Agents Of SHIELD: 2.16 Afterlife

This week Skye adjusted to her new life amongst the Inhumans while Coulson and Lance took action against Gonzales's second SHIELD. Loyalties were tested, old faces reappeared and Agents Of SHIELD began to feel like the show we were watching before the mid-season break.

So Skye first; after her rescue by Gordon last week, she awoke to find herself in the oriental retreat of 'Afterlife'. As beautiful as the mountain-retreat setting was, it still smacked of the show counting the pennies on the budget. Aside from the charismatic Lincoln with his ability to manipulate electricity and the return of the eyeless Gordon with his teleportation powers, we didn't see a host of Kree-superpowered people in Afterlife. That being said The Tomorrow People's Luke Mitchell made an impression as the latest super-powered character, bonding with Skye and already looking to be a potential love interest, as he helped her adjust to her new world.

While it all seemed to good to be true, it was interesting to see that Skye wasn't completely trusting of her newfound friends. After trying to ascertain what Gordon's agenda was she caught Lincoln out in a half truth and stumbled on Raina, also a guest at the retreat. Naturally it didn't go well. The biggest surprise was the return of Skye's mother, leader of these super-powered people and responsible for bringing Skye and Raina to Afterlife while holding her ex-husband Calvin Zarbo prisoner in a separate location. I kind of suspected that her mother wasn't really dead; someone with magic blood that kept her youthful could probably survive Daniel Whitehall draining her life force years earlier. Most intriguing though was her decision not to tell Skye who she was and her vague comments to Calvin that suggested she might not have her daughter's best interests at heart.

Back at SHIELD headquarters the ramifications of Gonzales's assault and Coulson's escape continued to affect each character. May remained loyal to Coulson but was tempted with a seat in Gonzales's inner circle. Mac found himself confident in his actions but failed mend his friendship with Fitz. Bobbi became ever more an outsider while Simmons found herself stepping ever closer to switching 'sides'. And poor Fitz made the bold decision to leave the group.

The fascinating thing about this conflict is that everyone is on the same side, it is just their methods that differ. It is something that needs resolution quickly if they are going to finish the war with what is left with HYDRA, something that was addressed a couple of times in the episode. Fitz leaving seemed like the biggest step away from that yet, until it was revealed that he had switched the 'toolbox' with a fake. With Simmons in on the act, it is nice to see there is still some fight in the old team yet; it only remains to be seen if both SHIELDs can find common ground before the season's end.

As for Lance and Coulson, they are proving to be a great buddy cop movie in action. Stealing jeeps, bickering on the road, holding up the old cabin and taking down their other SHIELD foes. I loved the reason for Lance carrying two shot glasses wherever he goes just in case he gets some action and his exasperation at Coulson's attempt to steal and fly a quinjet without actually knowing how to get it off the ground.

The highlight of the episode had to be the return of Mike Peterson / Deathlok, Coulson's 'reinforcements' in the battle against Gonzales's SHIELD. Having spent the last few month in Europe tracking HYDRA as Coulson's eyes and ears - surely a link to the certain opening sequence in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron? - he returned cooler than ever, armed with missiles, taking out Coulson's enemies with ease and then downloading the schematics to fly the Quinjet Matrix-style.

Again, Lance's gobsmacked reaction was brilliant. "At some point, you might have mentioned that backup was a lethal cyborg." scoffs Lance, to which a bemused Coulson replies "Truthfully, I just wanted to see the look on your face when he showed up. Priceless." Now they have added Deathlock and Coulson plans to bring in Ward; could this be the coolest team of rogues on the show yet?

Afterlife was the second strong episode in a row. Plenty of action, one liners, revelations and the third reference to Hulk in a row (Yes I'm counting). The show is keeping us on our toes again and that is a very good thing. Now all we need is that Agents Of SHIELD season three renewal.

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