The last leg of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 has plunged us into the Framework: a twisted virtual reality created by the arcane science of the Darkhold. It's a world in which Hydra won, and where Aida has positioned herself as Madame Hydra, supreme ruler of the Planet Earth. We're only two episodes into the 'Agents of Hydra' pod, and already, our heroes have been exposed. But rumbling in the background, 'Identity and Change' dropped a tantalizing — and terrifying — hint...
Project Looking Glass
In 1871, Lewis Carroll wrote Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There: a fascinating book in which the star, Alice, plunges into a madhouse-mirror reflection of the world. The expression "through the looking glass" has been absorbed into popular culture, where it essentially refers to an experience that's not how you'd expect it to be; but in the context of sci-fi, it usually refers to plunging into an insane 'Mirror Dimension'. Frankly, it's a pretty good summary for our heroes' experience as they dive into the Framework.
But here's the catch: Madame Hydra herself has signed off on a mysterious #Hydra science experiment, referred to as "Project Looking Glass." 'Identity and Change' gave us some subtle hints as to what this project may be...
1) Madame Hydra Seeks a Way Out
'Identity and Change' made it pretty clear that Madame Hydra is Aida — not just a program based on Aida, but Aida herself, succumbing to the insane emotions that had been hinted to bubble beneath the surface of her calm and composed form. For Aida, the Framework is the perfect reality: a realm where she rules, with Fitz at her side. But she knows that, at any time, her enemies could pull the plug in the real world.
Simmons and Quake may be trapped inside the Framework, but Aida hinted to Fitz that she is too. Something's gone wrong; when she plunged into the Framework, she unwittingly trapped herself. It's possible she reprogrammed the Framework to prevent Doctor Radcliffe finding a way to influence the real world; if so, she unwittingly destroyed all ways of getting out. Now, Aida has Hydra's best minds working on a way to transition between the Framework and reality.
2) A Bolthole for Madame Hydra & Her Allies
But would Madame Hydra really leave her allies behind? What if Project Looking Glass is a way for Madame Hydra to bring her closest allies, May and Fitz, with her? The Framework versions of May and Fitz seem to be horrifically (murderously) loyal to Hydra; what if Project Looking Glass is a way to maintain those identities when their minds are restored to the real world?
Imagine what Aida could accomplish with May and Fitz at her side. Even as Simmons and Daisy struggle to deal with the threat of the Framework from within, Aida and her allies would be working to defeat them from the outside. What's more, looking forward to a possible Season 5, could this be how Hydra return? We can presume that Season 4 ends with Aida defeated, but with twisted versions of Fitz and May on the loose, with the goal of restoring Hydra?
3) The Most Terrifying Possibility of All
There is one further possibility. The Framework was created using the arcane science of the Darkhold; that's what makes this virtual reality so seductive, so terrifyingly dangerous. But right now, it's just a virtual reality; what if Aida is seeking a way to make it real?
Sure, it seems far-fetched, but we're dealing with the Darkhold here: the darkest of magic, reverse-engineered into science. Is it possible that Aida intends to take the whole world 'through the Looking Glass'? If so, our heroes are right where they need to be; because the greatest threat to the world is inside the Framework, and longing to get out.
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'Identity and Change' was a thrilling episode, confronting our heroes with the evil of the Framework, and reminding us just how dangerous these twisted, distorted versions of Fitz and May can really be. But that brief reference to "Project Looking Glass" raises some incredible possibilities — ones that could shake the whole #MCU.
What do YOU think 'Project Looking Glass' is?
(Poll Image Credit: ABC)