[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3, episode 18. There will be SPOILERS.]
Throughout much of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3, especially since the show returned from its winter hiatus, the series has had a number of balls in the air -- Hydra, Hive, the Secret Warriors, The ATCU/S.H.I.E.L.D., the public's reaction to Inhumans, the dynamic of Coulson's team -- and largely managed to balance the many moving pieces. Though Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may have slightly floundered with delivering the long-promised arrival of the Secret Warriors in 'The Team,' this week's episode certainly brought the season back on track.
In 'The Singularity,' directed by Garry A. Brown and written by Lauren LeFranc, Hive, along with the help of Daisy, continues to bring more Inhumans to his side. Meanwhile, Coulson, May, and Lincoln attempt to track down the Inhuman Alisha (Alicia Vela-Bailey). Elsewhere, Fitz, Simmons, and Mack attempt to make contact with a scientist who may be able to help cure Daisy of Hive's influence. 'The Singularity' is one of the more fun episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3, while also delivering on many compelling emotional resolutions.
The Fallen Agent
With Daisy fully under the influence of Hive, Coulson pulls out all the stops to retrieve the "Fallen Agent," as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now subtitled after the events of 'The Team.' But, as Coulson nears the point of desperation seen in the episode following Rosalind Price's death, his relationships with both May and Lincoln strain under his decisions as the director -- particularly Coulson allowing Lincoln into the field on the condition that he wears a vest that will destroy him if he's infected by Hive, and May is given the power to hit the destruct button. (The vest is aptly dubbed a "murder vest" by Lincoln.)
Coulson's conflict with May forces the revelation that he views Daisy as his daughter and his hope to give her a place to belong in S.H.I.E.L.D., continuing the ongoing theme of family and the estrangement that Inhumans tend to feel as the "other" among humans. Meanwhile, Lincoln allows his emotions to get the best of him in the field and he's benched by Coulson. Though Lincoln has had trouble acclimating to S.H.I.E.L.D., his ability to control himself in hostile situations -- especially when his emotions are involved -- seems to have gotten worse after the loss of Daisy to Hive.
Hive's Growing Army
After reuniting with Daisy, Hive goes on a recruitment trip, getting to Alisha before Coulson's team, then tracking down James (Axle Whitehead) in order to obtain the second half of the Kree artifact that Daisy obtained. Daisy turns James into an Inhuman, granting him the ability to wield fire, so Hive can add him to their team. James adds a fun dynamic to the villainous team as he delights in his powers and spends the back half of the episode tossing around names for himself, including Inferno, Firestarter, Burning Man, and Scorch before finally landing on Hellfire -- a nod to a character Marvel Comics fans may recognize.
As for Hive, Dalton continues to play the quiet stoic Inhuman exceptionally well. From his conversation with Daisy about their connection since they're part of a single organism to his manipulation of Simmons using Will's memories from Maveth, Hive proves to be a terrifying and intriguing villain. Additionally, Bennet pulls off the transition from Daisy to Hive's minion, mirroring the cold stoicism imbued into Hive by Dalton. Their performances deliver a homogeneity that manages to elevate the horror of Hive's character and abilities, giving Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. one of the best villains of the show's three seasons.
Transhumanism & Redefining Humanity
In an attempt to find a cure for Daisy to be rid of Hive, Fitz and Simmons travel to Romania with Mack to track down the Transhumanist Holden Radcliffe (John Hannah). As explained by FitzSimmons, Transhumanism is the practice of using science to "become more than human." However, when Fitz and Simmons finally get into contact with Radcliffe, their meeting is disturbed by Hive and Daisy. Hive corners Simmons and attempts to manipulate her by using Will's memories, but she instead shoots Hive and escapes -- a scene well acted by Henstridge that gives Simmons closure in regards to Will's death. Meanwhile, Mack faces off with James in an entertaining, if short, battle, and Daisy attempts to warn Fitz off attempting to save her from Hive.
However, with the episode ending and Hive still controlling Daisy -- in addition to Alisha and James -- as well as being in possession of the full Kree artifact and holding Radcliffe prisoner, the evil Inhuman is poised to carry out his plans. At the end of 'The Singularity' Hive finally reveals his endgame: use the Kree artifact and Radcliffe's knowledge to conduct the same experiments conducted by the Kree that created the original Inhumans.
Leading into the season finale, between Hive's plans and Daisy's vision of the future showing the death of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to keep many balls up in the air. However, 'The Singularity' proves that, at its best, the show can keep all the story threads moving forward while blending compelling character drama and interesting visual action sequences with humorous writing beats. (For instance, the in-joke of Hive closing a scene with "The only thing that can destroy me," and cutting to a new scene of Simmons remarking "Well that's a rather ominous thing to say.") Still, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will need to bring all these moving pieces together as season 3 as the show gears up for the finale.
A few other observations and notes:
- The director of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a shield in his prosthetic hand, and it mimics the shield wielded by Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America -- who, as it was established in The Avengers, Coulson was a big fan of.
- "The head has been cut." With the help of Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), Coulson is able to bring down Hydra using the information gained from Gideon Malick before his death in 'The Team.' This leaves Hive as the main antagonist through the end of season 3.
Share your thoughts on the episode and theories about what’s to come in the next episode in the comments section!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues with ‘Failed Experiments’ Tuesday May 3rd at 9pm on ABC. Check out a preview below: