Agents of SHIELD Review-Afterlife
I really enjoyed this episode, and I definitely think it’s one of the best of this season so far. Sure, it doesn’t reach the action heights of the previous episode, but instead we are gifted with the surprise return of characters, as well as getting a glimpse into the agendas and focus points of the other characters. Whilst a large part of this episode centers on Skye and her journey as an Inhuman, we are also treated to scenes of the rest of our favourite characters, with a particular emphasis on our team from season 1. And these scenes prove to be especially significant in regards to the positioning of the characters for future episodes.
The Incredible Bobbi Morse
I also want to make a brief point of Bobbi in this episode. Whilst most of my analysis will be focused on our season 1 faves, Bobbi stood out to me at key points during this episode, mostly in how she responded to Gonzalez and his actions towards her friends. Gonzalez speaks of Skye as a ‘thing’, an ‘it’. To him she is not a person, she is an alien, a danger that cannot be stopped. But Bobbi continues to be adamant that Skye is one of them, and she’s also a friend. That Skye didn’t mean to hurt anyone. She doesn’t like how Gonzalez has been treating her friends, including the way he’s locked up May. What I also noticed is that she seems to be wavering in her support of Gonzalez, in the way that she continues to stand up for Coulson and his team, and how she seems to disagree with Gonzalez’s actions. We get brief glimpses of Bobbi at the end of these conversations, looking as if she’s contemplating what they’re doing, as if reconsidering their actions. I can certainly see her siding with Coulson at some point this season against Gonzalez.
Serenity and Cult Vibes in the Afterlife
I really want Skye to be happy. Especially after everything she’s been through lately, with Trip dying and her getting powers that she can’t control. So I really wanted Afterlife to be a place where she could relax and learn to control her powers from people who are like her, and have some time to be happy away from the chaos that is SHIELD at the moment. But it becomes clear from this episode that Afterlife is no such place.
As serene as Afterlife first appears, it is much more than this. And it’s the hidden parts that make me most worried for Skye, especially the reactions of the Inhumans to Raina. Skye is not only perfectly within her rights to feel the way she does about Raina who is an abuser, who has abused Skye and her friends, it is also legitimate for her to feel that Raina deserves to be punished for her actions. Because Raina is responsible for so many crimes and in Skye’s place I too would be out of my mind with anger that the other Inhumans are sheltering Raina and lying to her about it. But what I think is the worst is when Jiaying surprisingly appears and she completely dismisses Skye’s feelings and experiences with Raina, saying that she belongs there, and essentially stating that Raina’s actions should be both forgiven and forgotten.
Skye deserves better than this. She deserves somewhere better to be where she can learn to control her powers, rather than staying in a place which forces her to accept the presence of her abuser and which would rather shame the actions of the victim than the abuser. Such as when Skye calls Raina a murderer and her mother likens Skye herself to Raina because of her reaction to discovering her there. Skye’s actions and Raina’s are completely different. Raina has played a large hand in the murder (and worse) of countless people, including using them as experiments to create weapons. Skye is having a completely logical reaction to someone who has literally ruined her life. And yet she is being victimised for it.
I know from discussions with other people that I’m not the only person who got serious cult vibes about Afterlife, and certainly some of the Inhumans, including Jiaying appear to have a bit of a purist mindset. I don’t know, there were just aspects of it in general that made me feel very uncomfortable and made the Inhumans appear more like a cult than anything else.
Sitting Ducks and Back-Up
Coulson and Hunter is the Brotp that I never knew I needed, until now. So I’m glad that much of this episode was dedicated to their exploits and their determination to find Skye and take back SHIELD. As always of course, Hunter is the perfect comic relief, and he brings some much loved humour to what is often a very dark season. His reactions to all that has happened in the week that he was gone was simply hilarious, as Coulson vaguely explained only some of what was happening. Hunter is simultaneously freaked out and yet unconcerned with everything that’s been happening.
Whilst I very much enjoyed all of these comic interactions, what really stood out to me was the development in their relationship. Hunter was wary about SHIELD and about Coulson himself, and yet in the last few episodes we’ve seen just how different things are, and only the appearance of ‘real’ SHIELD was able to make this come to the forefront. As far as Hunter is concerned, Coulson has proved himself a man worthy to be followed. And coming from Hunter, this is no easy feat. The fact that during this episode Hunter essentially tells Coulson this, that he’d follow him to hell and back, but he would never side with Gonzalez, says a lot.
