I’ve grown so bored with the latest storyline on ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ that even the death of a prominent character barely registers with me. It doesn’t help that he was never very interesting in the first place.
Episode ‘No Regrets’ starts with Coulson and Mace staging a car accident on a road in order to hijack a HYDRA bus they believe may be transporting Daisy. More importantly to Mace (a.k.a. “The Patriot”), he’s hoping to rescue another prisoner. Sadly, after overtaking the guards, all they find are a handful of body bags, none of which contain anyone they know.
At the Triskelion building, Fitz interrogates Daisy and is a total dick. Everything about him seethes evilness. When Daisy tells him that this entire world is fake and that he’s really a nice guy, he assumes she must be lying. Agent May, meanwhile, believes that the key to bringing down the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. is to take out the Patriot. A doctor in the science division gives her a vial of super-soldier serum, which he promises is not Terrigen based.
Jemma explains that the Framework is a fake world to both Mace and Ward. Neither of them wants to believe that the lives they know have been meaningless. (Jemma conveniently omits some details from Ward’s story, including the fact he was evil… and that he’s dead.) Mace insists, “What we do here matters.” Jemma is not able to convince him otherwise. In fact, she starts to feel conflicted when she learns that Mack’s daughter is alive in this world and sees the joy the little girl brings him.
Daisy is next visited by Aida, who offers her a deal. If she’ll give up the location of her and Jemma’s bodies in the real world, Aida will wipe her memories and provide her with a happy life in the Framework. She even has the power to bring Lincoln back. Daisy is tempted but refuses. When she asks how Aida was able to change everyone’s personalities so drastically, Aida explains that all she did was remove the greatest regret from each person’s life. What happened after that was all calculated from a logical chain of events.
As it turns out, Fitz’s greatest regret was being estranged from his father. In this new world, his dad works alongside him at HYDRA. The old man is a real hardass who lectures his son about not having time for “the luxury of sympathy.” Apparently, exposure to him was enough to eliminate any sense of empathy from Fitz, which turned him evil.
After Aida leaves, Daisy hears Radcliffe crying in the next room. They talk through the wall and he tells her that Fitz murdered Agnes. Daisy asks him if he built a backdoor into the Framework, and he confirms that he did.
Mace needs Coulson’s help to rescue the HYDRA prisoner he’s so worried about. Because Coulson is new to the Resistance, he won’t be recognized as a threat. Mace forges him some documents and has Coulson drive the captured HYDRA bus to a so-called “Enlightenment Center,” where he slips pasts the guards fairly easily. Inside the bus, Mace and an agent named Burrows (he was the guy sucked out of the plane in Episode 4.10) are hiding in the body bags. They break into the HYDRA facility and release a bunch of captives from cages. Among them is Agent Triplett, whom we know to have died back in Season 2 when he was exposed to Terrigen mist. This obviously is the guy Mace was looking for.
As soon as he’s notified of the break-in at the Enlightenment Center, Fitz administers the super-soldier serum to May. This gives her one hour’s worth of augmented strength. It also makes her pretty jittery and agitated. She flies off to the Center in a quinjet itching for a fight.
Before leaving the facility, Coulson notices one of his former students, a boy named Chris, being dragged away by HYDRA guards. He follows them to a room where a whole bunch of kids are being Ludovicoed in front of a video that repeats the phrase “Compliance will be rewarded” (a deep callback to Dr. Bakshi’s brainwashing technique in Season 2).
May’s quinjet arrives and she immediately leaps out and attacks Mace. Although they’re more equally matched since she juiced up, Mace still manages to best her. However, when he has a chance to finish her off, he instead lets her live and runs off to help his friends in the complex’s main building. May takes note of this.
May radios back to HYDRA that Mace got away and that her serum is wearing off. Fitz orders a drone pilot to take control of her quinjet and use it to launch missiles into the building. He isn’t concerned about whoever else might be inside.
The building is rocked by the missiles but doesn’t collapse right away. May chases after Mace and is shocked to see a bunch of kids in the building. What were they doing there, and did Fitz know about them when he ordered the missile strike? She then witnesses Mace dive under a huge load of falling rubble to save Chris. Mace survives the rubble and gets the boy out safely, but must hold a support column to prevent the rest of the building from falling down. He stays there and sacrifices himself so that the rest of the children and his friends can escape. As soon as they get outside, the building crumbles. Jemma is distraught.
Out in the real world (our first peek outside the Framework since Daisy and Jemma entered it), Aida watches approvingly as Mace’s body flatlines. Her programming prevents her from simply killing all the S.H.I.E.L.D.ies, but it brings her great satisfaction to see one die of his own causing.
May returns to HYDRA headquarters. She can’t reconcile what she saw Mace do with her belief that he was a vile, mass-murdering terrorist. Perhaps Daisy (still “Skye” to her) was right that everything she’s been told is a lie.
May walks into Daisy’s holding cell and asks if it’s true that she’s Inhuman. Daisy confirms it, and says she could take out the whole HYDRA building if she had her powers. May says, “Good,” then pulls out a Terrigen crystal and smashes it onto the floor. Daisy’s body cocoons as the mist envelopes her.
I’m sure we’re supposed to take Mace’s death as a heroic act, but the fact that he died saving a bunch of artificial VR characters who don’t even actually exist makes the whole thing seem pointless and ridiculous. No amount of blather about how the Framework is its own real world will get me to care about anything that happens in it. The place is a videogame. When it’s done, it will be turned off.
In addition to the return of Agent Triplet, the episode is littered with other, subtler fan-service nods to past events and storylines. That’s fun, I guess. I suppose it means we can expect more resurrections of dead characters. If so, I’d like to see Agent Hartley (Lucy Lawless) make a comeback. Her character was underused and never got a fair shake.
As grumpy as I may be about the show these days, the preview for the next episode looks fairly exciting. I hope it actually is.
I think I’ve heard about something like this happening before…
I remember that issue. The storyline was pretty dumb there too.