The events of Captain America: Civil War didn’t catastrophically alter the landscape of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. quite as much as Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s ‘Hydra is in S.H.I.E.L.D.’ reveal did back in the first season, but I’d still advise anyone who’s planning to see the movie but hasn’t yet to stay away from this episode and its recap until after. So go on and see it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
OK, done? Cool. Let’s get into it.
“Emancipation” picks up soon after Captain America and his band of rogue Avengers have disappeared, following his very public, er, difference of opinions with Tony Stark. Phil and May are in a bar, discussing the Sokovia Accords that mandate governmental interference in the avenging of the Avengers and the potential impact the Accords might have on S.H.I.E.L.D. itself. May and Coulson are both pretty much #TeamCap, unwavering in their belief that S.H.I.E.L.D. needs the ability to work independently, in the shadows, out of the government’s pocket.
Speaking of the government and its meddlesome pockets, our pal General Talbot shows up just as Coulson dismisses May, sending her off to work on the Hive problem and giving her full clearance to put all their options on the table.
Also, as expected, Talbot is firmly pro-Accords, sent by the President to investigate and register the Inhumans that Coulson is clearly harboring. Talbot also spots Coulson’s injuries and correctly deduces that something weird is going on—something that Coulson isn’t disclosing. Coulson freely offers to take Talbot to the base to prove nothing fishy is going on. At that point, Coulson gestures to the barkeep, who flips a switch that allows the booth they’re sitting to descend into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s base. It’s pretty damn cool.
Over in Hiveville, as she’s donating blood to Project New Inhumans, Daisy spies on still-imprisoned Lincoln by hacking into the security cameras, dodging Fitz’s attempts to lock her out. Hive warns her that if those meddlin’ S.H.I.E.L.D. kids don’t quit getting in the way, they’ll need to be taken care of. Daisy is aware and apparently willing. After Dr. Radcliffe retrieves Daisy’s blood for take-two of the Build an Inhuman experiment, Hive privately confides in the nervous doctor that he’s planning on rounding up some very “special” experiment volunteers, just for Daisy. Aww, there’s that deluded adoration of Daisy that Ward specialized in, rearing its head!
Back at HQ, May delivers food to Lincoln and smacks him down for his erratic and idiotic behavior. Elsewhere, Simmons keeps Fitz company while he plays Whack-a-Mole with hacker Daisy, trying to keep her out of their systems. The two scientists flirt and move to kiss before being interrupted by May, who asks them to forget Daisy and turn their attention to defeating Hive.
Coulson, meanwhile, gives Talbot the grand tour, asking him not to register their Inhumans and introducing him to Yoyo and her powers of lightning-fast pickpocketing. It’s unclear when she got back to S.H.I.E.L.D. or why—she was visibly displeased with how things went down in the aftermath of the Hive infection threat. Also, no word on where Joey is, or why he isn’t back in town while Yoyo is.
Somewhere in the middle of uneducated backwoods someplace, those Watchdog d-bags grumble about what a menace Inhumans are and practice shooting their big ol’ guns. They’re set on eradication, scoffing at the Sokovia Accords’ claim of mediating the Inhuman threat. They remain essentially a caricature of racism, with no nuance whatsoever.
Daisy peeks in on Lincoln again, this time revealing her presence and chatting a bit. Lincoln appears to be regretful that he didn’t go with her initially, trying to convince her that the best thing would be for the two of them to run away together, away from both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hive. Daisy “Mhmm, ok’s” him and it’s like, DUDE SHE’S BRAINWASHED. The power of your mediocre love story cannot save her. Be gone.
Elsewhere at HQ, Yoyo chats with Mack about his encounter with Daisy. He’s still bruised from the fight, physically and emotionally, and his faith is in shambles. She gives him a pep talk and they are adorable, which clearly means that one of them is going to be the dead person in the finale because Whedons don’t believe in happy endings.
Coulson and Talbot visit with the imprisoned Lincoln and Lincoln is sassy about it, making a joke about zapping the moustache right off Talbot’s face. Sassy Lincoln is the only version of Lincoln that’s okay. The next stop on Talbot’s tour is Lash’s containment module. The General is paints-soiling levels of freaked out to see Lash there, in the flesh, but Coulson assures him that all’s well and he wanted to see the good and the bad anyway, right?
Lincoln reaches out to Daisy again once Coulson and Talbot leave his room, telling her that he’s changed his mind and wants out, asking for her assistance. She agrees to meet up with him, just the two of them. Uh-huh, sure.
Meanwhile, Talbot asks after Daisy, and when May and Coulson weakly offer up that she’s off on a mission, Talbot reveals that Daisy and Hive were spotted on security footage strolling about casually—he knows that they’ve been lying to him and keeping the truth about Hive secret. The play at ignorance was just a gambit to see whether Coulson would offer up the truth. Coulson failed that test.
Elsewhere, those Watchdog buffoons are all-too-easily lured into an alleyway trap by James, who I am enjoying far more than I’m probably meant to. Seriously, this guy is like a sassier Hunter upgrade (I love sass, y’all may have noticed). James busts out his Hellfire moves, confirming that he’s the show’s counterpart of that figure from the comics. He lights up a chain with fire. It’s a pretty bomb move (pun intended).
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. Talbot is all of us: fundamentally confused about the nature of Hive and convinced he’s a demon possessing Ward’s body. FitzSimmons fill Talbot in on everything Hive, and he snaps into high alert once they reveal that Daisy’s blood could be used to create new Inhumans and that Hive would be capable of controlling them. Coulson is disturbed and in disbelief that Hive would sacrifice Daisy just to make a few more Inhumans but Fitz corrects him—it’s more like a lot more.
