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TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 3 Finale "Absolution/Ascension"

05.18.2016
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EPISODE 21/22: "Absolution/Ascension"

SYNOPSIS: It's a showdown a season in the making as S.H.I.E.L.D. takes on Hive, and when his master plan is finally revealed, the team must spring into action. Who will live and who will die?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., TV Reviews, Marvel Studios, Season Finale, Drama, Action, Comic Book, Superhero

REVIEW: 1Over the first two seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Marvel Studios offshoot of THE AVENGERS showed glimmers of greatness despite an uneven and overlong run of two dozen episodes each year. After slow starts, the series would hit a peak around mid-season before heading for the homestretch and leading into the next season. With this third season, the show was split into two narrative halves. Like fellow ABC series Once Upon A Time, this afforded a shorter, cable-like run for plot arcs that didn't have to drag on for too many episodes. But, like Once Upon A Time, this led to some repetitive plot devices and way too many convenient story elements that left the show feeling safe and predictable. With a character death foretold during the mid-season premiere, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had the chance to really blow audiences away. Instead, we were left with the most anticlimactic ending imaginable.

With Hive's master plan in full swing, this two hour finale opens with a thrilling race to disable the nuclear warhead in the Inhuman villain's control. Using the best parts of the series, we are given multiple pairings of our heroes in different locales as they use gadgets, fighting skills, and witty banter to pull out the save in just the nick of time. It is a well edited and written fifteen minutes of television that would sadly be the lone highlight of these two episodes. Aside from the final fifteen minutes, the rest of this finale was spent showing our heroes wallowing in self-doubt and depression. After somewhat easily capturing Hive and putting him in stasis, Skye laments her role in Hive's plan and shows symptoms of drug withdrawal. The rest of the team begin to wax philosophical about everything this season, but we all know what is really coming.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., TV Reviews, Marvel Studios, Season Finale, Drama, Action, Comic Book, Superhero

That's right, Hive was just fooling! Rescued by his Swayed Inhumans, Hive takes over the S.H.I.E.L.D. ship and plans to use it to detonate the warhead in high orbit to transform the planet into his slaves. Of course, we know this cannot happen. So, the bulk of the episode is devoted to characters passing Yo-yo's crucifix, seen in Daisy's mid-season vision, which is meant to make us question just who is going to die. Clearly, Daisy and Coulson are safe and Fitz and Simmons have already gone through enough. That really leaves a bunch of minor characters that we truly don't care too much about which already reduces any impact this death scene may have had. In fact, once we finally learn who it is, it feels incredibly ho-hum compared to what could have been. This series has a big issue when the most emotionally resonant episode was the send off of Bobbi and Hunter for their planned spin-off which is not moving forward.

By now, you know the "Fallen Agent" as they have been marketing these final episodes, is Lincoln. Lincoln's role this season has really been that of bitchy outsider who really never fit in. He was never quite the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent he was meant to be nor did he have that much charisma. He just wasn't that special of a character. Because of that, his death doesn't really carry much weight. Even the emotional goodbye between Daisy and Lincoln as the radio fails was underwhelming. In fact, the entire conversation between Hive and Lincoln in the moments before their ship explodes felt ridiculous. After months of planning the conquest of Earth, Hive seems calmly accepting of his death. I really enjoyed Brett Dalton's resurgence as Hive and his power as a bad guy seems woefully underused. Even the big reveal of what he looked like was used for just a brief scene with Coulson's hologram when it could have been better served in a bigger capacity for the past six episodes instead of hints and teases about it.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., TV Reviews, Marvel Studios, Season Finale, Drama, Action, Comic Book, Superhero

The explosion of the ship carrying Lincoln and Hive registered as a silent flash and nothing more, which is exactly how this episode landed for me as a viewer. After so much build-up and hype, none of the narrative for these past twenty-two episodes felt worthy of how this season ended. The bad guy, like almost all Marvel villains, was all talk and then easily defeated. The losses for the S.H.I.E.L.D. heroes were superficial at best. In the closing moments of the episode, a forlorn Simmons says "so what do we do now?" only to have the scene abruptly cut to six months later. Setting up the fourth season, we find Coulson no longer director of S.H.I.E.L.D.. His successor is not named, but I would anticipate the time jump will be addressed in flashbacks, the lazy writer's cliche. Coulson and Mack are tracking Daisy who is back to disguising herself. Newspaper clippings show Daisy's comics alter ego, Quake, is causing disasters around the globe. Does this mean she will be a villain next season?

