Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Marvel Television

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 03×20 – Emancipation

Be warned – minor Captain America: Civil War spoilers ahead!

At a bar called Buck’s, a TV is playing in the background. The bartender stops to watch as the newscaster explains that Captain America is still missing after the Sokovia Accords were put into place. Director Coulson sits sadly at the bar, reading a newspaper declaring Peggy Carter’s death. Agent May tells him they knew the Accords would happen, but he is lamenting the loss of his childhood heroes Captain America and Agent Carter – they were there when S.H.I.E.L.D. started, and now they may be there when it ends. May leaves as General Talbot enters.

Coulson has promised to the show Talbot the base with no fly-arounds or blindfolds, but they are at the bar because they need to talk first. Talbot tells him that the president sent him, and the Accords are the law of the land now. He offers to legitimize S.H.I.E.L.D. in exchange for the registry of every Inhuman they have – after all, the Accords were good enough for the Avengers. Coulson points out that half the Avengers didn’t sign, and that they work in the public. S.H.I.E.L.D. works in the shadows. He refuses to sign the Accords, but agrees to show Talbot the base. He buckles up and nods at the bartender, who pulls a switch and their booth descends into the Playground.

In Union City, a sickly Daisy is getting her blood pumped while trying to hack into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s systems. Fitz has been actively trying to block her out, but she’s a better hacker than he is a programmer. She taps into the security feed of Lincoln’s med bay cell, but is locked out. Hive warns her that if her friends keep fighting against them, there will be no absolution – but Daisy is confident that Fitz is going to lose this battle. A sleep deprived Dr. Radcliffe shows up to examine Daisy, and decides that she has had enough blood pumping for one day. After fumbling around for a bit, he announces that they are ready for the Alpha test. They have everything they need except volunteers.

In a bored Lincoln’s cell, May brings him food. He asks again to be let out, but she refuses – unless, of course, he wants to be released to General Talbot, who is taking inventory. She tells him that he has been nothing but detrimental in their attempts to help Daisy, and tells him to stay out of the way, straighten up and eat something.

As Fitz and Simmons watch the security feed of his cell, Fitz comments that he isn’t sick anymore, but Simmons points out that Coulson still wants him locked up. They compare Fitz constantly fighting Daisy’s hacking attempts to playing Whack-a-Mole, and Fitz wishes Mack wasn’t injured and could help. As they lock Daisy out again, May approaches and tells them to stop worrying so much about blocking Daisy’s access, because she’s going to get in anyway; they need to focus on finding out what Hive wants and how it stop him.

As Coulson and Talbot walk through the Playground, Talbot mentions that he didn’t even know this abandoned S.S.R. base existed. Coulson informs him that is was never on the books, and he wants to keep it that way. Since he is trusting Talbot with that secret, he asks Talbot not to report their Inhumans. Talbot questions how many they actually have, only being familiar with Lincoln and Daisy – when Yo-Yo walks onto the base. As they explain Talbot’s presence, she says she knows – she watches the news. She isn’t happy with the idea of the list, because then there will be a bounty on her head. Talbot assures her that won’t happen, and she calls him naive. Coulson instructs Yo-Yo to demonstrate her power, and before Talbot realizes anything has happened, she is holding his Air Force ribbons. She returns them, and he realizes she has super speed. Coulson tells Talbot that Inhumans are regular people and shouldn’t be documented, and Talbot again reiterates that it is protected list, just like the Index. Coulson, no stranger to infiltration, points out that lists can fall into the wrong hands.

At a makeshift training camp, new Watchdogs are training. They don’t believe in registration, they believe in extermination. One of the Watchdogs, Jackson, reveals that his informant in the A.T.C.U. gave him the name of an Inhuman on their list, and their leader Pete decides to make an example out of him. Way to illustrate Coulson’s point perfectly, Watchdogs!

In his cell, Lincoln quietly starts talking to Daisy, knowing that she has probably hacked the system and is listening. He tells her they need to talk; he wants to see her. The scrolling ticker on the sports game on TV informs him that she is indeed listening.

