This review contains spoilers.
Things we always wanted to see in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: fights involving superhuman folk, Coulson quipping, links to the MCU, double-crossing and other cool spy stuff.
Things we got in Afterlife: all of the above.
Yep, it turns out last week’s stellar episode One Door Closes has led directly into another good one. It’s telling of how confident S.H.I.E.L.D. has become recently when you consider that we really enjoyed this week’s episode despite the fact that it didn’t actually achieve much beyond reshuffling the deck a little and re-establishing what some core characters are up to.
Unlike HuffleSHIELD introductory outing Love In The Time Of HYDRA, this week handled its designation as a filler-type episode remarkably well, flitting between interesting character exchanges and action packed moments to make a cohesive enough whole that, when the DVD box-set binging days are upon us, will stand up well next to the more important episodes.
After all, what did we actually learn this week that we didn’t already know? That Cal is more of a prisoner than a friend to Gordon? That Gonzales is trying to recruit May? That Fitz and Simmons are loyal to Coulson? None of those things exactly came as a surprise. The only real shocks were the revelation of Skye’s mum’s identity and the return of J August Richards as Deathlok.
And what a return it was. Seeing as Mike’s fate had been left a little open ended, it was a nice bit of season one closure to hear that he’s been working for Coulson for at least six months, getting an upgrade and hunting down another HYDRA head.
Arguably, Mike Peterson is a remnant of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s less-than-golden days, but returning him to the fold and repurposing him as Coulson’s super-powered back-up enables exactly the sort of comic booky action that S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to facilitate its best episodes. We hope he can become a regular team member from now on, but only time will tell.
Just as Mike’s Deathlok upgrades make him the team’s Iron Man equivalent, parallels between Skye and the Hulk (particularly the version we saw in The Incredible Hulk) are continuing to be made. This week she is on the run, trying to get rid of her powers and struggling to control them. We were finding this strand a little dull and romantic for the most part, to be honest, but the reunion with Raina at the end ramped up the tension and intrigue levels.
Where will Skye go next? Into training with her mum, it would seem. Given that this parentage revelation was downplayed a little this week, we’re assuming it will become a bigger deal further down the road. Probably when Skye finds out.
Even the supporting cast had some interesting moments this week – Fitz and Simmons’ secret switcheroo, Mack’s attempted reconciliation with Fitz, Cal’s fight with Gordon, Gonzales’ offer to May, and Hunter’s endlessly quip-friendly retreat with Coulson. There was even modern Howling Commandos tech thrown into the mix, what more could we want?
All in all, then, Afterlife was clearly another building-to-bigger-things week, but concurrently the kind of fun filler that keeps you entertained and you wouldn’t mind watching again.
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