Welcome back, true believers! Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s “Afterlife” began with Coulson and Hunter “negotiating” with a car salesman, in order to find an SUV to help them in combating their newest threat. A faction of S.H.I.E.L.D. has decided that Coulson may not be the best man for the job, having the organization rise from the ashes like a phoenix. The duo make for a great pair and play off one another quite well, swapping one liners — as well as shots at one point — throughout the episode. It also allows for one of the best moments from Coulson this season, where he really has to sit down and question if he is in fact the man to resurrect S.H.I.E.L.D. to its past glory. Has Phil gone through too much turmoil and too many betrayals to be the ideal leader that everyone looks up to? Is Coulson even Coulson any more after being resurrected? Granted, these have been points that have played heavily into the show since the start, but it’s great to see it through Coulson’s own eyes, rather than someone else’s, as Phil usually barrels through his next mission rather than reflect.
The new setting we’re introduced to is “The Afterlife,” a secret location high above the world wherein ancestors of the Inhumans, and those who potentially have the “gift” within them, are brought to determine where their destiny lies. It’s here where Skye further talks with the eyeless wonder, Gordon, and is introduced to her “transitioner,” Lincoln. Lincoln is another Inhuman who has the ability to control his own cells and create something akin to static electricity. He also works as a really charismatic face to introduce us to this strange environment. Played by the Tomorrow People’s Luke Mitchell, Lincoln’s a breath of fresh air and extremely laid back, so much so that at one point, he suggests their environment would act as the perfect place for Skye to “smoke up” if she saw fit. Certainly unexpected coming from someone who’s bringing you into the world of teleporting bulldogs and underwater mermen that is the Inhumans … or maybe it’s not that unexpected.
This new world of the “Afterlife” is an interesting concept and makes for some great eye candy just regarding its environment alone, though I do wish it were a tad more “alien.” I can understand everyone wearing normal clothing thanks to each of their pedestrian origins, and each individual awaiting their transitions into something new, but I do wish we had more hints as to the other-worldly universe that is the Inhumans’ bubble, Attilan. To be fair, this is a minor quibble on my part, as I’m itching for the show to delve deeper into the superpowered world. This new land also gives us the return of Cal and Raina, both in harsh scenarios wherein Cal is trapped in a windowless bunker beneath the Earth, and Raina is struggling with her terrifying new appearance.
What makes S.H.I.E.L.D. a strong show, when it is strong mind you, is its ability to juggle multiple plotlines while also adding in surprises that are logical, yet still unexpected. If anything, this episode delivered on what makes S.H.I.E.L.D. good in droves. We’re given the return of J. August Richard’s Deathlok as Coulson’s backup, and the unexpected arrival of Skye’s mother, who is alive and looking to teach her about her powers (without Skye’s knowledge of who she really is, of course). I believe that where we are now in the season, with the finale coming sooner rather than later, all the players have been placed into quite interesting scenarios. I am genuinely enthusiastic to see where each character is going, whether it be Skye with her powers, Fitz with Fury’s toolbox as he flees from S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson, Hunter, and Deathlok searching for assistance from Agent Ward, or even Gonzalez, as he tries to unite the once-broken organization.
I have mentioned in my past reviews that I felt the “real” S.H.I.E.L.D. went about “usurping” Coulson in about the worst way possible, which is especially true when Gonzalez mentions that he did not in fact want a war (which is why he went in guns blazing in the first place?) Edward James Olmos does a fantastic job in this episode, mostly in his interactions with Agent May, offering her a position. The revelation that yes, the gun Gonzalez handed to May was in fact loaded, spoke leaps and bounds in terms of who his character is. And while I know a confrontation with Coulson is on its way, I got to tell you that he still makes amazing points about his side along the way. Olmos sells everything Gonzalez believes in and is trying to do, making the “civil war” that much more interesting. His final speech, usually given to Coulson, was powerful and appropriate in putting a nice bow on everything that happened. Whose side are you on indeed?
Tonight’s episode marked perhaps the strongest entry of the season, and if we can stay at this level, I expect we’ll be in for quite a ride with the Season 2 finale
Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Agents of M.I.S.C.E.L.L.A.N.E.A.
– I would imagine that the “Elders” may very well be the ruling class of the Inhumans (Black Bolt, Medusa, Gorgon, Karnak, etc). There’s no WAY we’ll see them any time soon (unless Marvel has everything planned THAT far in advance), but maybe we’ll get a name drop.
– I did find it a bit strange that a simple battering ram was able to knock down a door that was meant to keep the Hulk locked in.
– A nice, though disturbing, touch was Skye’s mother having scars from Whitehall’s original attempt to get rid of her.
– Coulson: “Sorry Eddie, tiger’s been loose for awhile.”
– Gonzalez: “Heard you bribed him with cupcakes.”
– Hunter: “Did she just get abducted by aliens?”
– Skye: “Is there any liquor?”
– Coulson: “You always travel with whiskey and shot glasses?”
– Lincoln: “The sky’s the limit, no pun intended I guess.”
– Hunter: “You might have mentioned that backup was a lethal cyborg.”
– Deathlok: “Destination?”