Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Aftershocks” Review

Raina's transformation

Raina’s transformation

SO! This week’s AoS has found our heroes reeling from the events of the Mid-Season Finale, which were plenty, and trying to understand what the future holds for them. For those who don’t remember, Skye (whose actual name was revealed as Daisy Johnson, the comic character Quake) was finally confirmed to be an Inhuman. Both HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. followed the Kree maps to the Inhuman temple under the Spanish ruins in Puerto Rico, and found the Obelisk/Diviner they were carrying around was actually a shard of the Terrigen Crystals. The temple activated the Obelisk/Diviner, sealing the temple room with Skye and Raina inside along with Trip (who was trying to help Skye out) and initiated Terrigenesis (the process through which the Terrigen Mists [Derived from the Terrigen Crystals] activate the latent superhuman abilities of Inhumans). Both Skye and Raina were trapped in cocoons as they were transformed, and this rebirth came at the price of Trip’s life (RIP, we barely knew you but you were great) as a piece of the Obelisk shell stabbed him as it exploded. Skye witnessed her friend turn to stone as she was sealed in the cocoon, emerging moments later not looking much different, except for one thing, she can now cause Earthquakes at will, and the bursting forth from her cocoon causes one big enough to nearly shutdown the whole temple.

Skye's powers going out of control

Skye’s powers going out of control

And we pick up from there back at the Playground (S.H.I.E.L.D.’s underground HQ) where Skye is trapped in quarantine and being monitored for changes to her biological makeup after Terrigenesis. Of course, they don’t know she is now a super-powered being, but they are just being careful, since the temple caused Mac to go crazy earlier, they aren’t sure what could’ve happened to her although she looks no different. We get an almost reverse Hannibal Lecter thing going on here, with everyone coming by Skye’s cell to talk to her, make her feel better, or freak out at the possibility of people having powers (we’ll get to that). This should be devastating and horror-inducing for the “Clarice” to be the caged animal, but what we get is Skye mostly being mopey and doing her best to seem depressed about what she feels is her role in Trip’s death. We see everyone concerned with what happened to Raina, as they know she was involved in what happened to Skye and Simmons fills them in on it. She stayed back in Puerto Rico to document the evidence at the temple before blowing the whole thing, as they think it is too dangerous to keep standing, when suddenly a few team members get killed, with animalistic slashes to their throats. We are shown that Raina did not come out of Terrigenesis quite as well as Skye, becoming some sort of disfiguring mid Ani-morph like Porcupine-human hybrid, and killed them in her escape. Simmons sees this first hand, and immediately returns to HQ hoping Skye wasn’t affected in quite the same way. We see her relieved when Skye seems fine but wants to take a blood sample to be sure, when Skye overhears some horrifying talk. Simmons debriefs Coulson about what she saw happened to Raina, and how she thinks if anyone else is affected in a similar way, it might be in everyone’s interest to just get rid of them, permanently. Whoa, certainly didn’t expect to hear a death wish for superhumans coming out of Simmon’s mouth, but the show seems to be setting up a particular point of view for the rest of the show. If the Inhumans are to be the MCU’s answer to the problem of not being able to have mutants around, then there have to be people who will marginalize them and hate them simply for being “different” and “dangerous”, but to hear it from the teams resident bio-med expert, and to hear her use the wrong doings of others who have gained powers (such as Donnie Gill [Blizzard], Crusher Creel [Absorbing Man], Cal, the Centipede Serum) as justification felt not just off base, but a perversion of who Simmons was fundamentally established to be. Naturally Skye begins to panic, setting off a mini earthquake (which no one notices even though there are in the room next door?) but it subsides, and Fitz has some good news for her. He intercepted her blood work, and switched the sample confirming she is definitely an Inhuman with her old samples, so everyone is none the wiser about her powers except for him, as he seems to not share Simmons’ cavalier attitude. She is instantly relieved, and it is a weird setup character pairing for Fitz and Skye to now share a secret, but interesting to watch develop.

