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Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. boss on those Framework twists

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Jennifer Clasen/ABC

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Tuesday’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Read at your own risk!

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. properly took viewers into the Framework during Tuesday’s episode — and, as Simmons says, it’s a brave new terrifying world.

During Tuesday’s episode, Daisy (Chloe Bennet) was shocked to wake up to a New World Order: Not only is Skye — yes, Skye now! — without her powers here, she’s also an agent of Hydra, which operates out of the still-standing Triskelion, and spends its time hunting down Inhumans. Oh, and she’s dating Ward (Brett Dalton)!

Well, at least Daisy didn’t have it as bad as Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge), who woke up in a shallow grave, discovering she had been shot and killed by Hydra — she did not die in a lab accident alongside 199 other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, as listed in her file.

How did this scary new world come to be dominated by Hydra? As we learn in Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) anti-Inhuman class, instead of killing the young Inhuman in Bahrain, May (Ming-Na Wen) and S.H.I.E.L.D. brought her back to America and tried to assimilate her, but she caused a devastating incident, which led to America rallying around Hydra to save them from evil Inhumans.

While Daisy subsequently comes into contact with nefarious Hydra doctor Fitz (Iain de Caestecker), Simmons tries to wake Coulson to no avail, leading Hydra to hunt her down when she meets in secret with Daisy. But Ward interrupts them, revealing that he’s a member of the resistance ever since discovering that Skye is actually Inhuman. He’s been protecting her!

But the real villain of the Framework uncovers their existence, cutting off their exit strategy. Worse yet, Fitz is in love with the new boss: Madame Hydra, a.k.a. Aida (Mallory Jansen). Good thing Daisy finally gets Coulson to wake up by hour’s end, because they’re going to need all the help they can get! Who else may be on their side? EW turned to executive producer Jed Whedon for the scoop.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Now that Coulson remembers who Daisy is, what’s their next step in trying to wake everyone else?
JED WHEDON: There’s a glimmer of hope, the fact that T.A.H.I.T.I. and that stuff in his past has interfered with their ability to Framework him. After a long episode of torturous adventure where no one knows each other, just to see our main man remember her, to me, I love that moment. It’s the first ray of sunshine in a bleak world. You just hope that he can help at this point, because they need help.

How much time are we spending in this Framework? Radcliffe mentioned before that eventually the body gives up on the mind, so are they racing against the clock?
Nature taking its course is against them, so they can’t be in there too long. It’s clear at the end of the episode that there are other things at play here. Aida has taken this opportunity [to escape] and twisted it in some way, so we’ll see how that unfolds. It feels like there’s a lot working against them.

We learned that the inciting incident was Bahrain. Will we get more history on how different things are here?
We’ll definitely get a sense of it and how things are different. The real thing we want to explore, and what we’re excited about, is how our people’s history has changed. Obviously, Coulson not being in S.H.I.E.L.D. had a big effect, Bahrain had a big effect, and what makes our people tick is different in this world. Yes, there are big plot things and big history things that will unfold.

Aida is programming so many people here. How will that programming push up against each other? Are we seeing the first hint of that with Coulson having these nascent memories before even meeting Simmons?
It is a pretty flawless reality, and the Darkhold gave them the ability to fill it with people who exist in this world and gave them the ability to copy our world, but it is a digital creation. Coulson is unique in the fact that he’s had this done to his mind before [with T.A.H.I.T.I.], so that is something they couldn’t bank on. But everybody else feels like they’re pretty immersed in this life that they’re living and are unaware that there’s something else out there. That’s a big hurdle to get over, especially now that they don’t have a way out. They’re trapped. It might as well be a real world because that’s now their reality. How they solve that problem, we’ll have to see.

If you die in the Framework, you die in real life, so how is Simmons alive?
We think of that as more she plugged into the avatar and it just happened to be in a terrible spot. The rule still applies to her and still applies to everyone. She just happened to plug into a body that, when she did, didn’t happen to be alive, but that’s more of a loophole. Moving forward, those stakes are real for everybody. We will get a sense of that pretty quickly.

