‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ 3.21 & 3.22 Recap: “Together to the End”

‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ closed out its very uneven third season last week with a supersized two-part finale. While I don’t think it necessarily ties everything together in the grand finish the show wanted, the season wraps up on a reasonably strong note.

‘Absolution’

In the first episode, Hive plans to launch his Terrigen pathogen into the stratosphere, where it will disperse and infect a significant portion of the world’s population. To do this, he overtakes a military missile silo on an island in the Pacific. When S.H.I.E.L.D. figures this out, Coulson sends Mack, May, Lincoln and Yo-Yo to sneak onto the island in a quinjet. The two Inhumans have to wear explosive vests, and Mack holds the kill-switch in case they get infected.

Back in Washington, Coulson wades through political red tape trying to get the Department of Defense to turn over the launch kill-codes for the silo. This entails some silliness involving Fitz wearing a motion-capture getup to impersonate an important general on a video conference.

When Coulson finally gets the codes, Mack successfully hacks into the military base’s network and stops the missile from launching. This infuriates Hive, who orders Dr. Radcliffe to fix it somehow, even though Radcliffe has absolutely no background in or knowledge about missile technology. With no one to help him except a pair of transmuted mutants he dubs “Ronald” and “Ronald 2,” Radcliffe discovers that the mutants are not totally mindless after all. They retain the ability to perform basic skills and tasks they knew how to do in their former lives. Sadly for him, launching a missile is not one of those tasks.

Daisy remains in lockup at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. She feels guilty and responsible for everything she did while under Hive’s mind control, and doesn’t accept anyone’s forgiveness or pity when they say they don’t blame her. Coulson is very eager to know what Hive meant when he used the word “absolution” in talking to her about S.H.I.E.L.D. Why this is so important to him is not at all clear (other than obvious writerly foreshadowing), but he keeps harping on it. Daisy insists that she doesn’t know what Hive meant.

Mack sets up an electronic booby trap in a hallway of the military base and Hive walks directly into it. Although it doesn’t kill him, the device scrambles his brains and leaves him in a state of confusion, muttering to himself and talking nonsense about “connection.” Giyera and James struggle to make sense of his orders. The only thing he’s very clear about is that he wants them to disconnect the warhead from the missile.

May tries to secure the warhead and has to fight off a bunch of mutants. She takes most of them out, but Radcliffe also knocks one out for her. He claims that he was forced to work for Hive (neglecting to mention that he didn’t put up much of a fight about it) and begs May to take him with her. As they talk, a helicopter flies over and grabs the warhead with a drop-claw.

Yo-Yo sets free the crew of the military base while Mack and Lincoln lure Hive outside. As soon as Hive steps out into the open, still dazed but somewhat coming around, a S.H.I.E.L.D. containment pod drops down on him from the sky and immediately traps him in suspended animation.

Wait, is that it? Did S.H.I.E.L.D. just win?

The team load the pod onto their plane and return to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ. Gen. Talbot tells Coulson that his military forces will locate the warhead and clean up the rest of the mess. Now that Hive is neutralized, S.H.I.E.L.D. can stand down. Dr. Radcliffe continues to plead, unconvincingly, that he was just a victim. Talbot demands that he find a way to undo the mutant metamorphosis for those already turned, but he says that there’s no coming back from it.

Mack tells Daisy that Hive was captured, says that he forgives her and gives her a hug. Lincoln announces that he’s leaving S.H.I.E.L.D. Relieved that the worst is over, Jemma books a vacation trip with Fitz. (Ahh, crap, that means one of them is going to die, doesn’t it?!)

Mack tried to give Yo-Yo’s crucifix back to her saying he didn’t need it anymore, but she chided him that it isn’t a good luck charm and refused to take it back. Now it falls out of his pocket and Fitz finds it on the floor. NO, FITZ, DON’T PICK IT UP!!

Daisy tells Coulson that Hive is the Devil and can’t be contained. He’s inclined to agree, and seals the base… except for that damned broken hangar door that’s still stuck open.

Fitz pops down to the hangar for a moment to inspect Hive’s containment and sign off that he’s good and frozen. As he turns to leave, he happens to notice a crate with a shipping label marked “Absolution, Montana.” Huh, that’s weird. Wait a second, isn’t Absolu… BOOM, the box explodes and spreads Terrigen gas everywhere, turning a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. redshirts into Hive-infected mutants!

Let’s stop for a moment here, because I frankly don’t understand this scene at all. Where did these crates come from? (Yeah, Montana, ha ha.) How did they get into S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters? How did the crates explode with this perfect timing? If Hive is frozen in suspended animation, how is he controlling these new mutants? Everything about this scene feels badly contrived.

Anyway, Fitz runs to the other side of the hangar. Unfortunately, the doors are all sealed and he can’t get out. He’s stuck in there with a handful of additional redshirts who are quickly getting turned into mutants as the gas spreads closer to their side of the hangar and those already infected drag them off into the cloud one-by-one.

