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‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Recap and Reaction: “Absolution” and “Ascension”

This season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been nothing short of a wild ride. And thanks to the two-part season finale, consisting of the episodes “Absolution” and “Ascension,” we finally know who the #FallenAgent is. R.I.P., Lincoln Campbell.

Even beyond the question of who would live and who would die, there was a lot that went down in the season finale. Let’s take a look back at the emotional wringer that our favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. agents just went through.

Daisy in Withdrawal

Daisy-in-withdrawal-SHIELD

For me, the biggest shocker leading into the finale was that Agent Daisy Johnson had been rescued from Hive‘s sway. In the previous episode, “Emancipation,” the Inhuman known as Lash (previously Agent Melinda May‘s beau, Dr. Andrew Garner) saved Daisy from Hive’s mind control. “Emancipation” also dovetailed nicely with Captain America: Civil War, drawing upon the events of the film — like Director Phil Coulson‘s reactions to Peggy Carter‘s death and Captain America‘s fugitive status, as well as Brigadier General Glenn Talbot‘s efforts to register the Inhumans — without losing traction.

Going into “Absolution,” the question was thus what would happen to Daisy now that she’s free. The answer wasn’t pretty. Daisy had some rather serious withdrawal symptoms, and her attempts to cope with her addiction led her to compare herself to the late Grant Ward, with the supposed “brainwashing” that he went through with John Garrett and HYDRA. Daisy didn’t open up to anyone, not even Coulson or Agent Jemma Simmons, until Agent Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie had the good sense to talk to her not as a patient or a prisoner, but instead as a friend and partner.

Ultimately, Daisy tried to overcome her withdrawal by reestablishing her connection with Hive. I can’t speak to whether that was an accurate depiction of addiction, but it was shocking to see Daisy offer herself to Hive, especially with the revelation that Lash had vaccinated her against Hive’s control — Daisy’s emancipation was permanent. That didn’t improve things for Daisy, but it led to an excellent fight sequence between her and Hive. Serious props to the show’s stunt team. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been doing more superpowered fights lately, but the Daisy vs. Hive fight is the best one I’ve seen so far. (Dare I say that it quashed “Skyeward” once and for all?)

All That Action

SkyeHive-SHIELD
Goodbye, Skyeward.

Speaking of action, “Absolution” (as well as “Ascension”) was full of it. “Absolution” started at a high point, with Mack, Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez, Melinda May, and Lincoln Campbell going after Hive to stop the launch of his doomsday missile into the stratosphere. Hive’s cronies (James and Giyera) escaped with the warhead, but the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents rescued Dr. Holden Radcliffe and even captured Hive, whose brain got scrambled thanks to a neat trick by Mack, Lincoln, and Elena. That also led to a brief foray into the memories of Hive’s hosts, which served as an unexpected reminder of just how far the show has come over its three long seasons.

After that early victory under Team S.H.I.E.L.D.’s belt, “Absolution” slowed down a bit to provide some welcome focus on the emotional core of the show. It was difficult to watch Daisy reunite with Mack after their near-deadly run-in back in “Emancipation,” but it was clear that she needed to open up to someone. The action ramped up again when it turned out that Hive had, of course, manipulated S.H.I.E.L.D. into bringing him onto the base so that he could hijack Zephyr One.

Even with the craziness from Hive’s Primitives invading the S.H.I.E.L.D. base, Agent Leopold Fitz was probably the MVP for Team S.H.I.E.L.D. this week. He provided some much-needed humor while impersonating a military officer alongside General Talbot, but he also proved his mettle aboard Zephyr One when he went up against Giyera, who had knocked out Agent May. Fitz played it all helpless-and-afraid until he pulled out a pistol and shot Giyera. In the chest. Several times. Dang, dude.

I’ll miss Mark Dacascos, the amazing martial artist and actor who played Giyera. Still, apparently Giyera wasn’t cool enough to get a first name, beyond simply “R.”

I Hate Hot Potato

Cross-of-death-SHIELD

The one thing that irked me throughout both “Absolution” and “Ascension” was the #FallenAgent question. Ever since the episode “Bouncing Back” revealed that someone was going to die, the only clues were that they would be wearing a S.H.I.E.L.D. jacket, floating in space in a Quinjet, and carrying Elena’s cross necklace.

