Afterlife – Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD S2E16: Review

CHLOE BENNET, LUKE MITCHELL

Alrighty, Agents.  This was a HUGE episode, with far-reaching connections.  Remember #ItsAllConnected?  In spades, I tell you.  Spades.  So if you’ve ever missed an episode of SHIELD, go back and catch up, and then it might be safe for you to continue reading this.

Also, there’s a crackpot prediction at the end.  I’ll warn you again before I get there, but just know that if you don’t like seeing too far into the future, just go ahead and skip that part.

And with that, on to the review!

Afterlife: Recap

The episode begins with Coulson shopping for an SUV until Hunter shows up in one he plans on stealing.  Unfortunately, the car salesman is more interested in calling the police, and they have to ICE poor honest Eddie.

We then cut to Skye who is covered in acupuncture needles that seem to be keeping her mostly immobilized.  She wakes up in a room she doesn’t recognize – she’s been there for two days.  She’d love to go help her friends, but her “transitioner” Lincoln advises against it.  She’s there (wherever she is) to keep her safe, and to get her used to her transformation.

More and Gonzales quibble over whether Skye is a dangerous threat or a scared agent defending herself.  Gonzales is worried that Coulson is “collecting” “powered” “people” and thinks the only way to find out for sure is to get inside Fury’s toolbox.  Fitz/Simmons is already working on it, but getting nowhere.  Gonzales asks for Fitz’ help, and also makes it known that they aren’t prisoners: they’re free to go whenever after they’ve been cleared and debriefed.  Fitz starts packing his things.

Coulson and Hunter arrive at the safehouse where Skye was supposed to be.  They find a surveillance camera amid the aftermath of the battle that ensued, and watch the tape to see what happened.  They see Gordon take her, and Coulson realizes he has no way of knowing to where.

Skye is back on her feet, and needs to send a message to her friends, which can only happen through Gordon.  She asks where she is and is told the name is Chinese, and they’re somewhere in the mountains.  No one knows for sure where they are, so they just call it “Afterlife” (hey, look, the title!).  Skye’s having some trouble trusting this situation (she did wake up naked in a place she’s never seen before, and a place no one can point to on a map).  Lincoln tells her a little more about this place, which is more like a way-station.  Some people are brought there when they need a safe place to stay, he’s brought when he’s “needed” (he’s going through med school, so probably because of that?)

Unfortunately, most of the people there are there preparing for their transformation, whereas Skye went through it with no knowledge or prep for it.  Everyone’s a little jealous, and Skye would gladly change places…but she can’t.  Lincoln continues to assure her that there’s no one there to hurt her (even though she’s still worried about Raina and Cal)

Gonzales talks with May about the fact that Fury didn’t trust Coulson, May didn’t trust Coulson, and Coulson didn’t trust himself. He questions her loyalty, and May says that Coulson and SHIELD are one and the same.  May defends the fact that they were chasing Hydra because that’s their job, and that they should still be doing that instead of witch hunting Coulson.  Gonzales says Coulson should be on the index and reminds May that she knows what happens when powered people lose control – and reminds her that she had to put one down in Bahrain (that’s why she’s the cavalry).  Gonzales claims he’d like to avoid having to put down Coulson and Skye, but things are starting to lead that way because of Coulson’s actions.

Coulson and Hunter are sitting in the safe house, trying to figure out their next move.  Coulson is thrown by the loss of SHIELD and Skye in one day, and Hunter reassures him that it was a complete blindside.  Coulson continues to see the good in people and trying to see things through other people’s eyes.  Running away is not an option, but there are no good option.  Hunter recommends it may be time for the “bad ones”.

Simmons just wants everything to go back to normal, and rationalizes that if they can open the box, maybe everyone will leave.  She tells Bobbi that it’s not a tech solution, it’s a lab solution, and starts working on it.

Lincoln takes a closer look at the inhibitor gloves, which were one cause of why Skye’s recovery took so long.  He also tells Skye that she no longer has “human biology”, and that her transformation is irreversible.

Back at the cabin, Hunter is rudely awoken by the arrival of “their” SHIELD (not “ours”), because Coulson invited them by tripping the cabin alarm.  He’s called for one agent to provide backup, and they just have to hold the fort until they can get there.  The goal is to take one of the jets so they can be more mobile, but it’ll take getting past all those agents.  And, of course, ICERS only, those are SHIELD agents out there.

Lincoln takes Skye to the top of a mountain to talk about her powers.  She’s still skeptical, angry, all that.  So Lincoln shows her his power – the fact that all of his cells have a different electrical charge, which he has since learned to manipulate.  He makes her float off the ground to show her that gifts can be beautiful, and they don’t have to be weapons.

Mack tries to convince Fitz to stay, as a friend, and to try to get him on board with the plan.  He also drops that Simmons is trying to get into the box using genetic markers.  He sees her scanning the surface dimensions of the cube, and realizes that she isn’t actually doing what she says she’s doing.

Coulson breaks out the old school tech with a modern day howling commandos kit.  It creates a hologram decoy of him and Hunter playing cards, which works long enough for them to ICE all the agents that broke in.

