Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “Parting Shot”:

It is not a great day to think about superhero properties more concerned with setting up spinoffs than its own story. That same feeling tugged at Arrow and The Flash this season to set up Legends of Tomorrow, which itself has only started paying back that loan, while I still can’t imagine any real investment in removing Bobbi and Hunter from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In earnest, I’m a bit torn. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has never been great with romantic relationships (just look at Daisy and Lincoln, if you don’t pass out of boredom at the thought), and the marital dynamic between Bobbi and Hunter has never proven half so interesting as the characters individually. They’re a credit to the series, whether Bobbi’s physicality and wry attitude, or Hunter’s wit; an overall splash of color in a series that can’t often afford to give that away. There’s even a degree of charm to the couple tonight, bantering about lost honeymoons over recon for a mission, even if it feels entirely incidental to think of them as man and wife.

So while I have trouble imagining much interest in following the pair outside of the series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. probably did the best it could to send them off with a “Parting Shot.” Opening into that ever-cliched flash-forward format, the hour agonizes over every detail of a mission that sees Bobbi and Hunter forced to take the blame for the deaths of several Russian officials, going so far as to involve William Sadler’s President Ellis in sealing the duo’s inability to remain at S.H.I.E.L.D. without starting a war with Russia.

The hats alone would never recover.

It’s a complicated affair, involving Malick’s efforts to stage a coup with a Russian/Inhuman general capable of projecting his own shadow as a formidably intangible assassin, and all in hopes of removing opposition to an Inhuman sanctuary state. I’ll credit Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with milking the tension for all it’s worth, and the camera work involved in Daisy, Mack and Bobbi battling the apparition proves reasonably impressive, when not trying to keep track of a convoluted, back-and-forth flashback plot. To their credit, Bobbi and Hunter also make the choice to leave on their own, even after Coulson offered an alternative under assumed names, a testament to their devotion.

More than the mission itself at least, the closing sequence proved particularly lovely, to have the team all silently wave goodbye from afar in a tavern, the kind of sentiment Agents doesn’t often stop to dwell in. There’s always been a lived-in sense of camaraderie to the team, and giving each player their moment to shine feels like an antithesis to cutting off useless appendages like Ward. It might rank among the more affecting sequences of the entire series; odd, considering I maintain zero interest in actually following Bobbi and Hunter into a new series, for all the emotion of their exit.

Those tears, like little shotgun-axes to the heart.

It was only a few weeks ago, that the inability to actually keep new Secret Warriors among the cast weighed on the premiere, and if nothing else, Bobbi and Hunter’s exits may allow a bit of breathing room. And really, there wasn’t much else of consequence to “Parting Shot,” other than to establish Malick’s daughter in the closing tag, so if we needed to suffer another episode contributing little to its own series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. handled it with surprising grace.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • I cannot stress enough, the need for a break from “X hours earlier” episodes.
  • Bobbi as the only one capable of speaking Russian was cute. Also, “sestra!”
  • Mack makes an awful leap from “Hey, that guy’s shadow looked like it moved a little weird in this grainy video.”
  • Was this the same facility as the Black Widow training site from Agent Carter?
  • Oh, Coulson and his penchant for stepping out of shadows.
  • That … was a lot of alcohol to keep sending the pair. Let’s hope they took a cab.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return on March 29 with “Watchdogs,” airing at 9:00 P.M. on ABC.

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