AOS – Season IV – Ep. 16 “What If?”: A Review

Posted: 04/06/2017 in Uncategorized

AOS came back with a vengeance. Damn… this show is so good but still has no renewal for a fifth season. In the framework everything is reinvented to terrific effect and how formidable a foe Aida (Mallory Jansen) has become is ably presented. No missteps, only gold with this run. My happy opening rendered, on to my review.

The ep picks up where we last left off with Daisy (Chloe Bennett) and Jemma (Elizabeth Hentsridge) entering Radcliffe’s (John Hannah) framework to free their friends. What they find is a completely new world, one with profound and subtle differences. The nuances are what get both Jemma and the viewer. This world is ‘populated’ by independent, free thinking beings which she initially tries to dismiss as rogue, yet elegant programming code. It is so intricate however, that in a short time doubt begins to creep in as allies and enemies are reassigned.  What she and Daisy knew before is essentially overwritten and recreated.

The best selling point of this latest arc is the presentation of this reality as a divergence from the “Winter Soldier” fall of Hydra. In this model, Hydra won and is now a world dominating force. They are now sole security, police and government for all intents and purposes. There is also an intense anti-Inhuman propaganda. The divergence of this timeline is based on the infamous “Bahrain incident” in which May (Ming-Na Wen) now third in command in the Hydra hierarchy did not kill the inhuman powered child. In this reality, the child came to America, went to school and did exactly that which May in true reality had sought to prevent. For this alone, she is hopelessly behind Hydra and the anti-Inhuman movement.

Most impressive are the transformations of Coulson (Clark Gregg) from director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and all around badass to a cow towing teacher who allows students identified as Inhuman by Hydra ‘government’ to be taken from his class for testing/study. His correcting a student who aptly identifies Hydra as the former Nazi science division makes for a powerful moment.  Kudos must be afforded to the cast who play such altered variations of their characters. Most notable however is Ian DeCaestecker’s Leopold Fitz who is now simply known as “the doctor” and jarringly the second in command for Hydra, above May whom he freely insults for her poor decision which arose from the incident in Bahrain.

The return of Ward (Brett Dalton) played superbly well as he reconnects with Daisy whom he knows only as Skye. I don’t think a season of this show is a season at all, if Ward isn’t present in some capacity. In this realm, he is with Skye and her reaction to him initially was priceless. Her first move upon seeing him in her bed is to “quake” him. In this world, however, she is not enhanced and watching the awkward interplay between them was duly engaging. His gesturing back to her mimicking her initial motion as she tried to annihilate him plays for laughs. His character too is a reinvention, properly presenting a universe in which everything is on its ear, or one in which idealized hopes are given light.

MVP for the episode was unquestionably Jemma Simmons who we discover is dead in this reality. Her death is offered as a reason for the path taken by Fitz…possibly. Her digging herself out of a grave, seeing two bullet holes around her chest is met with “I guess I’ve been murdered”. Her evolution from timid, chattering nerd to brilliant, witty woman of action has been a superb journey worth taking. She assesses her situation, attempts to get assistance and quickly gleans her surroundings are hostile. Her engaging two Hydra agents was well executed.

Jemma’s meeting with Coulson is well acted. Her attempting to reach him at any level was beautifully presented. Her bringing the Tahiti affair to his attention draws attention to his mind attempting to break its fetters as he works through this non reality. While she isn’t successful in convincing him, we can see the doubt is planted with a later moment providing some needed payoff. The revelation of a “resistance” faction prevents a hope for a potential out and the intimation that at its core, the human mind cannot be suppressed indefinitely. The revelation of the head of Hydra is not surprising, though her relationship with her second kind of was. Her presentation, complete with green tinged hair was just perfect, paying due homage to the source material and illustrating that at three roles and counting, Mallory Jansen has proven to be a great find for this series.

With six episodes to go until this year’s finale…and hopefully not series finale, the show runners of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continue to swing for the fences, presenting a third story arc in one season and effortless reinventing the show yet again. AOS remains critically under-watched, simply outstanding and well worth your time.

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