The Scene That Made Last Night's Agents of SHIELD Totally Worthwhile

The midseason premiere of Agents of SHIELD was sort of a mixed bag, really. But this big climactic scene made the whole shebang absolutely worth it. This is the kind of curveball that makes this show's characters richer and better. Spoilers ahead...


So "Aftershocks," as its name suggests, was all about the aftermath of the previous episode, in which Skye and Raina got transformed into Inhumans and Tripp and Whitehall were killed. The whole surviving SHIELD team is freaking out and wracked with grief and anger, and meanwhile they're keeping Skye in quarantine. And Coulson wants revenge on Hydra, which he obtains in a surprisingly ruthless fashion.

Fitz protects Skye

That scene above, like a lot of things involving Fitz this past year, is a thing of pure wonderment. Basically, the awfulness of Tripp's death has left everybody in a terrible space. And Simmons, in particular, is suddenly convinced that instead of trying to understand alien influences — like the mists that gave Raina and Skye superpowers — SHIELD should just be wiping them out. Simmons (who clears away the fragments of Tripp's body in a heart-rending scene) thinks of Raina's transformation as a kind of contagion, that requires extreme shoot-first-think-later measures.

This is unfortunate, because it's fulfilling the dire prophecy of how people will greet Skye's transformation from Cal, Skye's father. But it's really just due to the fallout from Tripp's death. (And I'm not 100 percent sure I buy Simmons having such a radical change in her worldview, even after losing someone she was getting close to.)

Illustration for article titled The Scene That Made Last Night's Agents of SHIELD Totally Worthwhile

In any case, Skye is on the verge of being exposed as an Inhuman in SHIELD's midst, right when everyone is at their most suspicious and xenophobic. Fitz has the data from her wrist monitor, showing her heartbeat reached 300 BPM during the earthquake (which she actually caused). Fitz actually witnesses her earthquake powers going out of control and breaking a lamp. And Simmons is comparing her current DNA to previous samples. Skye is about to become an object of suspicion, or worse.

Until Fitz decides to protect her, swapping her blood samples and hiding the wrist monitor results. Because just like Fitz himself, Skye is just "different" — she's not wrong, or broken, or dangerous. She's just not the person she used to be, and people can't grasp that right now. The way Fitz identifies with Skye's predicament is beautifully underplayed and not at all signposted, which makes it feel more genuine.


And it also adds another dimension to the rift between Fitz and Simmons, who are no longer on the same page about so many things.

Mutiny in SHIELD

Simmons' newfound desire to wipe out everything alien is just one of the changes that happens in the wake of Tripp's death. Coulson, as I mentioned, is way more driven to strike back at Hydra, and acts like a man obsessed. But when he tries to rally the troops, he runs into a bit of a mutiny — chiefly from Mack, who correctly points out that Coulson's obsession with those alien diagrams led to Hydra getting access to that Inhuman city in the first place.


Mack is pissed that Tripp died for nothing, basically trading his life for Skye's. And he sees Coulson continuing to throw his agents' lives away on another crazy obsession, instead of being smart. (But at least, while everyone else is treating Skye like bad luck, Bobbi brings her a care package, including weird soda.)

Illustration for article titled The Scene That Made Last Night's Agents of SHIELD Totally Worthwhile

Of course, Coulson doesn't believe that Tripp threw his life away — he thinks that Tripp's actions stopped the deadly earthquake in Puerto Rico before it could get any bigger. (Because Coulson thinks the earthquake was caused by the Obelisk, when in fact it was caused by Skye, who's just as dangerous as ever.)

Even the bond between Mack and Fitz is tested, because Mack is traumatized by having been mind-controlled and used by the Inhuman city. Mack thinks Fitz can't understand what it's like to be under someone else's control and used as a weapon against your friends, whereas Fitz understands perfectly (maybe because of Lorelei?). [UPDATE: I get that Fitz feels not in control over his own body, as various people are pointing out in comments. But in context, Fitz is responding to Mack's statements about being forced to hurt his friends against his will, which is NOT something Fitz's brain injury has caused.]


