Warning: SPOILERS for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ahead
As the final story arc of season 4, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has opened up a whole new world of possibilities with the Framework - a virtual reality created by Dr. Holden Radcliffe as a gilded cage for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s top operatives, to keep them occupied while they were replaced by Life Model Decoys in the real world. Now being run by Radcliffe’s AI creation Aida, the Framework simulates a version of reality where each member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team has been able to correct their greatest regret. The result is a world where Hydra has taken over and is doggedly hunting down and experimenting on Inhumans - with Fitz and May spearheading these efforts.
In the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ‘What If…’, Daisy and Simmons entered the Framework to rescue their friends, only to find that their own fates were seriously different in this alternate reality. Simmons is dead, and Daisy is still calling herself Skye and is working for S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside her now-boyfriend, Grant Ward. To make matters worse, Framework-Daisy was never exposed to the Terrigen mist, which means that she doesn’t have her powers.
The return (once again) of Grant Ward has left fans wondering which other deceased characters might still be alive in the Framework, and one resurrection that many are hoping for is that of Antoine “Trip” Triplett (played by B.J. Britt). Trip was killed in the season 2 episode ‘What They Become’ after being exposed to the same Terrigen mist that awakened Daisy and Raina’s Inhuman powers. Trip was pretty beloved by fans and death was a gut-wrenching loss - even more so because, unlike Phil Coulson and Grant Ward, Trip has so far stayed dead.
However, if Daisy was never exposed to the Terrigen mist then it makes sense that Trip wasn’t either... which means there’s a very good chance that he’s still alive in the Framework simulation. When asked by EW about the possibility of Britt returning to the show, executive producer Jed Whedon gave a rather coy reply:
"I would say that you should have reasonable expectations. Get excited. There will be some fun. I don’t want to spoil anything."
Bringing characters back from the dead always requires some kind of explanation - whether it's a serum extracted from an alien corpse, or an ancient Inhuman possessing the deceased character's body. The Framework basically gives Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. carte blanche to temporarily resurrect any number of characters who have been killed off in the "real world," so it would be a wasted opportunity not to bring at least some of those characters back. And if we're bringing people back, Trip should really be at the top of the list.
If Daisy and Jemma do manage to find Trip within the Framework, the big question is: who does he work for? It could be that, like May and Fitz, he's happily reporting for duty as an Agent of Hydra. On the other hand, he could also be part of the Resistance, working to help Inhumans and fight Hydra. The latter seems more likely, since Daisy didn't run into him while she was at the Triskelion and we haven't yet met any members of the Resistance (apart from Ward, of course).
For the sake of hopeful Trip fans, let's take things one step further. In 'What If...', Jemma noted how incredibly lifelike the simulated population of the Framework is. The simulations have their own lives, dreams, memories and hobbies, and for all intents and purposes appear to be just like regular people. Now that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has introduced Life Model Decoys, capable of looking and behaving just like regular people, could the technology be used to bring characters back from the dead by uploading the simulated versions of their minds into LMD bodies?
Perhaps the more pertinent question is whether the show should do this. Yes, it might be great to have Trip back on the team and embarking on adventures with S.H.I.E.L.D., but one of the reasons his death had so much gravity was its permanence. Trip was turned to stone and then shattered into pieces, meaning that he couldn't come back in the same way that Coulson and Ward did. In a show where people have repeatedly returned from the dead, there's a potential for dramatic deaths to lose their impact - after all, it's hard to be horrified by a character dying when you know there's a good chance they'll be back next season anyway. For Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to have one well-liked character who died suddenly and never came back makes it feel like a universe where the stakes are high, and death actually has consequences.
We'll just have to wait and see if the Framework storyline brings Trip back - whether temporarily or permanently. But even if it does make Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feel like a show where death doesn't matter, it would certainly be great to see him again.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues Tuesday April 11 with ‘Identity and Change’ at 10pm on ABC.