Skye asks Gordon to send a message to her friends, but Gordon says he’d have to ask permission and he’s not hopeful.  He also won’t tell her where Raina and Cal are.  Lincoln tells her about the “Elders” and that Skye makes them nervous that their secret won’t be a secret for long.  Gordon visits Cal, who is angry that he’s being kept in a windowless, doorless cell feeding him like an animal.  Cal guesses that Skye is there, and Gordon gives him no indication one way or another, other than to tell Cal that “YOU WILL NOT!”  Cal tries to fight with Gordon, but c’mon, you can’t go toe to toe with a guy who teleports.  Gordon tells him that Cal’s lack of discipline has sealed his fate, and the fate of his daughter as well (and that’s Skye…so…uh oh).

Coulson and Hunter try to take the jet in disguise, but it doesn’t work for long.  They get surrounded by the now-uncloaking, previously invisible other planes of agents.  Dang it.

Fitz storms in on Simmons working on Fury’s toolbox, angry that she would betray him.  Told her he saw everything, and that she knew this would drive him away, and she may as well have packed his bags hersself.  He also picks up the cube and tosses it around pointing out that everyone is acting out of fear, and he prefers trust.  Simmons says it may be best if he leaves, and so he does.

Coulson and Hunter are being taken away and Hunter questions if there ever was any back up.  As the plane door is closing, it’s suddenly grabbed and pulled back down by HOLY COW IT’S DEATHLOK!  Who basically singlehandedly takes down every SHIELD agent around (hopefully non lethally?).  He’s apparently been getting upgrades from Coulson, and he’s able to get the plane in the air.

Gonzales learns that Coulson is now working with Hunter and another powered person (haha…powered).  He calls in May for a meeting one-on-one.

Skye is interested in controlling her powers, and Lincoln tells her that once they know what her power was, a guide will be chosen.  He also lets slip about “the other one” and Skye figures out that Raina is there somewhere.  He says that Raina’s on her own path, and needs to be protected as much as Skye does.  And Skye is none too happy.  Hoooooo man.  She crashes into Raina’s room (psychically?).  Raina tells her that she dreads being awake, doesn’t want to see the light of day, and that’s worse being a monster than it is to see one.  Skye blames Raina for all the bad in her life, but Raina says that she is on the outside what Skye is on the inside.  They almost fight, when they are stopped suddenly – by SKYE’S MOM!  Her face is covered in what look like stitches (makes since because the last time we saw her she was chopped up and her organs were harvested…really want to hear the rest of that story…)

She introduces herself as Jiaying, and Skye tries to tell her about how evil Raina is and how many people she’s killed.  Jiaying simply points out that Skye has the power to do the same thing, and nearly did on a few occasions.  She says that whatever Skye and Raina were in the past, that’s not what they are now.  She also offers to be Skye’s guide, personally, for a few days, and if Skye doesn’t feel a “connection worth exploring” she can leave and they’ll never see each other again.  Lincoln takes Skye back to her room while she thinks on it.

Gordon takes Jiaying to see Cal, and she tells him that it is indeed their daughter, and also that he can’t see her.  Just a simple “no”.  She doesn’t say a reason.  We, the audience, don’t really need one.

Gonzales meets with May and gives her a gun and tells her that if she truly thinks he’s a traitor, to go ahead and shoot him right now.  Or, she can hear him out.  He offers her a position on their board so that Coulson can have a strong advocate when it’s time to make a decision about how to deal with him.  She gives the gun back, claiming Gonzales isn’t stupid enough to give her a loaded gun.  He empties the bullets from it…to prove how stupid he is?  He tells her that it’s not about her or Gonzales or Coulson, it’s about SHIELD.  It needs to be built on a strong foundation, instead of on shifting sand, or else it will fall again.

Mike Peterson tells them about LIST, a subdivision of HYDRA that Coulson sent him to investigate overseas.  They’ve been hunting down powered people and experimenting on them.  They’re connected to Cal and the powered people he’s been associating with.  Coulson tells Hunter that it’s time to track someone down who’s been on both sides of that equation: they’re going after they’re “bad option” of Grant Ward.  Well, this should be fun.

Right at the end, we get to see Fitz take two things out of his bag (which Simmons gave him).  One is the REAL cube (which he clearly switched with a duplicate he made out of Simmons’ scans).  The other is a prosciutto and morzarella sandwich with a hint of pesto aioli, and a note that says “be careful, love Jemma” and I almost cried.

And then next week, we get to see Skye train her powers AND see what really happened back in Bahrain that earned May the title of “Cavalry”.

Review

Oh man, guys, oh man.

So, first of all, can we just talk about uncredited appearances?  I love them.  At the beginning of the episode I was all “uh oh, Ruth Negga, that means Raina’s in this…this’ll be fun.”  But then I was all “What?  Deathlok?  No one said you’d be here!”  And it was awesome, just plain awesome.  We haven’t seen him since he walked off into the sunset at the end of Season 1.  Man, remember Season 1?  So much has spiraled out of control since then.

