The two-hour finale was an action packed twofer and emotional denouement to an uneven season that never quite lived up to its potential. At the very least, no one can fault it for being unnecessarily long—unlike many lagging two-part finales, nearly every minute of “Absolution”/”Ascension” was jam-packed with needed plot and action.
We open on an eerie sight—Daisy and Coulson, peaked, huddle in a containment module, on what appears to be Maveth. Daisy tries to rewire the module to get them home, to Earth, but Coulson gently breaks the news that they’re on Earth. She jolts awake in her containment module, safely at base, with a shock. What appeared to be an ominous flash-forward was just a standard foreshadowing nightmare.
The next half hour of the finale is pure action. Using Daisy’s intel on Hive, we join the team in the thick of it—a smart choice, given how much needs to happen in this finale. May, Mack, Lincoln, and May drop onto an island in the Pacific where Hive’s overtaken a missile silo, intending to launch his Inhumanizing formula-laced warhead over Earth, while Fitz and Talbot work together to access a missile launch kill code to stop the warhead from launching. Coulson retrieves the kill code and reads it off to Fitz, who enters it with milliseconds to spare, stopping the launch. This stopping-a-missile thing is all within the first ten minutes of the finale; obviously it was never going to be that easy to stop Hive. Nice try attempting to lull us into a fall sense of security, show.
Meanwhile, Mack and Yoyo work on assembling a device to stop Hive in the hallway of the silo while Hive sends Radcliffe to bypass the override and manually launch the missile. Mack tries to return Yoyo’s cross to her, but she rebuffs him. At this point, that cross being passed around is like a game of Hot Potato, and whoever’s holding it at the end dies (per Daisy’s vision). Elsewhere, Radcliffe adorably complains to a pair of silo employees-turned-Primitives who he nicknames Ronald and Ronald 2. From here on out, those Primitives are not Primitives—they’re Ronalds (to me, anyway).
Hive finds Lincoln and taunts him about his love for Daisy, offering to make Lincoln “whole” as well. Lincoln leads Hive into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s trap, a device he jumpstarts with his powers. It works to unhinge all of the memories of the people Hive has inhabited. This serves as a sort of “Brett Dalton’s greatest hits” montage, with flashes to his Ward days. It’s a great performance by Dalton as he inhabits each of the personas in turn, confusing James and Giyera by echoing past lines of dialogue collected from his jumbled memories. Despite his confusion, he manages to instruct Giyera to disconnect the warhead and get out of there with it, which Giyera does.
While the team is on their Hive-trapping mission, Coulson visits Daisy. For much of the first half, Daisy is useless, locked in her containment module—my biggest complaint about the finale. Coulson’s conversation with his surrogate daughter unveils all of Daisy’s self-loathing—coming down from the high of Hive’s influence, she’s in self-punishing mode and wants to suffer in order to atone for her Hive-induced sins.
Unfortunately, this outlook doesn’t feel wholly earned. Yes, Daisy badly beat Mack and was prepared to kill him, which is terrible. But that doesn’t warrant Daisy’s extreme, debilitating self-loathing. She’s acting like she successfully killed and/or tortured hordes of people. Of course, this mindset is necessary to pull off the emotional gut-punch of the second half, in which Daisy is willing to sacrifice her life to make everything right, so Daisy’s extreme “I hate everything and I’m the worst” makes sense in that regard.
May fights off the Ronalds with an unexpected assist from Radcliffe, who begs to go with her back to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s base, not interested in helping Hive any longer. After failing to stop Giyera from taking the warhead, May, Radcliffe, and the other agents leave with the silo hostages rescued by Yoyo. On the way out, they manage to capture a very disoriented Hive, trapping him in what looks like amber.
Once back at base, Coulson assigns Radcliffe to work with FitzSimmons on finding a way to reverse the Ronald process, reverting the Ronalds into regular humans. Mack visits Daisy, offering her forgiveness and a very adorable bear hug that she’s initially unwilling to accept. Their (platonic) relationship is so much more compelling than Lincoln and Daisy’s ever was. Sorry, I can’t stop hating on Lincoln’s relationship with Daisy—but it’s almost over, I promise!
