‘Afterlife’ felt like an appropriate title for this week’s Agents of SHIELD, as Marvel’s flagship show continues to enjoy a renaissance of sorts. With the “Real SHIELD” firmly cementing themselves as the authority and the emergence of the Inhumans, the show has enjoyed a succession of strong episodes that have done away with needless posturing, and given the show a much needed adrenaline shot. Indeed, for the first time since its inception, the show finally feels like it has a direction, complimenting the MCU rather than being beholden to it.
Picking up from last week, Coulson and Hunter are on the run after having escaped from Gonzalez’s forces and are on the hunt for the missing Skye. They head to Banner’s retreat to find the devastation from last week’s episode and discover that Skye has been taken by the teleporting Gordon. Where has she been taken? What do they want with her?
Well, acupuncture as it turns out. Yes, this week Skye is inducted into the Inhuman School for Super Powered Beings somewhere in the mountains. It would seem that Inhuman school looks like some kind of utopian hipster university campus with lovely gardens, various undergraduate types and pizza day. And like all strange and exciting new places, Skye meets a hunky new man in the form of Lincoln, an Inhuman who can literally manipulate the electrical currents around him.
For the most part, Lincoln seemed to exist to merely divulge much needed exposition and back-story, but his scenes didn’t feel heavy handed in their delivery. Instead, it felt like one of those times when exposition was needed, providing answers and expanding on the Inhuman mythology. As it turns out, it would seem that Skye and Raina were the first in years to go through the ‘old school’ method of Terrigensis. Apparently, there’s a vetting period and waiting list before one is allowed to become an Inhuman. Even potential superheroes have to deal with bureaucratic red tape.
Skye discovers Raina in a sort of self-quarantine, struggling with her transition, her gift still yet to be determined. Her and Skye have words but before Skye can literally vibrate Raina to death, Skye’s mother shows up. Wait a minute, I hear you say, wasn’t she butchered by Whitehall way back when? Well, yes. It would seem that her body is far more resilient that once thought.
Elsewhere, Team Coulson is still reeling from the recent hostile takeover by Team Gonzalez. Coulson and Hunter were the most fun this week, with Hunter getting the majority of the episode’s best and funniest lines. No wonder he’s getting his own spin off. Coulson and Hunter made for a great double act and, I know it’s probably too much to ask now, but it would’ve been wonderful to have at least one more episode with the pair out on their own in the big bad world. Trapped in the retreat and surrounded by SHIELD agents, Coulson calls in for back up, but not just any old back up; he calls in the big guns. Mike Peterson, aka Deathlok, makes a welcome return to the SHIELD fold complete with upgrades and new tech galore.
Back at HQ, Gonzalez convinces Agent May to switch over to his team by giving her operational command of the base. The only question now is, what will happen when Coulson and May come face to face? Which side will May choose?
Overall, this was another very strong episode for SHIELD. Yes, the Inhuman/Afterlife stuff was very expositional, but it was necessary, and for the most part it was handled in a way that never felt clunky or forced. It also opened up a whole new door of possibilities for the show to exploit. Here’s hoping they do.