TV Review: Agents of SHIELD – “Absolution” / “Ascension”

"Absolution" and "Ascension"
Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Agents of SHIELD reviews here.
The big question hanging over “Absolution” and “Ascension” was one Agents of SHIELD had been asking for weeks: who will die? And in the end, after much deliberation and clever teasing, the smartest choice prevailed. The big death wasn’t the only thing these episodes had going for them, though, as Agents of SHIELD delivered an excellent season finale full of fantastic action, high stakes, and plenty of emotion.
Leading up to the finale, I had narrowed my list of big death candidates down to three characters: Lincoln, Fitz, or May. It couldn’t be Daisy or Coulson, because the show is far too dependent on them. It couldn’t be Mack, partly because he’s so likable (and he’d just gotten his shotgun axe!), but also because it would look like the show was targeting its only black characters one by one. It couldn’t be Joey or Yo-Yo, because their story was just beginning, and they were too new for any emotional impact to resonate.
Fan theories said it would be May. Her role had decreased as of late, and after Andrew’s death, it looked like Agents of SHIELD was setting her up to follow suit. But May is too valuable a character to waste, and to be honest killing off a female Asian character right now would have been terrible timing. Luckily, she survived.
My fearful heart told me it might be Fitz. Agents of SHIELD had developed a pattern of delivering a terrible blow to FitzSimmons in each of their two season finales so far. And with this supposedly cursed couple having finally found happiness, I was waiting for that streak to rear its ugly head and separate them again, this time for good. But if there’s one thing those two deserve, it’s happiness, and luckily, the streak was broken.
HiveLogic told me it would be Lincoln. The writers and Luke Mitchell had worked their hardest trying to kickstart his story for a long time, but he just wasn’t working. He was just bland, and it couldn’t be helped. Giving him a heroic, sacrificial send-off would have been a good way to write off the weak link while allowing him one last bit of poignancy. And though he wasn’t part of the original Season 1 team, he’d been around for long enough for the constant “who will die?” teasing to feel earned. In the end, the writers went with the logical choice.
The lead-up to the death scene was one long tease, which was actually really enjoyable in a nerve-wracking kind of way. Among many other fakeouts, “Absolution” and “Ascension” used the SHIELD Jacket of Doom and the Cross Necklace of Foreboding like omens of death, passing them around from character to character, lingering on aforementioned candidates like Fitz. And to the episodes’ credit, it was hard to guess who it would end up being, as anything—say, Lincoln’s “I’m retiring after this” speech, or Simmons’ “a vacation won’t kill us“—could have been a bluff.
Lincoln’s death truly resonated, mostly thanks to a terrific performance by Chloe Bennet. I don’t care much for Lincoln, but I do care about Daisy a whole lot, a character investment that was earned after 3 years of strong development. “Ascension” cleverly used her relationship with Lincoln as the emotional hook to make us feel the tragedy of his death.
Another great element of Lincoln’s final scenes was him and Hive floating in space, both accepting their deaths in peace. It would have been so easy to have their last moments be a huge fight, but instead the show took a more passive, and ultimately much better, approach. Hive accepting his defeat and embracing the only thing that had eluded him (death) was a great way to end the story of this intriguing and engaging character. It was also a great sendoff for Brett Dalton. Agents of SHIELD kept finding ways to keep him around, but it was finally time to say goodbye.
Aside from the big death, “Absolution” and “Ascension” were a terrific pair of episodes, featuring SHIELD‘s trademark blend of espionage, action, and humour, all while keeping it centered around the characters themselves. Between the infiltration and Hive capture in “Absolution”, the awesome fight scene between Daisy and Hive in “Ascension”, and the horror movie-like scenario as the Primitives took over the base, the finale briskly moved from one gripping set piece to the next.
Chloe Bennet was the star of the episodes. Daisy’s state of depression may have been disproportionate to the things she did under Hive’s influence (in the grand scheme of things, she never did that much harm), but it still worked thanks to her great performance. The emotional scene in which she broke down in Mack’s arms after he forgave her was a standout, as was her begging Hive to take her back. The previously mentioned idea of Hive being like an addicting drug came into play, and the withdrawal gave Chloe Bennet plenty to work with.
As always, Agents of SHIELD left us with a major tease for next season in the “6 months later” scene at the end of “Ascension”. Daisy, finally named Quake, on the run? A new and unknown director of SHIELD? Life Model Decoys at last? Season 4 and the answers it holds can’t come soon enough!

Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)

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