Now that the dud ‘Agent Carter’ spin-off has finally drawn to its interminable close, Marvel’s ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ made a welcome return this week from its two-month winter break. Considering how bumpy the first season was, I’m as surprised as anyone to feel so relieved that the show is back and in good form.
Episode ‘Aftershocks’ opens with a flashback to 1983. A teenage kid with no eyes (presumably the guy we saw briefly at the end of the last episode) is found teleporting wildly around a sealed room. Skye’s mother (Dichen Lachman) enters and explains that the boy has just undergone a transformation. He’s confused and terrified by what he’s turned into, and she’s there to calm him down and guide him through it – a job that she has apparently done for decades.
Cut to the present day. As we last left them, Skye and Raina had likewise been transformed. Skye looks the same as she always has, but was able to levitate and now has some telekinetic powers that she’s trying to hide from her friends. Because she has no mentor figure to talk to, she has no idea what’s happening to her and is afraid to tell anyone. Assuming that she may have been exposed to an alien virus, Coulson orders her quarantined for a while.
Raina, meanwhile, got the bum end of magical transformation deal. Her entire body is covered in painful thorns and she looks like a weird porcupine monster. Skulking around the underground city, she kills some random S.H.I.E.L.D. workers (where did these people come from?) and escapes.
With word that Whitehall has been killed, other HYDRA leaders meet in secret to discuss their newly open management position. The most likely candidate would seem to be Whitehall’s No. 2 guy Bakshi. Too bad he’s currently in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.
Everyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. is sad about Agent Triplett dying. Skye feels responsible. Coulson is furious and wants to make HYDRA pay. He formulates a plan to trick Bakshi into thinking that he’s getting broken out of prison, so that Bakshi will lead S.H.I.E.L.D. to HYDRA. To sell the illusion, Coulson and May pretend to get killed.
Raina seeks out Skye’s father Cal (Kyle MacLachlan). She demands to know what has happened to her and how she can change back to her old self. When he tells her there’s no going back, she whines that she can’t live like this. Cal has no sympathy for her at all and essentially tells her to fuck off and die. However, he’s very glad to learn from her that Skye has transformed and is still alive.
Fitz figures out that something is wrong with Skye, and actually witnesses her having a telekinetic episode (which she can’t control yet), but helps her hide it from the others. He also falsifies a DNA test to indicate that she’s completely normal and is safe to leave quarantine.
When Bakshi returns to HYDRA, he launches a major power play to assassinate some of the leaders in order to consolidate control among a smaller group. Little does he know that this is all part of Coulson’s plan. Bobbi and Lance raid the secret headquarters and murder the remaining leaders, except for Bakshi, whom they recapture.
Despondent about what she’s become, Raina attempts suicide by walking in front of traffic on a freeway. The effort fails when she’s instead surrounded by military trying to capture her. Before she can goad the soldiers into killing her, the blind mutant guy teleports in, tells her that he’s come to help, and teleports out with her.
The episode ends with an implication that Bobbi and Mac are secretly working together on something shady. Are they moles in S.H.I.E.L.D.? If so, whom do they work for?
I assume that we haven’t seen the last of HYDRA yet. I don’t like the suggestion that Mac and Bobbi are evil, so I hope that storyline goes a different direction. Other than that, this is a very good episode, and I really like the developing mythology around the Inhumans. This show has improved tremendously since the first season.