Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Season 3 Episode 20

May 11, 2016 | Posted by in TV
Agents of SHIELD

“Emancipation”

Captain America: Civil War infects Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD with the mandatory annual tie in that reminds us that the show is part of this shared universe.

I don’t mean this in a negative sense because I actually thought that this was the best tie in that they’ve done on this show so far. Revealing that Coulson and his team got the information that let the Avengers find Strucker in Avengers: Age of Ultron was good as well but the reveal that Coulson was hiding a Helicarrier the entire time was really unnecessary.

Agents of SHIELD

Talbot and Coulson discuss the Sokovia accords

Many people will probably roll their eyes at the need to tie this show into the universe it inhabits but I personally don’t have an issue with it. I’ve been reading comics for most of my life so I love it when a character mentions something that happened in something else or another character turns up for an appearance outwith their own comic, TV show or film. To me that’s the beauty of having a shared universe and it’s something that Marvel doesn’t actually do enough of outside of the films. I would really enjoy seeing elements of this show feed into Daredevil or things from Daredevil be brought into the films and vice versa. There’s such a massive sandbox to play in so why not? There’s some stuff online about a dispute between Marvel’s TV and Movie divisions but if they can get along with Sony then anything is possible as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, back to the episode in question. The tie in isn’t as blatant as they have been previously which I found to be a very good thing. The Sokovia Accords that informed the plot in Captain America: Civil War are in full force by this point which makes the Government, represented here by Talbot want everyone to conform to them. That means that every enhanced individual has to be registered to ensure the safety of the public. If anything, the whole idea of the Accords has been expanded beyond what was featured in the movie as the focus there was specifically on the Avengers but this episode expands that out to include all of the enhanced.

This makes sense as the movie had a specific set of circumstances to deal with that initially involved the Avengers and started to expand from there. What we have here is the natural extension of that as it is known that there are enhanced individuals out in the world who aren’t members of the Avengers so they have to be accounted for as far as Talbot -and by extension the President- is concerned. This also means that S.H.I.E.L.D. could come out of hiding and become an official branch of the Government again which may give them more influence as well as limitations.

Agents of SHIELD

Fitz and Simmons keep it professional

Coulson represents the counter argument as he likes things exactly the way they are. S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t currently answer to anyone and the Inhumans among them are known to nobody else but them. The argument that Coulson puts forward is that this is entirely for the best and shouldn’t change. In effect he wants preferential treatment because he likes working from within the shadows.

He also doesn’t trust the accords because they categorise people and put them on a list simply because they’re different. Talbot assures him that the list is completely classified but Coulson knows how easily things can fall into the wrong hands and his experience with putting people on lists is that it doesn’t end well for anyone. He fears that his friends will eventually be hunted, persecuted or worse and it’s a valid fear.

Like in the film both sides have valid points but I would say that Talbot doesn’t really argue his case very well. He talks about the Accords as if they are the only possible course of action but there’s a lack of conviction in his voice. Is this down to Adrian Pasdar’s performance not connecting to the material or are we supposed to infer that Talbot is only towing the company line here without actually believing it. I would really like if the latter were true as it’s not something we see very often but it’s a very real concern for people in management positions.

Agents of SHIELD

Daisy helps Lincoln plan his escape

Much of the episode involves Talbot taking another tour of the S.H.I.E.L.D. base while Coulson tries to convince him to leave them alone. As usual Coulson decides to extend an olive branch in the hopes that it will be accepted so that a really worthwhile dialogue can happen between them. They will never fully agree on anything because that’s the nature of these two characters but they have been consistently able to find a middle ground.

Coulson gives him the full tour which includes an introduction to Elena and an update on the situation with Hive. The latter comes far less willingly when Talbot reveals he knows more than he’s letting on which I found to be a really clever game of conversational cat and mouse. Talbot was doing his own version of Coulson extending an olive branch by offering him plenty of chances to be honest until it became clear that it wasn’t going to happen and he had to put forward what he knew.

After this point the conversations become so much more open and useful complete with a different perspective on the events of the previous episode. Talbot was aware of the Kree landing on Earth but never quite found out what it was. Why it wasn’t investigated isn’t made clear but it’s good to know that the events of this show don’t happen in a bubble.

Interestingly, this would have been an ideal way to discuss why the Avengers weren’t sent to take on Hive and his forces. Maybe the decision would have been not to send them for some reason and that would have been fine but I’m not sure why it wasn’t at least brought up as it wouldn’t have needed involvement of any members of the team.

Agents of SHIELD

Jason shows off

Talbot also has a bit of an “everyman” reaction to the insanity of the situation. He listens to every word and his disbelief grows the more that he hears. The facts can’t be denied but he reacts as if it’s all lunacy. His reaction to Hive basically being the source of the Satan myth was particularly amusing and talking about not telling the military the whole truth so that they will attack him.

This brings up another complication with the Government being in control of them. Coulson talks about the delay that would be caused by all the red tape involved in authorising action where all Coulson has to do is plan a mission and carry it out. It’s simple and clean but also defies scrutiny from outside sources who know nothing about it. Coulson basically becomes a law unto himself at that point which has its own problems. The debate isn’t a simple one and nobody pretends that it is.

