Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned last night after it’s midseason finale sent shockwaves rippling through the team – literally. Though with Hydra on the cusp of being defeated, has a new threat emerged from inside the team itself? Characters will rise and fall this season as we begin to explore what they all have become.
Considering Skye’s new identity as Quake and all the fallout between the S.H.I.E.L.D Agents over Tripp’s death, it’s simple to see why this episode is titled “Aftershocks”; but do you actually know all the built in meanings? Let’s start with the obvious ‘physical’ aftershocks. As Quake, Skye is able to create shockwaves and the title of “Aftershocks” certainly calls upon the Earthquake imagery. Though this allusion becomes more concrete once start hearing how they believed the Diviner caused a massive Earthquake. As we know – and Fitz discovers – this was actually all Skye’s doing, which makes her slight ‘tremors’ in the episode LITERAL aftershocks – which usually follow a massive Earthquake.
Physical ‘aftershocks’ aside, there are also plenty of aftershocks that have been building within the team; and with Tripp’s death, these all come to a head. As we saw after Coulson’s outburst in “The Writing On The Wall” Mack began to distrust Coulson and his ‘alien pursuits’. Mack blames Coulson and Skye’s pursuits for his death, which in a sense is partially true. Though they can’t afford to think like that. Tripp died a hero and that’s what’s most important.
The Juxtaposition Of Becoming Inhuman:
Skye’s transformation is something that neither Coulson nor we the viewers have much experience with. Sure we’ve seen people with powers before; but here it’s as though their entire physical and mental capacities have been rewritten. We need a point of comparison to see how transformations such as these are ‘supposed’ to go; and that is the exact purpose of the opening flashback scene to 1983 with a young Gordon and Skye’s Mom.
Gordon is of course the mysterious eyeless man we saw in the post-credits of the midseason finale. This scene shows us how the process of Terrigenesis used to be a controlled event under which the inductee needed not only guidance; but also should be of a certain age. Ideally they had to seemingly be in their late teens so that they could be old enough to understand what was happening as well as young enough to be able to grow and adapt to this sudden change. Gordon’s trials represent the ‘ideal’ transformation process; and even then he is plagued by fear of his new powers and physical transformation. He will be the central point of juxtaposition between Skye and Raina’s own transformations.
Skye is not only older than Gordon was when he received his powers; but she also lacks the guidance necessary to prepare herself for what has happened to her. Raina on the other hand has had guidance on what this means; however, she is also much older than Skye and runs a higher risk of not being able to adapt. The other point of contrast between Skye and Raina (and Gordon for that matter) is that Skye has suffered no physical change. Gordon lost his eyes and Raina is now covered in quills. It is this drastic change that not only makes Raina jealous of Skye, but also makes her want to kill herself before Gordon saves her.
The final important part of transformation was the post-change guidance. With Skye’s father abandoning Raina, her fate was basically sealed until Gordon intervened and called her “beautiful”. As the two physically altered Inhumans, this should help Raina be able to live with her new gifts; but still potentially hate Skye. Skye on the other hand remains kind of behind the 8-ball in everyway; but it seems as though she has found another ‘different’ person not to guide her; but walk the trail with her.
Taking Sides – Monster Or Miracle:
Considering how Mack is one of the newest of the group, has exisiting distrust of Coulson and Skye, and just got off an “alien acid trip”, it’s easy to assume that he’d not be too accepting of Skye’s change. Though what about the more senior members? If we thought anyone could accept these changes, it was Simmons; but the usually inquisitive scientist has a very bleak and dark outlook on the subject.
After seeing what it’s done to Raina and how drastically it’s altered her DNA – as well as controlled Mack – Simmons is done with people with powers. She’s realized that only death comes from these people and even though the Avengers might be the exception, they wouldn’t have been needed if it weren’t for other ‘powered individuals’. The usually ‘lets not kill anyone’-Simmons feels that this is a plaque and if Raina’s been in contact, she should be taken down.
