Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 Ep. 20 and 21

(Marvel Studios 2016)

Summary: Inhumans have begun popping up all over the globe now that the Terrigen strain has been released into the ozone. Phil Coulson, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., is leading a task force to detain these Inhumans before they unleash unknown catastrophe on the world. However he meets opposition from all sides including the U.S. Military. Things are not the same and this is a tale of a changed people.

“Absolution”

Part 4 of the ‘Fallen Agent’ Story Arc

Directed by Billy Gierhart; Written by Chris Dingess & Drew Z. Greenberg

“Ascension”

Part 5 of the ‘Fallen Agent’ Story Arc

Directed by Kevin Tancharoen; Written by Jed Whedon

[SPOILERS!!]

Review: Three seasons later and Agents of SHIELD has gone from the little engine that could to the little engine that did, proving itself worthy – against all odds – of staying on the air and even being renewed for a 4th season in the process. While other shows on Netflix have gotten rave reviews because they feature what everyone actually wants to see: superheroes and gritty darkness; SHIELD has been leading the path for other options in the MCU featuring spies, Inhumans, and rising grandeur story telling with each passing season. Most people may not like this show, but if you’re not watching it you are severely missing out. – This is what 3 seasons worth of storytelling and 2 seasons worth of an Inhumans storyline has led to… and phew boy was it an emotional roller coaster.

Let’s go ahead and get the bad out of the way so that I can gush on the good, shall we?

A few things were wrong with this 2-parter season finale, I don’t feel they fully diminish the experience but I have to call them out none the less. In “Absolution” the episode opens up with a really cool, but yet another convenient montage that leads to Hive’s capture in an operation that goes a lot more smoothly for SHIELD than it really ought to. Including politicians and military personal offering up a kill code for a nuclear warhead without seemingly asking any questions, and Hive just seriously not being on his game like he has so been so often in the past.

Again, it was a cool opening scene, I loooved the part where Hive was caught in the memory machine’s blast and had his memories and thoughts scrambled around. That was great. But ultimately the extended scene felt like another rush job for the show like so many others have in the past. It also leads to pacing issues since after the rest of the episode sort of slows to a crawl even if it does offer up some great moments later.

The opening scene of “Absolution” where Daisy and Coulson are in the evac container on Maveth where we get the twist that everyone is dead, they’re actually on Earth, and then it cuts to revealing that it was a nightmare Daisy was having felt like a really lazy way to bring Maveth back for one more shot before never returning to it again. I just didn’t like it and I felt very out of place with everything else.

Joey was oddly absent from the 2-part finale which I think he may have said he was quitting the team last time we saw him, but since he literally opened the season up not seeing him at all felt very out of place to me. Like the sudden end to the Lash storyline after building him up for so many episodes, this was really out of place not having one of the first people we see in the season premiere be in the season finale at all. – The Watchdogs were also oddly absent from the finale so they better come back in  bigger way in season 4. I was interested to see what their story line would offer.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 7.21.17 AMThere’s also a scene where Coulson is asking what the word Absolution means and no one knows, but a quick Google search tells me that the words means “formal release from guilt, obligation, or punishment” which would jive with Hive’s becoming one with all fantasy. He will absolve everyone of their sins and guilt. Unfortunately the real “reveal” of Absolution comes later with a bunch of packages showing up that were shipped out from Absolution, Montana that end up containing terrigen mist. That was quite a let down really.

Finally, there are some leaps in logic in terms of getting characters from point A to point B within the season finale itself of “Ascension” but the big guilt to me is the very end with the time skip I loooved the final episode all the way up until the sudden jump cut of 6 months later that seems both out of place and misplaced in where it should have premiered within the story. I get the runners wanting to a 6 month time skip early, and that’s fine. But after the very emotional scene right before then let us wallow in despair and anger, cut to your credits, and then release the 6 months time skip as an extended cut scene instead. What we get though it a really, really emotional end for two characters and the in the middle of tears Jemma asks “What do we do now?” and suddenly your senses are shattered as your pulled from the story and forced to enter the future for a really ill-times jump cut. We’ll talk about the actual contents of the jump cut in a moment.

Other than all that, this season finale was really great. The writers did a wonderful job making you unaware and unable to figure out who was actually going to die at the end of the season. Or when that scene was even going to take place. Many different characters were able to gain possession of Yo-Yo’s necklace in a natural progression and growing dread. There were plenty of times that I was afraid for everyone in the episodes. And everyone had a good reason for dying as well.

I was very happy we got to see Hive in all his tentacled glory at the end. I wish he’d stayed in that form longer but I get budget constraints as well the writers not wanting to take away Brett Dalton’s final moments on the series by hiding his face. Dalton by the way really did go from being a bland SHIELD agent, to an intriguing villain, to an even blander villain in season 2 and season 3 part 1, to an excellent, excellent super baddie in the latter half of this year. I loved how much being Hive was able to stretch his acting ability and he really delivered becoming one of my favorite villains, if not my favorite super villain this show has offered up yet.