In the lab over at Hiveville, Hive and James load up the captured Watchdogs into a storage container and Radcliffe flips the switch, triggering the Inhumanizing process. Hive sends Daisy off to rest after she reports back to him about Lincoln’s desire to leave S.H.I.E.L.D. (confirming her promise to meet up with Lincoln solo is a ruse to get him on Team Hive). Hive gives her the heads up that they might need more blood from her. She looks visibly unhappy and quite peaked; clearly the process of donating so much blood is killing her and clearly Hive could care less.
Daisy walks Lincoln through MacGyvering his way out of his cell and towards the quinjet, while Talbot and Coulson, nearby, argue about the best course of action against Hive. Talbot is in favor of a preemptive strike (nuking Hive, essentially) but Coulson doubts he’d be able to get the government on board with the idea of nuking a demon. Which, fair.
Fitz also cautions that it’s probably unwise to strike when they have no idea what it is that Hive nabbed from ATCU during that distraction staged back in “Watchdogs.” In the midst of their argument, Fitz realizes that Daisy’s hacked back in and that the security footage from Lincoln’s cell is a pre-recorded loop of Lincoln sleeping, set by Daisy. Talbot is like, “Aw, Coulson, you done goofed,” and Coulson looks appropriately bashful.
Radcliffe and Hive pop open the storage container housing the Watchdogs post-experiment, to get their prize inside. Their prize inside is a group of hideously deformed, incommunicative zombie-looking mushface creatures. Radcliffe is horrified at the abominations he’s created, but Hive is basically cool with it. After all, he only needs meatsacks to control; he doesn’t give a hoot about quality of life or anything like that. He instructs Radcliffe to cook up the next tasty batch of mushfaces.
Fitz, Simmons, and Mack work on locking down the base and shutting out Lincoln’s escape routes, but Mack realizes that Daisy would be able to fly Lincoln out using the autopilot sequence on the quinjet. He quickly goes off to prevent Lincoln from boarding the jet. To break Mack’s hold, Lincoln zaps the big guy. Poor Mack—he’s really been put through the ringer in this batch of episodes.
Team S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives just in time to see Mack laid out flat and the quinjet taking off, Lincoln inside.
Hive takes Daisy to meet their “children”—which is what he calls the hideous and apparently mindless things Radcliffe has created. As if this couldn’t get any more disturbing, we now have an explicit interpretation of these things as the offspring of Daisy and her mind-controlling kidnapper. Wonderful.
Back at HQ, May strolls up with Lincoln in tow, revealing to the rest of the team that he wasn’t on the quinjet after all! The whole thing was an elaborate ruse to trick Daisy and Hive, leaving them unsuspecting and unprepared for Lash to disembark that quinjet instead of Lincoln (“desperate times…”). I’ll begrudgingly admit that this plan was pretty clever, though it’s conveniently left out how much of this plan was May’s and how much Lincoln’s. I’m thinking mostly May’s, though kudos to Lincoln for playing his whiny f*ckboy role with such astonishing aplomb. Lincoln reiterates his belief that every Inhuman exists for a purpose, and perhaps Lash’s is to kill Hive.
Simultaneously, Lash attacks Hive, badly wounding him (go Lash!). The mushface minions bust out of their containment and uselessly heave themselves at Lash, who kills each of them easily. Daisy, suffering from severe blood loss, throws herself into the melee despite Radcliffe’s warnings to stay away. After a failed attempt to disarm Lash, she collapses, and Lash takes that opportunity to apparently suck the controlling parasites out of Daisy, freeing her from Hive’s control and I guess establishing that there was a little bit of Andrew that remained in Lash after all. He’s very suddenly killed by James’ fire chain during the escape, as he loads Daisy into the quinjet. Daisy flies herself and Lash’s body home and is immediately taken into custody as everyone awkwardly greets her at the entrance. She informs them that Lash is dead and that he didn’t kill Hive. Fitz and Lincoln realize that Lash was meant to save Daisy, not to kill Hive, because she’s the chosen one or whatever. May cries over Lash’s body privately, and we all cry right along with her.
As Daisy is getting fixed up, she apparently divulges some key Hive intel off-screen because the next thing we know, FitzSimmons is informing Coulson and Talbot of Hive’s master plan—he wants to create a shockwave allowing him to disperse Radcliffe’s concoction on a massive amount of the human race, turning them all into his primitive Inhumans. Talbot chimes in, at that point, that Hive can totally do that because what he stole from the ATCU was a fully operational warhead. I feel like, I dunno, maybe Talbot should have led with that?
In the closing coda, Yoyo visits Mack. She leaves him with her cross. Since we’ve seen this cross (or one identical to it) floating around next to the dead S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in Daisy’s flashforward, this is clearly meant to be a signal that Mack is the dead agent. Which, of course, all but confirms that he won’t be. There’s no way they’d legitimately reveal that so casually in advance of the actual event.
The pacing of this Daisy-betrayal arc was a little strange overall. Her “emancipation” and Lash’s death were so sudden that they didn’t land the proper emotional beats. These are both big moments, but we’re rushing so quickly through Hive’s plan that her escape and Lash’s death aren’t given room to breathe. Now that Daisy is back on Team S.H.I.E.L.D., the two-part finale next week is clearly set to deal with the group taking Hive down once and for all, capping the season with that death. Lincoln improved marginally this week, but I’m still hoping that if anyone has to die it’s him—the writers clearly don’t know what to do with him, so perhaps they’ll give him the grand, self-sacrificing demise he’s been begging for.