It’s a fickle one, this SHIELD versus SHIELD mutiny. Are they all agents on the same team working towards a common cause? Or are they enemy combatants gearing up for a death match?

It’s difficult to tell what’s happening inside the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, whichever faction you consider to be the real one, as those in charge bounce back and forth between ultimate destruction and giving each other the benefit of the doubt like they have miniature Nick Furys and Baron von Struckers on each shoulder.

Agents of SHIELD Recap: An Unnecessary Mutiny Occurs >>>

“Afterlife” is as much setup as it is action, and I imagine that will be the case for the next month as Agents of SHIELD builds anticipation for Avengers: Age of Ultron, which will invariably be a game changer for the small-screen Marvel franchise as well. At least, I hope so.

Some ambitious unifying gesture, such as Nick Fury returning from the grave, is the only justification I can come up with for the introduction of this fractured storyline at a time when so many other things that are happening are being put on the back burner.

I’m trusting those smarter than me to tie it all together in grand fashion, but it’s frustrating to watch the likes of Robert Gonzales transition between storming facilities and taking prisoners to letting those loyal to Coulson just walk out the door, because, after all, they’re all SHIELD agents.

He launches an offensive, realizing the people he’s attacking are loyal to someone else, then tries to convince them to join his team? And he’s going to be surprised when they aren’t trustworthy? Last time I checked, the expression isn’t “Either you’re with us or you’re still sorta kinda with us.” 

Welcome to Lai Xi

Skye wakes up in an Inhumans city called Lai Xi, but with no direct translation, the inhabitants have nicknamed it “Afterlife.” She’s pinned full of high-tech acupuncture to heal her, thanks to Lincoln, who is her “transitioner.” 

Being exposed to Terrigen mist is like 1,000 years of evolution happening in an instant, so each Inhuman has a guide to help them through the process. And it’s Lincoln’s job to make her feel comfortable, identify her powers and match her up with said guide.

Skye apparently killed seven agents in the forest before Gordon snatched her away, and he’s the only one who knows where the city is, enters and exits, makes contact with the outside world, and brings things (and people) in and out. Lincoln explains that it’s a waystation where no one lives permanently, and most residents are descendants of the Inhumans who are simply waiting years to be chosen for transformation.

So to them, adult Skye and her old-school Kree-city mentor-less Diviner transition is kind of a big deal. 

Lincoln tries to convince Skye that her gifts are a blessing and not a curse, as his own ability to manipulate electrical charges initially made him feel like every cell in his body was on fire. But once she learns to control it, she’ll be able to do great things. 

The Mamas and the Papas

Skye asks Gordon if he can send a message to her friends, and he says he’ll ask for permission, but the elders will say no. Lincoln breaks the news that the royal family feels their secret might not be safe for much longer, while Gordon pays a visit to Cal, who has destroyed his confinement area and is very upset about his room’s lack of windows. 

The eyeless wonder tells dear old dad that he’s lucky the Inhumans kept him alive and that he won’t be able to see his daughter because he lacks self-control, and that his actions have sealed both their fates.

Back in the hidden city, Lincoln lets it slip that Raina is also in the same location, but they are both safe and have nothing to fear. But that doesn’t fly with the suddenly quaking Skye, who barges into lizard-like Raina’s digs and confronts her old enemy. Despite their similarities, Raina has very little fight left and instead spends her miserable days trying to avoid the nightmares that come when she sleeps.

Skye tremors her to the ground, and Raina begs to be finished off before Jiaying, aka Skye’s all-sewn-up Frankenstein mom, barrels in screaming, “Enough!” She points out that the past is history and, appearances aside, they’re the same now, capable of beauty, greatness and destruction. Skye says there isn’t room for both her and Raina in the Afterlife, and Jiaying asks for just a few days to serve as the above-mentioned guide, and if Skye wants to leave after that so be it.

Jiaying then visits and embraces Cal, saying he found their Daisy but that he still isn’t allowed to see her. Custody battles. Hmph.

Coulson and Hunter’s Excellent Adventure

After stealing a jeep, Hunter and Coulson head to the Retreat, where they find the aftermath and surveillance video of Skye’s outburst and vanishing act. Coulson wonders how he lost SHIELD and Skye all in the same day, and he vows to get both back, but he’ll need better transportation methods.

