Agents of SHIELD: 3.20 Emancipation
Finally, the game changer. The Civil War tie in episode... The mostly just standing around and talking. Those expecting the events of that film to massively effect this show may be disappointed as what we get is really just lip service. Perhaps we have come to expect too much from the tie in episodes. However, I suspect the events of Civil War will effect the next season more greatly now that the writers have had a chance to properly digest it.
At least the events of Civil War go some way to explaining why the costumed heroes aren't hunting down Hive, surely his world ending plot has raised his threat level somewhat. What we get here is conflict between Shield's use of Inhumans and government pressure to bow to the Sokovia Accords. There are direct references to Stark, Cap and Peggy at the episode's opening. Unsurprisingly Coulson remains Team Cap (though I wonder what Cap's reaction would be to finding Coulson alive and running SHIELD). Coulson puts it succinctly; The Avengers operate in the spotlight. Shield operates in the shadows. (Is it me or has Coulson built his base under what looks like the bar from the end of The Incredible Hulk?)
It's good to see Adrian Pasdar back as Talbot. He and Coulson are fun frenemies and Talbot has a few sharp lines, especially his description of Lash as "Rasta Hulk".
The episode almost promised the return of The Secret Warriors (that really hasn't gone anywhere, despite what was promised) but Rodriguez is seemingly back for no other reason that we know she must be in Daisy's vision, or, as it turns out, to give Mack the cross we have seen in the vision. There is a fun exchange regarding secret identities with Coulson warns that lists can fall into the wrong hands - in the comics, the wrong hands were Norman Osborne, forcing an Extremis enhanced Tony Stark to erase his own memory to protect the identities of those he had previously hunted down for the Superhero Registration Act.
The episode delivered some great effects work as James lit up his chain Ghost Rider style. The Watchdogs ended up being turned into the thing that they hate, as a piece of cruel (though not undeserved) irony. John Hannah has plenty of fun as the scientist begging for his life and then affronted that Hive actually wants these less than perfect Inhumans. I really do hope he sticks around for sometime.
Lincoln's escape didn't seem massively dramatic. Perhaps it's that hacking doesn't necessarily lend itself to dynamic television. However, the pull back and reveal that Lincoln stayed behind was effective and unexpected. It was the first time that Lincoln actually felt part of the team.
The Lash reveal was exciting stuff and a fight I didn't know I wanted to see until it happened. Lash may not have been able to defeat Hive but Lash/Andrew was able to remove the infection from Daisy before he died. It is an exciting pay off for the character and a heroic end to an arc that had been sidelined for several weeks.
Despite the exciting conclusion the episode felt somewhat low key; the calm before the storm. Part of the small effect of the Sokovia Accords may also be a side effect of the split between Marvel Studios and Marvel Comics. Whilst the MCU continues to be one shared universe, the small screen adventures are creatively controlled by Marvel, whilst the movies are controlled by the Studios arm. Things have been tense and, if the internet is to be believed, not always fun behind the scenes. It appears that the SHIELD writers weren't involved in the same way that they were involved in the status quo shattering events of Winter Soldier, by the time they saw a cut of the movie it was too late to do anything drastic with it. However, I suspect the effects of the Accords will be long reaching and felt for some time...