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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S3 E20 "Emancipation"

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Hive continues his attempt to create new Inhumans, while Coulson's team fights against Daisy's incursions into their network.


Tropes:

  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: While in the past Hive has espoused this ideology about his fellow Inhumans, this is finally averted when James (acting on Hive's behalf) kills Lash. Hive also intends to completely drain Daisy's blood as material for the Inhuman virus, but Lash foils that.
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  • Asshole Victim: Given their plans and xenophobic attitudes, it's really hard to feel sorry for the Watchdogs who get captured and transformed into Hive's slaves.
  • Bait-and-Switch: After the alpha test of the Inhuman virus produces the Primitives, Radcliffe falls over himself trying to insist he can improve on the technique as Hive seemingly has the Primitives prepare to kill him. Then he lets Radcliffe stand and reveals he's perfectly content with the results.
  • Batman Gambit: May and Lincoln pull of a spectacular one on Hive, with Lincoln pretending to want off the base and allowing Daisy to break him out via a Quinjet, knowing full well that Hive would be there to greet him instead of Daisy. So, right before the Quinjet leaves, Lincoln gets off, and Lash gets on, with both of them expecting that Lash would go after Hive and spare Daisy — and perhaps even save her. Apart from May and Lincoln, the only one in on the whole thing was Coulson. Talbot expresses his utmost admiration of what had taken place after Lincoln is revealed to still be on the base, having planned the whole thing with May.
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  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted yet again. Daisy looks like death warmed over in this episode. Her cuts have healed — sort of — but they leave scars, her blood "donation" leaves her very pale, and there are noticeable bags under her eyes, as if she hasn't been sleeping.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Much like in Captain America: Civil War, the pro- and anti-registration sides have valid arguments. Talbot brings up several accurate concerns that the Sokovia Accords are meant to address, while Coulson points out a key issue with government oversight that the Accords would enforce is that the red tape involved would make a quick and efficient response all but impossible during a crisis, with Talbot conceding that getting any effective results would only come through the blatant deception and subterfuge he criticizes S.H.I.E.L.D. for. Also, Talbot says that villainous Inhumans like Hive and Hellfire need to be found and prevented from hurting anyone, but Coulson counters that lists of powered people will inevitably fall into the wrong hands (like S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Index).
  • Call-Back:
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    • The warhead Giyera got back in "Watchdogs" from Felix Blake is brought up here, to be used as the dispersal vehicle for Hive's Inhuman virus.
    • Hive targets the Watchdogs for Inhuman conversion, considering it a gift to Daisy after her experiences with them in that episode.
  • Camera Spoofing: Daisy replaces the footage from the cell's surveillance cameras with a loop of Lincoln sleeping in order to aid his escape.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Talbot insists on calling the military to deal with Hive, Coulson snarks that he'd probably lose them at "devil". Talbot concedes he would have lied to them.
  • Chain Pain: James wields a charged chain as a weapon, similar to his comic book counterpart, which he uses to take out Lash.
  • Character Death: Lash, and by extension Andrew, is killed when James impales him with his chain.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames:
    • Radcliffe starts new trials for inducing Terrigenesis in non-Inhumans using Daisy's blood on a group of kidnapped Watchdogs. The transformations basically result in the MCU version of the Alpha Primitives, an engineered slave race serving the Inhumans. The name is referenced by Radcliffe calling the Watchdogs "primitives" after their Terrigenesis, and pleading with Hive to give him time to run a beta trial, calling the first attempt with Daisy's blood an alpha trial.
    • Lampshaded when Talbot asks Coulson who came up with the names "Hive" and "Lash".
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The main plot point of Captain America: Civil War is continually referenced through the episode, and a newscast at the beginning specifically mentions the dispute between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers.
    • Coulson is reading a newspaper article about Peggy Carter's death, whose funeral is shown in the film.
