Sunday, 22 May 2016

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 3x22 - "Ascension"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 3x22 - "Ascension"


Running out of time before Hive launches the nuclear weapon to infect humanity with his Inhuman virus, one of SHIELD’s agents makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the Earth. Meanwhile, Daisy attempts to come to terms with her experience under Hive’s thrall and the pain she has caused her friends.


Firstly, I have to say that was the strongest season finale that Agents of SHIELD has ever produced – the tension revolving around the “Fallen Agent” sub-plot was brilliant and well done to the writers for playing with audience’s emotions throughout the two-parter by passing the cursed necklace from agent to agent. I have to admit that I genuinely thought that Daisy was going to sacrifice herself for the greater good – the writers and Chloe Bennett had sold it perfectly and it would have completely changed the series if they’d killed off the audience surrogate in the third season. Ultimately, however they opted to get rid of Lincoln instead, who was probably the most obvious candidate from the outset and the most expendable. Despite his annoying habits and whiny nature throughout this season, his final goodbyes with Daisy were genuinely emotional and paralleled the similar ‘goodbye scene’ between Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger. Even the sequence with Hive and Lincoln philosophising before the explosion were utterly riveting and effectively done. Even though I didn't care for Lincoln, the writers made me genuinely sad at his passing.

However, the strongest part of the episode was the five-minute teaser for Season Four which flash-forwarded six months to show our heroes in a completely new situation. Daisy was on the run, Coulson was no longer the director and it appeared that Holden Radcliffe may be responsible for creating the next ‘big bad’ for SHIELD to deal with. I loved the disorientation of this flash-forward and it seems Agents of SHIELD are starting to have fun with the different narrative techniques available to them after their reliance of foreshadowing with its “Fallen Agent” sub-plot. In some ways, this teaser reminded me of Heroes and how they would overlap their seasons and offer similar time-jumps into the future at the end of each ‘volume’. Given that Daisy is on the run, it seems certain that Lincoln’s death has fundamentally changed the character and her time under Hive’s thrall has pushed her away from her former ‘family’ in SHIELD – I’d imagine that she is on the wrong side of the law as a result of the Sokovia Accords from Captain America: Civil War, suggesting that while it was briefly featured in this season, the fallout from that movie will be more heavily felt in Season Four.

In terms of the conclusion to the Season Three narrative, it seems as if the Hydra and Inhuman storylines have run their course as both Hive and Ward have been removed from the show. It would weaken the narrative if Hydra made another resurgence considering that multiple times we've been told it was on its last legs with hardly any members left. Given that the Inhumans movie seems to be on Marvel Studios' back-burner, I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't see any more Inhuman communities appear in the show, with Marvel likely saving up the big names like Black Bolt, Medusa, Maximus, Triton and Lockjaw for the cinematic release. I’d also imagine that the Secret Warriors story-arc has run its course too, although both Yo-Yo and that suspiciously absent melty guy are still floating about and waiting to be inducted full-time into the cast. I'm also curious as to whether we’ll see more from Hunter and Bobbi, especially after the Marvel's Most Wanted pilot failed to secure a full series order. Could we see the plot from that series retooled into Season Four, bringing the two fan-favourite characters back, or will they be retired in favour of new characters? Talking of cancelled series, it would be awesome if the show could somehow incorporate the left-over mysteries from the second season of Agent Carter into a one-off episode in the future – Hayley Atwell has cameoed before and I'm sure she probably would do so again.

Overall, this was a strong finish to an uneven season. Most of the problems during Season Three stemmed from the reuse of familiar enemies from earlier seasons (Hydra and Inhumans) and the heavily-serialised storyline that didn't allow for any offbeat ‘monster of the week’ episodes. Given that Season Four appears to be a break from the series current status-quo and there isn't a clear-cut villainous entity as yet, I wonder if we’ll see the series return to its Season One roots and introducing smaller story-arcs that build up to a wider mythology rather than repeating the same 'cookie-cutter' template which was used in both Season Two and Three. For the first time in a long time, I'm really excited about Agents of SHIELD and I hope this refresh of its status-quo will reinvigorate the show’s writers and allow them to experiment more with the format. Moreso than Daredevil and Jessica Jones, this show deserves to be the crown of the Marvel Television Universe as it shares cast-members with the movies and has the greater connection and ‘influence’ with the cinematic entries. Hopefully Season Four will capitalise on this and help create a stronger bond between the films and the TV shows.

Score - 9.8 out of 10

Easter Eggs/References
  • Mack has finally created his shotgun-axe combination weapon, first mentioned in “Laws of Nature”.
  • Lincoln's sacrifice and heartfelt goodbye to Skye is reminiscent of Steve Rogers flying the plane into the ocean in Captain America: The First Avenger.
  • Holden Radcliffe appears to be working on a LMD (Life Model Decoy) program. In the comics, Nick Fury made use of LMDs as a decoy to avoid assassination attempts. (First app: Strange Tales # 135)
  • As promised in “Spacetime”, Daisy visits Charles Hinton's wife and daughter and has been looking after the two of them.
  • I wanted to introduce you to a friend of mine, he has a practice near here. I think you'll like him. He likes animals too” - Daisy is referring to her father, Calvin Zabo, who underwent a mind-wipe to become a vet at the end of  “SOS (Part 2)

  • Why is Daisy on the run from SHIELD in the flash-forward?
  • Who is the new director of SHIELD?
  • What does Holden Radcliffe intend to do with the LMD program?

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