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Agents of SHIELD Recap: “Aftershocks”

Tiny, baby aftershocks.

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Though it meant the end of our beloved Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD returned to our airwaves last night—and after that excellent mid-season finale, I was pretty stoked about it. But did the episode out-perform its set-up?

In a word—nah. Maybe it’s because we’ve just had a couple months of next-to-flawless Hayley Atwell and her rich, vibrant ’40s world, but tonight’s episode of SHIELD just seemed wildly okay. Not terrible, mind you—it wasn’t bad—it just was. And I guess at this point I expect a bit better.

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Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way so I can start talking about the things I did enjoy about the episode. First off, it’s the elephant in the room and I’d be remiss if I didn’t lead with poor Chloe Bennett. While she has unequivocally improved from the first season of SHIELD, she’s just not a talented enough actress to really pull this arc off in a believable way. The first half of this season really benefitted from being Skye-light; she’s great as a member of an ensemble, but she loses credibility once you shine the spotlight on her. Tonight’s episode was just a long cry-fest where I could practically see Bennett trying her best capital-A Acting. Unfortunately, when you put her directly up against much more talented actors like Clark Gregg and Iain De Caestecker—or when you compare her to her in-show counterpart, Ruth Negga—Bennett can’t cut it.

I also found this episode suffered from something that many ensemble shows tend to fall prey to: the characters are heavily mourning Trip (which, by the way, I still take full responsibility for and I’m sorry), talking about how he used to make them laugh and how much the team loved him, etc. The problem is, Trip was largely sidelined (which was a problem in and of itself), and the audience never got the chance to connect with him in any great way, so all of this mourning falls a bit flat. If they’d given us more Trip before he died, this episode would ring a lot more emotionally true.

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Plus, maybe it’s just that I got used to the snappy dialogue on Agent Carter, but “Aftershocks” had some seriously hamfisted writing moments. I loved that they included words like “terrigenesis” and “inhumans,” but come on—the whole thing with Mack with Fitz about “Do you even know how it feels?!” and Simmons suddenly becoming the poster child for one side of Civil War? Brutal.

But it wasn’t all bad news! The SHIELD gods delivered us more Dichen Lachman in the form of Skye’s flashback mom, and a little more clarity on eyeless Gordon, as well. We also got more wacky SpyDaddy:

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Some perfect Malinda May ass-kicking:

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A Hydra take-down:

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And even a Radio Shack diss.

As I mentioned above, Ruth Negga, in stark contrast to Bennett, is wonderful as post-transformation Raina. She’s lost everything—her dreams, her identity, her humanity—and she manages to act through her prosthetics with incredible success. I’m bummed that one of the woman of color on the show is now hidden behind a mask, but Negga is such a gem that I’m glad she has the opportunity to show off her chops with this change of character.

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And secrets still abound at SHIELD HQ! The Bobbi/Mack conspiracy lives on (what could it be?!), but I’m equally glad that Fitz won’t have to keep Skye’s powers to himself for long (it appears that she comes clean in the next episode).

What did you think of this week’s episode of SHIELD? What are your hopes for the rest of the season?

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