Saturday, 21 May 2016

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 3x21 - "Absolution"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 3x21 - "Absolution"


With the fate of the world at stake and the Avengers fractured in the wake of Captain America: Civil War, SHIELD attempts to prevent Hive from launching a nuclear weapon that could spread the Inhuman plague across the globe. Meanwhile, Daisy struggles to come to terms with her actions whilst under Hive’s thrall.


Without wasting much time, Agents of SHIELD kicks off its two-part finale by sending its team in to prevent Hive from launching a nuclear warhead armed with the Inhuman virus. There’s a decent pace to the opening of this episode, watching the team come together to get access to the shut-down codes and cancel the launch. I particularly liked the moment with Fitz using motion-capture green screen technology to pretend to be a senior member of the military alongside General Talbot. There was a playfulness to this sequence that really translated well onto the screen, such as the moment where Coulson opened up the shut-down codes to discover it consisted of hundreds of letters and numbers. It’s always fun to see the team operating like a well-oiled machine, rather than lurching from disaster to disaster. It’s interesting to note the comparisons between this episode and “The Team” – both of which opened up with a fast-paced sequence that showcased SHIELD’s expertise, but ended up revealing that Hive had placed a Trojan Horse within the team – first, Daisy and now, the Terrigen gas.

This episode played with the audience’s emotions throughout, passing Yo-Yo’s necklace between members knowing that it was destined to be worn by the person who dies. While initially Mack was the prime suspect, the show transferred the cursed necklace over to Fitz and the shadow of death followed. While it could be that the second episode may continue to play ‘pass the parcel’ with the doomed artefact, there are plenty of signs that point towards Fitz being the “Fallen Agent” who dies at the end of this season. Firstly, there’s his ‘cursed’ relationship with Simmons – now that they've been united, the “will they, won’t they” tension has been defused and it would prove the curse correct if Fitz met his untimely end, especially after she’d just booked a holiday for them. Secondly, it seems like every season finale has resulted in the two of them being estranged/separated. In “Beginning of the End”, Fitz’s advances are rejected and he suffers brain damage, and then in “SOS (Part Two)”, Simmons is swallowed up by the Obelisk and sent to Maveth. Hopefully, this is just misdirection on the part of the writers, but it certainly seems as though Fitz’s time is up.

This episode places the focus back onto Daisy as she struggles with her ‘withdrawal symptoms’ after leaving Hive’s sway and her immense guilt at hurting her friends in SHIELD. Initially filled with self-loathing, the writers pulled the rug out from under the viewer by having Daisy chase after Hive and beg for him to re-accept her. It was a bit of shock considering how much she was blaming herself, but I wonder if this might be part of some plan of hers. If she is indeed an addict, jonesing for a hit of Hive’s parasitic brain-bugs, then the character is certainly in for some dark times ahead as she actively betrayed the team in an effort to re-join with Hive. It is a bold move for the character to have her willingly want to join the ‘bad guys’ and I look forward to finding out more about the context behind it in the second half of this finale. The other key moment of this episode was when Hive was affected by Coulson’s memory-machine, bringing forth the various personalities he’d absorbed over the years – notably Grant Ward’s. I wonder if this might end up with Ward taking control of Hive’s body and escaping, therefore keeping Brett Dalton and Grant Ward on the show and ret-conning his death in “Maveth”. It’s a long shot, but I am very interested to find out how the writers intend to deal with Hive / Grant Ward.

This was a solid opening to the two-part season finale, subverting expectations and ‘defusing’ the nuclear threat at the start of the episode, only to have it resurface at the end. While elements of this episode were too familiar to last season’s finale with Jiaying also attempting to use Terrigen to infect the human population, it remained a fun watch and had enough differentiation to avoid repeating the same story beats. The twist regarding Daisy’s allegiances was an effective one, making me want to skip this review and watch the second half straight away, but I have written this review without any knowledge of the finale’s end. Also, intriguing is the mystery surrounding the “Fallen Agent” and the poisoned chalice unknowingly passed about between the different team-members. While it seems like Fitz is the current choice for the chop, I'm wondering if this is misdirection and we’ll see the necklace change hands a few more times – perhaps Daisy herself will be the one to go out with a bang in the next episode. Either way, this episode has inspired excitement within me and I'm keen to find out how this all comes to a head – something that I've not felt since the series returned after its mid-season break.

Score - 9.7 out of 10

Easter Eggs/References
  • SHIELD turned the memory machine, once used to restore Coulson's memories of his resurrection, into a weapon against Hive.

  • Who will be the "Fallen Agent" who dies saving the world from Hive?

Next Episode - "Ascension"
In this season finale, SHIELD must spring into action to combat Hive and prevent him from launching a devastating global attack on mankind.

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