'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' recap: 'Aftershocks'
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
It’s all pretty complicated but also pretty fun, as it requires Coulson and May to fake their deaths (with Coulson yelling “YOU’LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE” for dramatic effect) so Bakshi would believe Hunter betrayed his own and was willing to ransom him back to Hydra. Despite his best efforts to double cross Hunter, he and Bobbi Morse are ready for everything, taking out his superior and arresting him all over again—so they can hand him over to General Talbot. (Adrian Pasdar seems to be having more and more fun on this show the more he shows up. It’s great.)
As Hydra’s being dealt with, the Agents worry about Skye. While no one notices, her newfound, earth-shaking powers manifest during moments of great stress. However, she can’t hide them from Fitz, who causes her to shatter a lamp when talking about her “inhuman” (see what they did there?) test results. In one of my favorite moments, Fitz covers for Skye when they find out about the lamp, saying it was his fault—and lying to the rest of them about her results.
The episode ends with Raina, suicidal and walking through highway traffic. However, she’s unable to go through with it after S.H.I.E.L.D. agents attempt to apprehend her—only for Gordon to make an appearance, teleporting in a bubble and whisking her away.
- TAG: As the gang reminisces about Triplett, Bobbi and Mac meet about something they’re hiding from the rest of the group—they’re looking for Fury’s Toolbox, which Coulson used to start S.H.I.E.L.D. up again. Are they double agents? Something else entirely? Whatever it is, it seems like end-game stuff for this season.
- I am super excited to see AoS start to dive deep into the Inhumans. However, it’s really weird to see them use Inhuman characters to co-opt the X-Men narrative of having superhumans hated and feared by the general populace. I mean, I get it—licensing contracts mean that Marvel is effectively locked out from ever using the word “mutant” or anything pertaining to the X-Men, so this is the next best thing.
- Unfortunately, this will be my last Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recap. Thanks to some schedule shuffling, I won’t be able to recap the rest of this season—instead, I’ll be passing the baton to my colleague Jonathon Dornbush. He’s a cool dude. As for me, I’ll still be recapping The Americans every week, so I’ll still be around—just not for this show. You should totally think about watching The Americans if you don’t already, by the way.
- If you like Agents and are thinking of dabbling into some similar comics, Marvel just launched a S.H.I.E.L.D. comic this year. It’s a lot of fun, with the cast of the show interacting with superheroes that can’t really be shown on TV. Also, Secret Avengers, by Ales Kot and Michael Walsh focuses on a team made up of Coulson, Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Spider-Woman on crazy missions of dubious morality. The first volume is called “Let’s Have a Problem.” I love that title.
NEXT WEEK: Skye’s secret is out. Lady Sif is comin’ for her. Some guy named Jonathon starts writing these things.
Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) assembles a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to handle strange new cases.