Whilst Coulson attempts to absolve Gonzalez by saying that he’s still SHIELD, that maybe he has a point because look at everything that’s happened, that he was even dead, Hunter says to hell with that. In this moment, Hunter is essentially speaking on behalf of the audience. Who cares about their side? After all, look at everything that Gonzalez has done. In the whole scheme of things does it matter that he is SHIELD? Of course it does, because as much as we don’t like Gonzalez he isn’t Hydra, and he is looking out for SHIELD, he’s just going out about it the wrong way. However, Hunter is completely right that in this moment it hardly matters, after everything that ‘real’ SHIELD has done when there were other, better options they could’ve taken, there are more important things for Coulson to be doing that absolution. They make get some recognition as SHIELD agents when they taken them down, they aren’t going to be using lethal force, but right now, that’s all the consideration for the other side that is necessary.
Of course Hunter is shocked by Coulson’s plan, and it seems to be a disaster, that is, until back-up shows up, in the form of Mike Peterson aka Deathlok, and what an incredible surprise it was. Along with much of the rest of the audience, I was hoping for Mike Peterson to return to the show, and I’m so glad that it happened now, that’s he’s part of the team to find Skye. Because Skye tried so hard to save Mike back in season 1, and I can’t wait to see Mike helping her back, now that he’s in a position to help her. I also want to see his reaction to her powers, because they were both created to be weapons. But Mike is so much more than that, and I think that maybe he could be the one to show Skye this. Somehow, I think he would be more convincing that the Inhumans Skye is currently hanging out with.
One Girl To Fool Them All
So prior to this episode I know there were a lot of people who believed that Simmons was going to join ‘real’ SHIELD, turning her back on her friends. However, I am happy to say that I stood behind Simmons the whole way, that she had a plan all along, and that’s exactly what happened. This episode, we once again saw the incredible spy skills of Simmons, who was able to successfully lie to Bobbi once again, this time with a little help from Fitz. Other people have commented that Bobbi has never seen FitzSimmons at their height, she’s only seen them when they’ve been fighting and/or avoiding each other. Bobbi and Mack have never seen the pinnacle of their friendship, they’ve never looked at Simmons and Fitz and thought that they are soulmates. So yet again, they are hoodwinked because they underestimate the two of them. After all, Skye once described FitzSimmons as being psychically linked.
And finally, after all the angst of season 2, we see the true glory that is FitzSimmons during this episode, and it makes me really miss the good times of season 1. Simmons and Fitz stand as a team against Gonzalez and Bobbi, but when Fitz says that he’s going to leave, Simmons comes up with a plan. At first, part of the audience believes that Simmons is betraying Coulson’s team, and Fitz believes this too for a bit. That is, until he sees what Simmons is doing, and he understands her plan. So he goes along with it, and gives Mack and Bobbi what they expect, a fight. But Simmons and Fitz both know what they are doing, and Fitz leaves with the real toolbox in his bag, along with Simmons’ signature sandwich, with a hint of pesto aioli.
This is Simmons and Fitz at the best, both as individuals and as an incredible unit. This is what so many of us have missed since season 1 ended. And it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come, that they are able to completely dupe Bobbi, who is a master spy. But the two of them work as a team, and they use their talents and everything they’ve learned. I honestly can’t wait to see where they both go from here, and when Fitz and Simmons see each other again, I expect a proper talk between the two of them.
And The Manipulation Begins
I’m not the first to comment on the scenes between May and Gonzalez and see them as setting up a potential drift between May and Coulson. Gonzalez is perfectly aware of how loyal May is to Coulson, and so he interprets her comment about Coulson and SHIELD being the same thing as mere loyalty. But those of us who have followed May’s story since the beginning are not so easily confused. May can’t simply be boiled down to loyalty for one person. She’s not easily swayed, nor is she easily loyal, so there are multiple reasons that she remains loyal to Coulson, that she continues to trust him.
May sees Gonzalez’s action with the gun for the trick it is. It’s not important that bullets were in it. What’s important here is the power play that occurs, and which May notices. Gonzalez isn’t stupid. He is also keenly aware of May’s brilliance, so what’s most significant is why he handed her the loaded gun. She could easily take him out, but he knows she’s curious about what he wants. It’s the perfect opportunity for him to begin his power play and manipulation, knowing that May will ‘see’ it as the trick it is, only for him to reveal that it was loaded all along. But why is this necessary? Because it means that Gonzalez is attempting to give May a semblance of power and control. In reality, May doesn’t have much power in this situation, except the power to choose from the options presented to her. This is simply the beginning of Gonzalez’s attempts to win her over to this side, and have her leave Coulson once and for all.
If you’ve seen the sneak peek for this week’s episode, then you’d know that this manipulation continues with Gonzalez trying to convince May that Coulson is building a super powered army (seriously this is like Dumbledore’s Army again, who wants to bet Coulson is the most surprised about this supposed plan of his). Whilst the sneak peek aims to have us doubting May’s intentions yet again, I encourage you all to not be easily swayed by appearances. May isn’t going to fall prey to such manipulation, and as always with AOS, nothing is ever as it seems.