Spoilers ahead for “Emancipation,” the latest episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
The short version: General Talbot finally gets a tour of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s super-secret base (which is great, because Talbot and Coulson deserve an Odd Couple-style spinoff show) just as all hell (appears to) break loose. Lincoln stages a fake jailbreak as the team sends Lash on a suicide mission to save Daisy and take on Hive. Only half of his mission succeeds. Oh, and we have a hint (that is almost certainly a fakeout) over who will die in next week’s season finale!
The good: Lincoln’s big fake out, some of the Civil War crossover
A big part of the story this week focused on Lincoln and Daisy’s relationship, as Daisy hacks back into S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep tabs on (and take one last shot at recruiting) Lincoln to join the brainwashed masses of Hive. Though it was fairly well telegraphed, Lincoln’s apparent actions were almost too boneheaded at times (which makes sense, sure, since it was all a fakeout to fool Daisy). But, c’mon, we’re supposed to believe he was choosing to just walk in and almost certainly be brainwashed? Love knows no bounds, but Lincoln’s not that dumb.
Regardless, this episode proved a major moment for Lincoln’s relationship with the team — since he was finally forced to take on a standalone role in Daisy’s absence (and actually put her at potential risk to further the mission to kill Hive). Sure, anyone with half a brain knew this had about a 99 percent chance of turning out to be an elaborate ruse (a key tool in Coulson’s tool box), but it still worked well.
Though we did see that coming, we did not see the big twist at the end: Instead of Lincoln, May loaded the near-unstoppable beast (and her ex-husband) Lash onto the Quinjet, instead. Now this is classic, super-clever Coulson. Lash tears through most of Hive’s forces, and lands a critical (though not fatal) shot on Hive. Sadly, he’s killed getting Daisy un-brainwashed and safely back to S.H.I.E.L.D., but this still was an excellent sendoff for Lash/Andrew that provided some narrative, and personal, weight. Kudos.
Hitting a few days after Captain America: Civil War opened in the U.S., this episode also provided some crossover to the big screen happenings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) via several references to the Sokovia Accords. Considering S.H.I.E.L.D. is literally running a team of super-secret powered people (while also dealing exclusively with the Inhuman situation), this has the potential to be an insanely topical topic. We get some hints at that story, as Coulson falls squarely on Team Cap (of course, hey, that man crush runs deep) in opposition of having his team register. Despite the best of intentions, Coulson has seen first hand how things can be corrupted over time.
But, they only scratched the surface in this episode. Here’s hoping the debate and fallout from Civil War and the Sokovia Accords follows S.H.I.E.L.D. into next season. It’s a ripe bit of storytelling.
The bad: Hive still falling flat, all those “Someone Dies?!” teases
Yes, having Ward be taken over by Hive was a great way to keep Brett Dalton in the cast, but the Hive story seems to be falling a bit flat for me at this point. He’s certainly threatening enough, but the show really needs to do more showing instead of telling. The season finale literally hits next week, and we’re only now seeing some semblance of an endgame come into view. Hive used Daisy’s blood to create a small contingent of Arseface-looking drones (who apparently don’t have powers themselves, or at least didn’t use them?), and wants to use a stolen warhead to set this “virus” off in the atmosphere and infect a chunk of the planet, turning them into mindless Arsefaces?
That’s certainly menacing, but Talbot actually throws out a fairly solid recommendation: Send a missile and just take out Hive and his forces. Vaporizing his evil parasite dust would probably kill it, right? If not, hey, it’d certainly slow him down, probably? Coulson dismisses the idea because of potential red tape, but it really did point out the elephant in the room, here. Sure, it’s not really climactic (and doesn’t set up an action-packed finale!), but they needed a better excuse than hand waves and potential red tape to explain it away.
This episode also circled back to the lingering tease that someone will die in the finale (which was teased in a flashforward, which turned out to be a vision Daisy saw after touching an Inhuman who can somewhat see the future). This storyline just wreaks of “Season Finale Stakes!” and feels disconnected to the season itself. We got a hint at the potential victim this week, when Mack was gifted with the cross Daisy sees floating in the flashforward, but you just know it’s not going to be Mack now, right? They wouldn’t blow that reveal a full episode out. Regardless of who bites it, here’s hoping it truly works to further the story and isn’t just a cheap death. Oh, it also can’t be Fitz or Simmons. Those two deserve a happy ending, guys.
Line of the night: “I could fry that mustache right off your face.” - Lincoln
Up next: High stakes! Two-hour season finale! Someone dies! Ticking clocks! Yeah, it’s gonna be good.