“Identity and Change” is episode seventeen of season four of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In the previous episode, “What If…”, Simmons and Daisy had decided to go inside the Framework and take control of the avatars of themselves inside. This was a bit more pleasant for Daisy, even though Skye was working for HYDRA, who had taken control and were cracking down on Inhumans, and was Ward’s girlfriend, because Simmons’s avatar was dead and buried. May was third in command of HYDRA and Fitz second; he is also seeing HYDRA’s ultimate commander – Aida. None of their friends they found seemed to remember anything about Daisy, Simmons or the real world, although Coulson did appear to be having flashes and, by the end, remembered Daisy. Daisy and Simmons had decided to leave and come back again, but Aida had disabled their exit and HYDRA was hunting them – and their unexpected ally, Grant Ward, who joined the Inhuman resistance after he discovered that Skye was Inhuman.
This episode opens with Coulson narrating the facts as recounted to him by Daisy. They sound a little crazy, when simply stated like that, but Coulson believes them, He states that he knew he wasn’t crazy, and that HYDRA are controlling people through fake news. HYDRA planted the Inhuman girl that May originally killed in Bahrain in a school, so that there would be a massacre, allowing HYDRA to seize control. Although, as Coulson also believes HYDRA is using mind control soap on people, which is why he makes his own, perhaps he is a little crazy. HYDRA is now after Coulson, so they have to leave.
Mack has a daughter, Hope, who he lost in the real world. Like him, she’s skilled with mechanical things and electronics, but she’s also used part of a damaged HYDRA drone – presumably damaged when HYDRA tried to capture Simmons – to fix her own. Mack isn’t happy, because he says they are keeping off the radar, following the rules and keeping their heads down. Which does suggest that Mack at least has something to hide.
Grant Ward – and neither Simmons nor Daisy are very happy to be trusting him – has set up a meeting with the head of the Inhuman resistance – and, as it happens, S.H.I.E.L.D. – Jeffrey Mace, the Patriot. Coulson goes a little fanboy on meeting him; a bit like he did when meeting Captain America.
Simmons wants to try to meet Fitz, believing that there is still good in him, but Aida appears to have done a proper number on Fitz, more than even she realises, and Fitz no longer remembers Simmons and is perfectly willing to kill her. Or do anything else Aida wants. She and Daisy also plan to find Radcliffe, a HYDRA scientist he seems to live on an uncharted island. At this point, they don’t know that Aida killed Radcliffe in the real world in “Self Control”. Nor do they know that Aida is actually Madame Hydra. Aida herself seems to be harbouring more than a few grudges against Radcliffe and, well, pretty much everyone in the real world. She’s planning on attacking it from the Framework – passing this off as self defence against monsters who want to destroy them – and has Fitz looking into it. Not that he knows he’s in a computer simulation.
With comments about fake news and Fitz making statements about ‘make our society great again’ there are actually hints of the real world in the episode.