Back in the lab, instead of working on a way to fix the humans that Radcliffe and Hive wrecked, Jemma is vacation-planning a trip to the Seychelles for her and Fitz. Good use of time, in my opinion. This seems like heavy telegraphing that either Fitz or Simmons is going to die. The show actually does a decent job of legitimately making it seem like anyone could be the #FallenAgent, though in the end, it winds up being the one person who’d truly been set up for a sacrificial death for the better part of this half-season.
Coulson orders a lockdown while they have Hive in custody. While unloading boxes in the hangar, a shipment (from Absolution, Montana) explodes, courtesy of Giyera and James’ remote deployment. Various S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel turn into Ronalds, thanks to the Radcliffe formula released by the explosion, and Fitz narrowly escapes after Simmons overrides the lockdown protocol. The Ronalds bust Hive out of stasis and he goes straight for the Zephyr—despite his continued disorientation, he recalls Daisy telling him about the aircraft’s high-altitude capabilities and plans to use the Zephyr as his means of dispersing the warhead’s Ronald-making formula upon the Earth.
Daisy realizes Hive’s plan and tells Mack, who runs off to warn the others. Daisy herself overrides her containment module in order to make her way to the hangar. Rather than attempting to take Hive down herself, she initially begs him to take her back, though he can’t—when Lash removed Hive’s influence from her in “Emancipation,” he also made her impervious to it going forward. This is easily the most interesting and unexpected moment of the finale and a clear subversion of expectations. Despite Daisy’s ordeal, she’s the hero—you don’t expect to see the hero, utterly broken, voluntarily offer herself up to the villain, no matter the pain she’s in. It’s rather bleak.
When Hive reveals Daisy’s imperviousness to her (“Sorry, can’t help ya, sister”), she goes batshit and attacks him. Their ensuing fight scene is incredibly elaborate and really well performed and choreographed, though Hive’s long coat remaining on the whole time makes it just a little bit silly. At the same time, the remaining agents figure out that the ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Ronalds are in the vents, coming for them, and dispatch to secure as much of the facility as they can. Stabbing Hive and breaking his bones with her Quake powers proves useless and eventually Hive subdues Daisy and loads her onto the Zephyr, where they’re joined by Giyera, James, a couple of Ronalds, and the laced warhead. Hive sets the Zephyr to ascend vertically, planning to escape with the others in Daisy’s escape module once the warhead is high enough to blow.
Back at base, Yoyo takes a bullet (or several) for Mack after trying (and failing) to catch them in midair. Mack grabs her and rendezvouses with Lincoln, Radcliffe, and Coulson, where Mack cauterizes her wound with a blowtorch. At the same time, Simmons, being brilliant, deduces that the Ronalds’ poor vision means they see by infrared waves—cranking up the heat effectively blinds them, allowing them to walk right by the Ronalds.
On the Zephyr, Fitz and May pop up out of the underbelly, reminiscent of Bobbi and Hunter stowing away on Malick’s jet to Russia earlier in the season. May gives Daisy a pulling-no-punches, May-style pep talk, advising her to do some good to counteract the guilt she feels. Just before she’s definitely about to tell Daisy that she cares about her, Giyera shows up and knocks her out, holding a gun on the group. Fitz manages to use an invisible gun (they have those?!) to kill Giyera.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson uses his robot arm to call the robot quinjet, intending to go solo to intercept Hive on the Zephyr, dropping off everyone elsewhere. Aboard the Zephyr, Hive realizes that stowaway S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have killed Giyera at the same time that Coulson manages to attach the quinjet to the Zephyr. Meanwhile, Daisy reaches into the pocket of the jacket that Fitz gave her and sees the cross in the pocket, realizing that, presumably, the game of Hot Potato has come to the end, and she’s the one left holding the potato-cross.
Hive confronts Coulson on the quinjet, revealing his true face, which is just… underwhelming. He looks extremely similar to Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean (apparently Disney only has one setting for tentacle-y face CGI monster). He plans on taking over Coulson’s body in order to convince the team to stand down, allowing him to complete his maniacal plan. At that point, Coulson reveals that he’s just a hologram, meant to distract Hive, while the others—who wouldn’t listen to his orders to remain behind—drop into the Zephyr to retrieve the warhead.
