Agents of SHIELD: 211 “Aftershocks” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
Finally, after an unconscionably long break (albeit one softened considerably by the presence of Agent Carter), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns with an episode all about cleaning up after the shocking events of the midseason finale. It’s far more low-key, but no less engaging and enjoyable than what has come before
We start off in 1983, where a young man with no eyes named Gordon is struggling to control his teleportation ability. He is comforted by Skye’s mother, who appears to be a kind of mentor for young Inhumans as they go through Terrigenesis, a process that is actually name-checked in this flashback, and who believes that Gordon is of the perfect age to go through the process: old enough to understand what is going on, but young enough to be able to adapt to it. We then immediately cut to Skye, who may well be too old to adapt to what is happening, and anyway as her mother says in the flashback, without guidance she will be lost.
In the present, Team Coulson are struggling to deal with Triplett’s death, particularly Skye who is now being held under quarantine. We learn that they managed to get her out of the temple as it collapsed, and she was left completely unharmed, but they are concerned that the gas that came out of the crystal may have other effects and therefore need to keep Skye under observation. Outside of quarantine, the rest of the team are dealing with the events of the previous episode in different ways, with May punching out her frustrations while Mack and Fitz try and keep busy, and Hunter takes the simplest route by taking solace in whiskey.
Coulson, however, is trying to make what happened in San Juan count by taking the opportunity presented by Whitehall’s death to eliminate what remains of Hydra, starting with transferring Sunil Bakshi over to the US Government. A creepy little cabal of high-ranking Hydra agents meet and seem to have different plans, though: they believe that Bakshi is the natural successor to Whitehall and want to spring him to place him in a position of power. The identities of these Hydra agents are left unclear, although they do name-drop Baron Strucker a few times (remember that name, as he was the Hydra bigwig that appeared in the post-credits sequence of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and will be causing some trouble for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in Avengers: Age of Ultron) and refer to each other by codenames such as ‘the Baroness’ and ‘the Sheikh’.
So, after a brief team bust-up over what happened where Mack, still coming down from whatever funky alien business went down with his mind in the temple, tells Coulson that everything that happened is his fault and he doesn’t like it, Coulson and May begin transporting Bakshi to the exchange point. However, their car is hit by a truck at an intersection, and they are assaulted by a team of Hydra agents, who manage to do the unthinkable and shoot both Coulson and May down before taking Bakshi away from the scene.
Naturally, though, it is all a ruse, with the rest of the team posing as Hydra agents and Hunter taking custody of Bakshi to get him to lead them to the other high-ranking Hydra personnel. It is also proven that Bakshi is something of a complete coward, who breaks down almost entirely the second Hunter sticks a gun in his face and tells him that he will be rewarded if he lets him live.
Anyway, the plan works and Bakshi leads Hunter and Bobbi straight to the Hydra bigwigs: however, he also informs the guy he meets that the other members of the cabal are planning to betray them based on Hunter’s aforementioned gun-sticking, and so they enact a protocol in which all the other members of the group are murdered in various grisly manners. Not everything goes according to plan, though, and Hunter and Bobbi manage to take out not only the team of Hydra agents tasked with killing them, but also the new head honcho in one fell swoop: Bakshi then realises that Coulson played him, getting the heads of Hydra to kill each other rather than having to hunt them all down individually, and the threat of Hydra now seems diminished for the time being.
There are other threats present, though. Firstly, Raina: as we saw at the end of the previous episode, she has been turned into something truly bizarre, covered in thorns and claws; her appearance and subsequent murder of several S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists gives Simmons considerable pause, bringing her to the belief that people with powers should be eliminated, not saved as they have been doing in the past. Raina, on the other hand, manages to find Cal and confront him about what happened, claiming that Skye took the gift that was meant for her and remained beautiful while Raina was turned into a monster. Cal has little sympathy, deciding to find Skye and help her through her transformation while gathering together a group of Gifted individuals to cause havoc, and recommends that Raina kill herself if she is not happy with what has happened. Disturbingly, she takes this advice and walks out in front of traffic, however she is stopped and accosted by Hydra agents who are about to kill her when, in a movie-worthy display of impressive visual effects, a grown-up Gordon appears, calls her beautiful and then teleports her away.
Back with Skye, after spending the episode in a cage being variously pitied and encouraged by her team members and suffering through a slight attack of the ‘earthquake’ variety, Fitz confronts her, realising that she has changed in the same way as Raina, and actually calls her ‘Inhuman’. However, he switches her blood test results so it appears that nothing is different, and tells her that they need to keep the whole thing between them while she figures it out. She pretty much collapses in Fitz’s arms in a combination of grief over Trip’s death, relief at getting out of quarantine and fear at what she is now able to do.
Finally, we get a glimpse of the ‘secret’ that Mack and Bobbi are keeping: after lying to Hunter earlier in the episode about attending a support group, it turns out that they are looking for Nick Fury’s toolbox, the one Coulson now has locked in his desk. Bobbi also mentions something about blueprints, and the whole thing has become a lot more sinister. My money is still on them working with Nick Fury towards some alternate goal, but only time will tell on this matter.
A much smaller and more intimate affair than the previous episode, “Aftershocks” nonetheless changes the show’s landscape in a pretty major way by solidifying the existence of the Inhumans and removing the immediate threat that Hydra poses, while setting Skye up for a pretty disastrous fall at some point in the future.