This is possibly the hardest episode of Season 3 to review, purely because it is difficult to know where to start and what to say without providing clues – or worse, spoilers – to the whole thread. With Daisy fully under the sway of Hive and willing to sacrifice everything including herself in a quite literal sense, things have seldom looked more desperate. Lincoln is full of despair at his failed attempt to help Fitz Simmons find a cure, and his current impotence locked away at base. Mack is haunted by his last encounter with his former partner. May is on edge with it all and Fitz Simmons have no answers. It’s the perfect time for an inspection tour of the base from Talbot of course (!)
What follows is an episode of two threads – one the terrifying scheme of Hive racing to its unthinkable conclusion and the other the slow disintegration of the SHIELD team in front of the eyes of the one person that they need to impress. With each revelation of secrecy, duplicity or a lack of control of some detail or other, Talbot gets every bit of ammunition he’s ever expected or wanted to have as an excuse to shut SHIELD down personally. And with every passing hour, Daisy skirts closer to death as Hive approaches his goal of global domination.
Performances across the board are exceptional. From Lincoln’s tortured, desperate longing to be reunited with Daisy to Coulson’s increasing despair at the sight of his team falling apart, everyone plays their part here perfectly. Hive reveals a twisted sense of irony with his choice of subjects for the next batch of Holden’s created Inhumans, and Daisy slips further and further from reality with every drop of blood drained from her veins.
The emancipation of the title works on many levels, and it is a credit to the writers and the actors that the ending is so unpredictable, yet so right and ultimately satisfying. This is the way that the journey has to end, and nothing about that ending feels anything less than natural and assured.
All we need to know now as we head towards the two hour finale is this – just exactly who is it that Daisy saw in that vision, and what is going to transpire to make it come to pass?
Verdict: Blistering, excellently paced, superbly written and executed with the assurance of a team at the very top of their game. Hands down the best episode of the season to date and a contender for one of the top episodes of the show’s entire run. 10/10
Greg D. Smith