All of it seems to go horribly wrong while Talbot is there as Lincoln escapes with the help of the old looped footage trick from Speed so that he can reunite with Daisy. With her help he gets around all their countermeasures and apparently steals a Quinjet to go and see her. Talbot’s sarcastic remarks about Coulson running “a tight ship” were hilarious and it all led to a really effective bait and switch with the reveal that Lincoln was in on an intricate plan to make sure that Daisy believed that he really wanted out. It’s a strong argument for keeping things “off the books” as Daisy would be able to easily hack the classified list if she really wanted to. This is a powerful demonstration for Tablet who is reluctantly impressed at Coulson’s plan.

Sending Lash in Lincoln’s place was a nice surprise and I like how the idea of Inhumans having a purpose was brought up again. Lash only goes after the Inhumans that don’t conform to his idea of purpose which explains why Daisy is still alive after multiple attacks. Lincoln’s theory is that the purpose of Lash is to fight Hive and it seems to be pretty dead on as theories go.

Agents of SHIELD

The Swayed prove their loyalty

Lash takes on Hive and does serious damage to him without much effort at all. Hive tries to control him but it is easily countered. I would think the team would number that among the calculated risks as having Lash under Hive’s control would basically be the opposite of a good thing. It doesn’t work of course but the team don’t know that for sure.

The fight between Lash and Ward was an impressive piece of spectacle brief as it may be and showed for the first time that Hive isn’t invincible. This might be the thing that shows him how vulnerable he is as well which may cause a change in tactics slightly for the finale next week.

Lash behaves somewhat unexpectedly as his priority seems to be freeing Daisy over killing Hive. Why he does this isn’t made entirely clear but the suggestion is that there’s a piece of Andrew in there that wanted to help. This leaves him vulnerable to an attack from Jason which I found to be a really cheap way to get rid of such a strong character. His Ghost Rider style flaming chain whip was cool though. I also feel that Lash is a big gun that has been used too soon and was dealt with pretty easily. Considering how easily he has resisted the attacks of other powerful Inhumans I have trouble believing that Jason could kill him in one hit like that.

Hive’s plan continues in an interesting way as he kidnaps several members of the Watchdogs to turn them into Inhumans. It’s clear that the irony isn’t lost on him as he makes reference into turning them into what they hate. The procedure is a partial success in that they have enhanced strength but their minds seem to be essentially blank and the follow orders easily. Hive likes this and calls them his children which comes across as creepy since he considers Skye the mother of those children. Technically she is but it’s just unsettling to think about.

Agents of SHIELD

Lash V Hive: Dawn of Inhumanity

They are called the “Swayed” and they basically represent the lack of choice which ties nicely into Coulson’s debate with Talbot as that is at its core about the same thing. The Swayed didn’t volunteer at all so they are a living example of Hive not respecting the freedom of others since he considers it to be a barrier to survival. They also show a small example of what Hive has in store for the rest of the planet and it’s a scary prospect indeed.

Since the finale is next week it’s time to get down to setting up who’s going to die. The finger is pointed squarely at Mack who is having trouble accepting that he has lost Daisy and sits around in a funk for most of the episode. Elena tries to make him feel better and encourages him to have faith. It’s a very small arc as it only appears in a handful of scenes but the connection between Elena and Mack that was established previously goes some way towards filling in the gaps. At the end of the episode she hands over her crucifix as a symbol of the faith he should have. Since we see that crucifix in the flash forward we are supposed to conclude that Mack isn’t making it out of this season. I doubt that will be the case as it’s too obvious but I also have no theories on who it could be since there aren’t many clues but it’s clear that it’ll be someone so I should take a wild guess to see if I’m right. Since it could be anyone I’m going to predict that it will be either Joey or Talbot.

There were some really nice touches in this episode when it came to character moments. Fitz and Simmons are really enjoyable at the moment with their relationship remaining professional when they work together which is really refreshing. Their almost stolen moment that was interrupted reminded me a little of The Empire Strikes Back. Coulson’s reaction to Cap being a fugitive was great as well. It makes sense that it would concern him considering how much he idolises Cap. The sorrow on his face at the death of Peggy Carter was really well played as well. Let’s hope her show isn’t dead too!

Agents of SHIELD

Daisy returns home

Verdict

Another great outing that managed to weave the events of Captain America: Civil War through the story in an organic an interesting way. The interplay between Talbot and Coulson was nicely watchable as usual and compelling arguments were raised for both sides of the Sokovia Accords issue. Lash taking on Hive was a definite highlight and the bait and switch involving Lincoln was nicely handled. The foreshadowing of Mack’s apparent -but probably not- death was really clumsy but didn’t bring things down too much.

Overall
  • 8.5/10
    Emancipation - 8.5/10
8.5/10

Summary

Kneel Before…

  • an impressive tie in to Captain America: Civil War
  • a complex and well thought out debate between Coulson and Talbot
  • an effective bait and switch involving Lincoln and Lash
  • Hive vs. Lash

Rise Against…

  • clumsy foreshadowing of the death in the finale
  • Lash being defeated too easily
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User Review
9/10 (2 votes)