“No one is like you,” real Gemma Simmons says to Hydrazied Phil Coulson, in a moment that had real character development for both mainstays of the Marvel hit drama as its fourth season hits the homestretch. The deeper meaning of this statement is something that the show is able to explore in the Framework created by LMD Aida in which supervillain Hydra has become the overlords of this virtual world. The end of the episode really highlights the fact that underneath the “aw Jeez” sentimentality and fan boyishness, Phil Coulson is a mentor who elevates all the people serving under his command to the heroes they aspire towards.
The character of May gets a strong defining moment in this episode when her Hydra Doppelganger becomes convinced to join the Patriot’s forces is her discovery of Hydra’s wrongdoings towards children in what she thought were schools (a running theme with her). His sacrifice to save the kids Hydra was brainwashing gives an extra weight of urgency to May’s arc for the rest of the season, as Mace’s death is what convinces her to start fighting for the side of the angels at the end of the episode. May, and most of the cast present in the scene, never had any meaningful scenes with Patriot during his time on the show but in his time of dying you could see the impact he has had on each one of them as a true inspiration. Love is the thing that truly binds these agents together, and that theme shows when, during the episode’s closing stinger, Agent May finally gives Daisy her Inhumans powers in the Framework to help in the fight to bring Hydra, and AIDA, down for good. Mace was a real highlight of the show’s fourth season, and how heart wrenching his death was proves that fact. The winner of the episode, though, is Fitz and how his story arc continues to evolve into this twisty and heartbreaking roller coaster with surprises everywhere.