En route to the cargo bay, Lincoln faces off with James, knocking the firestarter out and being badly (but non-fatally) wounded in the process. Daisy and Lincoln have an intense conversation in which Lincoln tries to absolve Daisy of her guilt but also sort of breaks up with her? I don’t know; it’s all very emotional, thanks largely to Chloe Bennet’s and Luke Mitchell’s performances, but the emotion feels unearned and the dialogue a bit canned. As they’re speaking, Coulson and Daisy realize the best course of action at the same time—to load the warhead onto the quinjet and remotely pilot it up into space, where it will explode harmlessly.
Lincoln, who’d been clued into Daisy’s vision earlier in the season, realizes that she intends to be on that quinjet with the warhead, enacting the vision and sacrificing herself. Before Lincoln or anyone else can stop her, she slips out and the Ronalds attack the group, giving Mack an opportunity to bust out his shotgun axe in a phenomenally filmed action sequence.
Hive follows Daisy onto the quinjet, where he reveals that he can override the autopilot using the manual controls. At that point, Lincoln pops up, having followed Daisy onto the jet. He disables the manual controls using his powers, blasts Daisy back onto the Zephyr, and shoots himself and Hive into space along with the warhead.
Daisy and Lincoln have yet another very emotional conversation via the comms system, in which the show tries very hard and valiantly to make us care about Lincoln’s impending death. He tells Daisy that he loves her for the first time, a very sweet moment, before the communications system gets cut off. Daisy’s horrified/devastated reaction is a powerhouse performance from Chloe Bennet, as she fruitlessly begs the group to help her save Lincoln.
Meanwhile, Lincoln and Hive float together in space, calmly accepting their fate. Hive mentions that he only wanted to make the world better, only wanted a connection, giving us hints of what a better and more compelling villain he might have been had he been giving more time to—I don’t know—gestate. The imagery is very religious, as is any instance of a character sacrificing himself for the world—Lincoln the Christ-like figure and Hive the devil.
Lincoln clearly had to go. His character never clicked, within the group or for the audience, and he never had much of a personality beyond “loves Daisy.” Honestly, I’m more upset to see Brett Dalton go—though he’d clearly overstayed his welcome as Ward, a character kept around long beyond his utility, quite a while ago.
The quinjet explodes, Daisy breaks down, and on Jemma’s “Now what?” we time-jump, six months later, in a very sudden, jarring smash cut.
“Quake” is a mysterious rogue Inhuman at this point, according to newspaper clippings. Daisy, looking as though she’s en route to Warped Tour 2008, delivers money to Charlie the psychic Inhuman’s wife and daughter, also giving Robin the wooden robin that Charlie carved for her. Before Mack and Coulson (apparently no longer the director of S.H.I.E.LD.) can apprehend her, she quickly escapes using a new ability—she can building-jump now! Neat.
In a separate closing scene, Radcliffe, now cleared of all charges against him, chats with his AI “Aida,” celebrating the “birth” of his L.M.D.—a life model decoy for Aida to inhabit. His very own Ultron? Yep, that’ll go well. Definitely not an ominous season-ending scene at all.
- Where’s Joey? Like, I get that he wasn’t thrilled with S.H.I.E.L.D. after the Hive-Daisy incident, but neither was Yoyo, and she came through anyway. His absence isn’t even addressed.
- This wasn’t a particularly funny installment but all of the humorous moments came from Fitz, as usual. Fitz posing as General Anders and syncing up his facial movement with vocal exercises was particularly hilarious, especially paired with perpetual straight-man Talbot.
- Coulson mentions, at the top of the first hour, that he’s pulled the memory machine out of storage but that it’s not for Daisy. Was he planning on using it on Hive, before everything went to shit?
- Yoyo is the sassiest, and I’m so glad she wasn’t the #FallenAgent. Her playful teasing of Mack is wonderful, and I’m already about forty times more invested in their relationship than I ever was in Lincoln/Daisy or even Bobbi/Hunter. She’d better remain a part of the team.
- A+ for Goth Daisy trying to set her father up with Charlie’s widow.