Friday, May 20, 2016

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episodes 21, "Absolution," and 22, "Ascension," REVIEW (SPOILERS)

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So it’s three days after the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale and I finally managed to watch it!  And all I can say (at least without spoilers) is:  “WOW!”  I was surprised by just how well-done that was.  It really didn’t feel like 2 episodes of a TV show; it felt a lot more like watching a movie (aside from the fact that I needed to fast-forward through the commercials).  The acting—on the whole—was very good.  The CGI and fight choreography was better than normal TV quality.  And it was a very fitting send-off for the eponymous “Fallen Agent.”

The opening sequence was actually a little jarring:  Daisy wakes up from a nightmare of herself and Coulson in a containment pod on Maveth.  At first I was expecting it to be a flash-forward, but it was actually her psychological break as a result of everything she had done.  All through the “movie,” Daisy’s regrets and recriminations for what she had done under Hive’s control—as well as the betrayal of her team’s trust—served as a major connective tissue.  She is able to give the team enough information to find the missile silo where Hive is planning to launch his warhead (and the team is able to stop him just in time), but she is constantly berating herself for having given Hive all the information he needed to carry out his plan in the first place.  Daisy’s internal conflict over her part in Hive’s near-take-over of the planet makes for a good “moral center” of the episode.  Is she really responsible for what she did under Hive’s control?  Not really, but she still feels responsible.  Coulson and Mack try to convince her otherwise, but neither of them have quite the same experience as her.  Lincoln is actually the one with the closest experience—his alcoholism, which I’d mostly forgotten about up until he said he’s been where she was—and he’s the one who comes the closest to getting through to her.

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The sequence at the missile silo was a ton of fun, even though it was pretty serious at the same time.  I liked seeing Lincoln and Yo-Yo in action again, and even wearing the “kill-vests” willingly because they both wanted to help out and neither one wanted to become Hive’s puppet.  I found the plan to use the memory machine on Hive to be particularly clever, specifically how they used both Inhumans’ powers to make it work:  Yo-Yo finished setting up the machine, and Lincoln powered it to utterly fry Ward’s brain.  The way that the memory machine continued to affect him even until about a third of the way through the second hour was also a nice touch.  To be honest, when S.H.I.E.L.D. managed to capture Hive in a gel matrix container and prevent the missile launch within the first 30 minutes of the episode, I was a little confused; after all, I was expecting that to take the entire 2 hours, and I wasn’t sure how tracking down the missile could take an hour and a half.  Of course it managed to!

When they brought Hive back to the base, it started to become clear that he was going to get out again, though it wasn’t clear exactly how.  In advance of this they had planted a delivery of “hangar door parts” which was delivered to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s hangar, but which actually contained the “Primitive Parasite.”  Giyera and James set it off, and it started changing S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel into Alpha Primitives under Hive’s control.  The Primitives start dragging more agents into the mist so they are transformed—and Fitz is trapped with them!  Simmons manages to get the hangar door opened so Fitz and 1 surviving agent can escape, but the Primitives still manage to free Hive and invade the base.  And Hive takes Zephyr One because it has high-altitude capabilities.

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Daisy confronting Hive was a huge moment in this episode, at least for her.  When she used the pod to get into the plane, I really thought she was going to fight him, but instead she offers herself to him to be swayed again!  And he even tries to do it again, but something about what Lash did to her actually makes her immune to his parasites now.  So instead Daisy lashes out at him in a rage and tries to kill him.  She found some really innovated ways to use her powers in hand-to-hand combat against him—but of course she ultimately fails.  Instead she gets captured and Hive brings her with them onto the plane.  Daisy really brings the “Inhumanity” to the episode with her struggles both with her guilt and with her “addiction” to Hive’s control.

In the base the rest of the team tries to fight off the Primitives, but the best they can do is turn up the heat so the Primitives (who only see by infrared apparently) can’t find them.  Yo-Yo does get shot, though, trying to catch bullets so Mack doesn’t get shot.  Of course she survives, though.  I really hope that this "ship" continues into next season.  They said that everyone was going to have a moment where they could be killed or could be the one in the quinjet, and it does hold true:  about half the team handles Yo-Yo’s cross, and everyone does have a moment where they could be killed.  And considering that we knew going in that someone was going to die, it was actually morbidly fun trying to figure out who it was going to be!