NOOOOO… Is this curtains for Fitz?!

Whew, nope. Jemma gets a door open just in time and shuts it safely behind him. That was a close one.

The mutants release Hive from containment. He now has enough of his wits back about him that he climbs onto Zephyr One and, using Grant Ward’s memories, knows how to fly the plane. He plans to use it to fly straight up into the stratosphere and disperse the pathogen that way.

Witnessing everything that’s going on via security monitors, Daisy hacks the controls for her cell and has the base’s automated controls load it onto Zephyr One. She gets out and calls to Hive, then kneels before him and – like an addict in withdrawal needing a fix – begs him to take her back. Unfortunately, when Hive touches her, nothing happens. Whatever Lash did to her has made her impervious to the infection now.

Hive is disappointed, but Daisy is pissed. She knocks Hive back and uses her powers to shake the plane. If you can’t join him, beat him… I guess?

‘Ascension’

The second hour opens with the mutants wreaking havoc in the base. Because they’re former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, they can still operate weapons and shoot guns. Coulson and the rest of the team try to hold their ground.

Daisy finds a knife and stabs the hell out of Hive a whole bunch of times, but of course that has no effect. Giyera and James arrive and subdue her. They ask if they should kill her, but Hive plans to keep her on the plane with him to ensure that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t shoot it down. (She’s a human shield, get it?) They lock her back in her containment pod in the cargo hold. Hive says that as soon as the plane hits enough altitude, they can all ride the containment pod safely back down to Earth.

An armed mutant corners Mack and shoots at him with a machine gun. Elena (Yo-Yo) runs in front of him to catch all the bullets. Mack is unharmed, but Elena couldn’t stop all the bullets and took one to the gut. Mack picks her up and runs with Coulson, Lincoln and Radcliffe to lock themselves in the workshop. They search for anything they can use to stabilize Elena. Sadly, their only option is to cauterize her wounds using a blowtorch. Ouch. Luckily, Elena does not currently have the cursed crucifix, so she’ll probably survive.

Meanwhile, Simmons is stuck alone in the basement. She ducks behind the furnace when she hears mutants coming. Even though one of the freaks gets very close to her and should be able to see her, it walks right by and leaves the room. Jemma postulates a hypothesis.

Hive launches Zephyr One straight up into the air. (I recall that May had to pull a crazy acrobatic stunt to get the plane out of the hangar a few episodes ago, but no mention is made of that here.) Fitz and May have stowed away on the plane and ride it up with Hive. They sneak into the cargo hold and talk to Daisy. She’s feeling pretty sorry for herself and says that she wants to stay locked up.

Simmons cranks up the heat in the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, which causes all of the mutants to stumble around blindly. Mack figures out what she did. As part of their transformation, the mutants now only see in infrared. The heat has blinded them. The surviving S.H.I.E.L.D.ies can take back their base.

Giyera knocks May out, but Fitz is able to kill him using an invisible gun gizmo. (Convenient.) He then releases Daisy. They disable the containment pod so that Hive will have no escape. He either turns the plane back or they all die.

With headquarters retaken, Coulson hops in a quinjet to intercept Zephyr One himself. By the time he gets to the plane and docks, Hive is fully thinking clearly again. Coulson steps out and they have a chat.

Daisy puts on Fitz’s jacket and finds the crucifix in a pocket. Aww, crap…

Hive gloats that Coulson is too late to stop him. He finally reveals his true face, which is very tentacle-y and kraken-y. He says that he’s done with the Grant Ward body and will take Coulson’s next. As he reaches to touch Coulson, however, his hand passes right through. It’s a hologram. Coulson was just a distraction to give Lincoln, Mack and Jemma an opportunity to sneak onto the plane. (Yes, this is a gag reused from a few episodes ago and Coulson acknowledges where he got the idea.)

Lincoln is wounded while fighting James. He’ll be OK but can’t move much. Daisy cries over him. May finishes off James.

At this point, the only way to stop the warhead from dispersing the pathogen is to load it onto the quinjet and fly it into space, where it can detonate harmlessly. Someone will need to be on the jet to do this. Daisy volunteers. She feels that she has nothing left to live for and this will be her redemption.

Things don’t quite play out that way, though. As soon as Daisy gets the warhead onto the quinjet, Hive steps onto it with her. Lincoln then tosses daisy off the jet, closes the door, and flies off. Daisy radios the jet begging him to come back. Lincoln tells her that he loves her and is then cut off. He reveals that he has the crucifix now.

Daisy begs May, Fitz and Mack to find a way to make the quinjet come back, but it has already left Earth’s atmosphere and is floating helplessly in space. The jet wasn’t designed to maneuver in micro-gravity. It has no control.

