Of Toolboxes And Timing - Recapping Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.16: "Afterlife"

Of Toolboxes And Timing – Recapping Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.16: “Afterlife”

Posted by April 9, 2015 Comment

By Rich Epstein

This week’s episode begins with Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) buying a used car. I like it. It’s such a mundane scene that you normally wouldn’t see, but it effectively shows what Coulson is reduced to right now. Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) has a different idea on how to deal with their situation, and they end up shooting the dealer with an icer and stealing a Jeep.

Meanwhile, Skye (Chloe Bennett) is undergoing some next-gen acupuncture. She wants to leave, she thinks SHIELD needs her, but she can’t move. Gordon (Jamie Harris) leaves her with Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) a “transitionist”, someone to help a new Inhuman with the transition. He compares terragenesis to a thousand years of evolution taking place instantly. Which is probably a lot better than saying she became a monster, which is what most people have done. She wants to know when she can leave, but Lincoln reminds her that she is being hunted By….

fitzsimmonsRobert Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) is talking with Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) about Skye. Bobbi is defending Skye, which doesn’t sit well with Gonzales. Understandable seeing as how she took out seven agents. He asks Bobbi about Gordon, and doesn’t believe her when she says that Coulson knew nothing about him. Gonzales thinks that Coulson is collecting Inhumans (even though they don’t use that word yet). He needs to get into Fury’s toolbox to know what Coulson is up to. So, he and Bobbi pay a visit to the resident scientific uber-geniuses, Fitz-Simmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge). After trying flattery, Gonzales asks them for help. It doesn’t work. Fitz asks if they’re prisoners, and are told that they are free to leave at any time. Fitz goes to pack his things. Bobbi is impressed by the loyalty, but Gonzales sees it differently. They are loyal to Coulson, not to SHIELD, and that scares him.

Coulson and Hunter show up at the cabin where Skye was staying, and I’m wondering why Gonzales doesn’t have anyone watching the cabin. Assuming he wants to catch Coulson, doesn’t that seem like the most logical place to find him? Anyway, Coulson finds a video camera in the Skye-wreckage, and sees what happened. Coulson sees that she was taken by Gordon, and fears he lost her.

CHLOE BENNET, LUKE MITCHELLSkye is now up and about, and wants to get a message to her friends. Lincoln tells her that Gordon is the only one who can make that happen. She asks Lincoln where they are, but he doesn’t know. It’s someplace in the mountains, they call it Afterlife. They go for a walk through the city. There are other people about, which makes you wonder just how many Inhumans there are. Lincoln tells her that Gordon is the only way in or out of the city, only he knows where they are. Lincoln thinks it’s for their protection, Skye is a little more cynical, thinking that they are essentially Gordon’s prisoners. Nobody lives in the city, it’s a transitional place. At this point, we get a lot of exposition from Lincoln. To summarize, only one person every few years makes the transition. And apparently there is another way to do it, because Skye is the first to use a Diviner and Kree temple in a thousand years. So, how exactly did her dad know what the Diviner would do? Most of the people in the city are jealous of Skye…they are descendants of Inhumans but most of them are unable to become Inhuman. So, again, was her father just guessing? Did he risk killing Sky by bringing her to the temple, or did he have some way of knowing that she was actually capable of becoming Inhuman? Skye asks about Raina and her father, but Lincoln doesn’t really answer. He just promises there is nobody in the city that will harm Skye, that she is protected.

May_InterrogatedGonzales is reading some reports while interrogating Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen). You can probably guess exactly how this goes. He asks questions, she glares. He points out that she was spying on Coulson for Fury, and that Coulson himself had asked her to kill him if necessary. Can he really be trusted? Well, yeah, he’s Coulson. He asks May if she is loyal to Coulson or to SHIELD, and she finally speaks, telling him that they are the same thing. May is pissed that they are wasting time with petty internal squabbles rather than chasing Hydra. Which is kind of true. What exactly has Gonzales been doing for the past year or so since SHIELD fell? I mean, if he did anything useful, Coulson probably would have heard about it. So, he’s done nothing, other than spy on Coulson. That’s it. He talks about being loyal to SHIELD, but what has he done to actually help further SHIELD’s mission of protecting the people?

