Arrow and Flash might be off this week; but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. used last weeks momentum and has kept up the pace of action packed and informative episodes. Ever since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned from its winter hiatus, it seemed as though the main focus was to just raise tensions and drive more wedges between the team members; but now with a wedge firmly placed in the middle of S.H.I.E.L.D., old friends and alliances are returning.
So let’s take a closer look at this week’s episode “Afterlife” and welcome back some things we never thought we’d see again.
The Meaning Of ‘Afterlife’ – Location, Life & Returns:
With Skye finding herself in the mysterious land affectionately known as Afterlife, it’s pretty clear to see why this episode was named “Afterlife”. Though as always, there is much more to this simple title than meets the eye. For starters, we must think of what ‘afterlife’ means in its own right; and to do that, it’s best to listen to what Skye’s mother, Jiaying said.
“Whatever you two were in the past, that’s not what you are now” – Jiaying
In the context of the moment, Jiaying says this to Skye when she is accusing Raina of being a murdered and how the two are nothing alike. Jiaying then tells Skye these words to remind her that it’s not important what they WERE since what they used to be is gone forever. This pairs well with Lincoln’s revelation that the process of Terrigenesis is irreversible. In short, Skye’s former life is gone, and this is now her ‘after life’; but she’s not the only one going through this.
Gonzales and other members of the ‘real S.H.I.E.L.D.’ feel that this is all Coulson’s afterlife since his being brought back has compromised the good man he used to be. We of course know that this isn’t true; but with Skye and S.H.I.E.L.D. both taken from him – two things that basically made up this new post-revival life of his – he himself also has to cope with his former life being gone. Though whereas Skye’s attempts to reclaim her ‘normalness’ might be unobtainable, Coulson does have a chance to win back S.H.I.E.L.D. and Skye thanks to how dedicated his agents are – but more on that in a moment.
The final meaning of ‘afterlife’ for this episode is how it brought back so many things we thought we’d seen the last of. From Mike Peterson (aka Deathlok) returning as a full fledged S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent and one of Coulsons most trusted agents to the return of FitzSimmons cutesy sandwich-fueled dynamic – again more on this later. Though the greatest ‘return’ had to be that of Skye’s mother, whom we last saw eviscerated by Whitehall many years prior. HOW is she still alive? Is her agelessness due to a superhuman healing factor? Why was Cal still upset about her being dead if she was still alive? So many questions remain; but none about why this episode was named “Afterlife”.
Loyalties To A Man Or S.H.I.E.L.D. – No Difference:
Despite there being two S.H.I.E.L.D.s now in a sense, this episode made strikingly clear the main difference between the two. No it’s not Gonzales vs Coulson nor even single director vs council; but rather where their allegiances lie. After talking to FitzSimmons, Gonzales realized that Fitz loyalties lied more in a man (Coulson) than Shield itself, and that’s caused problems. Now yes, according to May there is no difference between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Coulson; but there is a bigger distinction to be made here.
The so-called ‘real S.H.I.E.L.D.’ puts its loyalty in Ideas whereas Coulson puts it in people. Now anyone could argue that the ‘real S.H.I.E.L.D.’ viewpoint is better since ideas can be pure and immortal; but whereas this might be true, the real S.H.I.E.L.D. only thinks that is what they are doing. In reality they are placing fanciful ideas above trust in people, and the moment a person doesn’t fit with their ideas, they immediately become a enemy.
Bobbie is slowly starting to realize this as she not only saw Calderon and other agents open live fire on Skye; but also sees Gonzales labels Skye as a “Thing” – disregarding her status as an Agent and friend. The ‘real S.H.I.E.L.D.’ fears so much because they were born out of a world of deception by Hydra. They’re inception was due to them not trusting people, which is not only why they are run by a council but also why each move they make is driven by fear of who will betray them next.
This is also shown by their opinions of Coulson, who despite being a decorated agent and good man is now seen as ‘compromised’ for acting outside of what they think are the right course of actions. They don’t regard Hydra or any outside threats because they are too busy thinking the people around them will turn on them again – as we saw a few episodes a back when Bobbie’s loyalty was questioned.
So when May says that there’s no distinction between Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D., she’s right. Coulson people put their faith in him and Coulson puts his faith in his people. Despite being betrayed several times now, Coulson hasn’t lost his faith in the idea of trusting people. It is through this network of trusted individuals that Coulson is able to get Hunter and Deathlok to stand with him, because they know when push comes to shove Coulson will place people above the mission. Whereas the ‘real S.H.I.E.L.D.’ makes a distinction between ‘ideas and people’, Coulson believes in both and doesn’t have to sacrifice one for the other.
The Magic Is Back – New Fitz/Simmons, Same Love:
Ever since Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned for its Second Season, it seemed as though FitzSimmon was growing further and further apart. With Jemma being afraid of change and Leo coping with/supporting be different, it seemed as though we’d never see these two together again – but then this episode reminded us of what’s REALLY been going on.
