[Review] - Agents Of SHIELD, Season 2 Episode 16, "Afterlife"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Studios
At this point, I'm really starting to wonder if Agents of SHIELD is attempting to actively alienate us. Because that is all it's really doing. This is a show that I have had fluctuating opinions over the course of it's miserable two year existence, but never been so actively dismissive of as I have been in this last stretch of episodes. As I sat through this episode, and that is what is happening at this point, I'm sitting though them, more and more I came to accept the fact that I'm bored.

That this is a boring and predicable and not very good show, and it isn't holding my interest. the show is not succeeding in being engaging, and hilariously it is because they keep trying to be engaging in a way that is so obviously forced and false. Even Coulson, the only reason any of us are here to begin with, just isn't compelling enough as-is to warrant this much attention. And that is sad. That is a waste of an opportunity. This show has no good will left. It has abused that privilege. It had it's chance. I'm riding it out, and after that, I think I'm done.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that always bribe with cupcakes.

This episode managed it's merits and demerits in pairs, to my mind, anyway, and that's how I'll discuss them. There wasn't a lot about this episode that moved me, one way or the other. Somehow, it managed to make the reveal of the Inhuman subculture as lifeless as a CW teen drama. But first: what the fuck is it with this cabin? Did the producers get it on a deal, and insisted that they make the most of it. Three straight episodes, with a bulk plot taking place in an utterly characterless environment. Like I mentioned last week, the premise that it was Hulk proof was ridiculous, made all the more so by this episode showing a battering ram able to break through the door after an hour of knocking. I honestly don't know who on the writing staff thought the cabin would be a great plot device, or what they meant to accomplish with it, but what it seemed to accomplish was little more than a plot distraction. How exactly would the last three episodes have changed if Skye had stayed, and escaped from HQ? Other than potentially being only two episodes worth of material? That's what I thought.

Speaking of Skye, and I don't like making these review personal, I really don't, but can someone please tell Chloe Bennet to close her mouth when she "acts." Her default expression is a distress and agape stare. Maybe it's the lackluster material, failing to strain or excite her actor's instincts, but just looking at a thing with your mouth hanging open is not... well, it's not acting. It is exactly what it is, which is opening your mouth slightly and hoping that that imparts the tension of the scene. It doesn't. And it undermines the rest of the scene when you aren't putting your all into it. I'm sorry to focus on an actor's behaviour rather than the creative merits of the episode, but it's all part and parcel. The actors are part of the delivery of the material, and when the acting isn't working, that is part of the problem.

To it's credit, the episode did manage to successfully pull off two surprises: the reveal that Skye's mother is still alive after having been vivisected, and the return of Deathlok. The latter got my heart pumping more so than the former, if only because the show has so bungled the Inhuman plotline so far that I'm just not interested in those developments. Hey, she's alive. We didn't know she could do that! We didn't really know anything about her! We still don't! Oh, and she's being unnecessarily cagey; I'm out. Deathlok's return at least promises the involvement of an interesting and borderline-well developed character, as performed by an actor of quality. I advocated his addition to the cast full time at the end of last season, and that didn't happen. Hopefully they'll make the most out of whatever time he'll be given this year.

Keeping with the pairs motif, the show has found two pairs of actors that unexpectedly work well together. Coulson and Hunter are the comedy brothers; the cold open had more personality to it than the last four episodes combined. Hunter is, oddly, the character the writers have developed the most this season, and also the character that the writers seem to have the least idea what do with. Pairing him with Coulson as the rag-tag SHIELD agents at least gives him something to work towards, and his and Coulson's personalities mesh well. The other pair operating at unexpected levels is Edward James Olmos and Palicki. I've been nothing but impressed with Bobbi this year, and the promotion to full cast was well earned, and comforting to know that she won't be killed off unceremoniously any time soon. But if you had asked me, who would hold their own against Olmos better, her or Ming-Na, I'd have said Ming, no question. Except now, question! Ming-Na has been as sleep-walking through her role as much as the rest of the cast. Palicki is getting a lot more screen time with the veteran, and she is holding her own. As for Olmos, I'm not overly taken with the plot he's involved with, but as you'd expect, he's delivering the goods. Far better than this series deserves.

Lastly, the Inhumans storyline actually involved other Inhumans this week, as Skye ended up in Shangri-La, which apparently is no different than an LA neighbourhood with an overly Asian theme. There were coffee shops; this is embarrassing. And once again, the show dumps exposition on us, and gets so tangled in their own deep-plot fishing that they end up cutting the line. Basically, the potential Inhumans get teleported to the Mandarin resort and hotel, where they hang out like they are cast members of Beverly Hills 90210 until they get "chosen" to change. They want the change, they look forward to the change, and once they change, they get training. Except when the writers forget this in the next scene, and the change is unexpected and unwelcome and difficult to come to terms with, as the forced romance and lack of chemistry demands. Ultimately, I think that Skye's embracing of her powers (and the super racism that is permeating the series elsewhere) will be one of the worst superhero origin stories in the genre.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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