SEASON 3 FINALE PLOT SUMMARY:
Hive (Brett Dalton) is preparing to unleash his contagion on the Earth using a stolen warhead, and it’s up to S.H.I.E.L.D. to end the madness once and for all, even that means someone on the team has to give his or her life.
It’s somewhat common for characters die in season finales. Death gives extra weight to an episode, and it often makes it more memorable, especially if that poor soul is popular. It’s less common to know that a character is going to die, whether it’s in a finale or just another weekly installment. It raises the suspense throughout the entire experience. It can be a gimmick to draw more attention, or it can woven into the context of the episode (in this case, episodes).
The way that the finale does this is by playing off what we know about the impending death. In Daisy’s vision, the “fallen agent” wears a S.H.I.E.L.D. jacket and carries a cross necklace when they die in a fiery explosion above the Earth’s atmosphere. The show does an excellent job of making it appear every single main cast member might be the one to die. I also have to give props to the people running the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. social media accounts for stirring the pot. The one drawback is that rewatching the finale knowing the outcome will likely be less exciting.
One of the more interesting creative choices for the finale is that it’s set up like a horror movie. Let’s go down the list. When Hive’s minions, the Primitives, attack Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), they drag an agent across the floor in a distinctive horror movie way; the moment they grab a man hanging onto a door frame is shot on a Dutch angle; after the Primitives break Hive out of his gel-matrix prison, they surround the team in the darkly lit base like a pack of zombies, before they start crawling through the vents. So, yeah, this season finale is one step away from the Doctor Octopus surgery scene from Spider-Man 2 (which you will inevitably look up now if you didn’t get the reference).
Holden Radcliffe’s (John Hannah) betrayal of Hive is unexpected. Yes, he understandably disapproved of the Primitives as being beneath his transhumanist vision, but did you really think he’d become a recurring character on the side of the good guys? He has grown on me though. And he’s not the only one less than keen on Hive’s plan; Hellfire’s (Axle Whitehead) complaint about all the women of the Earth becoming ugly Primitives is gold.
This is a reminder that Hive’s followers, while loyal to him, retain their personalities. Daisy didn’t consciously decide to join Hive, but his parasites only enhanced things she was already feeling. So even though she constantly punishes herself throughout the episode, which leads to a genuinely heartwarming hug between her and Mack (Henry Simmons), part of her still wants to be with Hive. Fortunately for her, she can no longer be taken over by Hive, even if she wants to be. Unfortunately, this makes her recovery last week even more confusing.
So let’s fastforward a little so we can get to what you really want me to talk about. So there’s a pretty nifty fight between Hive and Daisy, but the dude can’t be killed so easily, so he wins and flies off with Daisy and the warhead. More stuff happens, including Giyera’s (Mark Dacascos) death. (Fitz cleverly kills him with a gun utilizing the same cloaking tech as the Quinjets.) We also see Hive’s true form, which is honestly pretty goofy looking, though generally faithful to the comics (a cross between Saren from Mass Effect and Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean).
And here we are, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. After several characters passing around the jacket and cross, plus everybody running into Hive one more time, Daisy decides that she must atone by fulfilling her vision and sacrificing herself.
But she doesn’t. Instead, Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) dies.
I’ve been largely indifferent towards Lincoln, but his scenes with Daisy during his final moments really sell the tragedy. Chloe Bennet crushes it, not just during these scenes, but also in the entire episode. It’s some of the best acting you will see in anything Marvel. Their romance was always kind of whatever, but it’s nice to see that it was leading to something.
Now, people might be resistant to this finale, considering the obvious religious themes, but let’s analyze them, since they are a major part of the episodes. In addition to the conversations about faith throughout the season and finale, Lincoln is obviously meant to be a Christ figure, which is ironic, because he’s far from perfect. But, yeah, soon after Coulson says he’s paying for all their mistakes, we see Lincoln and a very chill Hive looking down on the Earth, talking about saving humanity, all while the cross necklace floats around them. It also should be noted that absolution is when a priest forgives a person’s sins on behalf of God, and Hive and Lincoln literally ascend to the heavens.
Outside a character like Daredevil, Marvel Studios is largely secular. Remember, they changed Thor into an alien. So what does this all mean? Well, don’t take it as Marvel’s attempt to convert you. DC has done this sort of thing in Superman movies several times. It’s more about faith in general. What you have faith in is up to you. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life in a review for a comic book show.
I said in another review that only an original team member’s death would mean something and change the direction of the show. But it looks like I’m wrong. After Lincoln’s untimely end, the finale jumps to 6 months later. Daisy, AKA Quake, is on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. and it’s safe to say that Lincoln doesn’t come back from the dead (because that would be taking the metaphor too far). And we get a callback to that future-seeing Inhuman’s daughter. Oh, and Coulson is no longer the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Huh.
It’s not exactly how I imagined it would end, especially since we never truly get the Secret Warriors for very long, but this is the show’s best season finale, in my opinion. It’s suspenseful, well-made, emotional, funny, and somehow changes the status quo for next season.
So long, Brett Dalton and Luke Mitchell. Thank you for your service.
RATING: 8 OUT OF 10 (GREAT)
Aaron Sarnecky is Pop-Break’s television editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, among other things. He is a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in television and film. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed. Follow him on Twitter: @AaronSarnecky