The third season of Agents of SHIELD comes to an end with a two hour finale. The hours are titled “Absolution,” and “Ascension” respectively. Each title makes sense as the episode goes on, and things don’t go as well as they could. Also, as promised for weeks now by annoying voice-over man, “SOMEONE WILL DIE.” The two hours together are collectively “Fallen Agent,” which is somewhat ironic, really.
The episodes start with a somewhat confusing sequence that makes sense after a few minutes. Daisy is not coping with her recent experiences under Hive’s sway very well. She’s furious at herself, feels she betrayed the team, and doesn’t want anyone to be nice to her or show her any kindness.
While Daisy deals with this set of problems, a field team of May, Mac, Yo Yo, and Lincoln are in one of the quinjets. Lincoln and Yo Yo are wearing the bomb vests Coulson forced on Lincoln last episode, and they give the triggers to Mac. Mac looks far from happy about this. Up front, May is having trouble with the ship, saying that it wasn’t designed for what they are doing. The team is deploying to a missile silo whose crew stopped responding to radio traffic a while ago. I will say their approach was really clever. We see Hive, Giyera, and James, along with Dr. Radcliff, attempting to launch the missile to get the Terrigen/Inhuman/Sway virus into the atmosphere.
Never one to put all his eggs in one basket, Coulson has another plan. As his team infiltrates the missile silo, Talbot and Fitz pull off a modern day version of one of the old Mission Impossible style tricks to get the code they need to disable the missile. The plan works fairly well, although I find it really hard to believe that the Undersecretary of Defense would meet a man on the street and toss a missile kill-code in his car. Maybe that’s just me.
SHIELD manages, barely, to deactivate the missile. Hive is furious, and dispatches some of its Inhuman monsters to go after SHIELD, then decides to take part in it himself. Hive pauses long enough to threaten Radcliff that he needs to get the missile working again. Radcliff, wisely and rarely for a comic based show, points out that he’s not that kind of scientist, then agrees to do it as Hive threatens him. There are some amusing lines between Mac and Yo Yo as they prepare a trap.
Daisy, under questioning from Simmons, is trying to figure out a codeword they’ve learned from Hive, “Absolution” (hey, we have a title). Daisy can’t remember, and she and Simmons discuss whether or not Daisy should be a prisoner after everything that happened with Hive.
There are a lot of tense scenes in the missile complex. May prowls the corridors, fighting the monsters, or primitives as Radcliff calls them. Hive is stalking Lincoln, taunting him about Daisy. Yo Yo and Mac keep working on whatever their gadget is supposed to do. As all this goes on, Radcliff gets some comic relief scenes talking to the two primitives assigned to him.
After another scene of Daisy being really harsh to herself, and Coulson reassuring her (Daisy spends a lot of time castigating herself for being under Hive’s control), Lincoln finally leads Hive back to Yo Yo and Mac. After some desperate preparation, they get the trap working, which seems to turn Hive’s earlier “hosts” against him, or at least stir them all up. The gadget manages to hold Hive long enough for the SHIELD team to run. When Hive’s team catches up with him, Hive is somewhat incoherent, essentially living through flashbacks of various lives, especially Ward and Malik’s.
While Hive starts working on a backup plan of some kind, May finds Radcliff and they have a discussion that goes very differently that I would have expected. Radcliff is even useful. SHIELD rescues the missile base’s crew and gets outside, followed by a lurching Hive. Combining some of their powers with a few cool toys, SHIELD manages to do something they’ve been trying to for a while now: they capture Hive. Unfortunately, while they do that, Giyera gets away with the warhead and the bio-weapon.
The team, plus Radcliff, return to the base with Hive prisoner in a gel-matrix container. Talbot calls it a win, but goes on to be disagreeable. Talbot threatens Radcliff to help undo what the formula did, and find a way to neutralize it, or Talbot will use the formula on Radcliff. Radcliff remarks that Talbot is almost as scary as Hive. Sorry, I don’t see that one. Talbot is dedicated, I’ll grant you. But he’s not really intimidating.
Lincoln and Coulson have a conversation about Lincoln’s future. Coulson is finally ready to offer Lincoln an official place on the team (I guess he’s been what, an intern up till now?). Lincoln, however, has decided that he’s not a hero, and is just plain going to leave when they finish dealing with Hive. Coulson disagrees with this choice, but Lincoln isn’t listening.
Speaking of not listening, Mac, disregarding Coulson’s opinion, goes to see Daisy, who is starting to teeter on the edge of self-pity at this point. They have a very long talk and Daisy finally sort of breaks down. I don’t know what kind of care Simmons has been providing Mac, but he seems to have healed from all the fractures Daisy gave him remarkably quickly.
In the lab, the news is less good. Fitz says he can come up with a cure for the formula, but it’ll take about a decade. Once again, Fitz and Simmons seem to have switched roles, since she’s the biology expert, not him. They also talk about their future plans after they defeat Giyera and James. This is also the beginning of what seems like a game of hot potato. Yo Yo’s cross has a very prominent place in Daisy’s repeated viewing of whoever it is upcoming death. Fitz finds it on the table, apparently misplaced, and puts it in his pocket. So, thus far, it’s gone from Yo Yo to Mac to Fitz. Maybe it’s more like the shell game than hot potato. Fitz finds it on the way to check out another alarm.
