Aftershocks Plot Summary:
After witnessing events that are unexplainable with pre-existing knowledge, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) puts Skye (Chloe Bennet) into quarantine. He wants to make sure whatever hit her isn’t a contaminated substance. It’s only a matter of time, however, until the truth comes to light. Meanwhile, Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) leads a covert mission to cripple Hydra.
Out with the new and in with the old! Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is back after a fairly lengthy hiatus. Of course, this was for the better. It allowed us to have the absolutely fantastic Agent Carter in the interim. ABC would be a network of fools to not keep this fruitful partnership going. But not only did we get Agent Carter, more time was allowed for S.H.I.E.L.D. to really refocus after the major reveals in the mid-season finale. The Inhumans are here and everything has changed. This is S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first opportunity to justify its continued existence, so starting off this new chapter on the right foot is very important. Fortunately, “Aftershocks” does just that. It successfully balanced the mystery of what happened to Skye (I’ll start calling her Daisy once everyone else does) and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s continued struggle against Hydra to make a pretty compelling return.
“Aftershocks” is a very adept title for this episode. Everything about it was dealing with the consequences of what happened down and around the city. Whitehall and Tripp are dead, something might have changed within Skye, Raina is missing, and everyone is on edge. Clearly nothing will ever be the same again. That’s detailed beautifully in the very beginning when Mac (Henry Simmons), still reeling from his brainwashing, goes ballistic and yells at Coulson for putting them all in danger. He believes that if Coulson never “researched the words in his head,” none of this would have happened. It leads to a heated debate while Skye sits in the background and tries to figure out why a can of soda is shaking. This alone sets the tone for what follows. The team is extremely emotional and confused for completely justifiable reasons. It’s something that dictates their actions throughout the hour.
A huge reason why the team is distraught is obviously the death of Tripp. Since Tripp is the first member of the team to actually die, it makes sense that his passing looms over everyone like a shadow. They have trouble dealing with it, and Coulson even returns Tripp’s belongings to his mother. It’s through their sadness and eventual discussion about what Tripp meant to them that we see the kinship of this team. Unfortunately, despite the clear emotional beats the episode was supposed to hit, it’s difficult for a viewer to get on the same level. This all goes back to the issue behind Tripp’s death in the first place. He was a character that never had a chance to get fleshed out. He had a target on his back from the beginning, never being able to shake it off. His death was less of a shock and more of a, “Oh of course it was him.” The team’s struggle to move on was absolutely necessary to watch, but it came with a tough handicap.
The turmoil with Skye however fired on all cylinders. Her plot is set up instantly with a flashback where we see Skye’s mother Jiaying (Dichen Lachman) trying to comfort a new Inhuman. This is the eyeless guy we saw last year, now named Gordon (Jamie Harris) but called Reader on IMDB. It was cool watching what role Jiaying played in the actually name dropped Terrigenesis, but the message this intro wanted to send was how difficult the process is for solitary adults. Someone who doesn’t know what is going on with not know how to properly handle it. That segues directly into Skye, who is now a total mess because she believes everything is her fault. It’s not until Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) confronts Skye, in one of the episode’s best scenes, that we actually see this to be the case. Skye can create tremors with her mind and it’s messing her up. Considering how traumatic the whole situation is, I’m not surprised Fitz chose to keep it a secret. It shows the bond these two characters have. However, it’s obvious to us all that this will not last. Next week’s preview already shows the secret getting out. Also, doesn’t Skye’s room have cameras? Can’t people see what’s happening there?
Raina’s (Ruth Negga) focus was great too. We finally got a good look at what happened to her and it’s pretty messed up. She’s now completely covered in thorns and disfigured. Raina believes Skye took what was rightfully hers, but it’s clear that she refuses to acknowledge this is her destiny. Her journey is the antithesis of Skye’s too. Raina has no support group, which means she has to deal with this crazy change entirely on her own. This brings her to Cal (Kyle MacLachlan) who essentially says that Raina should just die if she can’t handle it. It’s tough to watch but understandable when you look at their characters. Of course, Raina doesn’t die. She is rescued by Reader, proving why we learned about his teleportation abilities to begin with. It’s a crazy scene that is made that much better by the clearly high production quality. Reader teleporting in and out was damn impressive, as was Raina’s appearance.
While all of this Inhuman stuff was happening, everyone else was on an exciting mission against Hydra. That shootout between Coulson, May (Ming-Na Wen), and a bunch of apparent Hydra agents out to get Sunil Bakshi (Simon Kissandes) was incredibly well done. Revealing it was all an elaborate setup was awesome too. What I especially loved was that our heroes actually had a victory here. They eliminated several top ranking members of Hydra and have possibly made some huge strides in their mission. I say possibly because, as the episode itself suggested, other agents are poised to take over. At least Bakshi is now in the hands of General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar). Hopefully they won’t lose him like Ward.
Oh, and before I forget, there was some nice headway on the Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Mac mystery, along with a radical change for Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) Apparently Bobbi and Mac are after Fury’s toolbox which is hidden in a very secure location. Little is revealed as to why they need this, but it’s clear that the writers want to set this up as something big. I doubt they’re Hydra agents, that would be way too simple. Maybe they’re direct retainers for Fury and he wants to make sure no one else can get his information. Either way, it’s clear that their secret discussions will now take a bigger focus. Gone are the days of subtle grabs or gestures. What we have now is Hunter directly asking what is going on and Coulson’s model car making scans of his room.
For Simmons, she appears to be very anti-superhero now, which makes sense. They deal with a lot of horrors and the world has radically changed because of it. Someone was bound to feel regret for all the damage they do. The writers are definitely setting this up as a possible conflict between Simmons and the now superpowered Skye, which is a pretty nice twist.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is definitely diving headfirst into the Inhumans mythology. “Aftershocks” wasted no time explaining what happened in the city and detailing how the change is rough for everyone. We are now officially setting the stage for a movie several years down the road. Fortunately this show hasn’t forgotten about the other pressing issues too. Coulson’s plan against Hydra was really impressive, and it was great to actually see them get a win. Perhaps we’ll see more of that in the coming episodes. I know what we will definitely see at least. Skye slowly becoming a new superhero, and I’m really pumped.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.