Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 16: Afterlife

This week Coulson and Hunter star in their own little buddy-cop movie, the S.H.I.E.L.D. vs S.H.I.E.L.D. storyline goes nowhere, an old favorite character returns in new duds, and we get a low-budget peek at an honest to goodness Inhumans city, even though the show steadfastly refuses to say the word (yes, I know Fitz said it a few weeks ago, but it felt to me like he was using it to describe Skye's condition, not saying it with a capital "I").

Oh, and in a move that shouldn't surprise anyone, it's hinted that Evil Grant will be rejoining the Team soon.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
On the run from Real S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson and Hunter steal a jeep from a car lot and make their way to the secret Hulk cabin. Once there, they discuss their options, all of which are bad. Coulson decides to call Real S.H.I.E.L.D. and when they arrive, steal their Quinjet. A squad of agents break into the cabin, and are dispatched by Coulson and Hunter. They hurriedly put on their uniforms, intending to walk nonchalantly into the jet.

Their plan almost works, but they're found out at the last second and captured. Just then, Coulson's mysterious "backup" arrives— Deathlok! He makes short work of the agents, and then uploads Quinjet-flying instructions into his brain, and the three take off. When Deathlok asks where they're going next, Coulson says their next stop is to pick up the one person who can help them find Skye— Evil Ward. Ugh.

Meanwhile, Skye wakes up in a mysterious, Chinese-looking compound called Lai She, also know as Afterlife. A fellow Inhuman named Lincoln infodumps the history of the place, telling her it's a refuge for special people like her to learn how to control their powers.

Everything's fine until Lincoln slips up and mentions Raina, who's also being housed in Afterlife. Skye flips out at this news, confronting Raina and demanding to leave. Just then, Skye's mother Jaiying appears, calming her down. As we all know, Jaiying was killed years ago by Daniel Whitehall (who wanted the secret of her immortality) but apparently she got better. Skye of course doesn't recognize her mother... yet. Jaiying asks her to stay a few days before deciding to leave.

We also find out that Skye's father Cal is being held in Afterlife, and Jaiying visits him as well. He asks her if he can see Skye, and she tells him no.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, Gonzales offers May a seat on his council. When she incredulously asks why, he says that once Coulson is inevitably captured, he'll need someone in his corner on the council. She stares at Gonzales in her typical emotionless way, but seems to be considering his offer.

Gonzales pressures Simmons to find a way to open Nick Fury's toolbox. She complies, which enrages Fitz. In fact he's so angry he cleans out his desk and quits S.H.I.E.L.D., leaving in a taxi. We then see he's got the real toolbox in his backpack, while Simmons "experiments" on a fake, and their whole angry split was just a ruse to fool Gonzales and return the toolbox to Coulson.

Thoughts:
• As far as I know, Lincoln the Transitioner isn't based on anyone from the comics.

• Skye's being held in Lai She, also known as Afterlife. No one in Afterlife knows exactly where it is, but judging by the surrounding terrain, I'd say it's obviously somewhere in the Himalayas. In the comics, the Inhumans' city was located in the Himalayas before being relocated to the Moon (don't ask).

Also, last year when we first started getting hints about Skye's past, we were told that as a baby she was found in the Hunan Province of China, protected by "monsters." I think it's a safe bet they were talking about Afterlife (and her fellow Inhumans) here.

Afterlife looked OK for a TV budget, but expect something much more impressive and expansive in The Inhumans movie.

• Lincoln and Gordon both mention a group of unseen, elite elders who seem to be in charge. These elders have got to be Black Bolt, Medusa and the other members of the Inhuman's Royal Family, who we'll be seeing when their movie comes out in a few years.
• In the comics, the Inhumans have an enormous bulldog named Lockjaw, who's primary power is teleportation.

I really hope they're not going to use Gordon as a substitute for Lockjaw in The Inhumans movie! Gordon's fine for the relatively low budget TV series, but I have a feeling if there isn't a giant CGI dog in the film, fans are going to tear down the cineplex!