Later, Lincoln is asleep, when Daisy’s voice informs him he can move now. She made a loop of him sleeping and fed it into the security monitors. They talk, and he says he misses her. She reminds him that she gave him the chance to come with, but he doesn’t want to be brainwashed. She takes offense at the idea that she is brainwashed, and he says he just wants to be with her. No Hive, no S.H.I.E.L.D., just Daisy. Oh, Lincoln, you lovesick puppy. Daisy sees Talbot and Coulson approaching on the security feed, so they say their goodbyes, and Lincoln gets back in bed as Daisy cuts the security feed loop.

In the kitchen, Yo-Yo asks Mack why he isn’t happy to see her. He says he is upset about losing Daisy, and doesn’t want to lose someone else he cares about to Hive. As Yo-Yo helps bandage Mack up, he explains that Hive is trying to destroy the world. Yo-Yo says he needs a beer and some faith. Mack questions whether faith is just something we give ourselves to pretend evil isn’t going to win, and Yo-Yo says that when people start thinking like that, evil does win. She tells him an old saying they have in Colombia: “Evil preys on the weak because it fears the strong.”

Talbot explains that the Accords are made to protect people. It consists of fingerprinting, DNA samples, power analysis and a medical exam. Lincoln agrees to register, knowing the medical exam will prove that he is healthy. Coulson protests, saying it is no one’s best interest that he leaves the base. Talbot questions why Lincoln is still there if he doesn’t want to be, and asks what is stopping him from electrocuting them both. Lincoln smiles and answers nothing – but that’s not who he is.

Outside Lincoln’s cell, Talbot says he has seen the Good and the Bad, and asks to see the Ugly. He is horrified to see Lash, whom Coulson explains was Dr. Garner. Talbot is concerned that Lash isn’t frozen in a gel matrix cube, but Coulson says that he could prove to be an asset. Talbot questions what other secrets Coulson is hiding, and Coulson tells him that is it. As Daisy hacks back into Lincoln’s security feed and offers to help him escape, Talbot questions where Daisy’s whereabouts are. May tells him she is on assignment – but he reveals he already knows she is with Hive, and wanted to see if they would lie to his face. Coulson explains that he had to lie, because the stakes are too high.

What are the stakes? The world as we know it.

The Watchdogs are trailing someone with their hood up. As the hapless Inhuman realizes they are being followed, they give chase and lead the Watchdogs into an alley. As the Watchdogs approach, the hooded figure takes a chain off a nearby dumpster.  As they tell the Inhuman there is nowhere left to run, James takes off his hood and remarks that there is always hell. In a fantastic slow motion shot, he begins to attack the Watchdogs with the chain, which he has lit on fire.

This is a great callback to the comics, where Hellfire, aka J.T. James, is the grandson of the original Ghost Rider Carter Slade, and uses his flaming chain as a weapon.

Hellfire backs the Watchdogs straight into Hive, who reveals he is the one who called them – but he isn’t with the A.T.C.U.; he is there to turn them into what they hate.

Volunteers, huh?

As Talbot looks at a picture of Maveth, he is skeptical that they are up against the devil. Fitz explains that technically, Alveus isn’t the devil – just most interpretations of the devil are based on him. Simmons explain that he isn’t a demon, he’s an Inhuman made up of parasites that can devour human flesh and infect Inhumans. Talbot exclaims that this is the nightmare scenario the Accords were created for: Daisy is a nuclear weapon in the wrong hands. They explain that, because of Daisy’s Kree blood, Hive may have everything he has to create an Inhuman army.

In Union City, James leads the Watchdogs into a large storage crate, and Giyera (remember him?) locks them in. Radcliffe pumps his mixture into the crate, and screams resonate from inside. Hive tells Daisy to keep him updated on S.H.I.E.LD.’s security system, but to rest – they may need more blood.

Over the TV screen, Daisy is helping Lincoln escape. God, Lincoln, you were growing and I swear you’ve regressed as a character. Daisy walks him through breaking out of his cell and taking out the guard, and he takes his comms. As he makes his way through the hallway, May approaches so Daisy distracts her with malfunctioning lights.

Talbot is freaking out because this is an end-of-the-world scenario, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is so calm. Suddenly, they notice Daisy is back in the system, and realizes Lincoln’s security feed is a loop – Lincoln has escaped. Talbot is unhappy with the fact that Coulson has let two Inhumans escape, and the team disperses to explore all exits.

