Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2013) season 3, episode 22
WRITER: JED WHEDON
DIRECTOR: KEVIN TANCHAROEN
AIR DATE: May 17 2016
"Ascension" concludes the second half of the season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with things looking at their most dire for the team. As in the first half, we’ve been seeing visual cues tossed back and forth between characters (unknowingly to them, but knowingly to the audience, who earlier in the season have seen visions of the near future) that are supposed to leave us wondering who’s fated to meet a bad end. When it’s all said and done, two characters are removed from the board entirely... and in a way that fits both of them. Others are left emotionally wounded and going in different directions.
Hive (Brett Dalton) is eager to launch the pathogen that will render humanity into his primitive slaves. Coulson (Clark Gregg) thinks if the warhead is detonated in space, there will be no adverse effect. A quinjet can get it there. Which of the two will achieve their goal? Well, what with Brett Dalton’s time on the series coming to an end, and the series being rather dull if all of humanity was permanently rendered to Alpha Primitive status, that’s probably obvious.
Where things go isn’t quite as obvious. Daisy (Chloe Bennet) thinks she must atone for the time she spent in Hive’s sway by sacrificing herself (and fulfilling a vision she saw earlier in the season). That guilt complex is pretty seriously established by this point. Thwarting Hive, seeing through the plan, and saving the world, however, is left to the one member of the team who never wanted to be a hero - and ends up being the biggest hero of all. Lincoln (Luke Campbell) makes the sacrifice play to save the girl, save the world, and destroy the enemy- and in that last moment before the end, it’s a strangely peaceful moment between two adversaries, finding themselves at the end of all things.
This was pretty much as far as they could take Ward/Hive. Short of bringing back Ward as a ghost, the character was pretty much living on borrowed time since, earlier in the season, his dead body had been taken over by the Inhuman entity. How could you take the concept beyond the end of the season? You couldn’t, of course, and so this is the end of the line for Brett Dalton on the show. It’s been a run for the character - he started out as the clean cut heroic agent, albeit dreadfully boring, before showing himself to be the villainous snake in the grass traitor, which made him more interesting, and gave the actor a second life.
And this is also the end of the line for Lincoln, who’s been an up and down sort of character for many viewers since he was first introduced. His loyalties have leaned much more towards Daisy, first because they were both Inhumans, and more recently because of their romantic relationship. Thus he’s been a half hearted S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, given to questioning orders and having his motives questioned in turn. He hasn’t wanted to be the hero- which makes his decision here all the better, and gives his character an exceptional last act. In saving the woman he loves, he also saves the world. Short of possible dream sequences (which given the emotional state Daisy is in might not be that out of the question), this is the last we’ll see of the character, but he gets a fitting farewell.
The end of the episode moves things forward in time a few months, with Coulson working in a different capacity, searching for one of his own. Daisy’s acting off the grid, but for understandable reasons given the emotional trauma and grief she must be feeling. And as if that wasn’t enough, we have one last glimpse of Radcliffe, who’s been busy pursuing his research endeavours- with artificial intelligence and a Life Model Decoy. All of which are pointing the way towards season four.