Saturday, May 14, 2016

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 20: Emancipation

This week's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. wraps up a few long-simmering storylines as it marches toward the season finale. There's even a bit of a crossover with Marvel's latest blockbuster Captain America: Civil War.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been in the unenviable position of having to acknowledge and honor what happens in the Marvel films, while the movies completely ignore the show. Nowhere was that more evident than in Season 1, in which Captain America: The Winter Soldier completely destroyed S.H.I.E.L.D., interrupting the show's storyline and forcing it to deal with the issue.

Fortunately the events of Civil War don't seem to be affecting the series quite as much this time. Yes, General Talbot wants to lock up all the Inhumans on Coulson's team, but at least he's not disbanding the entire organization this time.

One good thing I've noticed about Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. lately  it doesn't seem to quite as many filler episodes as other shows. Oh sure, some episodes have more going on than others, that's only natural. But this season every episode has served to further the overall story arc, even if only incrementally (with the exception of Parting Shot, of course). Compare that to shows like The Flash, which gives us weeks of inconsequential filler episodes in an effort to pad out the season.

By the gods, I'll be glad when the season finale comes and goes, so the ABC Marketing Team will finally shut the hell up about which agent will die, changing the team forever. You know guys, the death of a major character might be more shocking if you didn't trumpet that it's going to happen every goddamned week for three months straight. 

Signs in this episode point to Mack as the one who dies, but I don't know. Can you imagine the howls of protest from the Offended States Of America if they kill off the only remaining black character on the show? My money's still on Lincoln as the one to go.

Last week I noted that ABC was having second thoughts about going through with the Marvel's Most Wanted series, starring Mockingbird and Hunter. Welp, this week ABC made it official the deal's off, and the series is dead (for the second time!). 

I can't say I'm disappointed, as Most Wanted sounded dull as hell to me. A series about two non-superpowered ex-spies on the run? Yawn! It sounded exactly like Season 1 of Agents Of Shield a superhero show without any superheroes in it. Good riddance to it, I say.

Unfortunately this means that Mockingbird and Hunter were needlessly written out of the show for nothing. Hopefully they'll figure out a way to bring them back in Season 4. The show definitely needs more Hunter.


The Plot:
Coulson meets with General Talbot in a bar. Talbot's there to tell Coulson that due to the events of Captain America: Civil War, the Sokovia Accords are now law. The President wants S.H.I.E.L.D. to register any Inhumans working for them. Naturally Coulson's on Team Cap, and refuses. Talbot insists on inspecting S.H.I.E.L.D., and Coulson agrees. He tells Talbot to buckle up, as the booth they're in is really an elevator, and lowers into S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.

Meanwhile in Inhuman Town, Dr. Radcliffe is draining Daisy's Kree-tainted blood for Hive Ward's "Human to Inhuman" experiment. Radcliffe notices Daisy looks a little pale after donating several quarts, and says that's enough for one day. He tells Hive Ward that he needs volunteers for the experiment. Hive Ward flashes one of his smug, barely-perceptible little smiles and says that's being taken care of.

Cut to the Watchdog training camp. Their leader says the Sokovia Accords are a good first step, but aren't severe enough. This guy must be a riot at parties. The Leader says he got a tip from "someone" about an Inhuman nearby and wants to abduct him

The Watchdogs pile into their creep van and somehow track down the Inhuman in question. They corner him in a dead-end alley. Unfortunately for them, the Inhuman turns out to be James. He grabs a chain and ignites it, just like his comic book counterpart does. The Watchdogs try to run, but James drags them back with his flaming chain. Hive Ward then appears in the alley and says he's the one who invited them, and wants them to "become what they hate."

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., it's feeding time for Lincoln, as May brings him a tray. He wants out of quarantine, but May says his immune system's still compromised. When he insists, she threatens to hand him over to Talbot. After she leaves, Lincoln starts talking to the walls, assuming Daisy's hacked into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s security system and can hear him. 
Sure enough, she replies on his soothing video wall. He tells her he wants the two of them to run away together somewhere, free from both Hive and S.H.I.E.L.D. Amazingly, Daisy buys into this. I guess Hive Ward's hold on her isn't as strong as we've been led to believe.

Coulson shows Talbot around the base. He even introduces him to Lincoln. Talbot tells Lincoln that the Sokovia Accords are for everyone's protection, and Lincoln agrees to sign up and tell him anything he wants to know if it'll get him out of quarantine. Coulson warns him to think it over. 

They visit Lash's cell next, and Talbot freaks the hell out when he sees they're holding a monster captive in their base. Coulson says he believes Lash could be a valuable asset. I'm kind of on Talbot's side here.

Next Coulson shows Talbot video of the planet Maveth (where the hell they got that is left to our imaginations), and says it's where Hive was imprisoned for centuries. FitzSimmons explain that Hive's a collection of spores or something, and can control Inhumans by stimulating their pleasure centers. Talbot asks about Daisy, and May says she's "on assignment." Talbot knows this is a lie, as he has satellite footage of Daisy and Hive Ward in Inhuman Town.

Speaking of which, Hive Ward brings the Watchdogs to Radcliffe. He performs his experiment, but something goes horribly wrong. They're all transformed into some sort of mute, primitive Inhumans. Radcliffe wets himself, fearing Hive Ward will kill him for his failure. Instead, Hive embraces his "Primitives" and tells Radcliffe to make more. He shows the Primitives to Daisy and calls them their "children." He then casually tells her he'll be needing ALL her blood to make more. Yikes!

