On the D/L – Agents of SHIELD
Season 2 Episode 16 – “Afterlife”
Agents of SHIELD went through a lot of changes last week and this episode represents the bedding in period of everything new that has happened.
Last week’s episode ended with Coulson on the run from Gonzales’ S.H.I.E.L.D. and teaming up with Hunter before making his next move. This episode shows us what that move is and it makes a lot of sense given their limited resources and options.
I actually really liked the scene where Coulson was posing as a guy trying to buy a used car. The car salesman pegged Coulson as a middle aged guy on the verge of experiencing a midlife crisis and it actually worked for me. Clark Gregg sort of presents the image of that sort of guy which makes it a little surprising when he gets tough with people. The way he normally comes across is definitely a well practiced cover and it serves him well here. Ultimately it didn’t make a lot of sense since Hunter was stealing the guys car anyway but it was a fun scene.
There were issues with their role in the rest of the episode. It seems like the wrong time for Coulson to keep things to himself just for the fun of it. The reveal that Deathlok was working for Coulson and tracking H.Y.D.R.A. for him was all well and good but waiting to see Hunter’s reaction to the surprise for his sheer entertainment felt a little unprofessional of him. Given Hunter’s recent situation where he was forced to reexamine who he can trust in the world this should be a time where Coulson is a little more upfront with him.
I did like the desperation maneuver where Coulson had little choice but to risk setting off the alarm in the safe house so that he has an opportunity to steal a Quinjet. It’s a really risky plan considering how completely outnumbered they are but it seemed like the risk factor was a little mitigated by Coulson’s knowledge that Deathlok was on his way. I maintain that if Hunter had known about that it might have affected their strategy somewhat. It is good to see J. August Richards again and his new look is a lot better than the one he had last season. Having him be part of the cast again might add some cool things to the show. I do have my concerns about Coulson feeling that working with Ward is the right thing to do but it remains to be seen what is done with it.
Seeing Gonzales developed a little more is always good and I’m not just saying that because I like Edward James Olmos. His character reminds me a lot of Adama in the earlier seasons of Battlestar Galactica with his very authority driven way of doing things with a layer of compassion underneath. He has something of a prejudice against people with super powers and he’s not shy to admit it. Whether his opposition to them is because he fears them or has some underlying reason behind it it’s clear that he thinks that people with powers are dangerous and he’s ignoring the fact that they are people too.
There are shades of something fairer buried under the surface as shown by the way he handles May. I found it really interesting that he offers her an opportunity to be on the board so that Coulson has someone looking out for him when he’s inevitably caught. I wonder if this is leading to him wanting to give people with powers a fair chance to prove themselves. He’s pretty adamant to find Skye so I guess we’ll find out.
Gonzales has been a refreshing addition to the cast as he has a lot to offer the show. He’s a figure of authority that exudes integrity and he’s a fantastic representation of a different side to the same issues. It can be said that Coulson represents S.H.I.E.L.D. the way it used to be with everything being covert and all information being compartmentalised at the discretion of one man. On the other side of that there’s Gonzales who represents a more open minded version of S.H.I.E.L.D. that doesn’t conceal information. The conflict from here is obvious and it’s interesting to see it play out.
In this instance the conflict plays through the attempted temptation of Fitz and Simmons. Both are still loyal to Coulson but Simmons seems to be easier to sway given her more recent opinions. Fitz is never at all convinced and refuses to help Gonzales unlock the toolbox given to Coulson. Gonzales treats him fairly and lets him leave with no apparent supervision. I doubt he’s stupid enough to let him get away without some kind of tracking equipment on him but the gesture of letting him go no questions asked is a telling example of his integrity.
Simmons pretending to help them while smuggling the toolbox out with Fitz was a really clever twist. I expected Simmons to fully join the other S.H.I.E.L.D. team so I was surprised to learn that she remains loyal to Coulson. I liked the symbolism of the sandwich showing that she cares about Fitz and fully affirms where her loyalties lie. I wonder how her double agent status will play out.
Skye’s relocation to the Inhuman stronghold proves to be the most interesting part of the episode. So far this show has done a really good job of building this part of the Marvel Universe into its DNA. So far it’s been a slow burn and that’s great because it’s a vast mythology that deserves to be explored at a restrained pace.
