By Natalie Abrams
April 19, 2017 at 02:00 AM EDT
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Credit: Eric McCandless/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!

The mystery behind why Fitz has become a cold-blooded killer in the Framework was solved during Tuesday’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

After Aida (Mallory Jansen) changed one regret for everyone in the Framework, that meant Fitz actually had a relationship with his estranged father (David O’Hara) in this Matrix-like world. However, having his father in his life proved to be the catalyst for Fitz’s degeneration into a monster.

When this version of Fitz starts to have doubts about having killed Agnes (Jansen), his father pushes him to be a hardened man of action who cannot afford the luxury of love. “Seeing his father is one of the great moments of the season,” executive producer Jed Whedon says. “It’s an illustration of how much one little change can affect your life and answers the question of, ‘Why is Fitz this way?’ We will see him again.”

“It’s very clear how Fitz, in reality, has been shaped by his father’s absence,” EP Maurissa Tancharoen says. “It’s very clear as to why his father’s presence, or lack thereof, led to a lot of decisions that Fitz made in his life, his personal life, and his personality.”

Adds EP Jeffrey Bell: “There’s a female intuitiveness to him. His mother filled in that role, and then Simmons came in and filled in that role. When you take the mother out, and you make the mother’s sensitivity a weakness, and you raise a young man with that thought process, it doesn’t work out so well.”

Another familiar face returned during Tuesday’s episode, as Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Mace (Jason O’Mara) rescued the still-alive(!) Trip (B.J. Britt) from a Hydra facility. May (Ming-Na Wen) had come there to kill Mace but basically realized she was on the wrong side once she saw that Hydra was willing to sacrifice kids. Ultimately, it’s Mace who sacrifices himself to save everyone else — meaning Mace is dead in the real world, too.

“This season is proof that death is, at times, fleeting on our show, but he is really dead,” Whedon confirms. “One of the things [we decided] from the very beginning in talking about doing some version of an alternate world was the stakes had to be real, so our decision to make it a virtual world came with great bonuses but also came with the challenge of, ‘How do you still make the stakes high?’ In order to make it life or death, we felt like we needed some death.”

Adds Bell: “Jason came in and played this new version [of a character that] we’ve never seen, this slightly corny guy who had always wanted to be a hero, and the fact that in the Framework he got to be that hero was really fun, but there’s also real consequences of being that hero; a real hero would sacrifice himself for the greater good. As sad as it was for that character to end, for the character to go out in such a powerful way was super moving.”

In the wake of Mace’s sacrifice, May gives Skye the transformative Terrigen to take Hydra down. Will they succeed? We’ll find out when Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

Episode Recaps

ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." - Season Three

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

Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) assembles a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to handle strange new cases.

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