Lincoln tells Hive that he can infect him if he wants, but there’s no point to it as they’re both stuck now and the bomb will go off momentarily. Recognizing that he’s been defeated, Hive turns philosophical about his fate. He says that all he ever wanted to do was make the world better. He and Lincoln then wait for death. The crucifix floats in zero-g through the cabin, exactly like Daisy’s vision from earlier in the season.

Seen from a distance, the quinjet explodes in a tiny, insignificant poof. This is, finally, the end of Hive… presumably.

Epilogue

Six months later, Coulson and Mack are on a stakeout, spying on the wife and child of Charles, the (now dead) Inhuman who gave Daisy her vision back in Episode 15. They spot Daisy talking to the woman, and were clearly looking for her. Coulson races outside, but Daisy runs away and uses her telekinetic powers to leap high in the air to the top of a building. Mack catches up with Coulson, but it’s too late. They’ve lost her. Coulson mentions something about having to report to a new Director. Huh?

We then cut to Dr. Radcliffe in a fancy room, having a conversion with an advanced A.I. program. He blathers something about working with his colleague, Dr. Fitz. Radcliffe seems to be a bigshot now. (Is he the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and if so, how the hell did that happen?)

Radcliffe tells the A.I. that it’s her birthday and he’s gotten her a special present. A readout on his computer screen show the initials “LMD,” which comic fans will recognize as the acronym for “Life Model Decoy.” In other words, he’s made a human-looking android to download the A.I.’s consciousness into.

Seriously, did nobody learn a damn thing from the Ultron fiasco? This TV show and the Marvel movies are supposed to be tied together, aren’t they?

Finale Verdict

This season was kind of a mess, and I never particularly bought Grant Ward (possessed by an alien god or no) as the ultimate Big Bad villain, but I think the show mostly pulled together at the end.

With that said, the finale leaves a huge unanswered question: Where the hell were the Avengers during all this? That’s of course an issue this show has had all along. Although it can reference the events of the Marvel movies, it can never truly interact with them in a meaningful way. That was fine in the first season when most of the threats were small-scale stuff that human agents could handle. But when the extinction of the human race is at hand, Sokovia Accords or no Sokovia Accords, at the very least friggin’ Hawkeye or Falcon should lend a hand.

Oh wait, you say, those characters were all tied up with the events of ‘Civil War’ and its aftermath. Yeah, well, Bruce Banner didn’t have any part in that. The Hulk should have stepped in and pounded the ever-living crap out of Hive.

Yes, I know, the TV show doesn’t have enough budget for that. Nevertheless, narratively, this is a big plot hole.

Anyway, I’m not sure what to make of the epilogue. It was obviously tacked-on to signify big changes to the show next season. I’m not sure they look like good changes, though. I guess I’ll have to wait and see how they play out.

5 comments

  1. Guy

    My pet theory for a while has been that the movies would follow the path from the comics where Tony Stark becomes the director of SHIELD after Civil War. In the real world, Samuel L. Jackson is nearing the end of his Nick Fury contract and it would allow Marvel to keep RDJr. around the MCU in small doses without having to pay him full movie money. Fictionally, the status of SHIELD in the movies is a bit murky (shuttered in The Winter Soldier, temporary(?) revival in Age of Ultron, no clues in Ant-Man or Civil War), but officially rebuilding the organization as part of the Sokovia Accords apparatus would make sense after the events of Cap 3. I’ve been sitting on this fan theory since Civil War was announced as the subject of a Cap sequel.

    Hearing Coulson and Mack talk about a new director of SHIELD got my juices flowing a little bit. I’m not even 35% convinced that my own theory would ever be reality, but that epilogue certainly didn’t make it less likely.

    • The big elephant in the room concerning the TV-series’ connection to the movies, is that Coulson so far hasn’t been mentioned at all after he was killed in the Avengers. There’s absolutely nothing in the movies that even suggests that Coulson is still alive. At this point, I’m getting more and more certain, that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is not part of the MCU anymore. Sure, the TV series is allowed to reference plot points from the movies, but if a movie wants to contradict the TV series, I’m sure they won’t think twice about it.

      There’s also a huge practical problem with getting the TV and movie universes too tangled together. It’s hard enough to make a movie that builds upon 13 previous movies to stand enough on its own to get people that hasn’t seen all previous movies to buy tickets. If following a full sesason of a TV-series also becomes a requirement, that’s gonna make it harder to sell the movies. Also, let’s not forget that the series follow very different schedules outside USA. It’s not gonna be good if a movies relies on plot developments from an episode that won’t air until four weeks after the movie premiere.

      • Guy

        Exactly. The films have never and will never acknowledge the TV shows. The shows merely react to the movies. That’s why such a big change of Coulson’s status quo makes me wonder whether it’s the show’s producers wanting to shake things up for their own storytelling purposes or if the movies are cooking up something for SHIELD that requires the show to adapt again.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I’m fairy certain this is the end of Brett Dalton. I’m less certain that it’s the end of Hive. The writers could always cook up some comic book explanation to make him survive, return to Earth and infect another body.

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