• Best line of the episode: Coulson tells Hunter that Real S.H.I.E.L.D. has taken over S.H.I.E.L.D., Skye's developed superpowers and has been abducted by an eyeless, teleporting Inhuman.

An incredulous Hunter says, “I was only gone one week!”

• It was great seeing Deathlok again! He looks much better in this episode too, as he finally got rid of the Lazertag vest he was saddled with last season. I think the producers really are listening to the fans.

His Iron Man-style arm rockets were especially cool.

I have to admit that when I first saw his hand as it grabbed hold of the Quinjet ramp, for a brief second I thought it might turn out to be Iron Man or even Hawkeye, two Avengers who've been rumored to show up at some point. But Deathlok's OK too.

• Last week I asked why the supposedly Hulk-proof cabin had an ordinary wooden door. I guess I spoke too soon. In this episode we see that the door, while appearing to be made of wood, is actually constructed from the same vibranium as the walls. So I guess that explains that.

• I'm not 100% sure, but it sure looks like the battering ram the Real S.H.I.E.L.D. agents use is the same one used to try and break into Nick Fury's SUV in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The "structural integrity readout" of the door looks like the same one in Fury's vehicle in that film as well.

• A few weeks ago Gordon delivered Cal to a mystery person who was in charge of Afterlife. We couldn't see who it was, but Cal smiled beatifically at them, signifying it was someone he knew.

Last week I said they wouldn't be keeping the mystery person's identity a secret unless it was someone we'd seen before, and the only logical suspect was Skye's mom Jaiying. And I was right! My plot twist predictions aren't correct very often, so excuse my while I gloat about this one.

Based on Jaiying's numerous scars, I'm betting Cal must have found her mutilated body and put back her back together.

Also, if Jaiying was able to survive what Daniel Whitehall did to her, it's pretty much a given that he'll be back at some point as well.

• Fitz decides he can't work for Real S.H.I.E.L.D. and says he's quitting. Amazingly, they let him leave! They tell him there'll be a short debriefing and then he's free to go.

Does that sound right? This is supposed to be a top secret spy organization, tasked with protecting national security. Jesus, I went through a more rigorous exit process when I quit my job at Sony!

• It was nice to see FitzSimmons again! There's been a huge wedge between them all season, so it was nice to finally see them (secretly) working together again to help Coulson recover the toolbox.

For the record, once Fitz figured out what Simmons was doing with the toolbox, I knew his blowup and resignation was all a ruse. I'm kind of surprised Mockingbird didn't pick up on it as well.

• Back in the episode The Things We Bury, Daniel Whitehall has an exchange with Cal.
Whitehall: Then why? What do you have to gain? 
Cal: I have nothing to lose. I've lost everything important to me. And I want to kill those who took it... and finally be reunited with my family.
Whitehall: Reunited? 
Cal: In the afterlife.
Obviously that little scene, which meant nothing at the time, was foreshadowing this episode and the very real and tangible Afterlife! Well done, writers!

• In unwelcome plot development news, Coulson wants to hook up with Evil Ward, because "he's the only one that knows how to find Skye." Why he thinks this is apparently none of our concern, as it's never explained.

I have a bad feeling the writers setting up Evil Ward's redemption and eventual return to the Team, which I think is a huge misstep. 

Evil Ward is nothing more than a cruel, calculating, cold-blooded killer. In the Clairvoyant storyline last season, Ward and Agent Victoria Hand were escorting Garrett to The Fridge for incarceration. Ward shot Hand and two other agents at point blank range in order to free his mentor Garrett.

He also tried to murder FitzSimmons (severely impairing Fitz's brain functions in the process), attempted to kill May at least twice, and killed Tripp's partner, and is now in a manipulative relationship with Agent 33. He's an evil, remorseless, unrepetant psychopath who shouldn't given a chance to for redemption.

I really hope that's not what the writers have in mind, but it sure looks like that's the direction in which they're heading.

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