“Afterlife” offered two VERY surprising reunions tonight, even if one of them included characters unaware it was actually a reunion. Both offered little in the way of celebration but should shake things up quite a bit as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. heads into the home stretch of its second season.
And yes, while it was cool to see Mike Peterson, a.k.a. Deathlok, return to the show, I was far more interested in the return of Skye’s mother, Jiaying, both on a character and plot level. Especially considering Skye is unaware of her blood tie to Jiaying, her appearance sets up some emotional—and seriously strange—familial revelations to come in the next few episodes.
So why exactly were Skye and Jiaying speaking, and where the hell did Deathlok appear from? Let’s dive in, with the man of the hour (and every hour, since this show technically exists because of him)…
Coulson and Hunter on the run
Coulson and Hunter have made their way to the Hulk Cabin (Is that the official name? No? I like it, anyway.) to regroup and plan their next move. Skye is missing—they find out about Gordon and her teleportation via a video feed—and S.H.I.E.L.D. has been wrested from Coulson’s control. They need a plan, and there are few options left.
Hunter suggests it’s time for the bad options then, and Coulson, giving it some thought, happens to agree. So he calls in his location to Gonzales and his men in the hopes of luring a quinjet to the cabin that he can commandeer. Coulson has called in backup, which, at this point, amounts to one extra agent arriving late to the party. Thanks to a 21st-century Howling Commandos kit (Are those standard issue?), however, the present duo steals some S.H.I.E.L.D. uniforms, attempting to board and take over the lone quinjet.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as alone as it appears, as other agents and jets appear from beneath their cloaking and surround Coulson and Hunter. When it seems like it’s time to surrender, that extra bit of backup arrives, and Deathlok packs quite a punch. It helps that Deathlok’s a cyborg, of course, and the long lost cast member returns by making quick work of the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. platoon.
The trio now has its next move in sight, but it won’t be an easy one to pull off. Coulson assumes Hydra knows about Skye, Gordon, and the other Inhumans, and Deathlok has been gathering intel on a Hydra group called List. (Is that List, LIST, or L.I.S.T.?) To find what they need to know, Coulson knows there’s only one man, one bad option, who can help—Grant Ward.
But while Coulson is doing whatever he can to find out where Skye is, what is the newly powered S.H.I.E.L.D. member herself doing? She’s hanging out at Afterlife.
Gordon’s School for Gifted Inhumans
The title of the episode is the name given to Gordon’s Inhuman hideout, where he brings Skye to keep her safe and help her understand her newfound abilities. She’s introduced to Lincoln (Luke Mitchell), a guy with some (literally) shocking powers. He shows her around the place, which is filled with quite a few other Inhuman humans.
The spotlight is not on them but on Skye and Gordon, and that’s somewhat of a blessing and a curse. Skye and Lincoln’s scenes feel like a needless romantic subplot (whether the show has any intention of going in that direction I couldn’t say, but it sure felt like it was a possibility to me), but things improve when Cal and Jiaying are introduced into the mix.
Cal is still holed up in an Afterlife holding room, where he and Gordon fight after Cal discovers Skye/Daisy is on the premises. The show employs Gordon’s teleportation ability here with some impressive choreography, not making the fight feel absolutely one-sided but proving just how handy that power can be.
NEXT: A family reunited, a S.H.I.E.L.D. divided.[pagebreak]
Meanwhile, Jiaying introduces herself to Skye once the latter discovers Raina is being kept safe in Afterlife. She’s still understandably upset with Raina, and almost kills her by pulling her apart at a molecular level. Jiaying comes to the rescue, promising to, over a few days, help Skye hone her skills and become her guide going forward.
I was surprisingly moved by Dichen Lachman during this scene. She wants to hide who she is for the sake of Skye and Afterlife, but Lachman imbues the moment with enough of an undercurrent of longing to reveal who she is to Skye that it’s practically heartbreaking.
She’s similarly great when she hugs Cal, who surprisingly keeps his cool while talking with the wife he previously thought to be dead. They and Skye are so close to a full-on family reunion, though Jiaying forbids him from seeing her. I hope we’re not robbed of seeing all three together before season 2 ends.
Back at S.H.I.E.L.D.
Fitz and Simmons continue to seem at odds during “Afterlife.” The former is ready to leave, and Gonzales is willing to let him, while Simmons stays to work on opening Fury’s toolbox.
Gonzales has more on his mind than the toolbox, though. With Coulson out at large, he believes the man is doing more harm than good for their entire team. He wants Coulson brought in, and then he and the others on the board of directors will decide what to do with him.
But with that decision in mind, he asks May to join their team of directors. That way, Coulson will have a clear advocate on the board. Gonzales even offers to let her shoot him if she truly believes what he’s doing is wrong, but she lets him live. (She does believe Gonzales would never hand her a fully loaded pistol, but he proves her wrong on that one).
He tries to appeal to her logic. This discussion isn’t about what Gonzales wants, or what May wants. This is about protecting S.H.I.E.L.D., and that requires all of them to be on the same page in his open-process book.
May is still understandably distrustful, considering two of her teammates were working to overthrow Coulson this whole time.
Those “traitors,” Bobbi and Mack, are busy at work doing what they can separately to keep the team’s braintrust intact. Bobbi is far more successful with Simmons (or so it seems…) while Mack, pleading honestly to Fitz as his friend, can’t keep him around. Fitz is more curious in whatever Simmons is doing to the toolbox to analyze it, and it leads to a seeming final confrontation between the two.
But…it isn’t, as the episode’s tag reveals. Fitz made off in a cab with Fury’s toolbox, Simmons busy working on a decoy. She even packed him a delicately presented sandwich for the ride.
So are Fitz and Simmons back to being FitzSimmons? Even if they’re not fully back to the duo we first fell in love with, this is a huge step forward, not just for them, but for ensuring one more reunion in the show’s future—the reunion of Coulson’s original S.H.I.E.L.D. team.
- Tonight’s episode offered two great spin-off ideas. The first is a Hunter and Coulson road trip buddy comedy. Make it happen, ABC. The show has gotten really dark this year. So let’s liven it up (even if it needs to be a web series, I’d love to see those two pal around for a few minutes each week).
- The second? Well, Gordon mentioned the elders who control Afterlife, and there’s an entire ensemble or two of characters who appeared there. While no one really ever lived in Afterlife, it would be a fascinating insight to see a rotation of Inhumans coming in and out of that place.
- “I was only gone one week,” Lance tells Coulson in one of the duo’s many wonderful scenes, as he’s astounded by how much went wrong in such a short time.
- I’m extremely curious what plans, if any, the show has for Raina. RIght now, she’s just hanging around, and we still have no idea if her powers extend beyond her prickly appearance.
NEXT WEEK: May! May! Melinda May! It looks like we’ll finally learn about the Cavalry’s past, which is unsurprising considering the episode’s title is “Melinda.”