“Afterlife,” written by Craig Titley and directed by Kevin Hooks, picks up right where “One Door Closes” left off. Skye has been (willingly) taken by Gordon to places unknown, May and FitzSimmons along with the Playground and the Toolbox have been captured by Gonzales and his team, and Coulson’s only ally in the outside world is Hunter. This week’s episode gave us some revelations, some twists and turns, and some genuinely fantastic moments from our heroes. It also gave us not one but two surprising character returns, both of which have the potential for a large impact on the show going forward.
- “Afterlife” followed three storylines, which intersected somewhat but were largely separate. We’ll start with the biggest mystery of last week, where Skye went. We meet Skye as she wakes up in a bed with charged acupuncture needles sticking in her. Gordon tells her that she’s safe, that she’s been there for two days, and that they’re healing her. He introduces her to Lincoln, a normal looking guy, who will act as her “transitioner,” helping her with her adjustment. After forcing her to stay in bed for a while longer to flush her system despite her desire to help her friends, he eventually lets her out and shows her around. They’re in a mountain village/camp which looks like it might be in Tibet, and has a Chinese name that translates as “Afterlife.” Only Gordon knows exactly where they are, and he brings people to and from the retreat as needed. She asked him to rescue her, but she’s still not eager to trust these people.
- As Lincoln shows her around, he fills her in a bit on what has happened to her, and what in particular makes her special enough that people stare at her as she passes. He says they’re all descendants of those engineered by the Kree, but that they wait to be chosen to undergo Terrigenesis. Only one person is chosen every few years, but that people actually being transformed by a Diviner in a Kree temple hasn’t happened in thousands of years. Skye asks many questions about Raina and her father, but he claims ignorance and simply tells her she’s safe. Gordon brought Skye’s bag from the cabin, but she’s not particularly eager to stay. They only want to help her through the transition process. Lincoln asks her about the gloves, and when she explains that her friend made them to help, he scoffs that any such thing is possible given that Skye has “graduated from human biology.” They debate whether her powers are a gift or a curse, and he promises that they’ll help her learn control. She’s confused because she thought that they would help to fix her and get rid of her powers, but he tells her they’re irreversible.
- Later he takes her out to a viewpoint away from everything and past the suspicious transition room that is no longer used. He tells her it’s a good place to let loose or perhaps smoke a little something, and when she asks about his powers he gives her a demonstration. She takes his hand, despite it being so awkward, and feels an electrical charge run through her body. He tells her how he almost burned the place down, but he eventually learned to manipulate the electrical charges and now the sky is the limit. He uses his abilities to cause her to levitate a foot off the ground, sending visible arcs of energy between her and the earth. He tells her that their powers are a part of them, and it makes them connect to something. She shouldn’t walk away from it.
- Favorite Quote: Hunter: “Did she just get abducted by aliens? … Seriously, I was only gone a week.”
- When Gordon returns, Skye has lots of questions, particularly about the others. He says that not all are found and not all choose to join them. He makes it sound very democratic, but when Skye asks to let her friends know that she’s ok he says he’ll have to ask for permission. He also won’t divulge what’s happened to Raina or her father. He says that the “elders” are in charge, and that people are afraid that with what’s happened to Skye their secret might finally be out. Speaking of Skye’s father, he’s been tearing up his room, punching at the walls, and generally making a mess. Gordon visits, telling him that he’s lucky they’ve kept him alive. Calvin immediately deduces that they’ve found Skye, forgives Gordon, and demands to be taken to her. When Gordon refuses Calvin attacks, but is poorly matched against Gordon’s teleporting ability. He does manage to knock Gordon down and climb on top of him, but as he goes to punch Gordon in the face he disappears, leaving Calvin to punch the floor hard. Gordon admonishes him for having no self control and a lack of discipline, warning that he’s sealed not only his own fate but that of his daughter.
- Lincoln and Skye bond over some food in her room, where they cutely discuss whether he’s used his powers to heat up food before. Before things can get too flirty, however, he makes an offhand reference to “the other one,” despite his claim to know nothing about anything other than Skye. Skye knows he’s talking about Raina, but he warns her that Raina is on her own path. Skye insists she’s nothing like Raina and doesn’t feel that Raina deserves the same treatment, given the people she’s killed. She bursts from her room and makes a beeline to the “abandoned” building, finding Raina inside. Raina is skulking in the shadows, saying she can’t bear the light of day. She can’t stand to be awake but she has horrible nightmares. Skye insists that Raina got what she deserved, but Raina points out that no one forced Skye to follow Raina into the temple, and the Skye wanted or needed to go as much as Raina did. Raina antagonizes Skye, and as the room starts to shake she thinks that her nightmares finally might be at an end, when the door opens and a voice cries “Enough.”
