Following the events of last week’s release of Captain America: Civil War, Coulson and his team determine what place SHIELD will have in the world now that, under the Sokovia Accords, super-powered individuals must be registered with the UN. Like one of my previous articles said, Agents of SHIELD has been building throughout Season Three towards a civil war of its own, turning Daisy against Coulson and the team. A few characters that had been relegated to the back burners reappeared in “Emancipation,” and we saw the creation of a new form of Inhuman life. Let’s have a recap …
“Emancipation” – The Recap
May walks in on Coulson catching up on his news in the upper-floor bar facade of SHIELD HQ. The two discuss the Sokovia Accords and such topics as the death of Peggy Carter (Agent Carter‘s titular character), Captain America’s resistance to the accords, and the end of SHIELD as they know it. Coulson tells May that desperate times call for desperate measures and suggests she leave before General Glenn Talbot of the ATCU walks in.
Talbot and Coulson exchange a tense greeting and sit down at a nearby booth. Talbot tells Coulson that the Sokovia Accords are now law and that President Ellis believes Coulson has super-powered people working with him in SHIELD. As such, Talbot has been sent to take inventory of SHIELD’s superhuman assets and report back to the President. Talbot claims registration is the price of SHIELD’s re-legitimization but Coulson won’t bite. He reminds Talbot that while the Avengers work in the spotlight, SHIELD has always worked in the shadows. He tells a confused Talbot to buckle up as the booth they’re sitting in descends toward SHIELD HQ.
While Coulson gets his assets checked, a brainwashed Daisy hacks into the SHIELD HQ security systems while having her blood drained. Daisy’s able to check on Lincoln, still being held while he recovers from his immunodeficiency, before being locked out again by Fitz, who’s playing hacker defense. Hive mentions that Daisy’s former teammates have caused a number of delays in his plan and tells Daisy that if they offer any more resistance, he won’t forgive them. A jumpy Radcliffe checks in on Daisy and tells Hive that they now have enough blood for their initial test and that all they need are some volunteers. Hive tells Radcliffe that he is in the process of recruiting some very special ones as a present to Daisy.
Back at SHIELD HQ, an uncharacteristically bossy May tells Lincoln to get his act together, actually using the phrase, “Straighten up and fly right,” at one point. She threatens to turn him over to Talbot and leaves. In the server room, Fitz works diligently to keep Daisy out of SHIELD’s systems while Simmons looks on and lends moral support. They discuss Mac’s injuries inflicted by Daisy and remark that the majority of the damage was done to his “spirit.” Fitz and Simmons are about to embrace when May walks in and the two awkwardly push away from each other. May wants them to forget about Daisy and concentrate on determining Hive’s endgame.
While Coulson and Talbot walk the halls, Coulson asks Talbot to leave SHIELD’s Inhumans off of the books, saying some battles require “Secret Warriors.” Coulson introduces Talbot to Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez, who demonstrates her special ability by stealing the service ribbons off of Talbot’s chest without him noticing. As Rodriguez walks off, Coulson tells Talbot that most Inhumans are regular people who want to have regular lives. Talbot replies that the Inhumans’ names would be on a protected list, and reminds Coulson that he’s on one as a member of SHIELD. Coulson says that’s why he knows registration is a bad idea: in his experience, people misuse lists and those lists frequently end up in the wrong hands.
Cut to a combat training facility for the Watchdogs, who appeared in “Watchdogs” earlier in Season Three. Two of the Watchdogs discuss the Sokovia Accords, one saying they’re a joke and that he prefers the Inhumans’ extermination. He hands his Watchdog pal a picture, unseen by the viewer, of an Inhuman and says they’ll make an example of this one.
Back in Lincoln’s isolation cell, we see him look up at a camera and then start whispering to Daisy. A nearby monitor switches channels and shows a scroll across the bottom, “I’m here … I’m listening … ” Hacking SHIELD’s security system further, Daisy is able to create a video loop (à la Speed) of Lincoln lying in bed. Daisy and Lincoln catch up as the loop plays. Lincoln tells Daisy that he’s been locked up because the team doesn’t trust him. He tells her that he wishes they could be together without Hive or SHIELD, and Daisy breaks off the connection just before Coulson and Talbot enter Lincoln’s cell.
The registration debate plays out between the three as one would expect: Talbot tells Lincoln that registration is necessary to ensure the public is protected from super-humans and Coulson argues that SHIELD is uniquely qualified to facilitate this protection. Lincoln makes things interesting when he agrees to be registered in exchange for his immediate release from his SHIELD holding cell. Giving no answer to Lincoln one way or the other, Talbot and Coulson leave the cell.
Talbot asks to see “the ugly,” having seen the good and the bad. Coulson takes him to Lash. Talbot goes on a folksy tirade when he sees Lash, using terms like, “God’s crusty pie,” and, “out-of-control freak-show.” Coulson assures Talbot that Lash is the final surprise on their tour but Talbot demands to see Daisy. May says Daisy is on assignment but Talbot knows better, having satellite imagery of her walking around with Grant Ward, presumed dead. Talbot asks what’s at stake that would make Coulson lie to his face. Coulson tells him the world is.
