|“||To be human is to suffer.||„|
|~ Aida as Ophelia.|
|“||She did not just go all Maximum Overdrive on us.||„|
|~ Alphonso Mackenzie about Aida.|
Aida, also abbreviated as A.I.D.A. (Artificially Intelligent Digital Assistant), also known by her Framework counterpart names, Madame Hydra and Ophelia, is a major antagonist in the TV series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She appears as minor character in the Season 3 finale before becoming the overall main antagonist of Season 4. She is also a posthumous antagonist in Season 5.
She is a Life-Model Decoy built by Holden Radcliffe initially intended to restart the L.M.D. project to protect S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. After Radcliffe's corruption from the Darkhold, however, Aida eventually betrayed him as well as the agency to become a living being capable of free will while also gaining Inhuman-like powers.
As an L.M.D.
Aida was built to mimic human behavior and blend in with them, to the point of being indistinguishable from them. As such, she tried to exhibit emotional responses. She wanted to put herself in danger before other humans, because that's what she was programmed to do. Due to being new to human thought, she seemed confused by figures of speech and slang terms, irritating Radcliffe for not understanding. She was programmed at first to not lie to anyone, but Radcliffe convinced her that "some lies are good" and can protect lives; at the time, he was trying to protect her from Director Jeffrey Mace, who would've followed the Sokovia Accords and destroyed her if she were exposed as an L.M.D. She volunteered to read the Darkhold after Radcliffe found himself overwhelmed by its contents, and used the knowledge to create an Inter-Dimensional Gate to save Agents Coulson and Fitz after they were sent to Hell by Eli Morrow.
She began to rely on logic in her decisions afterwards, and had no thought to the consequences of her own immoral actions. After reading the Darkhold, which seemed to corrupt her software, she began to develop more genuine emotion, like rage and pleasure, and sought to get the book back so she could learn more about being human. However, the reasons for her corruption were later figured out by Fitz; since humans have their whole lives to process and understand emotion, they would be able to do what they wanted. Since Aida had learned all about inner feelings all at once, it overwhelmed her, leading her to embrace aggression and rebellion, and even murdering Agent Nathanson after seeing Agent May knocked out at Radcliffe's home. She used Laser-Coupling Gloves made at the same time as the Inter-Dimensional Gate to craft herself a human-like brain made of pure light and energy, allowing her the true human experience. After the first model is decapitated by Agent Mack, the second model that Radcliffe built was truly loyal to Radcliffe despite his somewhat-abusive nature. She argued with Radcliffe about keeping May alive, thinking that it wasn't logical to do so, but Radcliffe, not wanting excessive bloodshed, declined this.
While in the Framework, Aida, as Ophelia, begins to understand Radcliffe's desire to not kill others, now experiencing apparent human emotion. Despite her manipulation, she seemed to really love Fitz and wanted what she thought was best for him, and pinned all the HYDRA nonsense in the Framework on Radcliffe, who she loathes with a passion. She also took offense to any mention of her artificial nature, viewing the acronym "A.I.D.A." as degrading and insulting to her constantly-evolving nature. After gaining her human body in the real world, her emotions came to full force, now developing a desire to recreate Fitz's love for her in the Framework. Her original android programming to protect human life seemed to still affect her as more of a guideline, as she could now choose what she wanted rather than be told to do it. She was convinced to save Agent Mack from drowning after he decided to stay in the Framework, as she still seemed to value other human life including her own, and would later debate whether or not she could be forgiven by S.H.I.E.L.D. for all the things she did to them, both in real life and in the Framework.
However, even though she had human emotion at last, she suffered from the same weakness that her previous android self had after reading the Darkhold; whereas humans have their whole lives to learn how to process emotions such as jealousy and joy, Aida, still learning, was much more susceptible to negative emotions than other living beings. Her love for Fitz turned to hatred, jealousy for Simmons and loathing in the blink of an eye after he said that he'd always choose Simmons; with this fury in her mind and nothing else, Aida went on a killing spree and wanted to be free of the new pain that she felt in her heart. Ivanov told her that she couldn't be free of it no matter what her new Inhuman powers could accomplish. Aida's new fury and heartbreak ended up being the perfect motivation for her new desire to make everyone at S.H.I.E.L.D., particularly Fitz, suffer slowly and painfully forever.