Bobbi is hiding away, sick of everyone considering her a traitor, when Mack (Henry Simmons) comes by to talk. Bobbi seems to be drinking a little less of the Gonzales flavored Kool-Aid than Mack, who thinks Coulson has been compromised.

Gonzales tells May that she of all people knows what happens when people with powers lose control. He shows her the incident report for Bahrain, the incident that led to the name “The Cavalry”. She put down an Inhuman. He asks May to help find Coulson to stop from having to put down another one. She tells him not to worry, Coulson will find them.

Bobbi asks Simmons if she’s staying, Simmons just wants everything to go back to normal. Yeah, good luck with that one. Lets see, Skye is now SuperSkye, Bobbi and Mack were working against Coulson the whole time, and Coulson is on the run. Bobbi talks Simmons into helping them open the cube. They don’t need Fitz, it’s not a tech solution, but a biological one.

Lincoln shows Skye to her room, and they talk about her “gift”. He tells her she will learn to control it, but she just wants to get rid of it. He tells her its irreversible. Interesting, that without her gloves, and in a stressful situation, she seems to be controlling her powers just fine right now.

Coulson_HunterHunter is woken up to the sound of an approaching jet only to find out that Coulson invited Gonzales. He wants the quinjet, and he has reinforcements on the way. They just need to hold out long enough.

Lincoln wants to learn about Skye’s gift, so he shows her his first. He can control electrical charges, only he couldn’t always control them. He almost burned the place down at first. He uses the static electricity to make Sky float, tells her that the gifts don’t have to be a curse.

Mack tries to convince Fitz to stay, while at the same time telling him that Simmons told them how to get into the cube. I’m guessing Fitz-Simmons won’t be reuniting any time soon.

The SHIELD agents finally break into the cabin, and find Coulson and Hunter playing cards. As they approach, they are shot from behind with icers as Coulson and Hunter step out into the room. The hologram versions keep playing cards. Did Gonzales only send like 5 agents? How did that work?

Skye asks Gordon to get a message to her friends. He tells her that he “can ask permission but they’ll advise against it.” Sky asks about her father and Raina, but Gordon won’t tell her where they are, just as he won’t tell anyone where Skye is.

Hey, it’s Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) banging his hands bloody trying to get out of his cell. Gordon pays him a visit, and Cal figures out that Gordon found Skye. He politely asks to see her (or not), but Gordon won’t allow it. Cal is reckless, he is risked everything, and sealed his own fate, and Skye’s as well. Ominous.

Coulson and Hunter are now dressed in SHIELD uniforms, making their way to the quinjet. Only to find that there was a second jet, camouflaged. They are taken prisoner.

Simmons tells Bobbi that it will take awhile to get into the cube. Fitz and Mack show up, Fitz is irate that Jemma would help Gonzales. Simmons thinks that everything will go back to normal once they open the cube, but Fitz knows that will never happen. Things will never go back to normal. Simmons tells him that if they work for SHIELD they have responsibilities, so maybe he should leave.

Coulson’s backup arrives…Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) a/k/a Deathlok. He quickly takes out Gonzales’ team, and the other quinjet. I’ve been wondering if he would come back. Hunter asks Coulson why he didn’t mention that their backup was a deadly cyborg, Coulson says that he just wanted to see the look on Hunter’s face. That’s the Coulson we all love.

RainaWhile talking to Skye, Lincoln lets it slip that Raina is in the city as well. He tells her that she doesn’t need to worry, that Raina is on her own path just like Skye. Skye points out that Raina is a murderer, and wants to find her. She then loses control for the first time. She finds Raina, and gets her first look at her. Raina is not doing well. She can’t stand the daylight, hates being awake, but can’t take the nightmares. Skye tells her that she deserves it. Raina points out that Skye didn’t have to follow her into the mist, she wanted to. Skye loses control, and is about to kill Raina with her powers, which Raina is totally ok with, when her mother, Jiayang, tells her “enough”. Ok, that was surprising.