The Eyeless Inhuman saving Raina

The Eyeless Inhuman saving Raina

While all this is happening, Raina escapes the temple and tries to find a way out, heading to the docks. There she finds Cal, “The Doctor” making a deal to get out of dodge before anyone comes looking for him. She pleads with him to help her, as the Terrigenesis’ effects were nowhere near what she had expected from the stories her grandmother told her about her “becoming something divine”. He has no sympathy for her, telling her she got what she wanted, and he is more concerned with finding Skye than dealing with her anymore, giddily jumping up and down when she reveals Skye has also transformed meaning he can introduce her to his fellow “transformed” compatriots. Raina pleads again for him to help, as he must know a way to change her fate, as she can’t live in this disfigured state (she does a great job showing how desperately she clings to hope after all the hopes and dreams she’s always envisioned for herself have crumbled). Cal does a fantastic job making a heel turn in emotion, showing just how crazy he truly is, in going from giddy excitement to rage at her pleading, to indifference telling her if she can’t live this way “well then, don’t” Kyle MacLachlan is just brilliant. We see Raina give up, walk into heavy traffic and as she is about to die, the eyeless Inhuman teleports in, throws her a quip about being beautiful (oh the irony), and teleports her away to the rest of his Inhuman friends. It was revealed at the top of the show that the Eyeless Inhuman was trained in using his abilities by a secret Inhuman society led by Skye’s mother. So we see there is a whole underground society of Inhumans around in the universe, and it remains to be seen in the group Cal was talking about is different than the Eyeless Inhuman’s, but it seems we are going to see a lot more of these groups.

The Eyeless Inhuman being consoled by Skye's mom

The Eyeless Inhuman being consoled by Skye’s mom

While all this is going on, we have the actual main plot following Coulson’s rather cutthroat plan to gut HYDRA from the top-down. He is worried that with Whitehall’s absence, a power-vacuum will allow some other official to step in, and they will lose their chance to strike back, and as tensions rise he claims he will “DESTROY THEM!” before they get the chance (whoa Coulson, I don’t think we’ve ever seen this kind of emotion from you, I like it). So he sets up an elaborate scheme to get the heads of HYDRA to take each other out, keeping S.H.I.E.L.D.’s hands clean. He decides he’s going to give up Bakshii to the US Government, and in transport they are attacked by “HYDRA” soldiers. When it seems like Coulson and May might have the upper-hand (and May does some awesome back flip shots), she is shot. Coulson screams “You’ll never take us alive!!” (When May complains about it, he says “If I let you write the script, no one would speak…”) and is taken out, with Bakshii running out. We learn this is all a setup when Coulson gets up and blood packs did a good job showing his injuries were fake, with the agent taking Bakshii was actually Hunter in disguise. He gets Bakshii to inform the other US heads of HYDRA he’s back and they should meet up, but then sets up his own plan with one of the members to take out the other members and usurp the power themselves. This works as the others die, but Hunter and Bobbi show up to take out the other HYDRA member and recapture Bakshii, leaving all the heads of HYDRA dead. As they return to the Playground, Bobbi and Mac converse about the little secret they are hiding, trying to find Fury’s lock-box hidden in Coulson’s desk (hmm, are they Triple-Quadruple Agents? Or acting on someone good’s behalf?)

What are Mac and Bobbi up to?

What are Mac and Bobbi up to?

So it seems that we are heading toward a couple of status quo shifts in the near future. Simmons’ turn as a staunch anti-Inhuman agent is surprising, and I really don’t think it works at all. As a pioneer of science, and someone whose emotions have never really ruled her thinking, why would she all of a sudden decide that all Inhumans should die. Elizabeth Henstredge does a good job acting the scene, but it doesn’t ring true, but they seem to be figuring out how to create two opposing stances for Civil War. It seems like instead of the secret identity issue being the tipping point like in the comics; it may be the irresponsible use of abilities of some Inhuman (along with the Alien Invasion of New York and the Fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.) that may cause people to choose whether Super-humans should be monitored and/or work for the government. It seems the MCU is setting up a mini-workshop on the stances Captain America and Iron Man will take soon, and I really can’t imagine it will be much longer that the Inhumans will be hidden from the Avengers too much longer. There were some major misses in the writing and acting in this episode, to the point of cringing sometimes, and the episode overall felt rushed, unfocused and awkward. But the overall set-ups for the future of the show and Coulson’s awesome plan made up for it, I’m back on track for the full-steam ahead to the end of the season.