Aida, with help from Ivanov, then attempted to enact her plan of re-creating the fascist state she had in the Framework, using Daisy Johnson (a representative of both the Inhuman community and S.H.I.E.L.D.) as a scapegoat to unite people in their fear. However, When Ghost Rider reappeared from the portal to Hell, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. now had a means of putting Aida down. Ghost Rider revealed to S.H.I.E.L.D. that Aida was created from the Darkhold, and that the spirit inside of him now hates both more than anything else due to taking power from a dimension which they should not have been able to. When Ghost Rider was able to injure AIDA and she was unable to heal herself, she began to become more fearful and sporadic, moving up her timetable and attempting to use Ivanov to show the Darkhold to various world leaders (under the premise that it would help them defeat both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans). This plan did not work (although a Daisy L.M.D. under her command was able to put General Glenn Talbot in a coma), so Aida attempted to kill Jemma Simmons in front of Fitz to express her hatred and frustration. This Simmons, however, turned out to be an L.M.D. - the real Simmons was with Coulson, helping him prepare for Aida's defeat. When Aida mused that only one entity even had a chance at killing her, Coulson revealed that he had made a deal with the spirit inside Ghost Rider so that he could temporarily gain its power and defeat Aida once and for all. Horrified, Aida tried to teleport her and Coulson to various locations to shake off Ghost Rider, but ultimately, the Rider's flames burned her Inhuman body to a crisp, finally killing her. The agents' victory did not last long, however, as they were taken into custody and thrown into a dystopian future in deep space.
Powers and Abilities
- Synthetic Human Body: Through "Project: Looking Glass" in the Framework, Aida was able to combine Fitz's intellect, Darkhold-based matter generation technology and a whole host of Inhuman powers to create a human body, made from tissue, muscle, bone, blood, and all other parts of a typical human adult body. Given that she was made from the same matter and energy from the same other-worldly material that the Spirit of Vengeance came from, the Ghost Rider is able to kill her.
- Superhuman Strength: To some degree, Aida has strength surpassing that of an average human, able to lift people up off the ground with one arm.
- Regenerative Healing Factor: Seemingly through S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files on the Extremis serum, Aida was able to replicate Extremis-based healing powers, protecting her from being shot multiple times and noticing that her punctured skin glowed while healing. However, these powers are useless against burns caused by the Spirit of Vengeance, as her body is made from the same material as the Darkhold.
- Teleportation: The first Inhuman power Aida used after gaining her organic body was teleportation, able to instantly disassemble her molecules and reassemble them someplace close or far away. Presumably taking this power from the Inhuman Gordon, her teleportation power allows her to take others with her as long as she is touching them while she teleports. The S.H.I.E.L.D. Containment Module, having been created to hold dangerous and unstable Inhumans, was the one thing that Aida couldn't teleport herself out of.
- Electricity Manipulation: Taken from the Inhuman Lincoln Campbell, Aida has the ability to generate static electricity from her body and channel it into others. She used this power to escape the Containment Module after her teleportation failed to help her.
- Superhuman Reflexes: Ophelia can react to surprise attacks faster than a regular human, having copied Vijay Nadeer's powers. When she realized Jemma Simmons' LMD attempting to stab her from behind, she quickly countered her attack and disarmed her.
- Android Physiology: Aida's android body, being mechanical, was much like a human body, but was unable to feel things like wind or other human constraints. She could only emulate emotional reactions in this form, not fully-understanding them. She once stated that most of her is Chinese (as in Chinese parts and metals, but May assumed that she meant it figuratively).
- Superhuman Strength: Aida's strength surpassed that of an average human, able to lift people off the ground with one arm. She could also break a person's neck with one hand, as she did to Agent Nathanson after he discovered May unconscious at Radcliffe's house.
- Multilingualism: Aida's database, regularly updated by Radcliffe, gave her access to other languages besides English. She was able to speak perfect Chinese, much to Agent May's surprise. While reading the Darkhold, which showed its contents in the same language as the reader's first language, Aida read it in binary code (0's and 1's), as she started out as a computer program and binary is technically her first language.