When I saw that teaser scene for the first time, I was intrigued. Most drama series ask that clichéd question, “Who will die?,” as a ploy to retain viewers’ attention. For the Arrow fans out there, I was exasperated when the third season‘s premiere episode revealed that a character would die — especially since when we finally got to see who died, the show created some continuity errors for itself. On the other hand, I thought that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would have a cool spin on this trope, with the vacuum of space serving as a dramatic and frightening backdrop to the impending death…

…And then, in “Absolution” and “Ascension,” it essentially dissolved into a game of hot potato. Not cool. Mack started out with the cross, then tried to give it back to Elena. Then Fitz got it (along with a S.H.I.E.L.D. jacket that, by the way, he’d never worn before on the show), before he passed it off to Daisy, who finally recognized its significance from the vision of the future that Charles Hinton gave her. Then there was the plot twist that hey wait, everyone is wearing a S.H.I.E.L.D. jacket now! And they’re all aboard Zephyr One! And anyone can be the hero who flies into space with Hive’s warhead aboard the Quinjet so that the missile will detonate harmlessly!

Needless to say, I found that it got annoying real fast. Some plot devices work well without calling too much attention to themselves, but that wasn’t the case here.

Goodbye, Hunks of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Lincoln-Ward-die-SHIELD

Despite my disillusionment with the way that #FallenAgent was handled, I still thought that Lincoln’s final conversation with Daisy was extremely moving. It paralleled the ending of Captain America: The First Avenger, with Cap’s last words to Peggy Carter just before he crashes the Valkyrie in the Arctic. Was it too tacky? A bit, perhaps, but it gave Lincoln a proper send-off, especially with his desire to leave S.H.I.E.L.D.

Once Lincoln was away in the Quinjet with Hive, it was haunting to watch both of them accept their impending deaths. I still don’t know whether I like Lincoln as a character, but to see both him and Hive wrestle with death was an unforgettably emotional moment. It reminded me of Avengers: Age of Ultron, when Vision discusses the human race with the last Ultron Sentry before eradicating Ultron for good. One of Lincoln’s final lines, “I finally got to see the world,” served as an emotional counterpoint to Coulson’s explanation for Lincoln’s actions: “He’s paying for all our mistakes.”

The last few episodes of this season have also been about bidding farewell to Grant Ward. I’m glad that Hive finally died, because when the mid-season finale (“Maveth“) resurrected Ward using the idea of Hive, it felt like the show was running the risk of sullying the impact of Coulson’s murder of Ward. While I won’t miss Ward, it’s evident that with Ward’s second and permanent “death,” Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally closing its first chapter and branching off into new directions.

Luke-Mitchell-Brett-Dalton

And with that, we say farewell to two of the Hunks of S.H.I.E.L.D. Goodbye, Luke Mitchell (Lincoln) and Brett Dalton (Ward/Hive). We’ll miss your superb acting, your limitless energy, and your hunkiness. Not necessarily in that order.

The Memes of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Let’s not forget about Coulson’s holographic opportunity to play Princess Leia Organa.

Or this. Just this.

Shotgun Axe, Mark II
Shotgun Axe, Mark II

Also, does anyone know where Joey Gutierrez went? He’s my second favorite character (behind Mack), and I was frustrated that he was written out of the finale for unknown reasons. Hopefully, he’ll be back next season.

6 Months Later

Quake-for-real-SHIELD

The cliffhanger ending of “Ascension” jumped six months into the future after Lincoln’s sacrifice, and I’m still trying to figure out what happened. It’s not even clear whether S.H.I.E.L.D. is still intact, which seems unlikely since nearly thirty of its agents were transformed into Primitives. Coulson and Mack are hunting for Daisy, who finally, FINALLY is associated with the name “Quake”! Has Daisy gone rogue? I don’t want to read too much into her Goth getup, but it’s clear that she’s no longer an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., if it exists. Coulson also refers to “the Director” as someone aside from himself, so is he no longer the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Has Director May’s time arrived?

It also looks like Dr. Holden Radcliffe will be sticking around on the show in some form, as he mentions that he’s been working with both Fitz and Simmons. He’s also built an L.M.D., an acronym that has some significance for knowledgeable Marvel fans.

Overall, even though it was meant to be a cliffhanger, I was still dissatisfied with the ending of “Ascension.” Back in the season two finale, “S.O.S.,” we at least had some idea of where the show was going for its next season, what with the fish oil pill disaster, Daisy working on the Secret Warriors, and Simmons being sucked into the Monolith. All we know for sure about next season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is that it will be moving later on Tuesdays, from its current 9:00pm time slot to 10:00pm. According to ABC President Channing Dungey, this move will allow the show “to go a little bit edgier, go a little darker and take some risks.” I guess it wasn’t dark or edgy enough yet.

Will we get to see Nick Blood‘s Lance Hunter and Adrianne Palicki‘s Bobbi Morse again next season, now that Marvel’s Most Wanted wasn’t picked up as a full series? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would admittedly need to do a lot of heavy lifting, in order for it to make sense to bring back Bobbi and Hunter after S.H.I.E.L.D.’s disavowal of them back in “Parting Shot.” Also, will we learn more about (the now late) Agent Carter since her show was cancelled? We’ll just have to wait for season four to find out.


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