TV Show Review

TV Review: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3, Episodes 21 & 22: Absolution & Ascension [ABC]

Chloe Bennet Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Absolution Ascension

ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Absolution & Ascension TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 3, episode 21 & 22, ‘Absolution’ & ‘Ascension,’ delivered on Daisy’s (Chloe Bennet) vision of a fallen Agent’s sacrifice; but fell just shy of being a real payoff. Both Daisy & Hive (Brett Dalton) got to work through their special connection (before working each other over, in one particularly upgraded rematch); but then the Daisy pushing went in an entirely different direction – almost making the handling of Hive an after thought. I’d be fine with this just being a bad end, to a great pair of episodes – and they were great episodes, for the most part – but there were a number of head scratching moments, in the effort to just get the finale off the ground.

For her first (of many) gripes about her Hive connection, she figured Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) was put in charge of her debriefing for having never suffered at Hive’s hands, personally. I think Daisy missed the part about Hive killing Will; but either Simmons was being a consummate professional, or the script missed it too. As much as I loved how the team slipped past early warning measures, the bad guys were careless for not accounting for anything but air intrusion. Coulson (Clark Gregg) deserved a Jack Bauer award, for ‘not attracting police attention while driving with purpose.’ How Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) managed to get past Mack (Henry Simmons), and back, for her selfless moment. No one seemed to miss Joey, at all. Despite a great bit of Hollywood geekery, courtesy of Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), his motion capture masquerade with Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) still seemed odd to their mark – just not odd enough to call the dispensing of nuclear launch codes into question.

Maybe the two-parter was relying on pacing, to keep any of these moments from mattering; but there were so many, along the way, that you couldn’t help but feel there was a rush to get to the ‘Absolution’ third act.

It’s not like ‘Ascension’ leveled out all that much, either. Both episodes book-ended with Daisy’s finest moment coming from less than noble motives, as she likely left more viewers wondering why has she been the center of the show’s attention, this whole time.

Still, some of the finale’s careless bits serviced moments that were good enough to make those bits forgivable. I’d expect a parasitically collectivist organism, like Hive, to know the difference between ‘live’ and ‘on tape;’ but, c’mon – “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi” – it was worth it (#CoulsonCool)! Heck – it even made up for a slightly disappointing full-face Hive reveal (it wasn’t bad, actually, just not as source disgusting as I’d hoped).

Another careless moment came when Giyera (Mark Dacascos) called Fitz’s bluff, because he had swept the plane; but failed to take into account that his sweep had managed to miss Fitz & May (Ming-Na Wen). A clear oversight, on Mr. Giyera’s part; but it did serve up one of Fitz’s finest moments, so I’ll forgive that one too (#FunWithFitz).

Nothing eases impending dread like the weakest links proving that they’re not; so while leaving each Wonder Twin(cestial) alone, and in peril, may have been meant to get a rise out of fans, I’m pretty sure the plan was to get a bigger one out of the reversals. Simmons, for one, certainly turned things around on the ground (#SoSimmons); but there is something to be said about falling for false hope.

Holden Radcliffe (John Hannah) simply got too comfortable on the Agents’ side of the aisle. If Fitz-Simmons fans didn’t figure he was being floated as a possible replacement, then you’re less cynical than I.

I suppose the showrunners know just where some fans lie, concerning the evolution of Fitz-Simmons; so there was some (evil) genius to how their talk of a fun, hopeful aftermath of a future – just for the two of them – played into the Trinket of Destiny pass-along.

As much as Daisy’s diatribe was supposed to be about her being accountable, it kind of came across as a self-pity party. Her apparent solution, at the end of ‘Absolution,’ seemed to make it official. Accountability was reserved for both Ward & Hive.

Given all the hype, going into Hive’s confrontation with the gravely underdog Agents, their countermeasure wasn’t just sensibly effective, it was narrative justice. For what was starting to seem like a final showdown, Hive-Ward presented viewers with something that was actually missing from Ward’s previous demise: his actually facing up to all he’s done. There was more to be accountable for, than just the memories of Grant Ward, of course; but it was nice to somewhat settle accounts, while temporarily leveling the playing field.

Sure, the initial triumph came too soon – that’s what happens when you rush right into act three – but someone still had to get to an orbital obliteration on time. The sieges, setbacks, and setups that followed amounted to a pretty good guessing game, as to who ultimately got the Trinket of Destiny. Agents took turns in the spotlight (#ShotgunAxe), and everyone seemed to have a reason to be the tragic hero.

Of course, giving good account isn’t enough to earn the title of the fallen Agent. After all that revolving door character highlighting, and a decent game of pass the Trinket of Destiny, something had to tip the scales. What better way to be the fallen Agent than to have already fallen? Well, having fallen, but still being able to get up & go ‘gotcha,’ I suppose. There was more than one, but there really wasn’t much doubt as to which pre-fallen had the right mix of redemptive & sacrificial needs.

‘Absolution’ was a better set-up than ‘Ascension’ followed through on, and despite its best efforts (and there were quite a few best effort moments), season 3 of Agents didn’t land with the same resonance with which season two did. It placed the focus squarely on Daisy, again; but somehow, the climax & resolution  may have been too heavy on her toll, and too light on the payoff, this time around. The arrival of Aida (Amanda Rea) likely won’t match the abduction of Simmons, either.

I’m not sure what the showrunners were thinking, but our fallen Agent wasn’t Jesus, our new rogue Agent wasn’t Neo, from the end of the first (‘and only’) Matrix film, and shuffling the Agency lineup (by word of mouth, mostly) is likely going to leave fans more apprehensive about season 4, than excited. What was the point, to this three season evolution of Daisy, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., if all it manages to do is get us back to square one?  Well, Agents gets another season to figure this out, and 6 months of backstory to fill, in order for it to make sense.

With ABC having passed on Most Wanted, cancelling Agent Carter, and the MCU seeming to highlight that decision, Agents may be set to thread unfamiliar waters – and maybe without any cinematic cover (I’m not sure where it fits in with the upcoming phases of the MCU).  A do-over may be its way of working out its wings, for a first flight from under the MCU; but it will really need to figure out what it wants regarding Daisy. It could keep her as its focus, but just be better about it. It could take the opportunity to be a true ensemble effort, as the finale made the case, I think, for the others being ready for their close-ups.

Either way, I’m still interested in where this series goes, from its MCU TV beachhead – especially since it looks like it will be back to doing it solo.

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About the author

Sam Joseph

Sam is an Avid consumer/observer of Geek culture, and collector of Fanboy media from earliest memory. Armchair sociologist and futurist. Honest critic with satirical if not absurdist­­ wit with some experience in comics/ animation production.

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