Saturday, 14 May 2016

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 3x20 - "Emancipation"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 3x20 - "Emancipation"

Synopsis

In the wake of Captain America: Civil War, General Talbot demands a visit of SHIELD’s top-secret base to evaluate the Inhumans currently working under the ‘Secret Warriors’ program. Meanwhile, Hive advances his plans to create an army of Inhumans using Daisy’s blood, but could SHIELD have discovered a weapon to use against the seemingly immortal Inhuman?

Review

One of the biggest selling points of Agents of SHIELD was the fact it would reference and react to the happenings on the big-screen. The series’ first attempt at this was a brief nod to the aftermath of Thor: The Dark World in the episode “The Well”, which was more of a thematic connection rather than a direct tie-in. The biggest impact was felt in the aftermath of Captain America: The Winter Soldier with the revelation that Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD – naturally, this shook up the dynamic of the series greatly. When it came to Avengers: Age of Ultron, the series actually provided the lead-in to the movie with Coulson discovering the location of Loki’s staff, prompting the Avengers’ first mission in Sokovia. Edging towards the end of its current season, I was curious what impact Captain America: Civil War would have on the series, and it seems to be more in-line with its initial attempt in “The Well”. Oblique references are made to the events of the recent movie, but the tie-in is more of a thematic one as General Talbot, the face of the US Military in the series, comes to SHIELD HQ to evaluate the Secret Warriors in light of the new laws regarding superhumans.

Over the past two seasons, I've really enjoyed the relationship between General Talbot and Coulson and how they started off as enemies before becoming uneasy allies and now, almost friends. Despite their frequent butting of heads, you can tell there is a genuine respect and affection between the two characters and this was on display here. Adrian Pasdar does a great job at delivering one-liners, such as calling Lash “Rasta-Hulk” and he does a fantastic job at pointing out the ridiculousness of the situation that SHIELD finds themselves in, acting as a proxy for the audience at times. I sincerely hope Talbot remains a presence in the series’ fourth season as he provides a unique voice that is much needed in the show, much like Cordelia did in those early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While most of this episode was focused on Talbot’s tour of SHIELD HQ, the final quarter of this episode felt like a season finale as Lash confronted Hive, revealing an immunity to his parasites and even curing Daisy from her mind-control.


After defusing potential solutions to the Hive problem in the previous episode, “Emancipation” offered a glimmer of hope for humanity as Lash revealed his true purpose. Part of me suspected he might have some hitherto unmentioned immunity to Hive’s powers, but I didn't expect him to be able to cure people from “the sway”. I was actually surprised to see Daisy restored to normalcy ahead of the season finale, and in some ways, this has made the remainder of the season feel somewhat predictable. I’d imagine that Fitz-Simmons will somehow use Lash’s blood to reverse-engineer an immunity for the Secret Warriors allowing them to take-down Hive, whilst some poor soul is sent into space to prevent the warhead from releasing the Inhuman virus onto Earth. Given how Mack received Yo-Yo’s necklace at the end of this episode and has been given more character development with his brother, I'm guessing it will be him who makes the noble sacrifice to protect the planet. The one element that is left uncertain is where the series intends to go for Season Four as Hydra has been removed as a threat, and so have the Inhumans. Hopefully, the Season Three finale will give viewers a clue of which storyline the show plans to adapt next time.

While it was something of a slow-burner concerned mainly on setting up the 'switcheroo' with Lincoln and Lash, this was a great prelude to the upcoming double-episode season finale and a worthy tie-in to Captain America: Civil War. Sure, we didn't get any cameos from the characters in the movie, but the impact of the Sokovia Accords was felt on SHIELD, although ultimately nothing seemed to change. I'm guessing the ‘Secret Warriors’ will remain just that, and SHIELD will continue to operate inside the shadows, whilst the Avengers take the spotlight. I'm looking forward to the season finale, but I'm not expecting any major shocks. It seems fairly conclusive that the “Fallen Agent” will be Mack, and unless Hive’s death results in the resurrection of Grant Ward, I'm fairly certain that Brett Dalton will be leaving the show too. Given all these changes to the status-quo, I am very interested to see where the series is headed next – the next Marvel film is Doctor Strange, due out in November, so perhaps we will see more mystical and supernatural elements introduced into the Agents of SHIELD narrative for Season Four?


Score - 9.6 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • James (aka “Hellfire”) uses a fiery chain as his weapon against the Watchdogs and Lash, mirroring both his comic-book counterpart and Ghost Rider.
  • Episode makes frequent references to the "Sokovia Accords" introduced in Captain America: Civil War to monitor and regulate super-humans.

Mysteries
  • Is Mack the "Fallen Agent" destined to die in the season finale?

Next Episode - "Absolution"
It’s a showdown a season in the making as the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. try to thwart Hive’s master plan and take him down once and for all. But not everyone will survive the epic battle in the must-see Season 3 finale!

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