NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, including multiple major character deaths, are present in this review
After a somewhat middling build-up in the prior episode, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. soared to an excellent finish in, “Ascension”, the second half of the two-episode season finale. Everything comes together in a very exciting, fast-paced final conflict, as Hive yet again manages to escape S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, sending his fresh batch of primitive Inhuman goons to box in Coulson’s team.
Things immediately started off on a fantastic note overall with Hive, as he engages in a very thrilling Inhuman-powered duel with Daisy. This served as one of the best action scenes in a largely exciting episode, as Daisy goes full tilt on Hive, and yet still can’t stop him. Even after stabbing him several times, and using her powers to break almost every bone in his body, Hive just reforms, and eventually knocks her out, imprisoning her in a Containment Module as he prepares to launch his warhead.
The resourcefulness of Coulson’s team was very enjoyable to watch in this early stretch, as Fitz and May stow aboard the Zephyr that Hive steals with Giyera and Hellfire, and Coulson, Mack, Radcliffe, Fitz, Simmons and Elena are left to try and dodge the lingering primitives. After Simmons manages to deduce a flaw in their vision however, cranking up the heat to avoid anyone being seen, they get a fighting chance. Unfortunately, this also comes with the primitives finding weapons, and Elena having to take a bullet for Mack, which leaves the crew frequently trying to save her. Yet again, there’s another possible fake-out with Elena, and yet again, she’s fine. That’s no doubt predictable, since Elena hasn’t been around long enough to be killed off in some heart-wrenching fashion at this point.
Once everyone regroups at the base, Coulson prepares to fly a Quinjet to the Zephyr, but insists on going alone. That’s not awesome though, as Fitz and May end up cornered by Giyera, and May ends up incapacitated. Fitz is left to try and think his way out of the situation while he’s held at gunpoint, but fortunately, he just so happened to have an invisible gun in his hand, which he uses to surprise Giyera and shoot him dead! Wow! Who would have thought that Fitz would be the one to take down an enemy as fearsome as Giyera, an enemy that even gives May a run for her money in the danger department!
Naturally, Hive doesn’t take Giyera’s killing well, but he nonetheless ends up distracted by the lone presence of Coulson, who gives him a lengthy speech about paying for his great mistake of killing Ward, and thus inadvertently unleashing Hive on the planet. As Hive prepares to possess Coulson however, he sees that it’s actually a hologram, and Coulson has snuck in with his team to stop the warhead and disable the ship. This was a great sequence all around, especially when we get a look at Hive’s true face, which actually looks fantastic, and very true to the character’s monstrous appearance in Marvel Comics lore! It’s too bad that we don’t see more of it, but Coulson’s little hologram trick is equally inspired, and as Coulson points out, it’s a clever way to take advantage of a trick from a former enemy, while also providing a nice fake-out from Coulson claiming to want to go alone at first.
Of course, the incoming death continues to hang over the team, and when Daisy remembers this, she begins to feel like she needs to accept destiny. She has a heartfelt talk with Lincoln over it, and Lincoln fails to stop Daisy from entering the Quinjet with the warhead on board, with Daisy intending to sacrifice herself to save the planet. Hive also stows aboard, and it looks like Daisy will be the one to give her life for the team!… But of course, that’s not really possible, since Daisy is such a cornernstone of this series, and of Coulson’s motivation toward his team and as director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Instead, Lincoln, hiding in the cockpit, shorts out the controls, and blasts Daisy out of the Quinjet, just as it rockets up into space! With no means of bringing the jet down, and only moments to talk before communications cut out, Daisy is left to helplessly watch as Lincoln sacrifices himself to save the world. Yes, the death that Daisy saw in her vision was Lincoln’s, who stole the death that Daisy was supposed to experience, before Lincoln changed the future. This was incredibly emotional, as Daisy falls into a fit of tears and despair upon realizing that she can’t save Lincoln, and hell, even Lincoln’s final interactions with Hive are nice and poignant. The two share a moment about wanting to see and change the world, viewing it from space as the warhead explodes, killing both of them, and erasing both Grant Ward and Lincoln Campbell from the Marvel Cinematic Universe forever.
As much as the marketing seemed to suggest that it would be one of the original S.H.I.E.L.D. agents from the very first season to die (and it kind of was, if you count the turncoat Ward being vaporized with Lincoln), Lincoln’s death still had the proper impact, and still wonderfully affected the team, since he had no business paying for the mistakes of Daisy, or May, or Coulson, or anyone whose actions led to that fateful point. This even nicely leads into a very cool flash-forward to six months later, where Coulson and Mack pursue a mysterious vigilante called, “Quake”, with Quake being Daisy, finally properly adapting her superheroine moniker from Marvel Comics lore, it seems. Daisy makes contact with Hinton’s old family that he left (remember Hinton? The homeless fellow who gave her her vision?), gives the robin to his daughter, and even suggests that the widow go to meet, “Someone who also loves animals very much”, of course referring to Cal, her father, now with memory loss and running a vet clinic. This was a neat little scene, and a nice way to bring up Cal again, despite him not showing up at all in Season Three.
Daisy inevitably gets away from Coulson and Mack, but there are other signs that big changes are coming to the show in Season Four later this year. For one, Coulson reveals that he’s no longer the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., which could suggest quite a few possibilities for a change in management. Did the fallout with Daisy motivate Coulson to step down and give the director’s position to May? Did Nick Fury come back? Did Talbot assume command of the outfit at President Ellis’ behest? I guess we have to wait until next season to find out. We’ll also have to wait to find out about an equally promising epilogue scene, which appears to have Fitz and Radcliffe working together on Life-Model Decoys, or LMD’s, which look to be making their proper debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe next season. The fact that Radcliffe is building AIDA, a recognizable A.I. character from Marvel Comics lore, is also intriguing. Could next season’s big threat be A.I.-based? It’s obviously too much to hope for Ultron to make a return to the MCU on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., of course, but he’s certainly not the only A.I.-based baddie from Marvel lore that could serve as a big bad next season!
Even if it had to find its footing over the course of its first hour, the second hour of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s season finale was superb, and an exceptional way to close out the season. The big character death that had been teased for several weeks was realized well, and had a satisfying impact on the team, as did the final destruction of Hive and Ward alike. I’m not sure where the show could go next with developing Inhumans in the MCU, but it looks like next season is going to be changing gears again, and possibly moving away from the Inhuman direction for a bit. With both HYDRA and Hive now completely out of the picture (even if HYDRA is bound not to stay gone forever), the possibilities are extensive, but the bottom line remains that I can’t wait to see just how this ragtag crew picks up the pieces from their long battle this season!
- The team's ingenuity with fighting Hive and the primitives
- Lincoln and Hive's final moments together
- Cool teases for Season Four