Ward is actually a good guy in this universe. Why did you go that route?
We love Ward. The way that Brett Dalton plays him lives in the gray area. We wanted to do that again. We got used to hating Grant Ward, so it’s a little unsettling to trust him. We wanted to turn things on their head again. What would be more difficult for our team: Facing off against Grant Ward or having to work with him? We felt like the latter was a more interesting story point, and something that we hadn’t done. We’re excited for the audience to see how it plays out.

How difficult will it be for people like Daisy, Simmons, and Coulson to work with him?
I don’t think that they’re over it yet. [Laughs] I don’t think they’re over the things he’s done, so we’ll see varying degrees of trouble dealing with it. Staring that man in the face is a challenge, so it should be fun.

There is a resistance. One would imagine it’s filled with familiar faces. How surprised are we going to be about its roster of members?
That’s a fair assessment. One would assume that you’d recognize one or two people in there. We’ve had a lot of fun breaking these stories. I think it’ll be just as fun for the audience as it was for us to play the game of “What If?”

Any hope for surprise returns, like maybe from B.J. Britt?
I would say that you should have reasonable expectations. Get excited. There will be some fun. I don’t want to spoil anything.

Can you talk about the decision to turn Aida into Madame Hydra?
We knew we were going to go back to Hydra as an enemy. There’s no better way to show an upside down world than replacing a S.H.I.E.L.D. symbol with a Hydra symbol. We had what is one of most formidable female villains we’ve ever had, and we were bringing back Hydra, so it seemed like a natural pairing. She’s plugged herself into this world and clearly she’s trying to live some other new, unique life. We felt like if you grew up in a world and tried to be as powerful as you could be, and that world was Hydra-dominated, then it would be natural that she would become that. We thought it would be a fun way to introduce that character that’s so creepy, odd, weird, and fun. We love Mallory and everything she’s doing, so we said, “Why not give her some green hair?”

What can you tease of what Madame Hydra wants? Just to subjugate them or does she have other plans?
At the end of episode 15, she says to the Superior that she wants to feel all those things that Radcliffe mentions: wonder, joy, love. This appears to be an attempt to do that.

Will the woman Aida is based on come back into play?
We know Agnes is in the Framework somewhere, but whether or not she comes into play, I cannot say.

Could you say whether Radcliffe is in here somewhere? Could he ultimately help the team?
These are good questions. We know that he’s in the Framework. He’s definitely in there. Whether or not he could be a help or he’s just another lost soul, you’ll have to tune in to ABC Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET.

Simmons seems to be getting the worst of it. She had to crawl out of a shallow grave. In addition to now being one of the most wanted people in the Framework, how will Simmons feel about a Fitz and Aida romance?
I think she’s going to be really, really happy. [Laughs] She’s going to be overjoyed and decide to live in the Framework forever like it’s a musical! No, she will struggle, I think everybody will. One of the things we love about this story line is that it creates a unique challenge for each person. We know those people well enough to know what we wish they would do in those situations, but they don’t know themselves well enough to know. For her especially, there’s an emotional attachment to someone in there at the deepest level. Shocker: It’s not going to be easy for her.

This version of May ultimately failed everyone in Bahrain again. How different is this May?
Her deepest regret in the real world was that moment, even though she maybe did the right thing. By changing it, it feels like her deepest regret again. That’s one of the fun turns. It’s her worst memory still for much worse reasons. As the initial Bahrain incident hardened her and closed her off to the world, I think this had that same effect. She believes she’s fighting for the right cause because of all the pain she caused. This is an even more amped-up version of the May we first met. It’s not just one life that she regrets taking, it’s many.

Do you think if and when May gets out, this might actually give her some closure?
That’s if she makes it out of the Framework. [Evil Laugh] Sure!

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.