Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S03E21 “Absolution” REVIEW

Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S03E21 “Absolution” REVIEW

0 comments 📅03 June 2016, 15:50

Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD S03E21 “Absolution” REVIEW


stars 4

Airing in the UK on E4, Sundays, 9pm
Chris Dingess, Drew Z. Greenberg
Director: Billy Gierhart

Essential Plot Points:


  • On Planet Craphole, the containment cell is sitting in the middle of a plain. Daisy is frantically hotwiring it as, nearby, a badly injured Phil talks to her. She explains that she’s intent on piloting the module back to Earth but he explains this is Earth and then…
  • Daisy wakes up from her nightmare.
  • Simmons comes to see Daisy. Daisy’s under lockdown and Simmons, while clearly concerned for her friend, is all business.
  • Simmons explains that they’ve found a missile silo they’re confident fits Hive’s needs. Daisy warns her he’ll be there ahead of them and she explains that she knows and the staff went dark five hours ago.


  • We see Hive take control of the silo as May, proving her astounding levels of badassery flies a Quinjet OUT OF THE OCEAN and deploys a strike team.
  • Elsewhere, Talbot is pleading for the launch code to the silo as Fitz, just off shot, is quietly hacking the call. They get what they need and pass the details to…
  • Phil! who tears over to the building the codes are held in as…
  • In the silo May, Mack, Linc and YoYo tool up while…


  • Back at SHIELD Fitz and Talbot are standing front of a green screen talking to the Under Secretary they need to obtain the override from. Fitz is in this frankly amazing motion cap outfit that turns him into the General they were just talking to. But he needs a box to stand on, because he’s adorable.
  • At the silo, Hive prepares to launch his missile as Phil speeds up, flashes his ID and gets what he needs.


  • Which is a massive code string with only 20 seconds to input it. Type, tiny Scottish man! TYPE LIKE THE WIND!
  • Fitz speed types for his life as the countdown begins and… stops. They did it.
  • In the silo, Hive and his team realise SHIELD have to be in the building. Hive orders Radcliffe to unlock the code and heads out to go to war with the strike team.
  • Nearby Linc tries to reassure May that Andrew’s death meant something. She shuts him down. Nearby Mack and YoYo bicker, adorably, about how slow he works. He tries to give her back THE CRUCIFIX OF DEATH but she turns him down.


  • Back at HQ Phil and Fitzsimmons are discussing how it’s going. Phil is worried that the team isn’t just facing Hive but everyone he’s absorbed.
  • At the silo, Radcliffe and two of his primitives are reading the instruction booklets for how to turn the missile back on. It’s not going super well.


  • At the control room, May makes her way inside while Hive confronts Lincoln. He goads the young inhuman into a fight, pressing the Daisy button over and over. It doesn’t work until Hive suggests Linc join him to find Daisy. Linc confronts him, then runs.
  • At SHIELD, Phil goes to see Daisy to tell her how it’s going. They talk around the situation but when Phil tries to comfort Daisy she blows up. She tells him she’s a criminal, she deserves everything that’s coming to her and she should stay in the box forever.
  • Phil pushes back, telling her vengeance isn’t the answer and that time and distance is what she needs. She retorts that she should be put in the memory machine and made to live in there as punishment. He replies that while they did bring it out of storage it’s not for her…

marvels_agents_of_SHIELD_3.22_absolution_Tortured Hive

  • Linc leads Hive to the boobytrap that Mack and YoYo were building. He uses his powers to trigger it (after YoYo – magnificently – finishes it in seconds having watched Captain Slow dawdle). The trap floods Hive with the memories of all his personalities, knocking him out. The SHIELD agents flee as the other Inhumans arrive to rescue Hive. But, as Hive constantly flashes back through old lives they realise it may be too late. He babbles but pulls it together just enough to tell the others to disconnect the warhead.


  • Radcliffe and his two lackeys are making… well… some progress when May stops them. She’s jumped by the primitives and proceeds to beat seven shades of Terrigen out of them with typical, aggressive ease.


