Review: ‘Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’ – ‘Aftershocks’: Hunter vs. Hunter

“Marvel's Agents of SHIELD” is back from its winter hiatus, and I have a review of tonight's episode coming up just as soon as I pass around the talking stick…

Much as I enjoyed the first half of “SHIELD” season 2, the brief run of “Agent Carter” in its place did this show no favors. “SHIELD” is much improved over its first season, but it still has a tendency to try to do too much all at once, and that overstuffed quality was especially apparent tonight after spending a couple of months in the very streamlined world of Peggy Carter.

Even with Ward and the May doppelganger out of action this week, “SHIELD” has so many moving parts at the moment that the show frequently has to take shortcuts for both plot mechanics and emotional beats. Fitz doing a 180 off-camera about Skye's super powers didn't really work, and the notion that he could so easily keep evidence of those powers a secret – when Skye has been causing tiny earthquakes from inside a glassed-in cell in the middle of SHIELD headquarters, at one point while every other major character is in the very next room – makes the organization seem less like an understaffed reboot of a once-great spy agency than like the Keystone Cops. 

Now, in other parts of the episode, SHIELD comes across as fairly badass, as Coulson orchestrates an efficient and really ruthless plan to take out most of Hydra's remaining American leadership as a way of channeling the team's grief over Tripp. And to a certain degree, I can buy them being distracted by grief, by this new mission, and by all the interpersonal drama going on at the moment – particularly with Mack responding poorly to being possessed – but it wasn't presented incredibly well (isn't there someone – besides Fitz, who isn't even the bio-med specialist among the nerds – looking at the data from all the things that are scanning Skye while she's in mid-quake?), and I'm not looking forward to several episodes of Skye wincing while Simmons expresses bitter anti-superpower sentiments, followed by her secret coming out at the worst possible time. The more interesting part of the story seems to be the whole team dealing with this news, but right now we're in the midst of various bits of secret-keeping and double-crossing, including whatever it is Bobbi and Mack are really up to.

That said, it really was impressive to see Coulson's plan turn out so well (and so brutally) for once. Also, between Skye, Raina and the blind teleporter, it seems the show is finally getting over whatever nervousness it once had with being a show set in a superhero universe and actually depicting super powers on a regular basis. And the episode did a good job of dealing with everyone's feelings about Tripp, who was a minor character as far as the show is concerned but someone all these people worked with and liked.

All in all, some good things, some annoying things, lots of characters and lots of exposition. As a premiere of sorts, that's about what you'd expect. We'll see where things go from here – and hopefully in less predictable ways than I fear.

Some other thoughts:

* I briefly wondered if Fred Dryer's Octavian Bloom would be replacing Whitehall as the new big bad. Instead, it turns out he was cast entirely to set up a joke that would only be funny to viewers of a certain age, as Hunter winds up killing the star of “Hunter.” Works for me.

* As of this episode, Adrianne Palicki is a cast regular, which means we don't have to worry about abruptly losing her to some other show or movie. Henry Simmons, on the other hand, remains a guest star. So if Bobbi and Mack's scheme is evil – as opposed to them, say, doing some off-the-books work for Maria Hill or someone like that – he could theoretically take the fall for it while she goes and hangs out with Ward.

* This isn't so much the fault of this show as it is the fault of the industry in general, but I think we need to retire the trope of a car being abruptly T-boned by a side impact that comes out of nowhere. It happens so often in movies and TV shows that I'm now more surprised when an extended driving sequence doesn't end in that way.

Finally, to revisit a topic I brought up in my review of the mid-season finale, I'm going to relax the spoiler standards on this show (and, when I write about them, “Flash” and “Arrow”) a little bit, in the sense that discussion and speculation on how characters and stories tie into various comics is okay so long as people don't go wild about it. The difference between this and a “Walking Dead” or “Game of Thrones” is that there are so many decades of comic book stories, with so much conflicting and revised continuity, that even if these shows are borrowing some elements from the comics, it's never clear exactly how much it will be, and how much will change. Here, for instance, the basic relationship between Skye/Daisy and the Doctor is the same, as are her powers, but neither character has anything to do with the Inhumans. I don't expect to do a ton of writing about this stuff in my reviews, but if y'all want to speculate – without simply spelling out chapter and verse from the comics – it's okay.

What did everybody else think?