‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Season 2 Episode 20 Review: ‘Emancipation’ Features Bittersweet Ending
Recap and review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 2 Episode 20 – Emancipation:
Well, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. certainly isn’t holding back as we head towards the season finale. “Emancipation” is epic TV, due in large part to the developments at its center. We said goodbye to one Inhuman, rescued another, and witnessed the creation of an army of “primitive” Inhumans. It was one of the most eventful episodes of the season, and a killer way to get hyped for next week’s two-hour season finale.
Of course, this was the Marvel movie tie-in episode, as General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) wants Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team to sign the Sokovia Accords from Captain America: Civil War, which demands that all superpowered citizens register their abilities and identities with the government. It’s an interesting bit of business, as the presence of Talbot forced Coulson to put all his cards on the table. Granted, it turns out Talbot already knew about Daisy (Chloe Bennet) and the resurrection of “Ward” (Brett Dalton), but that’s not really the point here. It’s about the paranoia and suspicion that the presence of superpowered individuals has fostered, both among the citizens and the government. It creates a neat thematic argument that parallels the movie, since Talbot’s incredulous response to all the Inhumans that S.H.I.E.L.D. has both imprisoned and employed illustrates the arguable necessity of the Sokovia Accords. Absolute power, if left unchecked, could lead to chaos beyond what anyone could control. Superheroes have a responsibility not to act with impunity, but as Talbot learns from Lincoln (Luke Mitchell), there’s nothing really stopping a guy like him from simply zapping the mustache right off Talbot’s face. Nothing except for his innate character. Lincoln makes a point of stating that he’s not the type of person who goes power mad. Sure, he’s impulsive and makes decisions based on emotions, but he’s not an inherently bad guy. And we learn this in what amounts to a clever swerve by the show. Throughout the episode, Lincoln is communicating through the television with Daisy, engineering an escape from the S.H.I.E.L.D. base, steal a quinjet, and meet up with her at Hive’s headquarters. Lincoln succeeds in escaping, even though Mack (Henry Simmons) tries his best to stop him. The show reveals to us that it was all a ruse on Daisy’s part, as Hive ordered her to lure Lincoln to him. But then the aforementioned twist comes, as it turns out Lincoln’s escape was part of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s own ruse to trick Hive, since they knew all along they couldn’t trust Daisy. Granted, the break out had to look real, which is bad news for Mack. But hey, at least he took a hit doing his job and showing his loyalty to the mission rather than its individual team members. It was a necessary redemptive arc after he allowed Daisy to nearly kill him. But back to the ruse, since somebody was on that quinjet when it zoomed away…
As it turns out, it was Lash who was sent to fight Hive, who successfully used Daisy’s blood to create the Primitives, a race of malformed Inhumans that even Dr. Radcliffe disavows as “abomination”. As Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) eventually reveal, Hive is planning on using a warhead stolen from Talbot in order to disperse a chemical agent that will turn a significant portion of the population into Inhuman Sways, all under the control of Hive. It’s an ambitious plan, and something you’d think would be more than the government would allow the S.H.I.E.L.D. team to handle on their own, but we get no real mentioning of calling in any other heroes from the movies. Not that it’s necessarily a problem, since it’s not something I generally think about. But a threat like this really draws attention to how easily certain situations could be solved if certain Avengers were around. But back to that big climax: Lincoln argued for sending Lash out of the belief that every Inhuman has a specific purpose in life. He believes Lash’s purpose is to kill Hive, despite any real evidence suggesting this is the case. But you know what? I kind of love the idea that every Inhuman has a purpose for his or her existence, a task that they were gifted with powers to specifically fulfill. Sure, Lincoln’s faith in Lash pretty much guarantees that he’s getting killed by the end of the episode, but by introducing into the narrative the concept of a purpose for each Inhuman, the show subtly suggests that Daisy’s purpose might be to blow up in that ship in outer space, saving the world from a warhead that might doom them.
This all leads to the aforementioned climax in which Lash incapacitates Hive, and then manages to extract the Sway from Daisy’s body, restoring her to her former self, free from Hive’s influence. He puts her on the quinjet, but at the cost of his own life, as he’s stabbed in the back by the fiery Inhuman James. It’s a sad end for Andrew, but also one that makes sense for his character, since his final act — rescuing another human being, Inhuman or otherwise — was more as Andrew than as Lash. And yet, while Daisy has been returned to her S.H.I.E.L.D. team, it feels as though no one knows quite what to do with her. Coulson welcomes her back, but his reception is frosty (“Welcome back, Agent Johnson.”), and Lincoln seems anxious about saying much of anything to her. And it’s understandable, considering what they all went through. The likelihood that Daisy will feel the need to do some sort of desperately heroic act to regain the trust of her team is what gives me the inkling that the person in the space ship might be Daisy. Then again, the show probably wants us to suspect Daisy as a frontrunner for “end of season death”. That said, the show does manage to throw in one more tease that it might be someone else, as Elena (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) gives Mack the cross that will eventually end up on-board the space ship that explodes, suggesting that Mack could be the one bidding us adieu. At the very least, the show is prepping us for a bittersweet ending by giving us a similarly bittersweet ending this week, as we had the triumph of Daisy’s rescue mixed with the tragedy of Lash’s death. No idea who will die, but I suppose we’ll find out next week. As for now, “Emancipation” delivered well beyond expectations, as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to stick the landing on the movie tie-in episodes.
But what did you think of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Episode 20, “Emancipation”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., read our review of last week’s thrilling Kree Invasion!