- It’s Jaiying, Skye’s mother, still somehow alive after being chopped up by Whitehall but with scars on her face. She says that they’re both guests in her house, and tells Skye that Raina is capable of beauty and grace. Skye says that Raina’s killed people, but Jaiying reminds Skye that she’s capable of killing too. She says that Raina was brought here because she’s one of them, and that whatever they were in the past is gone. She says she’s chosen to be Skye’s guide, and asks only for a few days for Skye to train and to watch, and if at the end Skye feels no connection then she’s free to leave. Presumably Skye accepts, because we next see Jaiying visiting Calvin. He asks if he was right, that Skye is there, and she confirms that she is, calling Skye “Daisy.” He thanks her and they hug, but when he asks if he can see Skye, she tells him no.
- At the Playground, Bobbi has returned with Calderon. Bobbi tries to defend Skye for attacking them, but Gonzales dismisses her as a “thing” and repeats his theory that Coulson is collecting powered people. He wants to recruit Fitz, because he thinks he needs him to help open the Toolbox, but Fitz is having none of it. Gonzales insists that there are no prisoners in their group, that they’re free to go, but that clashes with the fact that May is locked up. Fitz says he’s going to start packing his things, then, and Gonzales is frustrated that they’re loyal to a man and not to SHIELD.
- Favorite Quote: Hunter: “The second glass is for the person keeping me warm, but for you I’ll make an exception.”
- May is being held in Ward’s vault, and isn’t answering any of Gonzales’s questions. He points out that Coulson asked her to put a bullet in his head, and questions the difference between loyalty and stubbornness. They talk about pursuing HYDRA, about whether Bobbi and Mack are traitors, but when May says that Coulson is a good man Gonzales has had enough. He says that Coulson was compromised, and should have been on the index himself. Or perhaps she should have put Coulson down, like she’s had to do to others like him, specifically in Bahrain, earning her the “Cavalry” nickname. She simply warns him that when Coulson’s ready, he’ll find Gonzales, and then they’ll have a showdown.
- Simmons confesses to Bobbi that she just wants things to get back to normal, revealing that the solution to the Toolbox is not a tech solution, it’s a lab solution. She’s then put in charge of solving the puzzle. Mack goes to try to talk Fitz out of leaving, telling him that Simmons is working on the Toolbox and might have found a way in. Fitz watches as she takes detailed scans of the tiny box, and something dawns on him. He confronts Simmons, who thinks that the box has pores that have been calibrated to Coulson’s DNA. She tells Fitz that she wants them to work together to get things back together. Fitz is having none of it, and he angrily picks up the box and says, “I don’t believe in fear, I believe in trust.” He’s convinced that she wants him to leave and is trying to force him away, but she says she’s only carrying out her responsibilities, and it’s best if he does leave.
- Gonzalez decides to try a different tactic with May, telling her that he knows he’s been mishandling her. He offers her a gun and a chance to do what she will, but says that he’s been outvoted by the group and they want to offer her a position on the board. They think Coulson should have an advocate on the board, and that SHIELD can use her. She accepts as Fitz prepares to leave the base. He gives Simmons the cold shoulder as he leaves, and later we see her telling the others that the toolbox won’t open without Coulson there to do it. We flash to Fitz riding in a cab and holding the real toolbox! Simmons copied it and they pulled a switch together. Inside Fitz’s bag is a sandwich labeled “Prosciutto and Mozzarella, Be safe, Love Jemma”. (Awwww!) Fitz is off to the airport to try to track down Coulson.
- Speaking of Coulson, he and Hunter need to go find Skye, but first they need some wheels. We see Coulson talking to a used car salesman, trying to connect to Coulson by describing the tiger inside him waiting to let loose in a Firebird. Coulson says they’re more interested in an SUV, as they have to do some off-roading, when Hunter pulls up in a black Jeep, which just happens to belong to the salesman. Coulson assures him that they’re not criminals, but proceeds to steal it anyway. They head to Skye’s cabin to find it empty, but they do find a security camera with footage of Skye defending herself (“glad she’s on our side”) and being rescued by Gordon. The pair shares a drink of whiskey from the flask and two glasses that Hunter carries around with him at all times and discuss their options. Hunter wants to lay low in Mexico, and Coulson says that when there are no good options left it means it’s time for some bad ones.