Fitz and May stow away on Zephyr One and try to retake the plane on their own (with Daisy’s help), but Daisy actually refuses to leave the containment pod because she “deserves” to be in it.  And then Giyera shows up, knocks May out, and threatens to kill Fitz.  Fitz stalls, and then he uses a cloaked handgun to shoot Giyera:  Giyera couldn’t see it, so he didn’t know to grab it with his powers!  May, Fitz, and Daisy try to do something, but can’t do too much on their own until Coulson arrives in a quinjet (side note:  the fact that he can control a quinjet with his hand is pretty awesome!).

Hive’s confrontation with Coulson was pretty epic, not least because we actually got to see him in all his “glory.”  The CGI on Hive’s face was very impressive—much more so than the little bit that they used on him for the Hydra Council scene.  And the idea that he would abandon Ward’s body and instead take over Coulson (and with Coulson, S.H.I.E.L.D.) was actually pretty scary, and just the sort of thing that this show would do!  I did kind of see the hologram twist coming when Coulson wasn’t moving around at all, but it was still pretty funny seeing Hive’s reaction to the discovery.  I also thought Coulson’s Star Wars reference was hilarious.  However, as another side note, I don’t remember anyone losing a hand this season on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (the other running Star Wars reference in the MCU).  And considering that they introduced Yo-Yo Rodriguez (who in the Secret Warriors comics has both her arms sliced clean off), I’m kind of surprised they didn’t include that in this episode.

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I really enjoyed all the fight sequences in the final third or so of the episode(s).  James vs. Lincoln was well overdue, particularly how Lincoln managed to take James out but James still managed to get the last shot in by charging something on Lincoln’s belt to blow—I kind of wish we’d known what it was.  Then when the human S.H.I.E.L.D. agents had to fend off the Primitives so Daisy could get to the warhead and move it into the quinjet, that was another awesome fight.  My favorite part was easily the payoff of Mack finally having a shotgun-axe to use in this fight, which is pretty well tricked out (yet another side-note:  rail-mounted axe blades are a thing, one which I am tempted to buy!).  The second fight scene isn’t quite Marvel-movie-quality since they actually leave all the Inhumans out entirely (and come one, you know the only reason you like Marvel fights is for the superpowers!), but it is still very well shot.

This is where we finally get the payoff of the “someone’s going to die” tease from the beginning of the half-season.  Daisy and Lincoln have a moment where she is talking about moving the warhead into the quinjet and sending it into space, and Lincoln is afraid that she is going to use this as a chance to made atonement for what she did while under Hive’s control by sacrificing herself to pilot the jet into space.  Daisy goes off and uses her power to push the warhead into the quinjet, but Hive follows her.  She’s about to fight him and launch the quinjet, but she notices blood drops and realizes that Lincoln beat her to the quinjet.  Lincoln used his power to destroy the manual override for the autopilot (meaning that Hive can’t override it and take control himself), and then he uses his power to push Daisy out of the jet and takes off.  Lincoln’s the one who is going to die.

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Daisy and Lincoln talking on the radio while Lincoln rocketed up out of the atmosphere was quite a touching sendoff for the two of them and their relationship.  Lincoln never got quite as interesting as I hoped that he would, though getting him on his own while Daisy was turned did help.  However, his willingness to die for both the world in general and Daisy specifically was a very touching way for him to go.  I also really liked their sendoff for Ward/Hive:  he and Lincoln looking at the earth and calmly accepting their fate while talking about how Hive just wanted to make the world a better place for his people.

Overall everything in the episode up until this point was really good.  To be honest, the one thing in the episode that I didn’t like was the transition from the team mourning Lincoln’s sacrifice to six months later; I thought that the transition was way too abrupt, like it needed at least another couple seconds before shifting over to the new scene.

The “six months later” conclusion left me with a lot of questions, which I will probably talk about quite a bit over the summer on here.  Coulson is no longer the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.  He, Mack, and S.H.I.E.L.D. are tracking down Daisy, who has gone off the radar and started doing her own thing as a freelance hero.  Daisy relocated Charles’ (the prescient Inhuman) wife and daughter near Cal’s veterinary practice—and she also learned to use her powers to jump really high.  Fitz at least is working for a newly-exonerated Radcliff, who is working on some sort of advanced Life Model Decoy.  There is a lot that is left unanswered, and we are going to have to wait until the beginning of next season to find out those answers.

I really enjoyed this season finale.  They really upped their game for this one!  I’m sad that we don’t have any new MCU material to look forward to until September.

What did you think of this season finale?  Were you expecting Lincoln to die?  What do you expect to see moving forward?  Let me know in the comments!

1 comment:

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