Skyes_momJiayang tells Skye that whatever she and Raina were in the past, they are something else now. Skye wants to leave, and is told she can. But first, Jiayang tells her that she will be her guide and asks for a few days.

Cal is looking through some papers when Gordon brings Jiayang in. He asks about Skye, and she tells him that it’s their daughter and hugs him. He is not surprised to see her. Which answers a couple of questions (like how he knew what he knew) and raises a whole bunch of other questions. Like, if his plan was to bring Skye to her mother, why not mention she was still alive? And, how have they been in contact? And I’m sure I’ll think of a whole lot of others. She thanks him, but still won’t let him see Skye.

Gonzales takes May to his ship, gun in hand. He gives the gun to May, tells her that if she really thinks he’s a traitor she can go ahead and pull the trigger. Or, she can hear him out. He offers her a seat on the board, to give Coulson a voice on the board. While he is telling her about how they need to be together to keep SHIELD alive, we seek Fitz walking out the door.

Coulson tells Hunter that Peterson found out that Hyrda has an interest in powered people too (duh). They are searching for them, experimenting on them. Coulson doesn’t know if Gordon is working with them or not. Only one person can tell them….Grant Ward.

Simmons tells Mack and Bobbi she can’t figure out how to open the cube. And with good reason, Fitz switched them. He has the real cube. Jemma was in on it with him the whole time. Welcome back Fitz-Simmons. She even packed him a sandwich. Their sandwich. And this time, Fitz gets to enjoy it. Wow, I was big-time wrong on this one.

Is this the Agents of SHIELD that we have been waiting for? Don’t get me wrong, the show had a great stretch from about the final ten episodes of last season through the first half of this season. But, what it hasn’t had is a lot of integration with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sure, there have been a couple of drop-ins, and last year did tie-in with The Winter Soldier, however, we haven’t seen a lot of super-humans. A couple here and there, but not on a regular basis.

I thought Agents of SHIELD was going to show how “normal” people (if incredibly well trained) go on as heroes in a world populated by supers. How these people react and deal and go on trying to save a world that they don’t understand anymore is a theme that I expected to see explored a lot more. While I’m still not a fan of the two-SHIELD storyline, Gonzales does have a legitimate fear…with Skye and Deathlok, what is Coulson building? We all know that Coulson is awesome, but put yourself in Gonzales’ shoes. Coulson was brought back from the dead by alien blood, and now seems to be collecting people with superpowers. Isn’t this the kind of threat SHIELD was formed to stop?

I thought this was a great episode, one of my favorites yet. There were tons of twists, which totally worked. This was very much a live action comic, with characters unable to stay dead and others coming out of nowhere to save the day. There was a lot of exposition, but sometimes you need it. I thought they did a pretty good job of spreading it out and not overloading.

The one thing I didn’t like, as I said earlier, is the two SHIELDs. They already did the war within thing last year, only much better. Plus, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. What has Gonzales been doing for the past year? Coulson was reaching out to every agent, none of them reported hearing from Gonzales. Coulson has also been dealing with the US Government as the head of SHIELD. He’s also been going up against Hydra. So, what has Gonzales done, other than spy on Coulson?

One last thing…the toolbox. Yeah, it’s a giant computer and all, but I have a theory. I think it calls the Avengers. First of all, it’s Fury’s toolbox. And what’s the biggest tool Fury has? In fact, how did we first meet Fury? The Avengers Initiative. There has to be some way to get them all together. Do you really think Fury put this team together with no ability to call them when needed? Then, there is the fact that we are three weeks away from Age of Ultron. There is no way to have an event that big within the universe without it resonating in Agents of SHIELD. How can you have Fury’s toolbox get opened at about the same time that Fury appears in theaters and not be connected? I think the SHIELD episode before the movie is going to lead directly into it. There will be something that leads Coulson to believe that there is a threat bigger than he can handle, and he will take out the toolbox. I’m probably way off base, but maybe not.

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.

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(Last Updated April 8, 2015 11:31 pm )

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