When Love Isn’t Enough: Thoughts on AoS 4x20
I love FitzSimmons but I am really really glad they didn’t have the power of true love compel him to remember her.
Because first of all, that’s not how the Framework works. None of the other characters ever remembered their Real World lives with the exception of Coulson, and he had a legitimately good reason for that - because his mind had already been tampered with through the TAHITI program. Your Framework self cannot remember your Real World life even if your Framework self meets someone who was important to you in the Real World. If it worked like that, let’s face it, Melinda May would have remembered Coulson the first time she laid eyes on his dorky schoolteacher self back in the rubble of that Hydra base.
It also wouldn’t make sense because Framework Fitz is SO drastically different than Real World Fitz. Remember the context here. Remember that Framework Fitz has been taught not to buckle to “womanly sentiment,” remember that he carries all of Hydra on his shoulders, remember that he views betrayal as a capital offense. Jemma Simmons is not the love of his life here, she is a subversive who has evaded his capture and is working with the Resistance, she is a woman who murdered his father while he listened helplessly over the phone. Remember that in the Framework, Fitz loves his father, even if his father was cruel to him, even if his father abused him, Fitz still loves him because he is his father.
I’m also glad they didn’t go down that route is because it would be so easy and so lazy. Fitz pulling a gun on Jemma and then lowering it when he remembers her - that’s the easy way out. Fitz pulling a gun on Jemma, shooting her in the leg, and being completely prepared to kill her - that’s so much more interesting. This forces us to see that this is NOT the Fitz we know. Jemma may have said once that he’s the awkward scientist she knows and loves, but that’s simply not true. He is NOT her Fitz. And it is so important that there are these distinctions between the Framework and the Real World because it raises the stakes and it really makes us consider the concept of agency and free will. Framework Mack chose to stay in the Framework, a world he knows is not real, because he chose to stay with his daughter. Because even if his daughter isn’t technically real, his love for her is real. And this is where it gets really interesting - Framework Mack chose to stay, Framework Coulson and May chose to leave, but Framework Fitz was forced to leave against his will. It’ll be really interesting in the last 2 episodes to see if any of Framework Fitz is left in Real World Fitz. I would love to see Fitz struggle with himself, with his relief at being back in the Real World but also his resentment at being forced to leave against his will.
Here’s what I love most about Framework Fitz not remembering Jemma - it turns the concept of all you need is love on its head in a really great way. In general, I am not a fan of this trope because it’s so cheesy and rarely done right, and the thing I really like about this show is how it doesn’t ever really ever buy into that. We saw this with Skyeward, with Daisy and Cal, with season 2 Fitzsimmons, with May and Andrew, and with Mack and Yo-Yo. Ward believed his love for Skye was enough to make her understand him and even love him back, and she shot him four times and told him with no uncertainty that his love for her did NOT make his actions okay, that his love for her did NOT make her understand him, that his love for her was NOT enough. Framework Ward’s love is not enough for him to be happy with Framework Skye since she’s essentially be erased by Daisy. Cal thought his love for his wife and daughter justified the terrible actions he took in his quest to get them back and Daisy refused to buy into that, and though she did eventually grow to love him, their love for each other wasn’t enough to give them a happy ending as father and daughter. Fitz sacrificed himself to save Simmons and suffered severe brain damage as a result, and Simmons voluntarily leaved him in the hopes that he might recover faster without her. For both of them, their love for the other actually caused them to be without the other. Now, granted, Fitzsimmons did actually embody this trope when he went to an alien planet to save her, but they also ended up unleashing an ancient evil, so I think we can still say the trope has been subverted more often than not. May and Andrew also loved each other, so much so that she almost gave up SHIELD for him, but they were torn apart by his Inhuman counterpart and untimely death. And Mack chose one love over another - though Daisy told him he had people who loved him in the Real World, he still chose to stay in the Framework with his daughter.
One thing is very clear - on this show, love is not always enough. It doesn’t fix everything, it’s not always the answer, it’s not the solution to every problem (this ain’t Once Upon a Time). It’s not always enough to keep two people together. It’s not always enough to be happy.
On this show, love is not always enough. And that’s what makes this arc so interesting to watch.