What They Say:
Afterlife – After Robert Gonzales takes action, Coulson fights to protect the future of SHIELD; Skye meets an enigmatic Inhuman.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Though I’ve been enjoying the season as a whole, and seemingly more than a lot of other people who don’t care for all sorts of aspects of it that I totally understand, the previous episode of Agents of SHIELD was certainly one of the strongest of the season. While I do enjoy the show when it does its spy thing, there’s also fun when it goes all out as an organization. There’s only so many times you really want them revisiting the well of material from the fall of SHIELD, but there’s a lot of good launching points to use from such a pivotal event, and it pays off as it did here. We got a lot of action, a lot of character material and, most importantly for me, a lot of context to how things have shaken out. Plot holes aside, it made things feel compelling in a lot of ways. But it also gave me some very enjoyable Skye material as we have her now off with Gordon, and that opens up its own potential storyline greatness – or misfire – depending on what it wants to create on its own or adapt from the books.
With the cold open here, it opts to go in its own direction in a fun way here as we get Coulson going off to get a car since he and Hunter are working their own gig right now. The dialogue is fun and just the way Clark Gregg presents himself hits the right spot. It does play fast and loose as it goes on, mostly because of Hunter, but it’s fun to see Coulson play it in that way with him loosening up a bit as well. And it provides a bit of levity, even if Coulson is a little out of character in icing the salesman, before it shifts to what Skye is going through with her psychic acupuncture that’s working to heal her. Or rather, it’s helping her to adjust to the terrigenesis that she went through. It puts her on ice in a sense for the moment, but also opens up potential for more learning on her part. We also get another piece of setup here as the other focus for this episode is with Fury’s Toolbox that Gonzales wants to get into, and he knows he needs Fitz and Simmons to do it. And they’re not playing ball with him now.
With Skye’s storyline, she gets the grand tour with her transitioner, a man named Lincoln. Lai Shi is pretty much your mysterious ancient Chinese village that’s set in the middle of nowhere and it’s populated with a range of people, though they’re all distrusting of her because she’s not gone through the normal process. And not just an abnormal process, but something that hadn’t been done in thousands of years by use of the diviner. There’s not a lot of new info here, but a bit more of the mythology is being built. Skye has a hard time adjusting to all of this since she thought all of this initially was going to be about curing her, removing the ability. But with Lincoln making it clear that it’s about owning the power, he’s intent on getting her on track to understanding herself and taking control of her power. And he does show her some fun tricks with his own ability, which involves static electricity in a potentially interesting way.
For Skye, a lot of this is coming to grips with the fact that it is as Lincoln says, a connection to something older and more amazing than she likely realizes. With the Kree words still in her head, she just thinks of herself as a weapon and changing that mindset takes time. And she’s almost interested in it until she learns that there have been lies here as it turns out that Raina is working through her transition here as well. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for Skye to find her and Raina plays it well with her being coy and menacing before she reveals herself in full, which puts quite the panic into Skye about how she really feels about herself. What proves to be the real surprise though? The sudden appearance of Skye’s supposedly dead mother. Not that Skye knows who she is, as Jiayang just gets back to taking care of Raina as she needs that kind of help. But she’s also intent on helping Skye, to serve as her guide in understanding her powers, and that does make an impact on Skye as she almost feels a connection there.
Gonzales’ pursuit of Coulson isn’t quite obsession level, but he’s committed to it because of the threat that he believes Coulson represents. And there’s plenty of damning evidence to be sure, which he goes over with May even as Bobbi watches on from afar and is becoming uncomfortable with it. There’s a little tease of more of May’s background with her nickname and past, but that’s kept to the side to deal with other issues. Gonzales doesn’t have a huge role here, but the show shifts to some play with the Toolbox as they set Jemma to break it open, and that causes an easy to read rift. Gonzales is just intent on dealing with Coulson’s people in the end though as he’s really seeing what Coulson is doing coming together with the powered people he’s gathering, and that makes for an interesting play that Gonzales can make in trying to sway May to his side, even if she may be playing at it. Gonzales does play it real here, even if you disagree with his approach, and that makes him compelling. It’d mean more so if he had more screentime too.
The team of Coulson and Hunter is definitely fun to watch as they get to the cabin and figure out what happened there, though it just opens even more mysteries for them to deal with. The two men are the type that will certainly take time to stop and think about things, albeit with a drink, and working through possibilities is definitely fun since you know it’s going to go with an unorthodox route. And that route is definitely all Coulson as he triggers the alarm at the cabin in order to draw in SHIELD with a Quinjet, one that he and Hunter can take over as part of his overall goal of getting SHIELD back under his own control. Knowing he can’t make things right without the materials to back it up, he goes big in an unexpected way. Of course, it doesn’t go his way regularly enough, but it provides for some of the action component with the show and gives things a bit of a bigger feeling than it’s had from time to time.
It does take a pretty fun direction as it goes on though as Coulson and Hunter can get only so far on their own, but Coulson’s form of backup arrives with Deathlok showing up and taking down a number of agents with relative ease. He certainly brings a bit more muscle to the game across the board, and skills that they need to get the job done. This doesn’t get too far overall, and it’s used to push other angles in the episode such as May being brought into things more by Gonzales, but it does get us where we need to be – much to the frustration of a lot of fans of the show I expect. You know Ward is going to come into play, and while I don’t think he’s as connected as Coulson thinks he is, I’m actually looking forward to seeing how it comes together as I have enjoyed what Ward has been up to this season.
Agents of SHIELD works a lot of different things in this episode as it moves several storylines along and each of them is pretty interesting. While the Fitz and Simmons bit is plainly obvious from nearly the start, it’s decently done and changes the dynamic of what Gonzales is up to – when he realizes it. I’m definitely enjoying the Coulson and Hunter storyline as the two really do play well off of each other and there’s a good sense of lightness and fun about it as a coping mechanism in the face of what they’re up against. A lot of folks will gravitate more towards what’s going on in Lai Shi and that definitely makes a lot of sense because the mythology is being built well, but it’s also being tied to so many other things. With some great Cal material sneaking in, more about what the Inhumans are all about and some solid material for Skye to work with, it’s definitely got a strong enough storyline here to take a few episodes all to itself. Definitely a solid episode that has me looking forward to what’s next, especially with May.