The Good: Good performances, Plot progression, Moments of character
The Bad: Plot-centered, Somewhat predictable.
The Basics: "Absolution" prepares Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. viewers for the promised character death of the season finale.
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been venturing into pretty dangerous territory for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With episodes like "Spacetime"(reviewed here!), Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. set a prescedent for prophecies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and moving toward the season finale, the promise from "Spacetime" was that the vision Daisy saw in that episode would come to pass. "Absolution" is the penultimate episode of the third season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it is moving toward the season finale and that big on-screen death. The threat this represents in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that it pretty much forces the vision from The Avengers: Age Of Ultron (reviewed here!) to come to pass.
That said, "Absolution" picks up after "Emancipation" (reviewed here!) and key elements are in play to set up the finale's death. After all, "Emancipation" put into play the device that will inspire someone to be in outer space as seen in the vision - in the form of the missile that will spead Hive's Inhuman virus under his sway. The cross seen floating in the death scene is brought into play late in "Emancipation" and it put Mack as the frontrunner for the character who would die.
Opening on the distant world where Simmons was trapped, Daisy and Coulson wait in an Inhuman containment pod, waiting to die, before Daisy awakens in one of those pods at the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. Meanwhile, the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team is flying to thwart Hive at a Pacific missile silo. Simmons visits Daisy, managing not to give her too much information on the specific mission. After Talbot gets information from General Andez, Coulson goes to get the kill order for the missile Hive is attempting to fire. Managing to stop the missile, Hive gets angry, as Daisy reveals that Hive believes it is a savior of some sort.
As Coulson pushes Daisy for information on what Hive meant by "absolution," Campbell and Hive square off. The device Mack was building is deployed on Hive to cause all of his prior host's memories to surface. While Hive wigs out in front of Giyera and James, Agent May tries to get the warhead and she runs afoul of the proto-Inhumans that Radcliffe engineered. May rescues Radcliffe, but not before Giyera manages to steal the warhead for Hive. Returning to S.H.I.E.L.D. with Hive imprisoned, Dr. Radcliffe begins to work stop the spread of the Inhuman threat. But, as Giyera and James move on the base, disaster (predictably) strikes.
"Absolution" is plot-heavy as it moves toward the finale, but it has some moments that are pleasantly character-centered. When Hive angrily turns on Dr. Radcliffe and demands that he get the missile back online, Radcliffe's reaction is delightfully exactly what viewers say: what the hell can an experimental biologist who is an expert in parasitic organisms possibly do or know about missile technology?! Radcliffe has to use a book to try to figure out how to bypass the missile's coding.
At the other end, Mack's character is bolstered in "Absolution," making for a character arc that viewers can appreciate (and fans of Joss Whedon's works can absolutely watch with dread). Mack is slowly setting up failsafes to thwart Hive and he is mentally prepared to use the killswitches that Coulson gave him to use to prevent Yo-Yo or Lincoln from coming under Hive's Sway.
Coulson and Daisy have decent interplay in "Absolution" and the performances by Clark Gregg and Chloe Bennet give wonderful performances. Gregg has a pretty significant body of work to illustrate how deep he can act, but Bennet - as a younger actor - is somewhat surprising for how well she can play Daisy going through withdrawal. The anger Bennet portrays is impressive and realistic and it is only lessened by the fact that "Absolution" features no make-up effects to play up the withdrawal from Hive (sweating would have been a nice touch).
As always, Ming-Na Wen gives a great physical performance. The fact that she gets another kick-ass scene sets her up as yet another potential to be killed in the season finale. After all, Joss Whedon wrote "Ascension" and his formula usually features characters who are getting suddenly focused on and growing getting the ax. Of course, the moment Henry Simmons as Mack hugs Bennet, the performance is powerful enough to paint a bullseye on Mack with a thick permanent marker. Of course, pairing Mack and Daisy's scenes with a fun, cute Fitz/Simmons scene that has the two making romantic plans just jerks around the audience.
If Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. hadn't hyped the season finale death, the whole "we're safe" interlude packed with character moments sure created a mood where it seemed obvious that someone was going to die. "Absolution" might have some predictable moments, but it is well-executed and it does what a good penultimate episode is supposed to do in a serialized show; set up a knockout for the season finale.
For other big penultimate episodes, please visit my reviews of:
"In The Cards" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"AKA Take A Bloody Number" - Jessica Jones
"Heaven Sent" - Doctor Who
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the third season here!
For other movie and television reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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