Before embarking on its second and current hiatus of the season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season four made sure to leave fans with plenty to discuss in the intervening period. The show's most recent episode - 'Self Control' - concluded with the core S.H.I.E.L.D. contingent trapped inside Holden Radcliffe's fictional reality The Framework and saw Agents Daisy and Simmons follow suit, in order to rescue their teammates. Meanwhile on the outside world, Life Model Decoy AIDA continues to mastermind her own robotic agenda alongside her new pet, The Superior.
The introduction of The Framework has triggered a raft of speculation as to which deceased and departed characters could potentially make their return in Radcliffe's digital universe. Brett Dalton's Agent Ward has been confirmed as re-joining the cast in the forthcoming final part of season four and there have been hints that both Agent Tripp and HYDRA's Bakshi could be appearing, among other much-loved characters from seasons past.
ABC have now released a clip from the show's comeback episode 'What If...' and not only do viewers get a glimpse of the returning Grant Ward, but it appears as if he and Daisy - now happily in a relationship - have both found alternative employment. The clip seemingly picks up right where the previous episode left off and sees Daisy acclimatizing to her new surroundings, shocked at the fact Ward is in her bed and that they apparently now both work for the evil HYDRA organization.
The scene confirms several important details, not least of which is that Daisy appears fully aware she's currently in The Framework - something not every character seems to realize. Furthermore, although she expects to find ex-lover Lincoln between her sheets, the Framework creates a person's idealistic reality, suggesting that Ward is the man she had stronger feelings for. Other notable moments include Daisy not being able to use her Inhuman powers and Ward referring to her as 'Skye', inferring that in this world, her entire Inhuman arc never happened.
The Framework mechanic gives Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. plenty of opportunities to try new things with its characters in the setting of an alternate reality and fans will no doubt get a kick out of seeing some of their favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. alumni back on screen. The fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. as an organization doesn't appear to exist in The Framework also poses several interesting questions. Did Radcliffe purposely omit it or does every character secretly wish they had never signed up?
Despite this, there are some pitfalls that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. must be wary of in its forthcoming run. Alternative reality story lines can quickly run their course and become frustrating, meaning The Framework must be careful not to outstay its welcome. Additionally, some fans may feel that bringing back Agent Ward yet again is becoming a predictable trope. Ward has worked for S.H.I.E.L.D., for HYDRA, for himself, died once, been taken over by an Inhuman, died again and now is back again in virtual form. Perhaps L.M.D. Ward and I Can't Believe It's Not Ward are just around the corner.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns with 'What If...' April 4th on ABC.