  • Nearby, YoYo whose cranky speedster schtick is wonderful, rescues the silo staff.
  • May is almost overrun when Radcliffe saves her. Yay – John Hannah face turn! But it’s too late…
  • Hive steals the warhead.


  • As they evacuate the silo, Hive confronts them. He’s mid-monolog when they drop a containment cell over his big stupid multi-life head and fill it with goo. Not so much as Han in carbonite as Hive in Gelatine.


  • SHIELD just… won?
  • Talbot congratulates Phil as he heads out. Phil points out the mission isn’t done until they’ve found the warhead. May arrives with Radcliffe to brief them. He tells them the process that created the primitives is irreversible and Talbot, proving he’s a career military man, essentially shouts him into working on a solution.
  • Phil debriefs Linc and Mack and tells Linc he’d be a great agent. Linc reminds him Phil told him he had to want it and… he doesn’t. He doesn’t quite say that he’s going to settle down and open a pub once the war’s over but it’s pretty close.

marvels_agents_of_SHIELD_3.22_absolution_Mack comforts Daisy

  • Mack, because he’s grumpily sweet, is disgusted that they haven’t told Daisy they’ve arrested Hive. He walks straight into the cell, tells her and has a long overdue heart to heart with Tremors. She reminds him what happened the last time they were in the same room and Mack does that thing he does where he’s huge and immovable and sweet. Daisy pushes him and pushes him and then just collapses, sobbing as the horror of the last few weeks slowly begins to come out.
  • In the lab, Fitz discovers something dispiriting: Radcliffe, an engineer, was using biotech he could barely understand. It’ll take a decade to find a cure. Which, given his full-bore Scottish grimness, means sometime around season six.
  • Simmons is a terrible liar so she reveals that she’s planning a romantic getaway. They, again, manage to be adorable while doing relationship stuff other shows would be awful at. On the way out to check Hive’s gel cell, Fitz picks up the CRUCIFIX OF DEATH which has fallen from Mack’s jacket pocket. Noooooooo!
  • Back in the cell, Daisy and Mack talk about whether Hive is the devil. Mack, a man of faith, isn’t too sure. Daisy is. She advocates for him to be destroyed and Mack reassures her he isn’t getting out.
  • So that’ll be about five minutes then.

marvels_agents_of_SHIELD_3.22_absolution_Protos 2

  • In the hangar, Fitz is checking over the gel cell. All seems well. Until Fitz notices something amiss and… a Terrigen bomb detonates! A SHIELD tech instantly turns into a primitive and, with the room locked down, Fitz and another are trapped.
  • In a really very clever touch, the only thing that saves Fitz’s life is that the hangar is too damn big for the gas to fill. The primitives drag agents into the cloud as Fitz comes up with a workaround that can’t possibly work. Gemma remembers a workaround Fitz developed and gets the door open in time to save him and one other agent. When Phil demands to know what the hell she just did her answer is basically “SCIENCE”.
  • In the hangar, the Protos tear the gel cell apart to get Hive out.
  • In the containment cell, Daisy watches in horror. She realises that they’ve just handed Hive his delivery system for the warhead: the Zephyr, which is parked in the hangar. Daisy hacks the containment cell and deploys it into the Zephyr as Hive tries to remember how to fly it. She confronts him in the cargo bay and slowly kneels, begging him to take her back.


One episode to go and SHIELD has put a brick on the accelerator. From the breathless, Mission: Impossible-esque opening to the tiny, personal horror of the final scene this is an episode crammed full of the precision writing and direction that’s become the show’s trademark this season especially.

