Agents of SHIELD (S03E21-22) "Absolution/Ascension"

In and of itself, the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” finale was just as good as every other episode. However, it was time to break away from the trends of earlier episodes considering that this was pay off to three years of story and a trilogy, something the MCU loves. If anything, this finale should have tried harder to break away from the stigmas that plague “Superhero TV” (ie Power Ranger-like fight scenes and bland big bads), especially since the show portrayed big bad Hive as the threat that this team of agents have waited three years to fight. The future of the show may seem thrilling and exciting (Life Model Decoys!) but the finale reminded me of the show’s very flawed past and disappointment of the limitations this show has because it is a show.
The sequence that opens the finale proves that this show is one of the most heavy handed show ever. The team is seemingly decimated, leaving only Phil Coulson and Daisy in a dire situation that offers them some small form of “Absolution”. They find themselves on the planet that birthed greatest evil, Hive, when Coulson did the unthinkable and killed Grant Ward in cold blood. The show so far has centered around these two characters, so this scene set up promises of themes of redemption and destiny for this season’s finale, which it failed to fulfill. The redemptive influence of the scene does not just pertain to Phil Coulson, but Daisy Johnson as she wakes from this nightmare scene to an even worse reality: her surrogate family not trusting her after being mind controlled. The light and warmth of her fellow agents is something that Daisy doesn’t she is worth but it is to Phil’s credit that he holds out a hand for her. This fashion of storytelling (ie flawed characters making very human mistakes in a superhuman world) leads to the bonds between the characters to strength as they help each other towards absolution. Daisy herself has a very interesting (or at least unexpected) redemption arc in the end but it’s not from Phil’s help. The results of Daisy’s redemption arc, and overall character arc, is meaningless by someone else’s help though.
While the character drama was rich and surprising, the action was bland and forgettable which is sad because it takes up half of the episode. Hive having access to nuclear missiles was as interesting as if he just had this magical button that would destroy the world since it really held no narrative weight because viewers knew that good would ultimately overcome evil. Henchmen after henchmen were easily disposed, mostly by resident badass May, between scenes of character moments of varying sincerity (Fitz’s impression of a high-ranking general was a notch above the rest) that felt like simple filler until the audience could find out the answer to the question plaguing the show for months: who dies? The finale felt more like the agents were taking down a bad guy that was just like every other villain that came before him in the show, which undermined Hive’s presence and Daisy’s future visions of a fellow agent’s death.
Another issue that contributed to the finale’s blandness was that even though Hive was an Inhuman god, he felt like every a threat that these agents were capable of handling. One way to ensure this problem doesn’t happen next season is to introduce a threat that the MCU hasn’t seen much: magic! Additionally, this would align perfectly with this fall’s Doctor Strange which makes me hopeful that my prediction will come true. It would also add a nice wrinkle to the show’s overall tapestry and range of threats the characters face.
The show took away Daisy’s agency when her boyfriend Lincoln decided to sacrifice himself for her. The finale not only made light of the threat that Hive posed (both psychologically and physically) but Daisy’s journey. The Inhumans have not only given the show some really cool powers, but also rich themes about people’s choices and the ramifications. Forever will Lincoln be remembered as the obvious cannon fodder in Daisy Johnson’s self-discovery, but he unfortunately smeared her character along the way. The point of Hive will likely have even less of an impact. It’s possible that the show will mine the aftermath of this finale quite well, but now the show messed up the payoff of Daisy Johnson’s arrogance throughout the entire third season (the show’s best so far) and undermined the danger posed by Hive and his familiar face with Lincoln sacrificing himself. By the time this episode closed, nothing of substance happened except the female lead being saved by her boyfriend.
Despite Phil Coulson being the biggest name on the cast when this show started, these three seasons represent Skye transforming into Daisy Johnson and it was disappointing that she reverted back in the flashforward. What remains in the flashforward, however, has me very excited to see the new trilogy and its star. The Life Model Decoy introduced in the post credit scene will likely be a big part in the show’s new trilogy, considering it’s a comic mainstay. The show’s early renewal this year possibly allowed the writers courage to try something as bold as resetting the table for next year through this flashforward, but I wish they gave as much effort to the Hive story. The show’s canon is rapidly expanding and becoming as rich as any of the films in the MCU, but the way the show fumbled the Hive character and Skye’s transformation into Daisy Johnson has me equal parts worried and excited to see what comes next.
(Also, just as a side note: I have been going through a move, new job and hospital visits. Everything is fine now, but I apologize for being so late and inconsistent with this review and others. But I promise to be more consistent in the future!)