But the real tease comes in the stinger sequence. Dr. Radcliffe, the man helping Hive with his plans, returns from some sort of hearings about his involvement with the season's events. Talking to his computer, named AIDA, Radcliffe mentions Fitz and Simmons and his desire to bring them in to his new project. As the camera turns, we see that AIDA is actually an LMD, a Life Model Decoy, which is something Marvel Comics readers should be very familiar with. But, the tease this is promoting (see reference section below) could end up being another misfire, like the hyped Secret Warriors who ended up being a joke. This entire season had a lot of promise but was quickly eclipsed by too many episodes and lackluster payoffs. The influence of Inhumans over this season seemed to be heading towards something much bigger than what we actually got and now with Hive destroyed, will they remain the focus moving forward? As a Marvel property, I am invested in seeing where else the writers plan to go, but with the bar raised by Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a lot of work to do if they plan to keep my attention much longer.

MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE REFERENCES: The LMD AIDA is a reference to the superhero team, Squadrom Supreme. Could we be seeing these heroes next season?

EPISODE GRADE:

 
SEASON GRADE:

NEXT ON MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 4 begins September 2016.

Source: JoBlo.com

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2:00AM on 05/19/2016

I disagree on one point....

I thought Chloe Bennet was brilliant in this episode. I was moved by her throwing herself at Hive, then with her scenes with Lincoln at the end. She did a great job and it made the whole thing far better than it had any right to be (it was so telegraphed it was ridiculous). It was pretty good throughout, but the funky "Primatives" were fairly stupid. They were shown to have super-strength and be virtually invulnerable (shrugging off small arms fire), then May kicked their asses....literally
I thought Chloe Bennet was brilliant in this episode. I was moved by her throwing herself at Hive, then with her scenes with Lincoln at the end. She did a great job and it made the whole thing far better than it had any right to be (it was so telegraphed it was ridiculous). It was pretty good throughout, but the funky "Primatives" were fairly stupid. They were shown to have super-strength and be virtually invulnerable (shrugging off small arms fire), then May kicked their asses....literally all of them at the same time. Then they went on a killing spree wiping out all the armed agents, then there was a close quarters fight where Coulson's group took them out bare handed.

I'd rate it a 6 or 7, but definitely mediocre in the face of what's going on with The Flash.
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10:35AM on 05/18/2016

I didn't mind most of the events in the finale.

Just the epilogues that took place six months later made little to no sense to me.
Just the epilogues that took place six months later made little to no sense to me.
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9:48AM on 05/18/2016
This was a great review and I think you nailed the criticism of this season, and even the show, right on the head. After Marvel has pulled off some of the greatest superhero storytelling in the MCU on Netflix, AOS has a lot of work to do to keep up with everything else going on in the MCU. They they made an attempt to do that this season, but just couldn't land it. The show has yet again felt so uneven and in the end never showed us any real stakes with their mission. In fact, with the mere
This was a great review and I think you nailed the criticism of this season, and even the show, right on the head. After Marvel has pulled off some of the greatest superhero storytelling in the MCU on Netflix, AOS has a lot of work to do to keep up with everything else going on in the MCU. They they made an attempt to do that this season, but just couldn't land it. The show has yet again felt so uneven and in the end never showed us any real stakes with their mission. In fact, with the mere existence of The Avengers in the same universe, it kind of nullifies any villain from being any real threat if a bunch of ordinary humans can take them out as opposed to a team of superpowered individuals.

I'm officially done with this show, so I won't be back next season. But here is my hope and advice on how to improve this show:
(1) Reduce the cast. They had WAY too many people involved this season. By the finale, the show just felt too crowded. Season 4 should be broken down to Coulson & Mack tracking Daisy, and Fitz & Simmons dealing with LMDs. Keep May around if they can give her more to do than what they gave her in season 3. As for Hunter and Bobbi, if they want to use them, bring them back as guest stars over a limtied arc. Don't commit to making them regulars, test the waters a bit to see if they still fit for the narrative.

