[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3 finale. There will be SPOILERS.]
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3 has largely dealt with the consequences of the season 2 finale -- specifically, the mass Terrigenesis of Inhumans around the world. Additionally, the sudden appearance of Inhumans in the world led to the formation of the ATCU and allowed Hydra to resume power once again through both Grant Ward and Gideon Malick. Since returning from its midseason hiatus, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has shifted the focus away from Hydra -- and, in fact, snuffed out the evil organization as a footnote -- to the threat of Hive, now inhabiting Ward's body, and his plan to turn everyone in the world into Inhumans.
The season 3 finale consists of two episodes: 'Absolution,' written by Chris Dingess and Drew Z. Greenberg and directed by Billy Gierhart, and 'Ascension,' written by Jed Whedon and directed by Kevin Tancharoen. In the finale, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. balances action and mystery with the compelling character development that fans have come to expect from the series. Additionally, the season finale reveals the identity of the fallen agent, which has been hinted at since the midseason premiere and foretold since the episode, 'Spacetime,' giving emotional resolution to many characters' story arcs.
However, while much of the two-hour finale takes care to deliver a well-paced and exciting episode, the final scenes that tease Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fourth season lose some of the magic of the rest of the episode by jumping forward in time and not quite sticking the landing, though they do hint at some new ground to be covered when the show returns.
S.H.I.E.L.D. vs Hive
'Absolution' hits the ground running in the finale, as Daisy wakes up from a dream about losing the whole team to find out they're on a mission to stop Hive from detonating the stolen warhead in the Earth's atmosphere and turning the entire human race into his Primitives. The mission is an excellent example of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. weaving its comic book roots with the spy genre and incorporating the humor that is tantamount to much of Marvel's offerings -- Fitz, for example, carries the levity of preparing to play a military official with ease.
However, the action beats of 'Ascension' outpace those of 'Absolution.' The latter half of the season finale kicks off with a knockdown, drag-out fight between Hive and Daisy -- which is largely fueled by Daisy's need for catharsis and closure when it comes to her, now severed, connection with Hive -- and later features a one-take fight scene between the S.H.I.E.L.D. team and Hive's Primitives. Certainly, Tancharoen's direction of 'Absolution' helps to give the episode a style that elevates the action scenes in particular, bringing as much energy as is possible to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale.
The Fallen Agent Revealed
Since it has been teased since the midseason premiere, the fallen agent storyline easily became the emotional through line of the season 3 finale, made especially possible by the reveal at the end of 'Emancipation' that Elena gifted the cross necklace from Daisy's vision to Mack. However, once 'Absolution' kicks off, the necklace begins to make its way between many of the characters on the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, before it lands in the hands of Daisy, who recognizes the jewelry and accepts that she is the one meant to die. Instead, rather than allow Daisy to sacrifice herself for what she did while she was under Hive's influence, Lincoln steals the necklace from her and sacrifices himself.
The resolution of the storylines of both Lincoln and Hive -- who is trapped in the Quinjet along with Lincoln and the warhead -- are satisfactory. Certainly, there seemed to be no other way to kill Hive than to launch him into outer space with a bomb. Meanwhile, Lincoln has struggled since the beginning of season 3 to adapt to the ways of S.H.I.E.L.D. and even admits earlier in the finale that once Hive is defeated, he would be leaving the organization. His connection had always been to Daisy, but with her emotional arc spinning off in a different direction, that left Lincoln with little else to do but sacrifice himself.
Helping to elevate Luke Mitchell in Lincoln's final scenes were Chloe Bennet as Daisy and Brett Dalton as Hive. All three actors pulled off the respective farewells of their characters exceptionally well -- Lincoln's acceptance of his sacrifice for the sake of his love for Daisy, Daisy's breakdown as a result of losing him, and Hive's philosophical musings about the connecting power of death. Certainly, it was a high note to end the season on.
Setting Up Season 4
However, while the fast pace and compelling character development reached a high point in the fallen agent reveal, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crashed back down with an awkward transition into a six month time jump that has seemed to turn the show on its head. After the events on the Zephyr, it seems Daisy has left S.H.I.E.L.D. and is using her powers to rob banks in order to give money to the family of the man who gave her the vision of Lincoln's death. Meanwhile, Coulson and his team are on the hunt for Daisy, though she evades capture by using her powers to jump onto the top of a building -- which was certainly a cool moment to see.
Additionally, the final scene of 'Ascension' introduces something new to the mix: an LMD built by Radcliffe -- or what Marvel Comics fans will recognize as a Life-Model Decoy. As stated by the scientist, he wished to bring Fitz into the project, but it seems no one else at S.H.I.E.L.D. is aware of his work. So, the season finale has positioned Radcliffe's Life-Model Decoy as something fans can expect to be a major part of season 4.
All in all, 'Absolution/Ascension' was a well-paced, well-acted, and well-directed finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 3, concluding many of the story arcs and character threads that were developed throughout the year. Although the finale may have stumbled a bit on the transition to setting up season 4, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has proven that viewers can expect another exciting year -- if this finale is any indication.
Share your thoughts on the season 3 finale and theories about what’s to come in season 4 in the comments section!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return for season 4 in the fall on ABC.