After a scene of Daisy and Mac discussing philosophy, or maybe theology, Fitz gets to the hangar to see that Hive’s still locked down. He is, and the parts to repair the bay doors have finally arrived. Unfortunately, Fitz notices a moment too late where they were shipped from: Absolution, Montana. The pallet of supposed repair parts explodes, unleashing the Terrigen gas in the hangar. Fitz gets away from the initial burst of it, but other agents start getting infected. Chaos ensues. Fitz shows that he is a lot more than just a lab rat now.
With the base in security lock down, Fitz is trapped in the hangar. The infected agents are clever, grabbing others and dragging them into the gas clouds, making more “primitives.” Interestingly, the Inhumans once had a race of servants and laborers called “Alpha Primitives.” I guess they brought the term back for the show.
The rest of the team is trying to find a way to free Fitz from the hangar, and deal with the primitives. They are swarming the base, making more of themselves, and still remember enough of their former lives to do a lot of damage to the base. The primitives also find Hive’s cage and free him, like SHIELD didn’t have enough trouble. I said from the moment they captured Hive that bringing him back to the base was a mistake.
The team collectively figure out that Hive now knows the Zephyr has high altitude capabilities, which means Hive can use it instead of the missile to loose his virus. Hive makes his way to the Zephyr, while Daisy manages to hack her cell and get the attached containment module loaded on the ship. There’s a Daisy/Hive confrontation with a few real big surprises in it that eventually turns into a big fight. Daisy is showing a great talent for combining her powers and skills in combat. May would be proud.
As the monsters swarm the base, the team splits up to deal with them, leaving a confused and indecisive Radcliff in their wake. Fitz and May confirm Daisy is no longer in her cell, while Daisy and Hive battle it out in the hangar. Hive is still having memory problems, which leads to a few amusing lines. Hive’s reinforcements show up, and they manage to capture Daisy. Hive plans to bring her along to prevent SHIELD from shooting them down.
I’d say this is roughly where they switch from “Absolution” to “Ascension.” The captured Zephyr is to fly to 100,000 feet where Hive and his band will release the virus, infecting at least three continents worth of people. That would certainly count as an “Ascension” in my book.
May and Fitz manage to stow away on the Zephry. Simmons gets a brilliant idea and makes it a lot harder for the primitives to find the SHIELD agents in the base. Yo Yo makes a fateful decision to try and save Mac, showing that her powers aren’t the equal of various other speedsters from the comics. Radcliff, when he finally gets to see it, is very impressed by Coulson’s cybernetic hand.
Up on the Zephyr, May and Daisy have yet another debate about Daisy’s worthiness to still be on the team, in between fighting more primitives. Giyera gets the drop on May, but then something very unexpected happens. I won’t say who did what, but that character deserves huge points for a clever idea.
The rest of the team forts up in Coulson’s office, which somehow has a window even though they’ve been shown to be underground. Coulson uses an interface in his hand to remote summon a quinjet. He tells the rest of them that he’s going after the Zephyr, and orders them to stay at the base. Clearly, no one is happy about this as the quinjet arrives at the window.
James starts to show his true colors when he’s worried that all the infected, “even the ladies” will look like the primitives. Hive’s mind is starting to clear as he flies the ship, but then they get uninvited company. Coulson docks the quinjet with the Zephyr. As Hive rushes off to confront Coulson, Daisy finds Yo Yo’s cross in Fitz’s jacket pocket and keeps it.
Hive and Coulson have a confrontation which reveals a lot about both of them. It also shows that Coulson had time to put a plan together, and that free will is better than mindless servitude. Coulson ordered the team to stay behind… but they didn’t listen. Coulson gets off a wonderful line when he reveals another surprise to Hive, a line that should make a lot of geeks very happy.
SPOILERS BEGIN HERE. THOU ART WARNED.
After a lot of fighting, the team finally transfers the warhead from the Zephyr to the quinjet. The plan is to take the quinjet into space and disperse the virus harmlessly. Unfortunately, the warhead is still counting down to an explosion and the quinjets weren’t designed as spacecraft, so it’s going to be a one way trip. After a lot of back and forth, Lincoln, gravely wounded by James, gets on to the quinjet and steals Yo Yo’s Cross Of Death (TM) from Daisy. Hive manages to get aboard before Lincoln sets it for maximum climb and then uses his powers to disable the controls. There’s a very tearful goodbye, and then Lincoln and Hive both are taken out by the warhead blast.
The final scene jumps ahead in time six months. It mostly seems to be a set up for the new status quo for season four. Daisy seems to be getting yet another name, and has gone rogue, to an extent. Coulson has new job, and we don’t know who has his old one. Radcliff has not only landed on his feet, but seems to be working with SHIELD. He has several new toys, including one that is a classic SHIELD device that was referenced in one of the Avengers movies and then not seen or heard about since.
What I liked: While I enjoyed Brett Dalton’s performance, I’m really hoping this is the end of Ward, Hive, or whatever other new name he ends up with. They did a good job of keeping us guessing with the cross moving around so much. Everyone got some good action and good lines. Fitz really impressed me a few times. Radcliff was predictable, but amusing, comic relief. I’m very interested by the little Easter Egg they gave him at the end of the show. Coulson’s misdirection and quote near the end were fantastic.
What I didn’t: I kinda liked Lincoln. As I mentioned, I don’t really buy that the Undersecretary is just blithely tossing top secret information into passing SUV’s, or meeting someone on the street to play delivery boy. I think I’d rather have been surprised by the new status quo then get that weird hint. And I’m really hoping Daisy isn’t about to get a new name like it seemed.
It was a good finale, and I liked most of their choices. I’ll give it a low 4 out of 5. Season 4 seems a very long time away right now.