In the server room, Fitz and Simmons are trying to lock Daisy out of the system again, when Mack shows up to give them a hand. They reprogram the systems so there is no way Lincoln is getting off the base unless he learns to fly. Mack points out Daisy could hack the Quinjet and reprogram it to autopilot, and Fitz tries to access the Quinjet but is locked out. Mack leaves to go to the hangar.

As Lincoln approaches the hangar, Daisy tells him that she can’t access the camera there, so he is on his own. As Lincoln enters the hangar, he finds the disabled camera and Mack tackles him. As Mack grapples him, he tries to explain that Daisy is just using him to convert him to Hive’s side, but he isn’t listening – he needs to be with his Daisy. Ugh. He electrocutes Mack and heads to a Quinjet.

In the Union City lab, they open the crate to find that the Watchdogs have technically undergone Terrigenesis, but are all identical, horrifying creatures. Dr. Radcliffe is confused, horrified, and apologetic, thinking it should have worked. (No, Radcliffe, it shouldn’t have. Using mostly human blood with a drop of a serum made from a dead Kree’s blood isn’t the same as using live Kree blood!). The super strong, super ugly and super obedient monsters follow Hive’s orders, break their restraints, and bring him Dr. Radcliffe, who is protesting that he can do better in the Beta test. Hive reveals he is happy with them and asks him to make more. Radcliffe is confused, and remarks that these primitives are not reflective of his talent.

Hold up!

Alpha test! Primitives! In the comics, Alpha Primitives are an ugly, subservient race created by an Inhuman scientist to serve Inhumans for centuries. I mentioned them earlier in one of my “Crackpot theories and speculations”, but didn’t think we’d see the dawn of them on the show. Wow!

At any rate, Radcliffe agrees to make more.

Lincoln gets in the pilot seat of the Quinjet, and is ready for take off. Daisy promises she will see him in a few hours – just the two of them, no Hive. In the hangar, Yo-Yo runs to the injured Mack’s side as the Quinjet takes off. Talbot sarcastically comments that Coulson runs a tight ship.

In Union City, Hive senses that Daisy is upset about lying to Lincoln, but he will understand once he joins the hivemind. He takes Daisy to see the Alpha Primitives, and calls them their children. In order to make more, he will need more blood – all of it.

In the hangar, Talbot has seen enough and is going to call the president and have the Quinjet shot out of the high. May approaches with Lincoln and reveals that he didn’t escape. They explain that May and Lincoln were communicating with messages left on his food tray so Daisy wouldn’t see, they formed this plan to make Hive think Lincoln was coming.

Lincoln, you sly dog! I hated you for an episode!

But then who was on the Quinjet?

As the jet touches down and Hive waits to greet Lincoln, the door opens to reveal Lash standing there. Yes! Yes!

As they further explain the plan, Talbot questions why they think Lash can defeat Hive. They explain that every Inhuman is designed with a purpose, and they think this is Lash’s.

In Union City, Lash is kicking Hive’s ass. Hive tries to infect Lash, and he uses an energy blast to ward it off. He then blasts a hole in Hive’s chest – one that doesn’t heal rapidly. The Alpha Primitives rush to fight Lash, and he takes them out one by one. This alerts Daisy and Radcliffe, who are taking Daisy’s blood. Radcliffe mentions that James is on a beer run, and they should run too- but the weakened Daisy tries to fight Lash.

Lash uses the energy blast on Daisy, but rather than sear a hole in her chest, he pulls the parasites from her and kills them. He tells her that she is free now, and gently carries her to the Quinjet. Suddenly, James’ flaming chain tears through Lash’s heart. Daisy uses the last of her energy to blast him away, and holds Lash’s hand as he dies. She radios the base and tells them that she is coming home.

As the team solemnly welcomes her back, she tells her that Lash died saving her, and didn’t kill Hive in the process. As they get Daisy to the med bay to scan her for infection, Fitz remarks that Lash wasn’t here to kill Hive, and Lincoln realizes he was there to save Daisy – but Simmons remarks that that wasn’t Lash. Talbot is concerned that Daisy is still infected, but as Mack looks at Yo-Yo, he tells him to have a little faith.

