Three months and a super-slick 40s-era miniseries later, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a very different show. The midseason finale left us on a hell of a cliffhanger that also served as a pivot point, one which gives the show a new direction and acts as a catalyst for the cast to bounce off each other in new and interesting ways. We are now firmly in superhero land—but that isn’t necessarily pleasant for the characters involved.
Like its title implies, “Aftershocks” isn’t so much about propelling us forward, but dealing with the fallout from the midseason finale. Coulson and the Agents are reeling from Trip’s death—in the team’s eyes, they failed in more ways than one. Skye blames herself for everything—and she’s slowly figuring out that something’s wrong with her as she sits in quarantine. And Simmons has a new perspective on the work she’s been doing—all these new superpowers are a plague and should be eliminated.
The episode actually starts a bit before that. No, a lot before that, actually—in 1983, where a man with no eyes (remember him from last episode’s tag?) is uncontrollably teleporting around a large, bare, cell. His name is Gordon, and he’s being observed by people who note that it’s been “14 hours since Terrigenesis.” One of those people is Skye’s mother, Jiaying (who, I neglected to mention last time, is played by Dollhouse alum Dichen Lachman). They talk about how Gordon has been prepared for this moment his whole life, and how he’ll need someone to guide him.
Someone Skye, in the present, does not have. Of course, the only person who knows this is Cal, her crazy father, who finds out what happened to Skye when he encounters the other person who transformed down in the alien city, Raina. However, things went very differently for her—she’s changed completely. Covered in painful thorns, she’s now grotesque and disillusioned, bitter that Skye got to change and keep her appearance while she became a monstrosity. (I’m actually not sure what comic book character she might be—she’s clearly not Tigra, as some thought in the early going. The folks at comicbook.com happen to believe she’s Naja, a relatively new character from Marvel’s Inhuman comic book. That seems plausible.)
Cal coldly rejects Raina, essentially telling her to off herself if she can’t deal with her new form. At the same time, he’s excited to hear about Skye’s change, thinking that her confusion over what’s happened will help drive her back to him. Kyle MacLachlan continues to be a joy to watch, absolutely relishing his role as a scenery chewing mad scientist. I hope we’ll be seeing much more of him in the second half of this season.
All this occurs on the periphery of the main narrative of this week’s episode, which deals with Coulson going on the offensive against Hydra after Whitehall’s death left a power vacuum in their leadership. He concocts an elaborate scheme that involves using Bakshi to lead him back to his superior whilst simultaneously tricking Hydra leadership to take each other out.
NEXT: Coulson and May die… kind of