Synopsis of 3×18: The team reels from its losses as Hive continues to draw Inhumans to his side; agents Fitz and Simmons get a lead that could stop the maniacal Inhuman forever.

Rating: ★★★★☆

We’re coming down to the wire as Agents of SHIELD begins its four episode story arc for the finale of season 3. I haven’t been delicate at all about how much I think this show has really gone to the dogs. Characters are now the opposite of who they were when the story started, there’s little to no explanation and yet we somehow spend so much of the show talking exposition, characters talk about the moral grey but in the end there’s a clear line in the sand, and the show relies heavily on action to carry it’s episodes instead of character interaction.

However, this episode marked a significant upswing in quality for the Marvel show. Fitzsimmons goes undercover, Hive is instigating his master plan, Coulson and May go after Daisy with Lincoln’s help, she show is finally utilizing the agonizing slow build towards their grand plot. Sure, somethings have fallen to the waist side, like actually taking down Hydra or the Secret Warriors (who are apparently disbanded again) or the forgotten group of Watchdogs, but it’s immensely satisfying to see them actually move towards some kind of grand story.

With Daisy under the influence of Hive, Fitz and Simmons must seek out a doctor in transhumanism, Dr. Radcliffe, in order to try and figure out a way to detox her from Hive. ICERs are useless against them since their system is flooded with so much dopamine they are seemingly bulletproof. Fitzsimmons go undercover to your typical transhuman-neolutionist rave club where Radcliffe is hiding out. They are lead to a back room by a more-bot-than-woman character named Anon to meet Radcliffe.

I'm still really sad that this woman wasn't Viper or some version of Madame Hydra. [ABC]
I’m still really sad that this woman wasn’t Viper or some version of Madame Hydra. [ABC]
Personally, I really enjoyed Radcliffe’s interpretation on transhumanism. He’s not exactly your categorical mad scientist, he doesn’t seek to defile science, only to marry it with art and seek a new sort of human evolution. He attributes SHIELD with Hydra — a nice reminder that the whole world still thinks SHIELD is the bad guy — but becomes intrigued at the mention of inhumans.

Of course, any further discussions are nipped in the bud when Daisy busts in on them. Doped up by Hive, Daisy and Hive talk early in the episode about Hive’s goals. It seems he’s less stuck on global destruction and more on global domination, or I guess in this case, compliance. For those of you counting at home, this is the first real conversation Daisy has had with Hive and, by proxy, Ward. Her last time seeing Ward was a whole season ago, and initially Hive continues to call her Skye.

I have been griping about Daisy-don’t-call-her-Skye all season, given the fact that they show basically dropped her name change during a marketing blitz, so I suspect that this is the closest we’re ever going to get to Skye explaining why she chooses to go by Daisy now. We’ll just sidestep the whole debacle of her mother being turned into a zealous terrorist and her dad being TAHITI’d in order to live with his lifetime of guilt, one might say that puts a hindrance on the memory of family and using the name Daisy, but hey, I’m not the psychologist here (that’s Andrew, but he died).

"I'm glad he's dead." "He is too." Well at least they can agree on something?[ABC]
“I’m glad he’s dead.” “He is too.” Well at least they can agree on something?[ABC]
It’s interesting to see the show take a bit of nuance with Hive. His abilities don’t seem to be simply puppetting his hivemind. Daisy still acts like herself, James is still sassy and funny, they don’t become zombies. Similarly, he is not as menacing as he was initially introduced. When approaching Jemma, he manipulates her using Will’s memories, but where he could have easily killed her like he did the guard following her, he didn’t. He could have told Daisy and James to kill everyone who crossed their path, including all of SHIELD, but he didn’t.

I know, we’re using the word nuance in reference to this show.

In the same vein we are finally addressing Coulson, Director of SHIELD, first of his name, nepotist extraordinaire, this episode. If you like Coulson, if you see no faults in SHIELD, it’s easy to ignore what kind of orders he gives to people. This is not a guy who plays fair, this is not a guy who reaches for the ICER every time. He’s got a bloodthirsty side to him, the show has just refused to expand on it up until now.

Which means props to May for finally calling him out for basically being Amanda Waller (don’t think you fooled me by replacing suicide vest with suicide chip, Marvel). Despite Lincoln’s obvious instability and deep-seeded anger issues, Coulson lets him in on the mission to recruit Alicia. But, because he is an inhuman, Coulson forces him to wear a murder vest that basically will kill him if Hive infects him.