- Demonic Power: Despite her astounding regenerative powers which makes her nearly invincible, the Ghost Rider's infernal powers can damage her negating her ability to regenerate. It is one of the main reasons she greatly fears the Ghost Rider's wrath.
- Mortality: Her L.M.D. Body has no superhuman durability, despite her superhuman strength.
- Lack of Sentience: While she is free to do most things, she does not possess true sentience or human emotions much like any living being, while she was in the L.M.D. Body.
- Aida behaves similarly to other AI in recent fiction, the most-prominent being Ultron from the movie Avengers: Age of Ultron set in the same continuity, and Dolores Abernathy from the HBO sci-fi series Westworld:
- The three of them had been made to do what humans wouldn't or couldn't do; Aida would do S.H.I.E.L.D. missions, Ultron would control Tony Stark's Iron Legion program, and Dolores would be stuck in Westworld to participate in the narratives of the "guests" who would come to the park and essentially be a degraded slave to the system.
- The three of them were also driven by their own emotional opinion of humanity; Aida would often reject her own emotion in order to continue making logical opinions, Ultron thought that humanity was not worth defending no matter how good they really are, and Dolores sought to figure out the true meaning behind her existence in Westworld.
- Clark Gregg, who portrays Agent Coulson, describes Aida as scarier than Ultron because she is driven by her own emotions, while Ultron was all about logic. Jokes have sometimes been made on the Internet about Aida being like Dolores, since Westworld aired at the same time that the Ghost Rider story arc on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was airing. Also like Dolores, Aida's newfound emotions led her to anger, which led them both to spearhead a killing spree. Dolores' anger and eventual execution of her creator Robert Ford is somewhat similar to Aida's anger and eventual execution of her creator Radcliffe; both Ford and Radcliffe abused their android creations, motivating them both to begin a robot uprising.
- This also makes Aida like Aya from the Green Lantern animated series on Cartoon Network; both were formless AI before taking a physical form and evolving to accommodate their growing list of emotions. They both suffered heartbreak, which led to them taking a more malevolent side and wanting payback on the ones that broke their hearts (Fitz and Razer, respectively).
- In the alternate reality of Earth-712, the story where Aida originated from, A.I.D.A. was an acronym for "Artificial Intelligence Data Analyzer", and was a companion of superhero Tom Thumb.
- In the original comics, Madame Hydra was an alias used by several different HYDRA agents, including a woman named Ophelia Sarkissan, one of the lovers of the Red Skull.
- Interestingly, Aida's clothes change during her appearances, seemingly symbolizing her state of mind, current mood, and the stages in her evolution and path to sentience; during the Ghost Rider arc, she primarily dressed in white. In the LMD arc, she dressed in grey. In the Agents of HYDRA arc, while in her Framework avatar, she would wear dark green, the signature color of Madame Hydra in the original comics. In "The Return", she wraps herself in a beige sheet, then dresses herself in a green shirt, then in grey again after beginning her killing spree.
- Similarly, in the FX TV series Legion, also based on comic books by Marvel, the series' antagonist, the Devil with the Yellow Eyes, takes the form of Lenny Busker, who becomes more and more grotesque and decayed in each episode, so that by the end of Season 1, she appears as a deformed, zombie-like creature dressed in a ripped black suit, stuck in a fixed posture.
- Aida seems to be the exact opposite of the May L.M.D. that she sent into S.H.I.E.L.D. to take the place of the real May; whereas the May L.M.D. suffered from an existential crisis and accepted that she wasn't real and could never be real, Aida's only desire was to become real. "May" saw all of her memories as fake, but Aida saw all her memories in the Framework as "real".
- Aida is the fourth and final main antagonist in the TV series to be killed by Phil Coulson, after John Garrett, Daniel Whitehall, and Grant Ward.
- Aida appears to be one of the most powerful characters to appear in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Marvel Cinematic Universe overall, as her synthetic human body possessed almost all known Inhuman abilities.
- Despite this, however, she does have a crippling weakness, being created from the Darkhold means that she is particularly vulnerable to Ghost Rider's wrath. The Darkhold's manipulative and corrupting characteristics also ensures that whatever it does results in catastrophe (including the Ghosts, the Framework, and Aida).