It’s a bummer Marvel Studios doesn’t seem to care about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the Season 3 two-part finale, “Absolution” and “Ascension,” the tiny television corner of the MCU proves its worth with a climax that satisfies three years of build-up and character as it ushers the series into a new era. Ward/Hive (Brett Dalton) is gone, finally. Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are together, also finally. Daisy (Chloe Bennet) is a legit superhero. When Captain America: Civil War began the MCU’s Phase Three, it also launched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into its own new beginning.
As S.H.I.E.L.D. inches closer to finishing Hive, Daisy fears her ominous visions of an agent dying in space are coming true. Daisy takes it upon herself to make it happen to herself, until Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) seizes it from her. Every Inhuman has a purpose, and his was to protect Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s best protagonist.
The finale’s first part, “Absolution”, is a rollicking episode heavy on action that veers into horror when Hive unleashes his zombified Inhumans onto the base. “Absolution” is the talkier (and somewhat more engaging) half of the finale, the Kill Bill Vol. 2 of this pair, minus a stellar one-take of the core S.H.I.E.L.D. team, including Fitz and Simmons, landing some sweet punches to steal the moment.
The post-Civil War status quo of the MCU was a necessary shake-up that puts its characters in new places, geographically and emotionally. Steve Rogers isn’t Captain America anymore, half the Avengers’ original membership has dropped out, Black Widow is on the run, and Tony Stark leads a U.N.-controlled squad. After eight years of familiarity we recognize the new, uncomfortable spaces they now occupy. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. echoes a similar shake-up with just three seasons of TV.
The new landscape of the show is equally uncomfortable as the Avengers, but slightly more interesting because of its smaller, immediate scale. Coulson is no longer director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Dr. Radcliffe (John Hannah), the weasel scientist who created the fake Inhumans but had little allegiance to Hive, is free and on top of the world. It’s not clear what his professional (and personal) relationship is with S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s fond of Fitz and Simmons, but it’s unclear if that goes both ways.
Most importantly, Daisy is now rocking her comic book identity Quake. Yep, Daisy Johnson is now a bonafide superhero in the MCU, and while she’s not in spandex (her look is street-level, like Jessica Jones), Season 3’s driving plot was more than just about Daisy forcing visions to become reality. On a meta-textual level, Daisy has fulfilled her “destiny” into Quake, a journey that began all the way back in the fall of 2013 in the show’s first season. This is truly the end of one era and the start of something totally new.