    • Talbot refers to the Brainwashed and Crazy Daisy as a lost nuclear weapon, the same analogy used by Secretary Ross in the film in regards to the absent Hulk and Thor.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: There was a very good chance that a powerful Inhuman like Lash would end up being part of Hive's army, but fortunately, that doesn't happen because Lash's energy beams can destroy Hive's parasites.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: So far, James was presented as a boastful loudmouth, but in this episode he shows his powers are strong enough to kill Lash!
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The newly-Inhuman Watchdogs are easily beaten by Lash, three of whom he kills. Hive doesn't fare much better, getting a massive hole through his chest in addition to being tossed around, but he's still alive and it's implied he only survives because Lash's true purpose is to "cure" Daisy and get her to safety.
  • Death by Irony: After killing many people by putting holes in their chest, Lash ends up getting one in his, though in his case it's an exit wound.
  • Deus ex Machina: Lash's powers, which have otherwise been shown to be universally deadly, are able to draw Hive's spores out of Daisy's brain while leaving her completely unharmed.
  • Dying as Yourself: Downplayed, as Lash does not physically transform back into Andrew when he dies, but he does speak for the second (and last) time.
    Simmons: That wasn't Lash.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Radcliffe is quite disturbed when he finds out that his new test subjects are unwilling captives rather than volunteers. This is the same guy who had no problem with the fact that his last volunteer subjects melted in horrible pain.
    • Both James and Radcliffe have some serious reservations about the results of the artificial Inhuman creations and are pretty baffled that Hive is content with it, even planning to produce more. For them, Terrigenesis is meant to evolve people into something better. The Primitives are the opposite of that and they never considered that Hive does not share their beliefs.
  • Fake Defector: Lincoln appears to betray S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to return to Daisy — and even attacks Mack — but it's revealed as a deception concocted by May, Lincoln and Coulson to get Lash to take his place.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • Lincoln and May communicated their plan by writing on the undersides of his food trays; when Lincoln smacks the guard outside his room with a tray, the audience can briefly see writing on it. (It's held at an angle that the writing wouldn't be visible to the security camera, meaning Daisy couldn't see it.)
    • The newspaper about Peggy's funeral that Coulson read informs a bit of Peggy's earlier life before World War II, such as her family and dead brother Michael Carter, as well as her later life after the war including her marriage.
  • Genre Blindness: The Watchdogs follow James into an alley, which he lampshades never works out well and should be avoided, "just on principle."
  • Godzilla Threshold:
    • Given the threat Hive poses, S.H.I.E.L.D. decides to let Lash loose on him, hoping Lash will take him out. That falls through, but he does the next best thing by freeing Daisy.
    • After Hive fails to infect Lash and gets hurt by him as a result, he realizes how dangerous Lash is and how it's not worth further attempts to infect him (despite the great asset Lash would be on his side), opting to just outright kill him instead.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Radcliffe is dismayed at the ghoul-like abominations he's created with his experiment, but otherwise it worked exactly as intended. Those exposed to the virus are instantly transformed and enslaved to Hive.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Lash fills the role he was destined to and saves Daisy from Hive's influence.
  • Internal Reveal:
    • Talbot learns about Hive, the Inhumans working for S.H.I.E.L.D., and Hive's endgame. He also learns the location of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secret base.
    • Talbot reveals to S.H.I.E.L.D. that Giyera stole a warhead back in "Watchdogs".
  • In the Back: James sends his chain through Lash's back when he's busy taking the recently-cured Daisy to the Quinjet.
  • Ironic Echo: "I run a tight ship." Talbot snarks it to Coulson upon Lincoln's escape, then Coulson sends it right back when the escape is revealed as a deception.
  • Irony:
    • The Watchdogs are turned into slaves for Hive.
    • Lash, who has killed countless people by burning holes in their chests, dies the same way this episode.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Talbot brings up some pretty good points why the Sokovia Accords are a good thing, but he is a jerk about it and gives the impression that Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. by themselves are useless.
  • Karmic Transformation: Five members of the Watchdogs are transformed into the beings they hate, and they even look the part.