Okay, so HYDRA is not dead.  It’s just now LIST somewhere “overseas”.  So there’s still a big organization looming off in the distance, even if they aren’t directly a threat yet.  But they are experimenting on powered people (which sounds very familiar in a Whitehall type way…and can we be certain a bullet was enough to kill that creep?)

And still no sign of Leviathan, huh?  That’s an elephant in some room somewhere.  When’s that going to come into play?

I’m slightly confused by the choice of the name “Afterlife”.  First off, no one’s getting fooled into thinking anyone there is dead.  And I don’t think their brains are going to be downloaded into Cybermen (hey, there, random Doctor Who reference. Welcome to the SHIELD review).  Also, it’s more of a way station, so there’s still life after Afterlife, right?  Just a little odd.

I’m now wondering how much Lincoln will factor into the Inhumans movie.  I can already tell he’s got a lot of fight in him, when he’s pushed to it, and he could potentially stop a heart with that kind of control over electrical currents.  Formidable foe, or potential ally?  Will he join up with SHIELD, or be disappointed that Skye wants to be a part of them?  That whole Inhumans group is an alliance in and of themselves, completely independent of the SHIELD / HYDRA, good guy / bad guy, loyalist / traitor game we’ve been playing so far.  It should get interesting I say.

I can’t wait to see where this goes with Skye and her mom.  Her mom has always been portrayed as kind, gentle, even-tempered (even when she got firm with her and Raina, it felt like just a mom keeping both her kids safe).  There’ll be an awesome moment of her revealing who she really is (“Skye…I am your mother…join me…”), and I’m interested to see how Skye reacts with it.

Fitz is now a rogue agent with an agenda!  We don’t know the agenda, but we know he had help.  Him and Simmons have clearly made up enough that they can still communicate with each other by their actions, instead of by their words.  Simmons is scanning the thing…so clearly she wants me to have the specs to build my own.  And she made him the sandwich, I mean come on.  Clearly there are still issues between them, but I think when this whole thing blows over, there’s a path toward reconciliation, right?

It wasn’t clear if May took the position on the board or not, but everything Gonzales said seemed to appeal to her sense of duty, loyalty, trust, etc.  What I love about Gonzales is he really is a good agent, and he really is trying to do what he thinks is best.  And you can’t really disagree with his reasoning or his motivations, you can only really hope that he comes to understand Coulson and his team a little better to let them all stay together, and alive.

And Now…A Crazy Theory

Okay, so this episode felt like we were seeing EVERYONE WE’VE EVER SEEN again.  Other than some people who were dead.  And we even saw one of them again.  We did not see Ward and 33 and Bakshi, and we didn’t see Talbott, but we got pretty much everyone else in play.

So I was thinking.  Especially when Coulson said he called in an agent…and how many of those are there, really?  Man, I should have seen Deathlok coming, but it could have been someone Koenig or Maria Hill.

So this spiraled into a “where are they now” of SHIELD cast members, and I found a particularly interesting rabbit hole in the form of Dr. Franklin Hall who fell into a large quantity of gravitonium back in Season 1.  We, the audience, know that he is still alive in some form in that ball of stuff, as his hand came grasping out of it – unseen by anyone but us.  When SHIELD fell, Garret gifted that to Ian Quinn, of whom we have also heard very little.

Now, in the comics, a similar story plays out, and it results in the creation of a madman / supervillain called Graviton.  He has the power to control, oh I don’t know, gravity?  Sounds about right.  But it goes further than that.  A couple of interesting quotes from the wiki page:

Hall’s single most ambitious display of power was when he held almost every Marvel hero in stasis, including the Fantastic Four, some of the X-Men and such physical powerhouses as ThorHerculesthe Hulk and Namor, and began using his powers to try reshaping the Earth in his image.

By rapidly projecting gravitons in a cohesive beam, he could generate a force blast with a maximum concussive force equivalent to the primary shockwave of an explosion of 20,000 pounds of TNT. He could also create a gravitational force field around him capable of protecting him from any concussive force up to and including a small nuclear weapon

Now, armed with that information, take into consideration that Skye’s powers involve vibrations, and can cause earthquakes.  The writers could have gifted her with any power they wished, she didn’t have to become Quake.  I think we’re leading toward a pretty intense shake-off between her and Graviton / Hall.

Also, Graviton is a VERY powerful being, since he can immobilize or levitate any foe.  His only weakness is that he is “mentally and emotionally unstable”, which Skye is also quite good at dealing with.  I also think this will happen because Donnie Gill came back, we got that payoff.  Next week we’re getting the payoff from May’s “Cavalry” moniker.  Agent 33 came back into play.  Even Agent Weaver from the SHIELD academy came back.  It’s only a matter of time before we see Dr. Hall and Ian Quinn again.  Just a matter of what state SHIELD will be when that happens.

So that’s my crazy postulate for the day.  Are there any other long set-ups you’re expecting to see get their payoff before the end of the season?  Any characters you miss and wonder what they’re up to these days?  Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time, Agents.

Geek out!

Leave a Reply