Yes these are valid fears of ‘contagion’; but when one of your friends has a possible exposure too, you should throw in a little more calm rationale. Simmons ‘enthusiasm’ for Skye’s blood results is a little much this episode and does truly make you worry how she’ll take the news that Skye’s been changed too. This is why Fitz’s reaction was so perfect.
Initially fearful upon realization that Skye was the cause of the massive earthquake that almost killed them all – and then seeing her powers firsthand – Fitz doesn’t overreact. Despite running out of the room at full speed, he didn’t tell anyone else and things seem normal when Agent May enters a few minutes later. When it looks as though Simmons is about to discover the truth, Fitz returns and covers for Skye with a doctored blood report.
Considering Inhumans are Marvel’s new way to explain ‘mutant’ characters, it’s incredibly brilliant that they’ve also brought over all the fears and discrimination faced by Mutants in the X-Men series. Many will distrust Skye’s new abilities and – as she said – treat her like a leaper; but not everyone. Fitz might not have powers and Skye might not have been physically changed like Raina and Gordon. Though both know what it’s like to be ‘different’ despite looking the same – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
An Emerging Threat – Bobbie & Mack:
Let’s face it, when Bobbie was telling Hunter that all their sneaking around was for ‘counseling’ on the loss of S.H.I.E.L.D., we knew that couldn’t be it. Though props to Hunter for realizing that Bobbie didn’t jump into side with Mack so as to now make anyone think they were that ‘partnered up’. Whether or not Hunter believed the explanation remains to be seen – I don’t think he did – ; but as we learned in the post credits, there is more to these two.
Whatever they have planned will happen soon as they only need a few more days to gather some blueprints of the base and get Fury’s Toolbox. Does this also explain why Mack is so key on taking a crack at Coulson’s beloved car Lola – considering his miniature version was just a decoy remote scanner. We don’t know who they’re working for or what their aims are; but I supposed we’ll learn in an episode or two. Right now it could be anyone from the US Government to Leviathan – from Agent Carter.
Excelsior – Easter Eggs, References & Other Important Points:
- Terrigenesis is the process of using a Terrigen Crystal to become an Inhuman in the comics. This confirms the name and process is the same in the MCU.
- We’ve met Dr List before in the Post-Credits for Captain America: The Winter Solider working with Baron Von Strucker in Sokovia.
- The first half of Season 2 began with a flashback, so it’s fitting that the second half also begin with a Flashback. Whereas the first set up Whitehall’s obsession with mysterious objects, this one sets up the process of coping with having become Inhuman.
- Cal seems to be sticking to his plan of waiting for Skye’s powers to cause fear and make her return to him; but we’ve seen before how strong her and Coulson’s bond is. Whatever his plans might be, they’ll fail like the rest.
- Cut off one head, two more shall take its place… but what if you make the heads fight themselves. That was exactly Coulson’s plan as he tricked Bakshi into thinking there was a defection and power grab within Hydra.
- The execution of 2/3 of the targets was achieved by the Diviner tech, as you could tell from the petrification process.
- We’re so used to seeing Fitz and Simmons in unison – ie: FitzSimmons – that it was a wonderful call to have these two on different sides of the issue.
- Calling Skye a “rock-star”? Oh Bobbie, you have no idea.
- Admit it, you screamed like hell when Agent May got shot; but then when Coulson was hit, we knew it was all a setup.
- Coulson brought Tripp’s mom the same case that belonged to his grandfather.
- Gordon’s allegiance is still unknown; but due to him knowing about the ‘change’ before Cal and taking Raina in, it’s safe to assume that he is working with a completely different group. Potentially an Inhuman Support group where they carry on Jiaying’s work.
Next week we’ll see the return of Lady Sif, who seems to also fear Skye’s powers. But with Fitz covering for her and Skye opening up to Coulson, I’m sure our heroes will still be able to pull together no matter what is thrown in their way.