How many times this season – or at least the past few episodes – did you think Jemma was going to do something incredibly stupid, only to have her turn around and surprise us all. This happened last episode with taking out Bobbie and this one with her planning an elaborate trick to push Fitz away with the real Toolbox. If you were to define Jemma this season, she is ‘the unsuspecting/capable double agent’. She’s come a long way from the Season 2 start when she was the nervous and incapable of lying Hydra mole.
Fitz on the other hand has continued his character arc of last seasons finale – as the man who makes the tough call. It was Fitz who told Simmons he loved her before sacrificing his chances of survival while trapped under water, and it was Fitz who stood up for Skye / against Gonzales when other agents – besides Coulson and May – wouldn’t.
Sure, both characters had their moments of weakness (Simmons not trusting others, Fitz not trusting himself); but when the ‘real S.H.I.E.L.D.’ struck, they found themselves pulled back together. What Gonzales told May about banding together to face ‘greater threats’ was true; but not in the way he meant. The things that initially divided FitzSimmon have now disappeared with the arrival of a bigger threat (‘real S.H.I.E.L.D.’).
What We Know About ‘Afterlife’:
Considering we just learned about the mysterious Inhuman training ground know as ‘Afterlife’, there still a lot left to learn. That being said, we did learn quite a bit this episode concerning how things work there:
- Whereas Gordon is the only way in-or-out of this mysterious place, residents are able to go and come as they please.
- Gordon might be a high ranking member of Afterlife; but he take orders from a Council, which we can assume Skye’s mom is a member of.
- Very few in Afterlife are full-fledged Inhumans. The vast majority are those of the Inhuman bloodlines, but have yet to be selected to undergo ‘transformation’.
- One ‘special person’ is selected every year to undergo the change, and considering the wide range of ages seen in Afterlife, it can be assumed that many are passed over without ever undergoing Terrigenesis.
- Despite it still being known as Terrigenesis, the process used in Afterlife is different. Using a Diviner in a Kree temple is seen as ancient and hasn’t been used in thousands of years. How the process occurs now remains to be seen; but judging from their advanced medical tools (ie: those violet energy needles placed in Skye) the process might have become much more advanced – or at least more controlled.
- The number one rule of Afterlife – besides ‘don’t talk about Afterlife’ – is that Inhumans protect their own no matter what they’ve done.
Besides all the other mysteries that still linger about Afterlife (who, when, why, etc), the biggest riddle is still Skye’s mother. We know she offered to teach Skye – hoping it causes a connection – but what did Gordon mean that Cal sealed both his own and her fate? Did he seal their individual fates or is their fate the same? Considering Inhumans protect their own and Cal isn’t an Inhuman. My guess right now is that their fate is a trial or meeting with this ‘Council’ we’ve been starting to hear about. Does this actually make the Council above even Skye’s mom? Again, we need more information to answer these questions.
Excelsior – Easter Eggs, References & Other Important Points:
- “A man who plays it safe, stuck in a rut, life has lost its thrill, the kids are monsters, the wife has taken the moo moos and now you’re thinking its time to let the tiger loose” Sorry Eddie; but as Coulson said “The tiger’s been loose for a while” lol
- Again, Doctor List – the Hydra guy whos interested in super powered people and is connected to Skye’s dad – is the man who was seen in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier post credits responsible for creating Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.
- Having Lincoln as Skye’s first ‘Transitioner’ – as well as a possible future romantic interest – is a great move consider both have fairly similar levels of powers. Whereas Skye controls vibrational energy and almost caused things to collapse, Lincoln can control electricity energy and almost caused things to burn down. Even the initial pains are similar (buzzing inside, burning inside).
- “He’s smarter than he looks” – Gordon about Lincoln. The knee jerk reaction to Lincoln’s response (‘how do you know that’) is that he’s question how does he know that he’s smarter; but remember Gordon has no eyes, so it’s actually a comment on how can he know how he looks
- Hunter on his shot glasses “The other is for the person keeping me warm, but in your case I’ll make an exception” LOL
- I loved that Coulson has some Howling Commandoes gear that was a work of Fitz and Trip. Even after death, Trip still has Coulson’s back.
- It was great having Deathlok back; but he is now Agent Peterson and his new nonlethal tech is exemplary of that.
- The reason Jemma was scanning the edges of the Toolbox was so she could make an exact replica with which to switch the two.
There many questions left to be answered, such as how will Ward react to Coulson request now that he’s apparently moved on with Agent 33? Though it seems next episode we’ll get the answer to a question that has kept popping up for the past Season and a half. WHAT super powered event happened in Bahrain that earned May the title ‘the Calvary’?
Stay tuned here for all those revelations as well as what will happen next with Skye, FitzSimmons and the battle for SHIELD.