  • Kill It with Fire: Lash, who had proven resistant or immune to every form of punishment inflicted on him (including bullets, super vibrations and electricity), dies from being impaled by a super-heated, fiery chain.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: This episode takes place after Captain America: Civil War and in fact builds its plot around a major story element of the film, while also revealing the death of Peggy Carter, rendering the episode a late-arrival spoiler for viewers who hadn't had a chance to see Civil War the previous weekend.
  • Mission Control: Daisy talks Lincoln through his escape from the base. Or at least, that's what she thinks she's doing.
  • Mugging the Monster: The Watchdogs get wind of a potential Inhuman target, whom they plan to capture and then kill. Turns out Hive leaked that info to them, and the Inhuman they're after is James with Hive as backup. They never stood a chance.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Radcliffe's reaction upon seeing the Watchdogs transformed into mindless slave creatures. He all but utters the trope by name.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • James wields a chain charged by his powers, creating a fiery chain reminiscent of that used by his comic book counterpart.
    • Coulson says that "some battles need to be fought with secret warriors."
    • The "Primitive" slaves that are created through Hive and Radcliffe's experiments are pretty clearly the MCU version of the Alpha Primitives, the slave race used by the Inhumans. They're strong, unintelligent, and not very pretty, but loyal to Hive.
  • Neck Snap: Three of the five Primitives are killed this way by Lash.
  • Neck Lift: Lash does this to a couple of the Primitives, then snaps their necks with the same hand.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Lash's ability to cure people of Hive's spores comes completely out of nowhere.
  • No-Sell: Lash proves able to block and destroy Hive's brainwashing spores with ease via the energy he shoots from his body, and can remove them from others.
  • Not Brainwashed: Daisy tries to invoke this trope in order to get Lincoln to cooperate, though he is smart enough to see through it.
  • Not So Different: Coulson tells Talbot how he thinks that lists are a bad thing, as the government could decide to use gifted people arbitrarily, but then we are reminded that he himself keeps powered people imprisoned, claiming it is in the best interest for everyone. Given that one of them is a serial killer we cut him some slack.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Hive's calm and controlled demeanor cracks just a bit when he sees Lash in the Quinjet, and then he really looks concerned when Lash defeats Hive's attempt to infest him with parasites.
    • Team Coulson's reactions when Talbot informs them that what Hive stole from Indiana was a warhead.
  • Prophecy Twist: Similar to the way Lincoln thought that it was Daisy's destiny to save Charles back in "Spacetime" when in fact it was the reverse, he thinks that Lash's destiny is to defeat Hive when it turns out his purpose is to save Daisy.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: Lash is recruited to fight Hive because S.H.I.E.L.D. is out of less risky options.
  • The Quiet One: Lash has exactly one line during the course of the episode.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Lash dies just after saving Daisy from Hive.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Coulson mentions The Exorcist while discussing Hive's powers to Talbot.
    • Daisy mentions MacGyver while guiding Lincoln to escape from his cell.
  • Super Registration Act: One effect of the Sokovia Accords is a registration list of enhanced humans, including Inhumans. Talbot is trying to get Coulson on-board, but Coulson understandably doesn't go for it. Yo-Yo says that a bounty would be placed on her if she was registered; Talbot assures her the list is highly classified, to which Yo-Yo calls him naïve.
  • Title Drop: Hive calls forcing the Watchdogs he's captured to be exposed to the Inhuman virus their "emancipation". He also states that in case of another failure, there will be no "absolution", which is the next episode's title.
  • Trojan Horse: The Quinjet hijacked by Daisy contains not Lincoln, but Lash.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Enforced. Lincoln's "escape" thanks to Daisy's hacking of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s network was actually a plan by Lincoln, Coulson and May to send Lash to Hive in a Trojan Horse. This is not revealed until the plan comes to fruition, when the three of them explain it to Talbot (and to Mack, whom Lincoln had to incapacitate to keep the plan going). Since they had to assume Daisy would be able to monitor them at all times, at no point could they speak of it in the base.
  • Wham Shot: In The Stinger, Elena gives Mack her cross necklace, the same kind we see floating in the S.H.I.E.L.D. space shuttle just before it explodes.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Hive orders Daisy to donate all of her blood, condemning her to death, as this is the only way she is of use to him now.

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