The Agents of SHIELD are getting close to the end of the season. “Emancipation” is the last episode before the two hour finale. Things are building to a head, and they do their usual great job of incorporating the events of the movies into the show. It’s not just a passing reference or nod, Captain America: Civil War actually has some influence over this episode.
In fact, that’s how it starts. There’s a news story playing in the background of a bar talking about the “public feud” between Captain America and Iron Man. That touches off a debate between Coulson and May about the need for the Sokovia Accords, that are at the heart of the split among the Avengers. Their discussion gets cut short when General Talbot shows up. He and Coulson spar a bit about the Accords and SHIELD in general, before Talbot gets a surprise tour of their base, finally.
There’s a lot going on at wherever Hive is currently hiding out. Daisy is being drained for Radcliff’s experiment, but even as she loses blood, she’s hacking into SHIELD’s systems for Hive. The makeup crew did a great job; Daisy looks horrible, and continues to throughout the episode. Radcliff shows that, while he’s unquestionably a mad scientist, he is actually looking out for Daisy. Radcliff also provides comic relief in this and a few other scenes. Hive says he is out of patience with SHIELD, and that he is going to get some special volunteers for Hive’s ongoing experiment.
One of the other running themes of the episode is Lincoln growing increasingly restless in his confinement. He and May are looking less than happy with each other. She threatens him that, if he wants to leave, he can go with Talbot. Lincoln is even less happy to learn that Talbot is in their base. Mac is mending in sick bay, feeling horrible about Daisy turning against them. May, meanwhile, has had enough of people moping around and being on the defensive, and wants to take the fight to Hive and Daisy.
On his tour, Talbot is impressed at how they’ve managed to keep their base hidden. Coulson explains that it’s an old, off the books, SSR facility, and he’d like to keep it secret. This brings them around to debating the merits of the Registration Act and the Sokovia Accords again. Yo Yo comes back to the base, and dismisses Talbot’s conviction that the list of supers will be kept secure as naive. After demonstrating her powers for Talbot, she goes on to give Mac a morale building visit.
The Watchdogs, an anti-supers hate group, shows up again. They’re debating how to do more recruiting, and the Accords. The man leading the group says the Accords don’t go far enough, that they need extermination, not registration. Then, one of them gets a tip from a contact in the ATCU (yep, nice and secure, Talbot) about a newly registered super for them to go after.
Lincoln, not being an idiot, is sure Daisy has hacked the monitors and security systems at SHIELD, and says he wants to talk to her. She manages to get control of the screen in his room, and they talk, after she loops footage of him lying on the bed sleeping. He pleads his case that he wants to be with her, but not brainwashed like she is with Hive. Their debate of their history is interrupted when Daisy sees Talbot coming to Lincoln’s room. Suffice to say those two don’t get along. This turns into another debate about the Accords. This could seem like trying to pander to the movie too much, but it’s such a contentious issue in that world I think this all actually works well. Lincoln offers to register if he can finally get out of the base. Talbot gets a tour of the rest of the facility, is shown Lash, and amusingly dubs him “Rasta Hulk.”
After the others leave, Lincoln and Daisy have another video chat about him getting out of the base. Talbot, meanwhile, gives Coulson a test which he fails. Talbot knows about Hive’s town and the Kree ship arriving. Coulson finally tells him they’re up against potentially the end of the world.
The Watchdogs go after their new target. This proves to be a set up, as the “victim” is James, who heats up a chain he finds in an alley while making snarky comments about them. The chain effect reminds me a lot of the modern Ghost Rider’s powers. Marvel did get the rights to him back, maybe that’s a hint of things to come. Or maybe I’m just being hopeful. At any rate, the Watchdogs find themselves trapped between James and Hive, and end up being Dr. Radcliff’s newest test subjects.
Talbot is having trouble believing the scope of the threat of Hive, particularly that the legends of the devil were based on him. They all compare notes, and Fitz/Simmons works out that Daisy has Kree blood which might give Hive what he needs. Hive could be on the verge of creating a virus that would turn humans to Inhumans, and, at the same time, place them under Hive’s “sway” (I still dislike that name for that ability).
A lot of things start coming to a head at once. Daisy talks Lincoln through how to break out of his containment cell. For a super-spy organization, SHIELD has horrible design flaws if you can pry off panels and rewire cells from the inside. While Lincoln is guided through the base by Daisy, Talbot is less than impressed with what he’s seen of SHIELD, even less so when they figure out Lincoln escaped.
Fitz has been very good at securing the base from Daisy’s cyber-intrusions, but he overlooked the jets. Daisy guides Lincoln to one of them. After Lincoln runs into, fights, and zaps Mac, Daisy get the jet in the air and brings it to Hive’s new base. At that base, Radcliff has turned the Watchdogs, well, those that survived, into powerful monsters that obey Hive.
From here out there are several spoilers, but I don’t see a good way to do this without them. Beware. Thou art warned.
When Talbot learns that Lincoln has escaped, he advocates shooting down the jet. Coulson is against this, and then shows him why, as Lincoln comes into the room with May. They set Daisy up nicely. The jet’s passenger is Lash. Lash beats the hell out of Hive, and then frees Daisy, before being killed by James. For as much of a badass as Lash has been shown throughout the series, he goes down really easy here. The episode ends with Daisy back, the team reunited, and the promise that in the two hour finale, “SOMEONE WILL DIE.” They also have a nasty reveal about the next stage of Hive’s plan, which relates to the theft from the ATCU a while back and the hints of Daisy’s vision we keep seeing.
What I liked: Coulson’s diversion with the Lincoln/Lash plan was brilliant. Radcliff was an amusing comic sidekick. Hive’s plan is nasty. I’m fine with the Watchdogs getting some poetic justice. James’ flaming chain trick was cool, even if doesn’t hint at Ghost Rider coming back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I really liked the tie-ins to Civil War. I thought they made a lot of sense.
What I didn’t. Lash was dropped far too easily. Talbot seems to have no strong opinions of his own, going with whatever breeze is blowing. He’s changed sides how many times now? His only function seems to be a pain the ass for Coulson.
I thought this was a good episode. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. I hope they’re not killing the character they hinted at this episode, although I don’t want to see any of them go.