So much of that, yet again, rests on Chloe Bennet’s shoulders and, yet again, she carries it effortlessly. This is Daisy as we’ve never seen her before and it’s not at all what you’d expect. There’s real awkwardness and discomfort in her scenes with Simmons that perfectly communicates just how alien the situation is. Even Phil, the coolest TV dad who isn’t Joe West, can’t get through to her. Daisy’s put up a blockade, not just between the friends she hurt and herself but between her emotions and her needs. She’s an addict in withdrawal, a victim of something as unprecedented as it horrific and she will, genuinely, never be the same. Her arc this season is becoming one of the most careful, sensitive explorations of long term trauma genre TV has tried in a long time. There’s nothing easy or simple here; just a clever, brave, good-hearted young woman who has had nothing but trauma for years and can’t shake it off anymore. She genuinely believes she needs to be held in custody and there’s a tiny little beat in her scene with Mack that tells just how deeply she feels that. He says something kind and Daisy’s face just collapses, the tears starting even as she flat out refuses to accept the emotion behind them is there. It’s an uncomfortably honest and painfully accurate watch. Outstanding work from all involved.

The rest of the episode impresses too, with Fitz, Simmons, Talbot and Linc all getting surprising moments. It’s interesting how Talbot, though no an ally now, is still pretty much a bigot. Pleasant surprise of the episode, though, is Linc deciding not to go full time with SHIELD. We’re pretty sure he’s doomed as a result but it was a welcome moment of personal control for a character who hasn’t been that well served this season.


The entire episode impressed in fact, especially Gierhart’s breathless direction of the opening sequence. There’s a smart note in Greenberg and Dingess’s script too that sees the team more in lockstep than they’ve been for a long time. The scale of what Hive is attempting, as well as the countless losses and injuries they’ve suffered have tempered this version of SHIELD into the sort of unit Phil has always wanted: people who are fiercely protective of one another and embody the dutiful compassion of the director himself. That’s why so many people are pulling for Fitz in the hangar attack, why it’s newest team member YoYo who takes Hive down at the silo. Most of all, it’s why so many people come to see Daisy. Because they’re a family as well as a team and family don’t leave people behind.

Unless of course, those people leave them behind…

One week to go. LOTS of SHIELD jackets and the CRUCIFIX OF DEATH still in play. Who will fall? Who will live? And will Fitz and Simmons get to go on holiday? Not long to wait now.

The Good:

  • “He is very lucky he is handsome.” YoYo is great fun all episode but her needling Mack for being slow is especially cute.
  • “Memory is the scribe of the soul.” Alphonzo Mackenzie! Scholar! Man of letters! Mechanic! Giant!
  • “I can tell by your moustache that you’re a man of importance and not to be trifled with.” God, we hope Radcliffe sticks around. He’s great.
  • Yet again, it’s kudos time for Chloe Bennet. She’s been the anchor of this show all damn season and finds yet more extra gears this episode with a hollowed-out, bitter, horrified Daisy we’ve never seen before. The scenes between her and Phil are especially powerful but it’s the final scene, and her confrontation with Mack, that kill you. The moment he says something even a little kind and you see her defences crumble is some of the finest acting this show has ever seen. Likewise the awful moment where what you think is her redemptive fight with Hive becomes her begging for another fix. (OR DOES IT? See Random.)
  • Also top marks to Brett Dalton for nailing every version of Ward as well as Hive all in the same episode.
  • Also also top marks to Henry Simmons. Mack’s had a glacially slow character arc at times but the fact his first instinct is to go help his people out and damn the torpedoes is lovely. Also, notice he and Daisy are both still carrying scars. This season has been ROUGH.
  • The CRUCIFIX OF DEATH hot potato game played all episode is great fun. Who will live? Who will die? Has there ever been an episode where more people have been wearing SHIELD jackets simultaneously?
  • GREAT fight choreography this week. Especially May palm striking/straight up slapping a primitive off a gantry.
  • Great direction from Billy Gierhart, especially in the opening multi-location sequence.

The Bad:

  • Remember when Giyera did something other than carry things relevant to the plot?
  • Remember when James’s arc across an episode wasn’t endless variations of the plot being explained to him?

And The Random:

  • So Daisy’s begging Hive to take her back. OR IS SHE? Did Lash make her immune? Is she doing this to prove to Hive that he isn’t all powerful? Either option works, either option is powerful and character driven. Can’t wait to see which it is.
  • Shot of the week is Daisy and Hive facing off. Perhaps for the last time?


Review by Alasdair Stuart


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