- Hunter passes out and when he wakes up the building is surrounded by SHIELD soldiers (“Ours or theirs?” he asks), whom Coulson invited. They start to break their way in but the Hulk-proof building slows them down, hopefully long enough for Coulson’s backup to arrive. Hunter is worried that they’re either surrendering or Coulson wants to go out like Butch and Sundance, but Coulson explains that what he really wants is a quinjet. However, as the door is almost battered down they decide that backup isn’t coming, and have to come up with a new plan. Luckily the case that May shoved into Coulson’s arms before sending him away from the playground was an old Howling Commandos kit, complete with a hologram. The SHIELD soldiers burst in and move to take out Coulson and Hunter, who appear to be playing cards on the sofa, only to be ambushed from behind by the real Coulson and Hunter.
- The pair heads to the quinjet, where Coulson will put his very limited piloting skills to the test, only for another quinjet to decloak beside them, with another group of soldiers they didn’t see coming. The two are captured and loaded aboard one of the jets, as Hunter questions whether there was ever any backup at all. As the ramp starts to close, sealing their fate and sending them back to SHIELD, a hand grabs the ramp and forces it down, revealing Mike freaking Peterson, the best possible backup. He takes out the men guarding Coulson and Hunter, and fires a smoke grenade from his arm into the other quinjet as it attempts to flee, causing it to crash land back where it started as its pilot is knocked out. Coulson calls him “Agent Peterson,” and comments on how well his new upgrades seem to be working. Mike pauses for a moment to download piloting instructions before flying the quinjet away, mission accomplished. Their new goal is to track down Grant Ward, truly a bad option if there ever was one.
- Favorite Quote: Hunter: “At some point you might have mentioned that backup was a lethal cyborg.” Coulson: “Truthfully, I just wanted to see the look on your face when he showed up… priceless.” Hunter: “Glad I amuse you.” Mike Peterson: “You know I can hear you up here.”
- So we got a pair of killer episodes that shook up the show entirely. I’m loving the new dynamic, putting Coulson and his team back in the position of underdogs, but with a more shades of grey “enemy” than the black and white HYDRA. This second episode of the pair gave us some spectacular moments, and I have to start with Mike Peterson. When Coulson mentioned backup a small part of the back of my mind said that I hoped it’d be Mike, but I didn’t really think it was likely. But when Mike’s hand grabbed the ramp I absolutely freaked out. My notes for that part of the episode consist mainly of a giant “YES!!!!” scrawled across my notepad. I’ve been waiting all season for Mike to reappear, as his was the loose thread from season one that I most wanted picked up. I love J. August Richards, and I desperately want Mike to either become a regular on the show or to get his own spinoff looking for redemption and a way to find peace with what he’s become.
- The other highlight for me was the reveal that Fitz and Simmons were working together (without even communicating) to steal the toolbox and leave a replica in its place. It was such a great twist, and wonderful to see them working together despite the rift that had developed. They’ve developed into full agents, thinking ahead, planning, deceiving, and doing so much more than simply running the lab. The sandwich, signed “Love Jemma,” totally got me choked up, and was a perfect callback to when Simmons made Fitz a sandwich back in season 1 before sending him on his first field mission. I think FitzSimmons is alive and well once more, even if they’re physically separated at the moment.
- Favorite Quote: Simmons’ note: “Prosciutto & Mozzarella, Be safe! Love, Jemma”
- And then there’s Skye. I’m happy that she seems to have found a safe place where she can learn to embrace and control her powers, where she isn’t made to feel like a freak or an outcast. On the other hand, she’s not exactly free to do as she wants with these people. (Confession, I’ve already watched the next two episodes, so I’m trying to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t.) However, I can’t stand Lincoln. First, while I get the impulse to stick in a new love interest for Skye, I don’t feel like they need to. And although things are only mildly flirty at the moment, I worry that they’ll force the two of them together which just feels unnecessary. Also, I really can’t stand it when characters say “I thought you knew” over and over again. I know that the writers can’t write just one big long info dump scene, but in real life people don’t just take a person into a new situation or environment without explaining a good deal of things upfront, rather than waiting for them to make a mistake and acting surprised/forgetful that it’s all new for that person. It’s such a screenwriting cliché, and I understand the logic behind it, but there’s got to be a better solution than doling new info out one scene at a time by having Lincoln say “I thought you knew” after Skye questions something.