Rodriguez and Mac talk in the kitchen. She wants to know why Mac is acting withdrawn and says she wants to help Daisy. Mac, clutching his injured ribs, says they can’t help Daisy and doesn’t want Elena to be brainwashed. Mac gets pretty maudlin, describing Hive’s plans as “end-times evil” and Rodriguez prescribes a beer and some faith. Mac wonders if faith is just something people talk about when they know there’s no hope, but Rodriguez reminds him, “Evil preys on the weak because it fears the strong.”
We see the Watchdogs all pumped up and ready to kidnap an Inhuman. They roll up on their target, seemingly cornering him in an alley. As the Inhuman takes off his hood, we see that the Watchdogs’ target is Hellfire who, using a chain from a dumpster, makes pretty short work of the five canine-themed fanatics. Hive appears and says he wants the Watchdogs to become what they hate.
Fitz and Simmons explain that Hive should now be able to make brainwashed Inhumans using Daisy’s blood, saturated as it is with GH.325 and Hive’s parasites.
Back at Hive’s laboratory, the Watchdogs who were forcibly volunteered for injection of the Inhuman compound are shoved into a shipping container while Hive waxes poetic and tells Daisy that the Watchdogs’ emancipation is a gift to her. Radcliffe voices some concern about the ethical implications of using unwilling victims to test the compound but is quickly silenced by Hive. He releases the compound into the shipping container and they wait for terrigenesis to occur. Daisy tells Hive that she has hacked SHIELD’s security systems and, after thanking her, he tells her to rest in case they need more of her blood.
Daisy working remotely with Lincoln is able to break him out of his cell while Talbot and Coulson debate sending the US military in to deal with Hive. Fitz asks Talbot to tell them what Hive stole from the ATCU but before Talbot can answer they learn that Lincoln has escaped from his cell and go investigate.
Terrigenesis complete, Hive and Radcliffe check on their new batch of Inhumans. Radcliffe is disgusted by his super-strong creations, describing them as abominations. Hive, though, views the experiment as an unmitigated success and demands that Radcliffe make more of the brainwashed mutants. Hive shows Daisy his newly minted Inhumans and tells Daisy that they’ll require all of her blood to make more.
Talbot tells Coulson he’ll have to alert the President that Coulson has lost two Inhumans and Coulson asks for some time to re-capture Lincoln, still at large in SHIELD HQ. Eventually Lincoln makes it to the hangar, knocks Mac out, and escapes in a Quinjet. As Lincoln takes off, the rest of the team show up to help Mac, and Talbot tears a strip off of Coulson. But, the whole thing was a setup. The team knew that Daisy had infiltrated their security systems and made it look as though Lincoln had escaped in order to join her. In fact, the man in the Quinjet is a very hungry Lash looking for a good Inhuman meal. Won’t Hive be surprised!
Cut to Hive’s laboratory and the fight we didn’t realize we’d been waiting for, Hive V Lash: Dusk of Inhuman Injustice. Lash pushes Hive down and then literally tears a strip off of him. Hive’s new batch of Inhuman mutants attack Lash but the five are quickly dealt with. Daisy attempts to stop Lash but is too weak from loss of blood. Lash kneels over Daisy, forms an aura of energy around her, draws something out of her, crushes it in his hands, and tells Daisy that she’s free now. He carries her to the Quinjet and, after putting her inside, gets a flaming chain, the preferred weapon of Hellfire, through the heart. The doors close, Lash dies, and Daisy comes home.
A welcome wagon is there to meet Daisy who reports that Lash died saving her, but was unable to kill Hive. A quick blood analysis and brain scan reveal that Daisy is free of Hive’s infection, what several characters call “the sway” throughout the episode. The good news dispensed with, Fitz tells Coulson and Talbot that Hive likely plans to infect “a significant percentage of the human race” with his new Inhuman compound. Fitz and Simmons go on to say that all Hive needs is a delivery method that will disperse the Inhuman compound into the upper atmosphere. Talbot admits that this is exactly what Hive stole from the ATCU, a fully operational warhead.
The final scene was kind of an odd one between Elena and Mac. She gives him a gold crucifix on a gold chain and tells him to keep the faith.
“Emancipation” – My Critique
“Emancipation” was a relatively good Agents of SHIELD episode. First and foremost, “Emancipation” dealt in espionage! Huzzah! What a concept for a show about a group of super-spies! Rather than just being a vehicle for special effects, a show about Marvel’s most elite spy group should involve familiar spy themes. “Emancipation’s” inclusion of the team’s secret plot to make it look like Lincoln was betraying them was a juicy bit of espionage in a show that’s barely featured any.
It was also good to see Lash do something in “Emancipation” since he’s been sitting on the back burner for so long. I was a bit concerned that, like the Kree and Deathlok, Lash would be yet another Marvel property tossed away after only a couple of uses.
It was also good that the thing Lash did in “Emancipation” was beat the tar out of Hive. Before “Emancipation,” Hive essentially had no weaknesses, having been able to stand up to Kree, Inhumans, and any SHIELD agents thrown at him. Hive’s weakness to whatever blue energy Lash shot at him in “Emancipation” is good news on a couple of fronts: (1) any villain or hero becomes more interesting once his or her weakness is revealed, (2) if Hive can be destroyed then Brett Dalton may be leaving the show at the end of Season Three.