(2) Have more realistic problems for this team to deal with. As I said above, the existence of The Avengers makes villains like HIVE facing off against the regular humans of SHIELD seem ridiculous. There only scapegoat is this seems to have taken place at the same time as Civil War, which is a cop out. They should use villains like AIM where they present realistic threats that SHIELD operatives can deal with and won't necessarily require Avengers to come in to save the day.

(3) Reduce the episode count ABC. A 22 episode order is way too much for this show, it's too much story for the writers to fill out. Do a 13 episode run to make a tighter and more focused story.

(4) Take a page out of Netflix's shows and don't worry too much about connecting to the movies. Feige doesn't give a crap about you and they're just going to trudge along with whatever ideas they want to do in the movies. It only stands to completely mess up your narrative. Just do your stories that you want to do and worry about the connections later.
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8:15AM on 05/18/2016
You're kidding, right? I mean we had decent Big Bads (Lash, Mallick, Blake and H.I.V.E.). We had a superhero team fight a supervillain team (Daisy, Lincoln, Joey and Yo-yo versus Giyera, Alisha, Lucio and James). I am actually okay with the fact that the Secret Warriors didn't become the focus of the show because they would have just been Avengers Lite. Now they will have to bring back Hunter and Bobbi. So we will have Coulson, May, Fitz, Simmons, Mack, Yo-Yo, Hunter, Bobbi and Dominic
You're kidding, right? I mean we had decent Big Bads (Lash, Mallick, Blake and H.I.V.E.). We had a superhero team fight a supervillain team (Daisy, Lincoln, Joey and Yo-yo versus Giyera, Alisha, Lucio and James). I am actually okay with the fact that the Secret Warriors didn't become the focus of the show because they would have just been Avengers Lite. Now they will have to bring back Hunter and Bobbi. So we will have Coulson, May, Fitz, Simmons, Mack, Yo-Yo, Hunter, Bobbi and Dominic Fortune and his daughter next season. Daisy has gone rogue and Holden Radcliffe has invented LMDs. Oh and it looks as though he has downloaded AIDA into an LMD making her Vision Lite. So,,, Jocasta then?

As for the losses for the S.H.I.E.L.D. heroes being "superficial at best" there were 29 SHIELD agents that died in this episode. including Lincoln, and that's a lot.
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6:21AM on 05/18/2016
Solid review/recap. I feel pretty much the same about this season as well. I'm telling myself I was going to bail after this season, BUT curiosity has gotten the best of me. What if next season is a vast improvement? WHAT IF? :(
Solid review/recap. I feel pretty much the same about this season as well. I'm telling myself I was going to bail after this season, BUT curiosity has gotten the best of me. What if next season is a vast improvement? WHAT IF? :(
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5:10AM on 05/18/2016
See I enjoyed the show. I might be in the minority, and yes there were issues with it but I thought it was good overall. Then again I expected Lincoln to be the one to die quite awhile ago. he was the most expendable "Shield" character. The audience would know him, he's been on the show for 2 seasons, but the show can easily go on without him. Honestly Tripp was a bigger downer than Lincoln. But I disagree with you that Ward/Hive was a typical Marvel villain. He was menacing, thoroughly
See I enjoyed the show. I might be in the minority, and yes there were issues with it but I thought it was good overall. Then again I expected Lincoln to be the one to die quite awhile ago. he was the most expendable "Shield" character. The audience would know him, he's been on the show for 2 seasons, but the show can easily go on without him. Honestly Tripp was a bigger downer than Lincoln. But I disagree with you that Ward/Hive was a typical Marvel villain. He was menacing, thoroughly frightening in power. He was fairly well developed as well too. And truth be told the only thing I hated about the episode was the fact that they killed Hive. I was hoping he would continue on for more than one season. They built him up so well they could have gone awhile with him. Damn did he look awesome as well.
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