The action was great and much of the characterizations for everyone was great. Daisy being genuinely addicted to Hive’s sway and begging for him to take her back was a really strong moment that I was surprised but glad to see the writer’s tackle because it showed her legitimately changed by her experience under his sway. And I’ll be fascinated to see how much she really has changed overall after the 6 month time jump where we only get to see a bit of her. Chloe Bennet also gave an amazing performance in the season finale as well, I love how they used her powers when fighting Hive as well as her raw emotion at the end while talking to Lincoln was phenomenal.

The finale offered up a lighter version but nonetheless excellent take on Jessica Jones storyline. Daisy essentially had her mind and body raped. I would say Jessica  Jones had it worse as she was physically abused, but their story lines parallel quite a bit when you think about it. And though the sowrunners confirmed it was an accident I really liked how Daisy and Lincoln’s final moments talking to one another mirrored Captain America and Peggy’s final moments together in The First Avenger.

We had another possible death fake out with Mack in the finale, who I still believe should still hospitalized for his injuries from Daisy, but this time Yo-Yo was the one who received the wounds. Ii wasn’t for sure if they’d actually kill her not, I’m glad they didn’t, but I do think this finale could’ve been boosted even further by a surprise double-agent death that none of us could’ve guessed was coming. However Mack and Daisy did have a wonderful moment together when he tried to comfort her and forgive her for their scene in “Failed Experiments” where she nearly killed him. I loved this scene for its realism in showing someone who is a forgiving person attempting to comfort someone who truly thinks so lowly of themselves that they believe they’re beyond forgiveness.

I can relate to both Mack and Daisy in this scene as someone who is easy to forgive others but can also believe he’s beyond forgiveness himself sometimes. It was one of my favorite scenes in the finale and I’m glad we got it.

Now to talk about Lincoln’s sacrifice and Hive’s doom as we get an incredibly written scene between these two ex-lovers of Daisy’s essentially having a bro-moment before exploding in the upper atmosphere of Earth. For me it was a genuine surprise when it was revealed that Lincoln would die and take Hive with him and yet it feel very right for the story as well. Daisy was held back as a character when she was infatuated with Ward, and the same this season with Lincoln. Perhaps one day the writer’s will be able to writer a counterpart character that is right for Daisy, but neither of these guys are it.

However, you can feel in everyone’s performance the vulnerability and acceptance Lincoln exudes during his ascension into the upper atmosphere and during his talk with Hive – who also gets another great humanizing moment once he accepts his death is imminent and that he’s been beaten. Their final moments as they watch the Earth pass them by and their quinjet float lifelessly in space is a beautiful moment and great way for these two characters to go out. While Lincoln always was one of the weaker team members of season 3 I still felt incredibly bad for him when it was time to go. And I felt a connection with Hive as well in the end which I feel would’ve made him happy. His plans were evil, and his way about turning the world in Silent Hill monsters was also evil, but his goal was ultimately to feel.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 7.21.29 AM.pngHive was more empty inside than any of the Inhumans he swayed, and I feel having that connection with them gave him more of a sense of purpose than it did them in the long run. It really was a two way street for Hive and his lackeys, but I don’t feel the writers conveyed that very well in the long run.

The 6 month time skip, again, was very out of place with where it was edited into the show. And I did not appreciate getting essentially pulled away from my emotions and out of the show by being suddenly dropped into another time and place. Ultimately though the scene did do for me what it was meant to do in the first place and that get me interested in what’s coming next. Also Daisy looks really good in soft grunge, just sayin’.

We also get an actual end credits scene with Dr. Radcliffe creating an LMD for his AI named Aida. Radcliffe I really enjoyed and I’m glad he’s getting to stick around. I am very curious about his creating an LMD however, a Life Model Decoy, because in the episode its shown to be “phase 1” so is it his phase 1 or is this the first LMD ever in the MCU? Considering Joss Whedon referenced LMD’s in Avengers and his brother is a showrunner on AoS as well as written this scene, I surely hope he’s not going to forget that and give Radcliffe the honor of inventing LMDs in the MCU…

Given that season 4 is apparently going to deal with transhumanism in the sense of  furthering our own bodies technologically instead as the last 2 season have with Inhuman evolution I really, really hope we get to see Deathlok return. It’s gotta be a safe bet that he will, but I also don’t want to get my hopes to far up just to see them crushed. I am looking forward to season 4 however, even if it ma be the show’s last due to its new time slot in the very late evening.

Season 3, overall, was pretty great. Lincoln and Hive’s final scene together is one of the best scenes this show has ever offered up emotionally along with Lincoln and Daisy being forced to saw goodbye over a com link. I would argue seeing Daisy say goodbye to an amnesiac Cal at the end of season 2 was harder for me as I really, really grew to like Cal as an anti-hero.

This show is really good and I refuse to let anyone tell me otherwise. I can’t wait for season 4 and again, if you haven’t the show or you gave up on it early on, now is the time to get caught up. Because I  have a feeling season 4 is going to get even better. We already know it’s going to get darker, which is whatever, it’s fine, but I do think it’s going to get even better.

Final Score: 4 Heroic Sacrifices out of 5

DERRICK-imageDerrick is a born and raised otaku with a love for comics, anime, manga and movies. The full list is pretty long, but that’s just the basics. Stories set in space are his bread and butter.

You can find more of his writing at IndieComix.net

@KazekunForever

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