Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD S2.16 "Afterlife" Review

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Inhumans clearly have communication problems, and we’re not talking about Wi-Fi coverage in their mountain retreat. They just don’t seem to talk to each other. Or maybe they do, it’s just that they all talk like Skye’s new mentor, Lincoln, breaking off half-way through sentences or endlessly repeating, “I thought you knew…?”

If we were under the impression that now Skye’s made contact with the Inhumans, we’d suddenly get all the answers we need about their place in the MCU – tough luck. She may as well have crash-landed on a mysterious island with the passengers of Flight 316. Not that Skye’s much better at eking out information. Admit it, if you’d been transported to Afterlife you’d been pointing at each and every person there going, “What can they do? And what can they do? And them?” Skye doesn’t even seem particularly interested in what Lincoln can do. He’s clearly bursting to show her and in the end simply decides to give her a demo anyway.

Oddly, though, it appears Gordon’s not told him what Skye’s powers are. And Lincoln seems constantly surprised at how little Gordon’s told Skye. And whenever Skye asks anything more challenging than “Can I to the bathroom?” Lincoln goes into evasive mode (ie, “How can I not lie, while not actually saying anything?”). The main MO of the Inhumans so far, then, seems to be: remain enigmatic at all costs. After all, what better way to recruit Skye than to make her ridiculously paranoid?

So, accepting that the Inhumans are required by the laws of arc-plotting to avoid explaining their motives and aims until a point nearer the season finale, the Afterlife scenes are actually quite a lot of fun, helped by the fact that there’s an instant, playful screen chemistry between Lincoln and Skye. The (presumably blue-screen-aided) location is gorgeous too, bringing some bright colours, exotic designs and vast, open spaces to a show that’s unremittingly brown for much of the time. The moment when Lincoln excites Skye’s molecules (Metaphor alert! Metaphor alert!) and sweeps her off her feet (Metaphor alert! Metaphor alert!) is genuinely sweet.

That’s balanced by the harsher, edgier scenes later on when Skye discovers that Raina is also in Afterlife. You can’t help think the Inhumans are being a little wilfully blind if they think there’s no difference between Raina and Skye; the SHIELD agent has only nearly killed with her powers through lack of control while Raina has been merrily and purposefully using her quills to kill from the first time she woke up with them.

Is That To Go?

Simmons makes Fitz a prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella with a hint of her homemade pesto aioli, which was revealed to be Fitz’s favourite sandwich in the season one episode “The Hub”.

Jaiying’s promise that she’ll let Skye leave if they don’t form a “connection” is a bit of a con. If things are going badly, all she has to do is put on a Darth Vader voice and go, “I am your mother!” and that’s bound to swing things. You can’t get much more connected than that. But Inhumans, eh? They love talking in riddles.

Elsewhere, Hunter brings the best out of the ever-deadpan Coulson. This unlikely pairing produces some surprisingly lively dialogue. They really ought to work as a double-act more often, and you totally buy into the idea that Hunter has total respect for the boss, despite raising his eyebrows at every decision Coulson makes. Conversely, when Coulson tells Hunter that he kept quiet about contacting Deathlok, well, sure, yeah, that’s just an excuse because it’s been scripting sleight-of-hand to surprise the audience, but also... you do believe Coulson would do it just to see the look on Hunter’s face.

The highlight of the episode, though, has to be Fitz and Simmons' near-telepathic plotting to get Fury’s little cube out of the clutches of “Real” SHIELD. It’s a perfect piece of misdirection, both in terms of fooling Mack and co, and fooling the audience. Plus, the sandwich with the “Love Jemma” note was adorable. Sure, we doubted Jemma’s loyalties. Now we feel guilty.

What to make of Bobbi’s sudden doubts about “Real” SHIELD and Gonzales giving May a job, though? Is this whole plot arc going to end in a massive group hug? That’d make the whole arc one of the most pointless in TV history.

To be honest, it’s an episode that spends a lot of time treading water. Not an awful lot actually happens in terms of progressing any of the individual plotlines. It’s a bridging episode between the big action and revelations of last week and the build-up to the season finale. But within those limitations it manages to deliver an entertaining, if occasionally meandering and frustratingly vague, 45 minutes.

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WriterCraig Titley
DirectorKevin Hooks, Skye begins learning about her powers in the Inhuman sanctuary called Afterlife, while Real SHIELD hunt down Coulson and Hunter

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Available platformsTV
Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.