I think the saddest part of this is that Lash’s purpose was definitely to stop Hive if you think about it. Not only could he not get infected and was able to injure Hive like no one else was, he was killing Inhumans so that Lash couldn’t use Inhumans to take over the world. Like Simmons said, it wasn’t Lash who saved Daisy – it was Andrew. He was still in there after all, and rather than save the world, he died to save a friend and show his humanity. I feel so bad for Andrew and May.

As Simmons explains that Daisy is sway-free but suffering withdrawals, there is some bad news too – based on what Daisy told them, Fitz explains that Hive is trying to infect a significant portion of the human race. The only thing his plan is missing is something to disperse it into the atmosphere; but Talbot reveals that what Hive had stolen from the A.T.C.U. was a fully operational warhead.

In the post-credits scene, Yo-Yo shows up in Mack’s room as he is sketching motorcycles. He says he is ready to stand and fight, so she tells him to close his eyes and not to open them until she leaves. She puts something in his hands, and tells him to keep the faith. As she exits, Mack opens his hands to find the necklace that belongs to whoever dies in the Quinjet in next week’s finale.

This was a strong episode as usual, with Lincoln’s regression as a character back to being a whiny lovesick bitch being the lowlight; however, the subversion of this at the end of the episode, when he reveals it was all a ploy, made his character stronger. I enjoyed the Civil War tie-ins, and the comic references as well. Lash’s death was heartbreaking. Overall, this episode is another 8/10, setting up for a strong finale.

Crackpot theories and speculation

Okay, the big question this year is “Who is going to sacrifice their life to stop Hive?” I have laid out evidence for each of the potential candidates from least likely to most likely.

  • Agent Piper/Agent O’Brien: While these new agents became fan favorites in their one episode with a speaking role, and would fulfill the prophecy, it would be absolutely cheap and tasteless. Likelihood: 0/10
  • José Gutierrez: The Secret Warrior Joey is technically not an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and is not credited to be in the finale. He also has stated that he wants nothing to do with the organization anymore. It is unlikely that they would pull a fast one on us like that. Likelihood: 1/10
  • Director Phillip Coulson: While we know Coulson would lay his life on the line for S.H.I.E.L.D., he already has. Coulson’s previous death makes a second death seem unlikely – after all, what’s stopping Fury from stepping in and resurrecting him again? (Oh, yeah, an Quinjet explosion in outer space.) Likelihood: 4/10
  • Agent Doctor Jemma Simmons: There’s simply no reason for it to be Simmons, now, is there? Likelihood: 4/10
  • Elena Rodriguez: Cutting from the necklace floating in zero-g to being around her neck in her first appearance feels way too much like a bait-and-switch for it to be that obvious. However, Mack and Yo-Yo are cute together, and the Whedon family likes doing tragic things to cute couples. Likelihood: 5/10
  • Agent Daisy Johnson: Daisy is more-or-less the de facto main character of the show, and it seems unlikely that they would kill her off. She has to lead the Secret Warriors, after all! However, she is pretty broken after Hive’s sway, and may feel the need to redeem herself. Likelihood: 5/10
  • Agent Leopold Fitz:  Fitz has gotten brave and risky this year. If Jemma’s life is on the line, there is nothing Fitz won’t do. He is seen holding the necklace in next episode’s preview, and those Whedons sure do hate happy couples…. Likelihood: 6/10
  • Agent Alphonso Mackenzie:  In the HYDRA castle half a season ago, Mack has proven that he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for S.H.I.E.L.D. and his friends. A very likely candidate, the fact that he was given the necklace at the end of the episode feels like a red herring and makes his almost less likely than he would have been. Likelihood: 7/10
  • Agent Lincoln Campbell: Was Lincoln ever officially made an agent? At any rate, Lincoln has proven his love for Daisy knows no bounds, and has spent all season pulling reckless and dangerous stunts. Defeating Hive may be his way of proving to Coulson that he is finally worthy. Luke Mitchell even mentioned in an interview that Lincoln’s “purpose” as an Inhuman would become apparent in the finale. Is this it? Likelihood: 8/10
  • Agent Melinda May: Poor Melinda May. Her arc is done. She warmed up as a character, we learned her tragic past. With her husband now dead, and May holding a grudge against both Ward and Hive, have we explored all there is with May? What else can we discover with her character? Will the show take this full circle, and make her the pilot one more time? Likelihood: 9/10

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