Review: ‘Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’ – ‘Afterlife’: Skye’s the limit

alan-sepinwall
Senior Television Writer
04.07.15 45 Comments

ABC

A quick review of tonight's “Agents of SHIELD” coming up just as soon as my reinforcements are traveling by clown car…

The title of “Afterlife” refers to the remote mountain community the Inhumans have created for themselves (did someone at ABC object to the name Attilan as too esoteric?), but all the best parts of the episode took place far away from wherever Skye and her new friends are.

At both SHIELD HQ and at the cabin where Skye fought Real SHIELD, we got a chance to see our heroes be smart and proactive in dealing with their new opponents, often by taking advantage of assumptions both Real SHIELD and the audience might have about them. When Fitz threw his temper tantrum about Simmons working for Real SHIELD, for instance, it was just an act (and one implied by the earlier scene where Leo started realizing what Jemma was up to), but one inspired by his well-deserved reputation for taking everything about the job much too personally. I assumed he was faking, but it was still a relief to see him holding the real Toolbox on the cab ride out, as a sign of both his competence and his reconnection with Gemma. And after spending most of the episode assuming one or more of the Koenig “brothers” was going to be Fury's backup, I was pleasantly surprised to see the return of Deathlok, and to get Coulson's simple explanation for why he didn't just tell Hunter: he wanted to see the look on his face when a heavily-armed cyborg showed up to save the day. That they will now enlist Ward's help in finding Skye is as annoying as it was inevitable, but so long as the characters continue to treat him as a monster with no possibility of redemption, I think I can live with a brief hero/villain team-up with a common purpose.

The Afterlife scenes were much more of a mixed bag, particularly with the introduction of Luke Mitchell as Lincoln. At the end of his first scene, I wondered why the show was bothering to bring in a generic CW prettyboy type, until I remembered that Mitchell had actually been on a CW superhero show, “The Tomorrow People,” playing more or less the same role as the experienced member of a super community showing the newbie the ropes. I suppose there's some value to the Inhumans trying to seem as normal as possible to Skye at first, particularly if, as Gordon suggests to the Doctor, they are intending her ill because her link to SHIELD poses too big a threat to them. But Lincoln was so bland that he sucked a whole lot of the mystique out of this new group, even in an episode where Gordon and Raina were running around (and the show was making excellent visual use of Gordon's powers as he evaded the Doctor's blows). The Inhumans are among the weirder characters in the Marvel canon, and I know that to an extent, this show and the films intend to use them as substitutes for mutants, since Fox owns the rights to everything from that corner of things. But to present them for so much of the season as this weird alien mystery before making Skye's handler such an innocuous bro was still disappointing.

What did everybody else think?

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Alan Sepinwall has been writing about television since the mid-'90s. He's the author of "The Revolution Was Televised," about the rise of TV's new golden age, and co-author of "TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time."

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