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REVIEW: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 3×21 “Absolution” & 3×22 “Ascension”

Man, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been teasing this, “Fallen Agent,” plotline for weeks now but the forewarning did almost nothing to assuage the complete heartbreak that came with the Season 3 finale’s major death. In a finale that was jam-packed with some superb action sequence, epic VFX work, and emotional exchanges that left me a little misty-eyed, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. once again proved that it can easily stand tall on its own in the Marvel Universe.

Spoilers ahead!

The episode starts off with a bang, rather, an almost bang as the team races to stop Hive from releasing that pesky nuclear missile from last week. Coulson and Co. are successful at overriding the missile kudos to the combined efforts of Team A (May, Mack, Elena, & Lincoln in the field) and Team B (Fitz, Talbot, & Coulson stateside) but Hive is PIIIIIIISSSSED that S.H.I.E.L.D. has once again interfered with his plans.

AOS 1 May

He understandably goes after Lincoln, trying to use the younger Inhuman’s quick-emotions to taunt him into some sort of interaction, but instead finds himself trapped in a forcefield-esque machine that makes all of his past hosts’ come rearing back in full, audible, headache-inducing, force. Unsurprisingly, it seems as though it’s Grand Ward who is the most, “present,” with flashbacks and old quotes resurfacing as Hive struggles to regain control. He seemingly does, demanding his henchmen to disable the missile, but the following Ward, “give them a fighting chance,” flashback makes it unclear as to who really made the order.

It doesn’t much matter though because the team manages to get a potential win by tricking Hive into one of the Inhuman gel matrixes and hoisting the OG Inhuman back to the Playground.

Because bringing that scary MoFo back to your base of operations is a GREAT idea.

Just kidding. It’s a terrible idea as is confirmed when the base is locked down, and Fitz is locked out with a box of inventory that explodes into a breathable version of Radcliffe’s formula and changes the nameless agents that are with Fitz into those, “primitive,” Inhumans. Fitz manages to get away thanks to Jemma’s quick thinking (nothing new there) but unfortunately the creepy Inhumans manage to break Hive out and give him full access to the Zephyr… which has high-altitude potential.

Yikes.

Yikes part 2 is the fact that Daisy, who has been locked away in the quarantine room, hacks into the pod and makes it take her up to the Zephyr… where she begs Hive to sway her again and remove the pain and guilt she is now feeling as a result of coming to and realizing the horrible things she’d done under his control. And oh does Hive try. But apparently whatever Lash did last week has now made Daisy impervious to Hive’s sway… which does NOT make her happy. As is evidenced by the enormous earthquake she causes as she blasts him into the wall in epic fashion before declaring that she wants to make him suffer.

She doesn’t exactly get her wish though because Hive’s other Inhuman right-hands roll up in a jet and distract Daisy long enough for Hive to knock her out and whisk her away in the recently commandeered Zephyr… that Fitz and May are stowaways on.

O_O

They knock out a few of the primitive Inhumans (they being May) long enough for Daisy’s S.O. to give her a pep-talk (“I don’t give a damn about your powers, they’re not what made you an agent, I did.”) but short enough for it to not do much since Guiyera rolls up and promptly knocks the Cavalry out. But Team Inhuman isn’t victorious for long because Fitz kills Guiyera pretty quickly while the rest of Team S.H.I.E.L.D. (minus Elena who’s recovering from a bullet wound in a local hospital) hops a QuinJet that flies their butts to the Zephyr.

daisy cross

Unfortunately, having all the team in their matching S.H.I.E.L.D. uniforms means that the fallen agent could be anyone and, though she makes an effort to make certain it’s her, Daisy is heartbroken when Lincoln thwarts her plan to take Hive into space in the QuinJet by blasting her out of the plane and taking her place instead. The ever love struck Lincoln decides that his purpose was to risk it all for the girl he loves, which he does in the fiery space explosion that Daisy saw in her vision.

What now?

Oh just your classic Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. time jump that places us 6 months into the future where Coulson is no longer Director, Daisy has gone rogue and has adopted the public name of Quake, and Fitz and Simmons are apparently no longer with S.H.I.E.L.D. at all and are instead working with Doctor Radcliffe.

What the what?!?!?!

This was one doozy of an episode that took viewers on every damn roller coaster in the gambit. What made it such a stellar episode, dare I say one of S.H.I.E.L.D’s best, is the fact that it expertly played the audience like the paranoid loons we are. There were a dime a dozen red herrings, with that necklace/jacket of doom combo playing hot potato enough times to lose track of, that made it seem very plausible that each and every agent could be the teased fallen one.

Having said that, Lincoln being the major death wasn’t all that surprising considering this season, particularly the back half, has been pretty heavily focused on Daisy.

While any teammate’s death would have surely weighed heavily on Daisy, only Lincoln’s could pack the emotional one-two that comes from a boyfriend sacrificing himself for you after you kinda treated him not that great while being mind-controlled. Daisy as a character is one who greatest strength, and most crushing weakness, has been her empathy. Lincoln dying when it was her who made so many mistakes and poor decisions is no doubt something that changes Daisy to her core (as we see by her drastic emotional and physical transformation in that time jump) and will have an enormous impact on Season 4.

Special recognition should be given to both Luke Mitchell and Brett Dalton, whose characters both met their demise in this killer (pun intended in honor of the pun-master) episode. Both men gave everything they had in their final moments and somehow managed to give us an extraordinarily poignant scene between Hive and Lincoln where, despite their many differences, they come to an understanding and share a connection that only they are privy to.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been mostly on point this season and thankfully delivered a finale that maintained the show’s upward momentum and didn’t pull any punches. The show delivered what was promised and then some, and experienced a complete tonal shift in the final moments. It seems that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is officially self-aware and unconcerned with trying to fit into a universe that it’s already a standout in. Next season will likely prove this even further as Quake might be serving as a potential antagonist (not villain, not enemy, antagonist).

Episode(s) Grade: A-

Episode Highs:

  • Fitz in his lycra suit imitating the military general in front of a green screen was SO PRICELESS AND WONDERFUL. Iain De Caestecker is known for ripping out our hearts with his emotional work but DAMN is he a comedic genius as well.
  • Jemma being genuinely affronted that her beau doesn’t think she’s romantic was weirdly hilarious to me. A brief moment of levity in a pretty dark episode.
  • My gut told me Lincoln was going to die but the episode did a fantastic job of making me question myself every five minutes.
  • We finally got to see Hive in his full, tentacly, glory and many a kudos need to be given to Mark Kolpack and Company for making the original Inhuman look so dang creepy.
  • maxe

Episode Lows:

  • While the final 8ish minutes or so were certainly intriguing, it did feel like a very abrupt end to such a high-intensity episode.
  • I personally have never really loved flash-forwards, due large in part to the fact that I’m greedy and actually would have liked to have seen those missing 6 months as opposed to feeling slightly robbed of the development, and I hope that this drastic jump doesn’t create a completely new show when we pick up next fall.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be moving to the 10 o’clock timeslot for Season 4 and I’m wondering how this show will get even darker after the move.
  • Now that Radcliffe is trying his hand at building LMDs… how soon do you think Ultron 2.0 will decide to take over the world?
  • Who do you think the mysterious new Director is? (My bet is 100% on Melinda May)

Final Season Grade: B+

What did you think of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale and where do you think the show is going next season? Sound off with any thoughts and opinions on Twitter or in the comments below!

About the author

Silje Falck-Pedersen