The gang are ripped apart by bitterness over what happened to Tripp — but only Coulson is able to turn Tripp's death into a source of inspiration. When Coulson goes to give the bad news to Tripp's mother, he's reminded that Tripp represented the best of SHIELD, its compassion and trust — and Hydra has none of those things. Which Coulson decides is a weakness that can be exploited.

The Hydra Sting Operation

When I was recapping the previous episode of Agents of SHIELD back in December, I mentioned that "Hydra went down too easy." One of the best things about the events following Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the fact that the remaining SHIELD loyalists were massively outgunned and outflanked by Hydra, which had secretly taken over SHIELD and had unimaginable resources at its disposal. The prospect of a nearly unbeatable Hydra keeping SHIELD on the defensive was thrilling.


But slowly, Hydra's gotten easier and easier to defeat — and last night's episode was another major step in that direction. Unless there was some trick to all this, and things weren't as they appeared, it looks as though Coulson dealt a massive blow to Hydra with a pretty transparent ruse.

Illustration for article titled The Scene That Made Last Night's Agents of SHIELD Totally Worthwhile

Basically, Coulson offers to hand over Bakshi, Whitehall's second in command, to Glenn Talbot. But then Bakshi "escapes," thanks to a fake Hydra attack, and Bakshi is "rescued" by a Hydra agent, who turns out to be Lance, with a silly American accent. Lance gets Bakshi to safety, just long enough for him to check in with Bloom, one of the top Hydra honchos. Then Lance pulls a gun on Bakshi and insinuates that some other Hydra bigwigs want Bakshi out of the way.

Bakshi offers to pay Lance way more than whatever those other Hydra heads are paying him, and after only a brief token hesitation, Lance agrees. When Bakshi gets to Bloom's side, he immediately tells Bloom that three other Hydra leaders (the Baroness, the Banker and the Sheikh) have turned against them. And Bloom, after consulting with another leader, Dr. List (who apparently still talks to Strucker), decides to have the Banker, the Baroness and the Sheikh killed.


Then Lance (and Bobbi, who's joined him) use their supercar to wipe out a squad of Hydra soldiers, before bursting into Bloom's mansion and killing him, along with his underlings. They recapture Bakshi, who's going to be handed over to Talbot as planned.

Illustration for article titled The Scene That Made Last Night's Agents of SHIELD Totally Worthwhile

So Coulson's plan works perfectly — he's wiped out four of the five remaining members of the Hydra council, mostly without having to get his hands dirty. This was fun to watch, what with the fake gun battle and May's fake death and Coulson's overacting, and yet it didn't entirely work.

I kept rewinding the episode again and again, thinking I must have missed a scene — as it was, this storyline felt weirdly rushed and way too easy. Because Lance pulls a gun on Bakshi and then decides to change sides, Bakshi immediately believes that three of Hydra's top leaders have turned traitor, without even bothering to ascertain the facts.


Cal and Raina

Raina has spent most of the past year and a half trying to achieve her transformation into an Inhuman, because she believed she would become an angel like her grandmother promised. But instead, she's covered with thorns and she looks somewhat bizarre, and her new sharp edges keep hurting her because her "insides feel like gravel." She blames Skye, for getting to stay beautiful while Raina became something ugly.


But at least she's hard to kill — after Raina gets cornered in the Inhuman tunnels, she takes out a bunch of SHIELD soldiers and withstands a few direct hits from Simmons' gun. Then she flees, and catches up with Cal, who is overjoyed to hear his daughter also made it to the "Temple" and received the gift of transformation.

The scene between Cal and Raina is kind of insane, actually. Cal is so happy about Skye's transformation, he's actually dancing. But he's also pissed that Coulson robbed him of his revenge on Whitehall, and now Skye is sheltering with Coulson instead of with Cal. So Cal decides to reconnect with some of "the Index" — the other Inhumans? — and wreak a little havoc, to mess with Coulson. That way, Cal can prove to Skye that SHIELD will just treat her like a freak and she belongs with her father, instead.


But when Raina asks for Cal's help, he says he's already helped her, and now she's achieved her goals — even if it didn't turn out the way she hoped. There's no way to fix her now, and her "life-long dream" really will be life-long. When Raina says she can't live like this, Cal basically suggests she end it all.

