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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 3, Episode 18 - "The Singularity"

Daniel Rasmus

The differences between the adrenaline-fueled S.H.I.E.L.D. and the cult of Hive come into stark contrast as the season winds down.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Airtime: Tuesdays, 8pm
Cast: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Henry Simmons, Luke Mitchell
Subtitle: Season 3, Episode 18 - "The Singularity"
Network: ABC
Air date: 2016-04-26

Zephyr One, after perhaps one of the most spectacular airplane takeoffs in television history (well done Mark Kolpak and the VFX team!), becomes the mobile command base in the wake of Daisy’s (Chloe Bennett) destruction of key elements of the S.H.I.E.L.D. now not-so-secret base.

With Daisy a member of Hive's (Brett Dalton) minions, and looking all doe-eyed during their quiet moments together, S.H.I.E.L.D. turns itself to a cure, and that cure lies with transhumanist Dr. Holden Radcliffe (John Hannah), an expert in unusual parasitic infestations, along with how to integrate technology and non-human biology into humans.

This allows the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to enter into a bit of exposition on the Singularity, the point at which computing meets, then quickly eclipses, human information processing capability. While the singularity existed before 2005, it was Ray Kurzweil's book, The Singularity is Near that postulated for popular culture the idea of the exponential growth of computing capacity.

For some reason, the writers decide to go all Eastern European, heading off to a high-class club in Bucharest, Romania, where a bar filled with heavily modified humans. They didn’t need to invest in such an expensive venue, so far from S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, because transhumanism is very much alive and well in the United States. Late February found transhumaists meeting up at the Body Hacking Conference in Austin, Texas, where people were doing things like implanting RFID chips in their fingers, and stringing LEDs under the skin of their arms (check out this story on NPR's All Tech Considered).

As Radcliffe alludes to, we aren't very far along the lines of genetic manipulation, but Hive (Brett Dalton) shares that, as far as basic technology, humans are about where the Kree were when they invented, then deployed, the Inhuman gene on Earth. It's then we then discover what Hive has done with Malick's (Powers Boothe) wealth: he bought a town to transform it into a laboratory.

It remains to be seen if Daisy, Hive and their increasing bands of Inhumans, along with Dr. Radcliffe, will do the smart thing, and lay low, outside of the prying eyes of S.H.I.E.L.D., or if their arrogance will reveal their location, and thus, invalidate the purchase of the city as laboratory and hiding place. People who don’t want to be caught stop moving. We'll see how Zen they can be. Chances are, not very.

Into this fray reenters James (Axle Whitehead), who eventually lands on the name Hellfire as his super villain moniker. Known in the comic books as J.T. James (J.T. for James Taylor -- his mother was fan), he was the inheritor of the Phantom Rider's Hellfire Chain, which allows him to manipulate the fires of hell. His origin story is less grand here, with Daisy tossing a terrigen crystal at his feet so that he'll cooperate with Hive to reveal the whereabouts of another Kree artifact (the only thing that can destroy Hive; that’s all we learn about it). He does cooperate, but not before torching his own trailer as he emerges from his volcanic necrosis cocoon all hot and bothered.

What's important, and we'll see how this plays out, is that Hellfire and Daisy, in the books, end up in a relationship, one that end in his death, but not before he's both a Secret Warrior and a traitor. To my point last week about alternative universes, if you dig deep enough into the lore, you'll find, to the dismay of many, that it was Daisy, as director (after its reactivation by Captain America) who recruits Phil Coulson to S.H.I.E.L.D.

This isn't the comic books, though, and what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has put together is the foundation of a cult, which makes sense given Malick's rather religious cult-y views on Hive. Hive, like a good cult leader, imbues his followers with a sense of kinship and calm. In this case, he also infuses them with some of his parasitic essence. He shares with Daisy that they’re all one organization/organism. The power seems, however, to not be mind control but an addiction, with the pleasure centers being just overstimulated enough by the parasite that those within its bond experiences a sense of overwhelming calm and focus.

This offers an interesting contrast between the brashness of S.H.I.E.L.D., overhyped on adrenaline, and the Hive clan calmly facing their future, not as an army, but as something seemingly transcendent; a contrast that will likely play out at the near reverse yin-and-yang going into the last few episodes of the season.

But Hellfire and Daisy, or Hive and Daisy, aren't the only relationships destined to catch fire. For all of those awaiting the cult of Fitz and Simmons, the consummated relationship brings another leverage point. Given the nature of this show and this relationship, all I can say is carpe diem, you two. Good on you. (Oh, and watch each other's backs when you aren't in a position to watch you own).

Finally, "The Singularity" is two episodes ahead of Captain America: Civil War, and in the background, while Coulson and May look on, the ATCU takes out several Hydra bases, and announces that Hydra is dead. Really? Don't they remember what Hydra stands for? (Cut off one head, two grow back). I'm pretty sure that this state of affairs plays into the Civil War narrative in some way, and that the next episode will also connect up to the movie (with the May 10 episode commenting on what just happened in the movie).

As I've pointed out before. Disney's Marvel has a lot of moving pieces. Wisely, they've mostly compartmentalized them, but there's still bleed through that can at times feel forced. This Hydra take-down looks on the monitors like an entire movie (or at least a two-episode arc), that was shrunken down, like Ant-Man, and squeezed into a few seconds of airtime.

Given the strength of the last few episodes, this one was a little wind up before another pitch. The question to ask now: how many balls are in play, and where exactly are they coming from?


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