She is introduced to her “Transitioner”, Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) who fills her in on how things work there. There’s something slightly naive about how Lincoln comes across. It seems like they’re a group of people who are completely sheltered from the world they live in at the behest of another. In a lot of ways it’s like the way Nick Fury -and now Coulson- ran S.H.I.E.L.D. but the people affected are naive enough to not be bothered by such a constrained existence. The only person who knows where they are is Gordon and the only access they have to the outside world is through his abilities. They don’t even know where they are in the world. In a lot of ways it reminded me of the Ocampa in Star Trek: Voyager.
It’s something that strikes me as a little strange and it really shows the mistrust the Inhumans have for the human race. It’s clear through what Lincoln says that they consider themselves as something more than human. He mentions to Skye that she has “graduated” suggesting something of a superiority complex.
I also found it interesting that not all of the inhabitants have powers. They have been brought there because of their genetic potential and they have to go through some kind of elitist selection process to be allowed to undergo Terrigenesis. What that selection progress exactly entails is left somewhat unclear at this point but we know it’s a long one that takes years of preparation. Skye is considered an anomaly for jumping the queue and the circumstances of her transformation are not typical. Her body was unprepared for the changes which accounts for the harm she does to herself whenever she uses her powers.
Skye goes through a lot in this episode from learning how profoundly physical the change can be through her discussion with Raina who feels like a monster. She has descended into a pit of anger and depression while hating what has been done to her. She doesn’t feel that she can go on and is begging for death. The other Inhumans are waiting for her to accept the way she is now but with Skye she can finally get the death that she has been waiting for.
This causes Skye to learn how Inhuman she has become when she casually uses her powers to harm. She is more willing to learn how to control herself and be instructed. The revelation that her mother is alive -even though Skye doesn’t know who she is- is an interesting one. Once Skye finds out both her parents are alive it should create an interesting emotional story for her.
It does run the risk of undermining Cal’s entire motivation since part of the reason he’s so angry and vengeful is because he believes his wife is dead. There’s some work to be done to establish why she chose to remove herself from Cal and Skye’s life and what that really means for this dysfunctional family. Kyle MacLachlan was as always excellent and it was great to see the Hyde part of his personality come out a little more.
There are two things I foresee happening now that this Inhuman stronghold has been introduced. I think that there will be plenty of friction once they are introduced to the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and by extension the rest of the human race. There will definitely be plenty of fear and a massive lack of understanding between them before differences will be reconciled in some way. The other thing I see happening is that all of the Inhumans waiting for powers will be exposed to the other obelisks and be given their powers. A mass Terrigenesis seems to be where this season is heading. It’s all building nicely and I look forward to seeing it play out.
This show is settling nicely into the new status quo set up in the previous episode with everyone being pulled in different directions.
In concept Coulson and Hunter being on the run with little more than their wits to see them through is a good idea but the execution was at times a little baffling. I don’t think it’s the time or the place for Coulson to be hiding things just for his sheer entertainment when he sees the reaction. It seems unprofessional and somewhat childish given the situation they are in.
Gonzales is proving to be a really interesting character so far. Edward James Olmos injects a level of authority and depth into the character that makes him compelling. I like that he wants to make sure people get a fair hearing and shows this through offering May a seat on the board so that someone can stand up for Coulson when he’s caught.
The episode cleverly uses Fitz and Simmons to explore the temptations of both sides of the S.H.I.E.L.D. argument. Simmons comes across as being more tempted by Gonzales’ position but the episode impressively turns that around by having her revive her double agent skills while sending Fitz off with the real toolbox. She does this really well by fooling even Fitz who is never shy about where his loyalties lie.
Skye’s relocation to the Inhuman stronghold proved to be the strongest aspect of the episode. It was fascinating to take some time to explore the intricacies of Inhuman culture and how different Skye’s situation are. There are some important revelations such as Skye’s mother being alive and how the Inhumans feel superior to the human race. I also like that Raina feels like a monster who doesn’t want to be accepted because she won’t accept herself.
There’s plenty of interesting things going on in this show and I like how they are being developed. I am fascinated to see how the Inhuman story develops.