The Framework is a device created by Dr. Radcliffe and Fitz that sends and receives signals to and from the user's brain thereby creating a virtual simulation that looks and feels just like the real world.
Originally, the Framework was created to be a virtual training room where agents could spar with each other without getting physically hurt and go on simulated missions. However, Radcliffe has made the virtual reality inside the Framework so realistic that now users can't tell the difference between the real world and the virtual world.
In "Uprising," Simmons takes May, who has been driven insane by the ghost virus, to Radcliffe's home where he uses the Framework to map May's brain and create hologram of it allowing Simmons to discover a way to cure May.
In "Wake Up," it's revealed that when Coulson sent May to Radcliffe's home to retrieve AIDA, Radcliffe secretly called AIDA and ordered her to enact "Sunset Protocol" prompting AIDA to knock May unconscious then use the Framework to trap her inside a virtual world. Furthermore, AIDA used the Framework to make a copy of May's mind and download it into an LMD version of May. Radcliffe's plan was to use the May LMD to steal the Darkhold from S.H.I.E.L.D.
In "The Patriot," Radcliffe designs a simulation within the Framework where May is being pampered at a spa. However, May almost immediately realizes the simulation isn't real and escapes back to reality. May briefly fights with AIDA before Radcliffe sedates her again. Radcliffe then realizes if they want to keep May calm then they need to give her an enemy to fight, something to occupy her mind to make the simulation seem more real to her.
Radcliffe then designs a simulation where May wakes up again, fights with AIDA, and escapes; however, in the simulation, as soon as May escapes, the Framework erases her memory and the simulation resets causing May to be trapped in an endless loop.
In "Wake Up," May begins finishing the simulations at increasingly faster rate, making it difficult for the Framework to keep up with her. Radcliffe has a new idea, however, to create a simulation that May doesn't want to wake up from. In this newest simulation, May is back in Bahrain, but this time she saves Katya instead of kills her like what really happened in real life.
In "Hot Potato Soup," the Watchdogs abduct Billy and are ready to torture him to learn where he's hidden the Darkhold, but Radcliffe stops them and instead uses the Framework to view Billy's memories.
In "BOOM," AIDA modifies the simulation May is in so now the virtual world the Framework creates is literally the entire Earth.
Later, Coulson and Mack meet with Agnes, an former girlfriend of Radcliffes who has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and they convince her to help them set a trap for Radcliffe. However, after Radcliffe tells Agnes he can save her life, Agnes betrays Coulson and Mack and leaves with Radcliffe.
Back at Radcliffe's lab, Radcliffe downloads Agnes's mind into the Framework as her physical body dies in the real world. Radcliffe comments how Agnes's consciousness will live forever in the Framework now.
During a mission to rescue Director Mace from the Watchdogs, the team splits up and Fitz, Mack, and Couslon are all captured. AIDA imprisons each one of them, including Mace, inside the Framework and replaces them with LMD imposters.
AIDA approaches Radcliffe with dilemma she's experiencing; AIDA is programed to protect the Framework and protect Radcliffe, but AIDA has determined that the greatest threat to the Framework is Radcliffe. AIDA has been studying human behavior and realized humans often regret decisions they have previously made; AIDA fears Radcliffe may someday regret building the Framework and destroy it.
AIDA then cuts both of Radcliffe's wrists with a knife, forces the Framework helmet on him, and downloads him into the Framework as he bleeds to death. Now, AIDA can protect the Framework and Radcliffe at the same time as now Radcliffe is a part of the Framework.
Meanwhile, Daisy and Simmons discover Fitz, Coulson, Mack, and Mace have all been replaced with LMDs and successfully destroy the robots. Later, Daisy and Simmons devise a plan to rescue their friends; the plan is they download their minds into the Framework, find Coulson and the others, including May, and wake them up from within the Framework.
In "What If...," Daisy and Simmons enter the Framework only to find themselves in a world turned upside-down.
In the Framework, May rescued Katya instead on killing her like she did in the real world. Katya was brought back to the U.S. where at some point she went on killing spree in Boston, claiming the lives of hundreds of people. Hydra used this opportunity to turn public opinion against S.H.I.E.L.D. and inhumans thus creating a world where S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone and Hydra rules.
Daisy and Simmons locate Coulson, May, and Fitz, but the Framework has given them all new memories thus they didn't recognize them. After narrowly escaping from Hydra, Daisy and Simmons try to return to the real world, but realize AIDA has sealed the backdoor Simmons installed thereby trapping them within the Framework.
In "Identity and Change," Simmons, Ward, and Coulson find Radcliffe within the Framework and he tries to tell them how this wasn't his intention; he wanted the Framework to be a paradise. Radcliffe tells them he built a backdoor to the Framework which they can use to get back to the real world with, but warns them AIDA will never let them escape.
In "No Regrets," while they're both being held prisoner by Hydra, Radcliffe tells Daisy where the backdoor is. AIDA is creating the ultimate machine to have human emotions.
In "Farewell, Cruel World!," Daisy, Simmons, Mack, Coulson, and May all find the backdoor; however, Radcliffe told Daisy the backdoor was inside a public fountain, but the coordinates he gave Daisy led them to a bath of molten metal in a steel mill.
Daisy creates a vibration wave to part the flames revealing the portal back to reality, but Fitz and a team of Hydra soldiers suddenly arrive and start shooting. During the fight, Coulson and May both successfully jump through the portal and wake up in the real world. Radcliffe also betrays Fitz and forces him through the portal at gunpoint with Simmons following after him.
Daisy tries to convince Mack to come back with them, but, after Daisy tells him that Hope is dead in the real world, Mack chooses to stay in the Framework and asks Daisy to tell the others he's sorry before she goes.
In "The Return," after Daisy explains to Yo-yo why Mack is still in the Framework, Yo-yo downloads her mind into the Framework with the goal of bring Mack back to reality.
In "World's End," AIDA has begun deleting the Framework; Yo-yo, Mack, and Radcliffe realize this when they notice people and objects within the Framework seem to be disappearing.
In the real world, Fitz and Daisy work together to both protect their friends from being deleted and build a new backdoor they can escape with. After a new backdoor is built and Hope is deleted, Yo-yo convinces Mack to return to the real world with her.
Radcliffe is deleted along with the Framework.
World Without Regret Edit
When Radcliffe imprisoned Coulson and the others inside the Framework, he designed the virtual world to be an almost exact copy of the real world, but with certain changes made to undo past regrets of Coulson and the others.
However, the changes Radcliffe made had a butterfly effect that completely changed history.
- Coulson: In the Framework universe, Coulson never became a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Instead, Coulson became an ordinary high school history teacher.
- May: In the Framework universe, in Bahrain, instead of killing Katya, like it happened in the real world, May saved her.
- Fitz: In the Framework universe, Fitz's father never left him.
- Mack: In the Framework universe, Mack's daughter, Hope, never died and he never became a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
- Mace: In the Framework universe, Mace is an actual Inhuman and leads the Framework version of S.H.I.E.L.D.