With Aida inching closer to her plan of becoming human — and therefore gaining the freewill that will allow her to kill Team S.H.I.E.L.D. — the race is on to escape the Framework during Tuesday’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In the wake of the Superior discovering Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Daisy’s (Chloe Bennet) real-world location, Coulson (Clark Gregg) & Co. must find the mysterious backdoor in the Framework before Aida can make herself human. “There’s a ticking clock so that anybody who stays in there long enough might not survive,” executive producer Jed Whedon tells EW. “But as the next couple episodes go on, we just add one ticking clock every 20 minutes, so the race is on.” Executive producer Maurissa Tancharoen adds: “The sense of urgency is relentless until the end.”
Unfortunately, locating the backdoor won’t be as simple as finding an exit sign, made all the more difficult by the fact that most of the team still don’t remember their lives outside the Framework. “It’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so it’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure,” Bennet says. “For Simmons and Daisy, it’s a lot of strategy. We see these people who we know and we have to try to manipulate them to understand that this isn’t real and get them to where they need to be to get out.”
“Everybody has such different views of what the backdoor is,” Ming-Na Wen says. “Like Coulson’s character, he wants to truly believe that all his conspiracy theories are going to be validated at this moment, but for May, it’s absolute blind trust because she doesn’t believe that there’s a backdoor; she’s going along with it because so much of May’s subconscious is taking over.”
Even so, not everyone will go willingly. “What we find with everybody is one of their wishes came true and it either had a negative or positive effect on their life,” Whedon says. “For everyone who wasn’t aware they were in the Framework, they’re conflicted to leave regardless, but some more than others.”
Thus, there’s a leap of faith needed for some to return to the real world. “In order to get back to the real world sometimes, that’s going to mean some sacrifices for people in the Framework who have lived full lives in the Framework — both on our team and off our team,” Gregg says. “There’s a desperation to get out and there’s going to be a really deep, emotional pull on some characters not to leave.”
Therefore, trust is key during Tuesday’s hour — on both sides. “There’s a lot of people that we’re not 100 percent sure if they’re on our side or not,” Henstridge says. “And if anybody gets killed in there, they die, so it’s very exciting I’d say because the stakes are just super high in this episode.”
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.