NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, including a major character death, are present in this review
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a pretty full plate with the penultimate episode of Season Three this week (if you don’t count the fact that next week’s season finale is the length of two episodes), as, “Emancipation” has to place the final story pieces for next week’s season finale, while also acknowledging the fallout from Marvel’s new movie release, Captain America: Civil War for the Marvel Cinematic Universe overall. Fortunately, the episode mostly rises to this task, even if it’s not a highlight for the season.
The whole, “Fallen Agent” event arc also came to an end this week, even if it does give way to the ominous foreshadowing that a series lead will die in the season finale next week, as per Daisy’s vision of the future from several weeks ago. This means that the show had to come up with a reason to wrench Daisy out of Hive’s control in this episode, and it was a pretty shocking one, and one that also made for a nice way to round off the episode as a whole.
In fact, a huge part of, “Emancipation” is simply about reclaiming Daisy, who is currently poking into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s security system, despite Fitz and Simmons doing what they can to keep her out. Mostly though, Daisy is trying to talk to Lincoln, who remains in captivity, despite his immune system having now been restored after the botched Hive cure got into his system. Coulson is intentionally keeping Lincoln hidden away however, since General Talbot is paying a visit to the base, and he’s got the recently-inked Sokovia Accords from Captain America: Civil War waiting for Coulson’s Inhuman agents to sign.
Despite the somewhat clumsy Avengers: Age of Ultron tie-in from the previous season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last year, the show actually worked in a connection to Captain America: Civil War rather well in this episode. The effective political debates related to the handling of powered people that made Marvel’s newest movie so strong and memorable also contributed to some smart dialogue and similar debates within this episode. Coulson brings up the legitimate point that a registered list of Inhumans and other such powered people will inevitably end up in the wrong hands and get abused at some point (it was also smart to bring up The Codex from Season One to illustrate this example), and Talbot counters by saying that registering with the Sokovia Accords is a good first step to re-legitimizing S.H.I.E.L.D. in the public eye, especially as a way to keep Inhumans safe and protected. Obviously though, Coulson isn’t really interested in taking the organization into the light at this point, which is thematically appropriate, even if it’s also an obvious way to avoid shackling Marvel’s movies with the duty of referencing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s events within their own storylines at this point.
When the episode really heats up towards the climax, it looks like Daisy successfully convinces Lincoln to break out of the base and re-join her, even if viewers can tell that this is obviously a trick, and one that aims to add Lincoln to Hive’s forces. Lincoln however, blinded by love, escapes as Daisy orders, forcing Coulson to put the base on lockdown, and seemingly humiliating him in front of Talbot. Things look especially bad when Lincoln successfully subdues Mack (did he really think Lincoln wouldn’t just zap him?), and gets away in a Quinjet… But apparently, the whole escape was an elaborate ruse! May was secretly setting up a fake escape for Lincoln, seeing right through Hive’s trick with Daisy, and this serves as an excuse to actually stash Lash within the Quinjet, allowing him to go to town on Hive!
Hive, however, is ready for even this, as he’s successfully cooked up a bunch of mutated, deformed Inhuman hybrids, all with super-strength and fully obedient of him, using Daisy’s blood. The use of the Watchdogs as the test subjects for this procedure was pretty inspired too, especially since those violent wingnuts really got what was coming to them when Lash was unleashed on them! Thus, Hive’s endgame is laid bare, as the team figures out that Hive, using the stolen warhead from the ATCU base (great to see the show finally explain why Hive wanted an active warhead of all things), wants to disperse a shockwave of his homebrew Inhuman formula to forcibly mutate the human race, and create a global Inhuman paradise on Earth. It’s a pretty cool plan, and one that actually goes pretty well with Hive believing himself to be a force of compassion and good, even if he’s also not above sacrificing innocent people (and Daisy) for said good, sometimes even violently! Speaking of, it was very cool to see Hellfire finally wielding the ignited chain weapon that he uses in Marvel Comics lore within this episode! It’s about time he brandished that!
Unfortunately, the episode’s climax does trip up a bit in a couple of annoying ways, particularly in how Lash was handled. Lash manages to save Daisy, and even conveniently cures her of Hive’s influence, but the show never established that Lash was anything more than a mindless monster, so having him suddenly operate as a Deus Ex Machina to both rescue Daisy, and cleanse her of Hive’s control, feels cheap and unsatisfying. Likewise, while Lash dies rescuing Daisy, giving him a strangely heroic end, despite, again, being portrayed as nothing but a mindless monster earlier in the season, the death feels abrupt and lame. Lash is supposed to be so mighty that even Lincoln’s electric bolts couldn’t phase him. Hell, even Hive’s parasites couldn’t phase him! Despite that, Hellfire’s flaming chain quickly and easily does him in with one swing? Come on, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., that’s total bullshit!
Even so, this episode was a pretty solid lead-in to next week’s two-hour season finale, and the tie-in material with Captain America: Civil War was rather appealing in this episode, despite this show’s pretty uneven history of tie-ins to previous Marvel movies that have come out during the show’s run so far. “Emancipation” nicely brings Daisy back into the fold, even with some head-scratching elements towards the end, and gives the team a nice sense of victory to no doubt be complemented by the looming tragedy that’s set to strike the team in next week’s season finale. Now that the team knows exactly what Hive is planning, the race is on to preserve the planet from Hive’s scourge, and the worst part is, given the conclusion of Captain America: Civil War and last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, there’s no calling the Avengers this time!
- Hive's interesting endgame revealed
- Lincoln's awesome fake escape
- Story effectively ties in to Captain America: Civil War
- Mack stupidly trying to stop Lincoln by himself
- Lash's non-sensical death