- And obviously things aren’t as simple as Lincoln made them out to seem. Skye is something of a prisoner, but she’s not alone in that, as Raina and Cal both seem to fit that description. And then there’s the huge revelation that Skye’s mother is still alive, though with some scars apparently from being reassembled after Dr. Whitehall had her chopped up into pieces. I guess her healing abilities were incredibly strong. Still, we don’t know exactly what this group’s motivation is, despite their claims that they only want to help. They have some strict rules and aren’t nearly as free and open as they pretend to be. We’ll see more into their attitudes and goals in the upcoming weeks and the rest of the season.
- Again, I’m sorry for the delays with these latest reactions. I hope to get back on schedule before the April 28th episode, and then keep up to date through the rest of the season. Thanks for your patience with me, and as always thanks for reading.
What do you think? Did you enjoy “One Door Opens” and “Afterlife”? What do you think of the latest SHIELD shakeup? What is the “real SHIELD” really after, and what is their objection to powered people? As far as motivations go, what do you make of the Inhuman group which rescued Skye? Are you enjoying a reemergence of FitzSimmons? Is Hunter growing on you? Where do you think Bobbi’s loyalties lie? And how awesome was the Mike Peterson return? Let me know in the comments, and come back later this week (hopefully) for my reactions to the next two episodes!
Yay, thanks for coming back. It is odd that they seem to be following this same pattern of changing the entire landscape around episode 16. It’s fun but very exhausting, and also gives me high expectations for the season ending since Beginning of the End was one of my favorites. As for the episodes themselves, I already made some comments about Mike, Bobbi, and FitzSimmons, so I’ll just jump into something else.
For starters, thank you for bringing up mistrusting the Inhumans. I am having the hardest time finding anyone who discusses that in the midst of Skye getting superpowers. I suppose it’s the excitement over them adapting the Inhumans and their canon to the screen, but that doesn’t blind me from the fact that they aren’t being very open. I suppose they’re almost a parallel to the “Real” SHIELD in a way. Both groups want to help people, don’t necessarily want to hurt people like Hydra, but have a lack of consideration for others that’s a bit discerning. Even now, no one seems to point out that SPOILER Skye had to find her own way to contact the team considering they wouldn’t do it for her SPOILER. My hopes still remain that Skye returns to the team, not only because they’re the people from the beginning, but because they seem to be the people who care about others despite at times being confused about new things like superpowers and secretive about things (which is a flaw but not nearly the worst thing that has happened).
You are not alone in disliking Lincoln, and hopefully not alone in disliking him NOT purely for shipping reasons. At this point, he’s about on the level that Hunter was for me in the season opener: he has some interesting qualities but still needs to earn his place in the show. I understand the concept of having someone for Skye to talk to in Afterlife that isn’t related to her, but I do wish he would stop playing that “I thought you knew” role. Not only is it slightly condescending to Skye, it also clearly proves the group is hiding secrets.
Is it weird that I think Afterlife may be invaded in a coming episode? Whether it’s SHIELD to find Skye, “Real” SHIELD to hunt them down, or Hydra to capture the Gifteds, I keep feeling like something’s going to go down, and they do keep hinting at emphasizing the group’s secrecy. Plus, it would be a good way to test Skye’s loyalties, which happily still seem to be with her team despite the development. I guess I would like to see a good conflict much like the brief one between Skye and Raina. Another confession is that I would really like to see Raina develop as a villain, especially since she seems to have a parallel development to Skye, who’s looking to become a hero. I can’t help but feel a little sorry for her, but I sure as hell agreed with Skye that I wouldn’t want them in the same place. If Afterlife’s moral equivalency of Skye and Raina isn’t enough to prove their sketchy perspective, I don’t know what is.
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Thanks again for posting all of this! I’m still playing catch up. Looks like the series gets ever more interesting.
One thing I’ll note (from the perspective of an artist/writer) is the complexity of taking a half century of comics and retelling that story cycle in a series of films and TV episodes… and telling it for a new audience, a new generation. When it’s one book, epic though it may be, like Lord of the Rings, there are complexities involved in moving from written word to silver screen. But it’s only one book, one canon. With comics, you have decades of stories that shapeshift all the time.
I’m waiting to see what they come up with next!
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