Illustration for article titled The Scene That Made Last Night's Agents of SHIELD Totally Worthwhile

But Cal treating Raina like dirt is juxtaposed with the behavior of his dead wife, Jiaying, as seen in a flashback at the start of the episode. Jiaying apparently spent a lot of her supernaturally long lifespan taking care of the newly emerged Inhumans and teaching them to live with their challenging powers — including the guy with no eyes, who has the power of teleportation. And when Raina is about to try and kill herself (by forcing SHIELD to kill her), the eyeless man appears to rescue her. Because he's carrying on Jiaying's work.

One wonders what Jiaying would think of her husband's behavior towards Raina.

Mack and Bobbi's conspiracy

And finally, we get a few more hints about what Bobbi and Mack are up to — and it's not just a support group, as she tries to tell Lance. They're scheming at something, and being so furtive that Bobbi won't even take Mack's side when he stands up to Coulson.

Illustration for article titled The Scene That Made Last Night's Agents of SHIELD Totally Worthwhile

At the end of the episode, while everybody is having a wake for Tripp — and realizing they're "going to laugh a lot less" without him" — the tiny model of Lola (Coulson's car) that Mack made comes to life. The toy Lola scans Coulson's office, and uncovers that "Fury's toolbox" is locked in there. (This must be the tools for running SHIELD that Fury gave Coulson when he went on the run.) And Mack has also gotten hold of "the blueprints for the base." So they're almost good to go, and Bobbi says she'll make contact.


All in all, like I said, this was a mixed bag. Skye's new status quo, hiding her powers and relying on Fitz as her confidante, is pretty intriguing, and it's cool to see Coulson being a devious mastermind (even if his plan goes awfully smoothly). At the same time, some of the dramatic moments felt slightly overplayed. And perhaps this episode suffered slightly from coming on the heels of Agent Carter's mini-season, which is a very tough act to follow indeed.



Opening with NIGHTCRAWLER. Bold move, Marvel.

But seriously, that was an awesome cold open. This is why I like Marvel so much, they don't hide the ball as much as everyone else. AS SOON as the episode started, we were told that (1) terigenesis is whats up, and (2) Skye's mom was a mentor for inhumans for GENERATIONS. How old IS she?

Welcome back SHIELD, even though Carter was AMAZAZING, I missed you so.

1. Those Nightcrawler effects were sweet. It looked like the guy was being pulled into the portals, too. I never really thought of it that way: Not only does he have to control the portals themselves, but also regulate his attraction to them. If he teleports in a crowded room, does it take stuff with him, a la Jumper? Or what? What's his range? I like this.

Speaking of, That HAS to be The Reader, right? In the comics, the inhumans took his eyes because he was too powerful, and he now hunts inhumans. Here, it looks like terigenesis took his eyes, and he has to deal (with the guidance of Skye's mom). Skye's mom (and Miyagi) trained him to be a hunter, and he's coming for Skye.

Called it (#18).

2. Speaking of speaking of, Skye's mom and her speech about guidance while Skye was sitting in the quarantine? HARSH. I guess we were all right when we wondered out loud why the show would hire such a loved Whedon alumna for such a small part (Look! Skye's mom! Oops she ded). She's back (mostly in flashbacks now I presume) and has a MAJOR role in counseling newly misted inhumans.

3. Simmons feels responsible. Check. Simmons saw what terigenesis could do, with Raina killing the other scientists. Check. Simmons advocating for the eradication of all powers? WHAT THE HELL.

Marvel showed us the potential this show had at the end of Season 1, with it's connection to the Winter Soldier. Hell, they even entrusted the best Avenger (Coulson) to the show. In season two, Marvel showed that it wasn't afraid to play the long ball, and got the ball rolling on Inhumans before the movie was even announced, and even then, it's 4+ years away. DUDE.

Now, they're at it again: Simmons is going to be the first person on Team Stark in Civil War. You watch. She doesn't trust powers, and thinks the Avengers wouldn't be necessary if they hadn't unleashed alien tech on the world. SHE WANTS TO PUT RAINA DOWN.