Join me, Lincoln. I'd never murder-vest you.[ABC]
Join me, Lincoln. I’d never murder-vest you.[ABC]
He hands the trigger to May and decides he’s done the right thing. In a typical episode, that would be that, but we finally get some backtalk. May calls him out, asking him what they are going to do if there is no cure for Daisy. Coulson scoffs, replying, “Always so quick to the trigger, you know that?” Gee, that’s rich coming from the man who just strapped a bomb to Lincoln’s chest. He emphasizes that May is not to shoot Daisy, that “she’s not Andrew.”

Oh, Coulson. It’s been like two episodes. You think it’s too soon to joke about your hand? It’s definitely too soon to joke about her ex-husband.

I’m glad she doesn’t let him slide. May follows orders, but she is not blind to the consequences of her actions. “I pull the trigger because you ask me to.” She reiterates her point about favoritism, driving home the point with the fact that Coulson is ready to sacrifice Lincoln to save Daisy, who could already be lost. “I’ll do your dirty work, Phil, but don’t you dare act like your hands are clean.”

And, drop the mic. This was only slightly ruined by the fact that they just gave the guy who invented the murder vest a shield like Captain America. Sure, it looks cool, but are we thinking at all about imagery here?

Hey, I've killed people. Don't discount me, May. [Youtube]
Hey, I’ve killed people. Don’t discount me, May. [Youtube]
Anyways, Lincoln is too late and Alicia is already infected by Hive. She kills one of her doubles when Lincoln threatens her with his powers. Not sure if it’s because he’s super angry or because of the vest, but without Daisy around Lincoln doesn’t seem like he has a handle on his rage. Coulson then kills her other double, and in one fell swoop her powers are significantly diminished.

It’s not heavily touched on, but the last time one of her doubles died, it almost sent Alicia into a catatonic state. It’s worth noting that after losing two at once, under Hive’s influence, she seems unaffected. The same goes for James when they expose him to the mists. He is initially unable to control his powers, but Hive’s influence gives him instant control.

There’s a great scene when Hive and company bust into Radcliffe’s club where Daisy faces off against Fitz and Hive against Jemma. It seems like decades ago when these four were just the new kids on the block. Daisy, clearly affected by Hive, uses her powers against Fitz and pins him to a wall. She tells him she has a family now, “you don’t need to pity me anymore.” She also hints at who could possibly be biting the bullet at the end of this season.

All dressed up and still threatened by crazy ass people. [ABC]
All dressed up and still threatened by crazy ass people. [ABC]
They’ve been ramping up the marketing for the fallen agent of the four part series, and it seems like it might point to either Simmons or Fitz. Daisy tells Fitz, “I don’t want anything bad to happen to you or Simmons. I’ve seen the future, and someone in SHIELD is going to die. And if you love her, you’ll leave me alone.”

I’ve got a strong sense it’s going to be Simmons, or that they are pointing us in that direction. Hive also tells Jemma, using Will’s memories, “I never g a chance to say goodbye,” and warns her to stay away, “I don’t want you to end up dead, like me.” Despite being affected by this, Simmons is still able to escape Hive by shooting him after telling him he doesn’t get to use Will’s memories against her.

It feels like an awful lot of closure for her character, she gets to say goodbye to Will, she gets to shoot Ward, she’s defended herself, she’s reconciled and hooked up with Fitz, it all just feels like nails in her coffin to me.

Meanwhile, Hive now has Radcliffe and plans to use him to create more inhumans like the Kree did when they came to earth. In order to do that, he bought them a whole town to experiment on! I just want to say that I love seeing Hive and his posse of drugged followers. Maybe that’s just me, but I’m saying there’s some method to his madness because they worked better as a team than SHIELD. I mean, hell, Coulson even compared himself to Hive this episode.

Hey, baby, wanna approach the event horizon with me? [ABC]
Hey, baby, wanna approach the event horizon with me? [ABC]
Also, I love Hellfire. I know he’s not the same JT from the comics (thank god), and most of the important aspects of JT’s story — his romance with Daisy, his betrayal of SHIELD — have already been used for Lincoln and Ward. Still, he’s reminiscent of Hunter and adds a good amount of humor that’s always needed.

There was a small mention of Talbot taking down Hydra, but of course it doesn’t feel real at all. Saying “the head has been cut” doesn’t actually mean anything, because we all know it hasn’t. It was a miniscule part of the episode, though it might hint at something in the future or simply be implying that they will be moving on from Hydra after this season. Regardless, this episode was the first enjoyable one in a while, and I’m actually looking forward to the “Fallen Agent” arc.

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