connection with Fitz but it can’t be made out.

  • Bakshi News teases next week’s episode. The Inhuman with lion paws is a callback to the mention of comic villain Griffin back in season one.

  • Why are there no listening devices in Hydra HQ?

  • Wow, Fitz’s dad is the worst.

  • Mace finally got his true hero moment saving someone from a falling building. He also answered the question of what happens when you die in the Framework. RIP Director Jeffrey “The Patriot” Mace.

  • Finally, some solid May action and character work. Perfect way for her to switch sides, by putting kids in harm’s way.

  • Thanks again for sticking with us through this wonkiness. We’ll be back next week for some more familiar faces with “All the Madame’s Men.”