He intentionally triggers the alarm, summoning Gonzales’ SHIELD after apparently calling for his own reinforcements, in an effort to capture a SHIELD plane. All they have to do is hold off the advancing agents until the backup arrives, which of course doesn’t happen. So they use 1940s Captain America technology holograms to fool the agents into thinking they’re playing cards on the couch, then shoot them all with icers.

The pair plans a plane-jacking, but they’re surrounded by agents in a cloaked vehicle and captured. They’re about to be taken back to base in cuffs when (ta-daaaaaa) Mike Peterson’s Deathlok returns and busts them loose. Oh, and he can fly the plane. Hooray for Deathlok! Welcome back, J. August Richards!

Deathlok has been shadowing the remaining HYDRA head and von Strucker right-hand-man Dr. List around Europe, where he is seeking out powered people (apparently the new, multi-mentioned way around the term “mutant”) and experimenting on them (a prelude to Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch). And since there are no good options, it’s time to seek out the only go-between they have entrenched on both sides: former SHIELD agent Grant Ward.

The Internal Struggle of a Halfhearted Mutiny

Gonzales and Bobbi Morse both seem to be struggling with brand loyalty, but in the former’s case, it could all be a ruse. But Mockingbird still seeks to find the positive in every situation, even when it makes no sense to paint both sides as the good guy while also choosing one over the other. But even as she defends Skye, Gonzales’ concern is that Coulson is acting like a fugitive and could be collecting powered people (there it is again). 

The key to breaking the code is to get into Fury’s toolbox, which is what prompted them to attack in the first place, and for that, they need Fitz and Simmons. But the ever-bickering former besties aren’t on the same page, and since there are no prisoners being held at the facility (other than May, apparently), Fitz is free to leave if he’s not on board with the real SHIELD. 

Morse convinces Simmons that the contents of the toolbox could prove that everyone is all on the same side and end the stalemate, and Simmons divulges that she might be able to open it without Fitz, who is packing up his stuff. Mack tries to convince him to stay, saying they don’t even need him to do anything because Simmons has it locked down, and so he pops open the hologram board and is confused by the steps Simmons is taking. Then comes the recognition.

Fitz confronts Simmons, accusing her of pushing him away by helping open the toolbox (which he picks up and juggles, wink wink) and asking if she just wants him to leave. She replies that if he can’t do his duty, it’s probably best if he does, so he slams down the “toolbox” and announces his intentions to peace out. 

A Double May Play

After initially and unsuccessfully trying to convince Agent May that both Skye and Coulson should be on the special people registry and that her former boss might need to be put down like the person in the situation that earned her the “Cavalry” nickname, Gonzales changes his tactics after Coulson, Hunter and Deathlok escape with the plane.

Recognizing that May and The Bus are his only bargaining chips, he instead offers her a seat on SHIELD’s board, arguing that they’re going after Coulson with or without her and he’ll need a strong advocate once he’s caught. Gonzalez gives a passionate speech about how Coulson is presenting himself as a threat, and no threat will be tolerated as SHIELD is reborn with a greater sense of unity that must be defended so it does not fall again and blah blah blah, all as Fitz says his goodbyes and heads out on his own.

Once in a cab, Fitz pulls Fury’s toolbox from his bag, congratulating Simmons’ handiwork. He also finds his favorite sandwich, and after a long hiatus, FitzSimmons is officially back.

In Anticipation for Precipitation

To be honest, I’m not really sure there is much analysis that can be done ahead of a blockbuster film that will likely change how we view everything that’s happened anyway. But I’m definitely excited about Deathlok’s return and to see how the outside factors affect the Marvel Universe as a whole.

The history and power structure of the Inhumans are being meticulously and deliberately revealed, and it will be interesting to see if they remain a focal point in the series all the way up until the 2019 movie (if we are lucky enough for it to be on TV for that long). 

Are you happy with the way things are progressing, and are you a fan of the different SHIELD factions plot? What are your guesses for how The Avengers will change the landscape, and do you see a unified SHIELD emerging by season’s end? 

You can watch Agents of SHIELD every Tuesday at 9pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order