This was the first official nod at Civil War since Fury's speech to Cap about eliminating threats before they are threats at the beginning of Winter Solider. Civil War comes out in a year and a half. I love this ride.

4. Did they REALLY have to just have Simmons wheel Tripp's face out on a wheelbarrow? That was RUDE.

5. I love Coulson's intensity. He is unflappable most of the time. But not here. SOMEONE WILL PAY. And they did. Mostly the next potential managers of the regional office. Poor bakshi, you done got had.

He IS the best Avenger. hands down.

6. I about shit when I saw Dr. List. For those of you who don't know, he's the guy von Strucker was talking to at the end of Winter Soldier, when he revealed the twins. von Strucker is "the true leader of Hydra" as Bakshi told Hunter. How freaking sweet would it be if we met Strucker BEFORE Ultron? Whaaaaaaa?

7. List indicated that there might be something useful going on with the whole "obelisk" thing. At first, I thought von Strucker's testing with Loki's staff did a sort of hack of the inhuman genes, and released their potential without the mist. However, List is completely unaware of the terigenesis at this point (or he's just GOOD at hiding it). I know Joss said they weren't inhumans, but he also killed Wash, so can we really trust him? Maybe the staff created something new. Maybe they ARE inhumans. We'll see.

8. Coulson's sting operation was INCREDIBLY complex given one days' planning. That truck made me jump, and sure it was a ploy to scare Bakshi, but DUDE MAY KICKS ASS. There is 4 left. Know what that means?

9. So Skye had a hulk out (very similar to the arguing scene in Avengers) and no one noticed. WHO IS MONITORING HER VITALS PEOPLE? Hopefully not Simmons...

10. Fitz is the man. Totally covered for Skye there with the clutz excuse. HE SAID INHUMAN. I LOVE YOU MAN. "You're just different now, and there is nothing wrong with that." He is truly the best.

Too bad I started this whole damn list with "Marvel doesn't hide the ball dur durr" and Fitz had to go and fucking JIMMY HOFFA Skye's blood results. Stop playing with my emotions*, Marvel.


11. RAINA TURNED IN TO THE POKEY PART OF A ROSE. Good thing she liked flowers, indeed, Mr. Hyde. He is COLD. I audibly gasped when he told Raina not to when she said she couldn't live like that. Double HARSH.

12. That scene at the end with the group reminiscing about Tripplett was tough on the feels man. He was the fun comic relief, and was more howling commando than shield agent by a long run.

Even though this episode did have some laughs (Mockingbird's support group, Coulson's "YOU'LL NEVER TAKE US ALIVEEEE", etc..) Skye was right: I have a feeling the back half of this season is going to be a lot darker than the first. RAINA TRIED TO KILL HERSELF PEOPLE. COME ONE.

13. The Reader! Helllllllo beautiful indeed. Now that Skye's mom is dead, I wonder who will counsel her transformation? We all saw how easy Raina latched on to Garnett because she thought he could lead her to her goal. She is strong, but impressionable. Hopefully The Reader is working for good inhumans and not bad inhumans.

14. There are two vehicles I want to talk about in this episode: Hunter's SUV with those BANGIN guns, and the RC Lola Mac gave Coulson with the SNEAKY scanner.

That SUV was like Fury's SUV in Winter Soldier, except more than the AC worked. Lets see more of this, please.

RC Lola. WHAT IS YOUR PLAY, MACKINGBIRD? (Mac + Mockingbird = Mackingbird. I SAID IT). I don't think they work for Fury, because he's off fighting the good fight in Europe. Maybe they work for Maria Hill under Stark Industries? This would be an interesting way to develop the relationship between Mockingbird and Hawkeye, if they are so inclined. Plus, it would be GOLD to see Hunter all flustered about his ex's relationship with an Avenger. SO MUCH POTENTIAL.

15. Side note: Given the number of episodes left in the season, the number of weeks until May 1, 2015, and ABC's propensity to make this show skip a week here and there, there are at LEAST 3 episodes set to air of this show AFTER THE EVENTS OF AGE OF ULTRON. The end of this season is going to be fucking intense. BRING IT ON.