‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ doesn’t always make an effort to tie its plot to the release of every new Marvel superhero movie, but the events of ‘Captain America: Civil War’ were apparently significant enough to warrant a mention. The tie-in here isn’t quite the game-changer that ‘The Winter Soldier’ brought back in Season 1, but will still have some repercussions.
Episode ‘Emancipation’ opens right off the bat with references to the Sokovia Accords, a set of treaties that attempt to regulate the activities of super-powered individuals (in particular, the Avengers). Coulson and May sit in a bar, watching news reports about the fallout from the little tiff that Tony Stark had with Steve Rogers over this. Coulson also reads a newspaper article about the death of Peggy Carter at age 95, which is a plot-point in the movie. (It’s been rough few weeks for poor Peggy. She got killed off – off-camera, no less – in the movie franchise, and ABC finally officially canceled the lackluster ‘Agent Carter’ prequel series.)
May warns Coulson that they need to move quickly to take down Hive before the government tightens its reins on their agency. It may be too late, however. General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) walks into the bar for a pre-arranged meeting with Coulson. The last we saw him, Talbot was forced to report to Coulson, but those tables have turned. He comes now under order of the President, and demands that Coulson register all the Inhumans who work for him onto a government database that will track people with super-powers. In order to demonstrate why that’s a bad idea, Coulson invites Talbot into S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, which is in fact hidden right under that bar and is accessible by a secret elevator disguised as a seating booth.
Meanwhile, in the Wyoming small town that Hive is using as a base of operations, Daisy is voluntarily being drained off not-insignificant amounts of blood. She looks anemic and weak, but uses the time to hack into the S.H.I.E.L.D. servers so that she can watch Lincoln via security cameras. She’s interrupted by Hive and Dr. Radcliffe, who are ready for an “alpha test” of the Inhuman-making experiment. In order to do that, they’ll need human test subjects. Hive says that he’s in the process of recruiting some volunteers.
Fitz struggles to keep Daisy out of the S.H.I.E.L.D. servers. Like a game of whack-a-mole, every time he shuts her down through one avenue, she comes back through another. May tells him not to bother. To stop Hive, they need to think like he does and try to figure out his end game.
Coulson insists to Talbot that, “Nothing good ever comes from putting people on lists.” He introduces the general to Elena (a.k.a. Yo-Yo) and tells the sob story about all the work she’s done to clear out drug cartels from her neighborhood. They then move on to Lincoln, who’s still locked in a cell. (Coulson says it’s for medical reasons, but that’s not entirely true.) Finally, allegedly in the interests of full disclosure, Coulson brings Talbot to see Lash. Talbot is furious at the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. having monsters in containment. When the general asks about Daisy, May lies and says that she’s on assignment, but he already knows that’s not true. He has surveillance footage of her in the company of the supposedly-dead Grant Ward. Talbot demands to know exactly what S.H.I.E.L.D. is dealing with these days.
Daisy gets past Fitz’s security again and secretly contacts Lincoln through a television in his room. Lincoln says that he wants to be with her – but just her. He doesn’t want to be brainwashed. Daisy promises him that they can be together.
The never-before-seen members of a violent anti-Inhuman militia claim to have an informant in the ATCU. They arm up and disguise themselves with wolf masks as they stalk an Inhuman they’ve been tipped off about. What they don’t realize is that this is all a trap. Their victim is James, who’s fully expecting them and attacks them with a flaming chain. He and Hive kidnap the militia morons to be the test subjects in Radcliffe’s experiment. Hive will turn them into the thing they hate the most.
Coulson tells Talbot about Hive. Fitz and Simmons have figured out that he’s using Daisy’s blood to make new Inhumans. Talbot believes that this could be a potentially apocalyptic event, and wants to launch a pre-emptive strike to wipe out any trace of Hive, even if that means nuking the entire state of Wyoming off the map. Coulson assures him that S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking care of the situation and urges him to let cooler heads prevail.
Daisy helps Lincoln escape his cell and guides him toward an exit from the base. When Fitz discovers this, Coulson puts the base on lockdown. Talbot is not impressed by Coulson’s ability to keep his own people in line, much less save the world.
Hive locks the militia guys in a cargo container and Dr. Radcliffe pumps it full of his newly concocted Terrigen gas. When they open the doors, the test subjects have all turned into mindless mutant monsters. James scoffs, “You overcooked ’em, doc.” Radcliffe begs Hive to let him try one more experiment, and swears that he’ll get it right the next time. Hive doesn’t think that’s necessary. He actually likes the mutants and calls them his “children.” He says he wants more.
Daisy directs Lincoln to the landing hangar, where she has hacked a quinjet. Mack spots Lincoln and grabs him. Although he doesn’t want to hurt his friend, Lincoln zaps Mack with a jolt of electricity to make him let go. He then hops in the quinjet, which takes off.
Hive is pleased with Daisy, but she feels guilty about lying to Lincoln. (She’s not going to run off with him. She’s delivering him to Hive to be brainwashed like her.) However, when the jet lands and the door opens, they discover that Lincoln isn’t on board at all. The only occupant is Lash.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, Coulson and May reveal that they were working with Lincoln the whole time to trick Daisy. Lincoln says he never trusted her. May believes that Lash’s purpose is to destroy Hive.
Lash attacks Hive, and one of his powers can block the sand-blast when Hive tries to infect him. Hive sends the mutant monsters to fight him, but Lash kills most of them. Dr. Radcliffe runs. Daisy tries to fight Lash but can’t do much in her weakened condition. Lash overpowers her and sucks all the Hive infection right out of her. He then carries her to the quinjet. Unfortunately, as soon as he puts her on the plane, James whips his flaming chain directly through Lash’s heart, killing him. The plane takes off, carrying the now-cured Daisy back to the S.H.I.E.L.D. base.
Daisy is taken into custody, but Simmons tests her and quickly finds her to be free from Hive’s sway. With information she gives up, Fitz determines that Hive’s end game is to disperse the Terrigen pathogen from a high altitude that will spread it across most of the globe. When Coulson asks how he could do that, Talbot admits that Hive recently stole a warhead from the military.
Now that Daisy has been rescued, Mack (who’d been depressed most of the episode) finally feels more optimistic about their chances of defeating Hive. Elena tells him to have faith and gives him her crucifix. But wait, isn’t that the same crucifix Daisy saw in her vision of someone from S.H.I.E.L.D. dying? Ah, crud…
For all of Gen. Talbot’s fretting about apocalyptic doom and gloom, Hive’s master plan feels kind of rinky-dink to me, compared to the schemes other Marvel supervillains have cooked up. For one thing, where is he going to get enough Terrigen pathogen to cause a worldwide pandemic? He didn’t finish draining Daisy’s blood. And even if he had, Daisy isn’t pure Kree; the alien blood in her system is pretty watered-down to start. More importantly, it seems painfully obvious that Fitz and Simmons will use their science magic to quickly whip up a vaccine or antidote anyway. I just don’t see Hive’s plan being very effective.
Promos for the two-hour season finale suggest that someone from S.H.I.E.L.D. will die, which feels like a cheap ratings ploy. With the passing of the crucifix, this episode implies that it was Mack in Daisy’s vision. Honestly, that wouldn’t be too painful a loss. Although I generally like the Mack character, he’s been something of an annoying whiny complainer most of this season. However, I expect to find out that’s a red herring and the crucifix will change hands again. My money is on Hive killing Lincoln to hurt Daisy. Again, I don’t think that will be much of a loss for the show. I could be very off-base in this prediction, though.