Tuesday, March 10, 2015

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Deals With "Aftershocks"

Article originally written for Seat42F.

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. return last night was not as action-packed as I expected, but still pretty good. It begins shortly after Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Raina’s (Ruth Negga) transformations, with Skye taken back to base and Raina skulking around the tunnels slaughtering people. The “Aftershocks” of their changes aren’t merely physical, though, and the emotional toll radiates far beyond the two individuals directly affected.

Several of Skye’s teammates, and in fact Skye herself, blame her for the death of Trip, collateral damage from the metamorphous. What Skye is going through is similar to the survivor’s guilt experienced by many an agent who loses a teammate in the field, so I have no doubt that she’ll recover from that part of her emotional burden. The danger she still continues to put everyone in, though, that may be something bugging her for a good long while.

Mac (Henry Simmons) is the one with the biggest, most violent reaction, but Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is the one that most worries me. Mac gets past his temper tantrum relatively quickly and apologizes, but Simmons has developed a deep hatred for all things inhuman (and likely Inhuman). She is specist, blaming those with powers for all of the bad things that have happened in her life and the friends she has lost. It’s hard to be disappointed in her, given what she’s been through, but no one else in S.H.I.E.L.D. is holding the same grudge, which makes her look bad.

Simmons, nor nearly anyone else, knows about what Skye has become, though, because Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) takes it upon himself to protect Skye. Like Simmons, his actions are understandable because of his experiences, which also allows him to relate to the angry Mac. But it’s still not a smart move. As grateful as Skye may be to keep her secret a little longer, she obviously needs help controlling her new abilities and she’s not going to get that help if no one knows.

So is Simmon’s blatant hatred or Fitz’s misguided attempt at being a friend the better reaction? This is debatable, but worth pondering.

All of this provides some excellent character moments in the installment. Fitz and Mac have a really moving scene, as do Fitz and Skye, Mac and Coulson (Clark Gregg), and Simmons in front of Skye. Plus, we get Coulson delivering the bad news to Trip’s Mom (Donzaleigh Abernathy, Any Day Now) and Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) bonding with Skye. Not to mention, Cal’s (Kyle MacLachlan) cold reaction to Raina’s plight, which subsequently leads her to try to kill herself. If you want good, personal drama from MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D, there’s that in spades.

If you watch for mythology, “Aftershocks” has that, too. We see Skye’s mother, Jiaying (Dichen Lachman) coaching others through the change Skye has just undergone. One of her former pupils (Jamie Harris, TURN: Washington’s Spies) rescues Raina from herself, continuing that story. Cal would like to do the same for Skye, though I don’t see that happening unless the organization completely turns its back on her, given her hatred of him.

There’s also a new mystery kicked off when we learn Bobbi and Mac are spying on Coulson, telling someone that Coulson has Nick Fury’s tool box. I don’t think Bobbi and Mac are evil; they’ve been through too much with our team for that, and Bobbi was just promoted to main character. But are they being tricked? Or do they trust someone who doesn’t have confidence in Coulson, perhaps Fury himself? This will have ramifications.

And finally, if you’re an action fan, there’s some of that in “Aftershocks,” too. Maybe not as much as one might expect, with Skye being quarantined in the base, but there are still come thrilling scenes, such as when Coulson and May (Ming-Na Wen) “face off” with Hunter (Nick Blood), or when the team tricks Bakshi (Simon Kassianides) into having his Hydra cohorts kill one another, which should help even out the two sides in their war.

So that means “Aftershocks” has a bit of everything. Except good picture quality; ABC is still airing it in inferior high definition. But other than that, there’s a lot that happens in the hour, and little to complain about. Other than that it all felt a little flat to me. It’s hard to pinpoint why, and there’s a lot to praise, but it just didn’t seem as exciting as the show has sometimes been. Oh, well. There’s always next week, wonderfully set up.

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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