Daisy contacts Lincoln and uses her hacker skills to help him escape. He makes his way to the Quinjet hangar, where he's confronted by Mack. After a brief struggle, Lincoln zaps Mack, knocking him on his ass (of course). He enters the Quinjet and powers it up. Coulson, Talbot and Yo-yo arrive just in time to see Lincoln fly off.

Talbot wants to shoot down the Quinjet, but Coulson says there's no need. Just then May appears with Lincoln at her side. Whaa??? It seems that Lincoln contacting Daisy and "escaping" was all part of an elaborate ruse.

The Quinjet lands in Inhuman Town. Hive Ward walks out to greet Lincoln, but is surprised when the hatch opens, revealing Lash inside!

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Talbot is livid when he finds out Coulson just freed Lash. Lincoln says he doesn't think Lash will harm Daisy, as he had the chance to kill her back in Devils You Know, but let her live. He says every Inhuman has a specific purpose, and Lash's is to kill Hive.

Hive Ward and Lash begin battling one another. Unfortunately it's a very brief and budget-friendly fight. Hive tries to infect Lash with his parasites, but he burns them away with an energy blast. He then blasts a big ol' hole in Hive Ward's chest. The Primitives attack, but Lash dispatches them with ease. Daisy tries to use her quake powers on Lash, but passes out due to blood loss. 

Lash kneels over Daisy and draws the Hive parasites out of her body and burns them away. She's now free of Hive Ward's influence. He then carefully carries her to the Quinjet and puts her inside. Suddenly James' flaming chain pierces Lash's chest, and he promptly dies. That was easy!

Daisy comes to long enough to quake James out of the Quinjet, and activates the autopilot. She flies back to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. Simmons examines her and confirms she's 100% Hive-free. Lincoln says he realizes Lash's purpose wasn't to kill Hive, but to save Daisy. Oy gevalt (insert eye-rolling groan here)!

FitzSimmons believe they know what Hive Ward's planning to do next. He's going to spread his Inhuman particles over the entire Earth, turning everyone into Primitives. When Coulson asks how he'll be able to disperse the particles, Talbot reveals that Hive Ward stole a nuclear warhead from the ATCU. Whoops!

Yo-yo visits Mack. She gives him her crucifix necklace as a keepsake, which seemingly indicates Mack is the agent who dies in Daisy's vision.

Last week I marveled (heh) at how S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters looked none the worse for wear after Daisy used her quake powers to bring the roof down on the place.

This week when Coulson gives Talbot a tour of S.H.I.E.L.D, he says it's an old WWII-era SSR base. I'm not completely sure, but I think this SSR base is different from the one they've been in all season, which would explain why it's not full of rubble.

• Speaking of the SSR, Coulson sits in a bar reading a newspaper (how retro!). He sees Peggy Carter's obituary (which is another shoutout to Civil War). According to the obit, she was 95. 

Assuming this is all happening now, that means she was born in 1921. That would make her just 21 during the events of Captain America: The First Avenger. That seems awfully young to be a highly regarded British field agent.

Of course if they made her older in The First Avenger, then she'd be dying at age 105, which, while certainly possible, seems unlikely. It's something we're just going to have to roll with.

• When James is trapped in the alley by the Watchdogs, he grabs a discarded chain, fires it up and instantly becomes an expert in wielding it.

Turns out the flaming chain is Hellfire's weapon of choice in the comics. Well done, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

• A couple weeks ago in Spacetime, Andrew Garner voluntarily walked into S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and gave himself up. His reasoning? He wanted to say "hey" to May one more time before he turned into Lash forever.

I knew there had to be more to his return than one last goodbye to his ex-wife, and predicted S.H.I.E.L.D. would use him against Hive Ward. And that's exactly what happened! 

• It was an awesome moment when Hive Ward expected to see Lincoln exit the Quinjet, but was confronted by Lash instead. It's just too bad though that their battle literally lasted all of ten seconds. Jesus Christ, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., you've been building up to this moment for weeks and it was over before it started. I'm guessing they're conserving the budget for the season finale, and didn't have anything left to spend on this battle. 

 Last week one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. grunts almost blew off Hive Ward's arm with a rocket launcher. This turned out to be just a minor inconvenience for him, as the grievous injury healed in seconds.

This week Lash blasts a big ol' hole in Hive Ward's chest, and this time it doesn't heal. Why the difference? Does his healing power not work on Inhuman-caused injuries?

• Seriously? Lash was taken out by Hellfire? How embarrassing.

• The whole "Every Inhuman Has A Specific Purpose" thing introduced in this episode is new, and definitely feels like a retcon. It's also more than a bit silly.

I could buy the fact that Lash's true purpose was to kill Hive. It brings balance to the Force, er, has a certain logic to it. But then we find out Lash's true purpose was not to rid the world of the dangerous and unstable first Inhuman, but to save Daisy. Are you fraking kidding me? That's a bit much.

Wouldn't it have made much more sense if Lash's purpose was to kill Hive, but when he saw the wounded Daisy lying unconscious, whatever tattered shreds of Andrew Garner's consciousness left inside Lash's mind took control long enough to save her? But no, a superpowered behemoth whose only reason for existing is to protect one specific person is fine too.

This harkens back to the Annoying Daisy of Season 1. Back when the writers all thought she was far, far more interesting than she really was, and did everything they could to cram her down our throats and make us love her as much as they did.

• Sigh... Another week, another episode in which Mack gets knocked flat on his ass. I should have started a Mack Gets Knocked Out Count at the beginning of the season. We'd probably be up to at least fifteen by now.

• This Week's Best Lines:

Lincoln (to Talbot): "I could fry that mustache right off your face!"
Talbot (after hearing about Hive and Lash): "Who in tarnation names these things?"

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