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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2 E16 "Afterlife"

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Coulson and Hunter attempt to find Skye while Skye is taken to Lai Xi, the secret Inhuman refuge to learn her powers. Gonzales and the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. continue to try and access Fury's toolbox.


Tropes:

  • Ambiguously Evil:
    • There's something off about Lai Xi. It has many characteristics of a cult: communal lifestyle, social isolation, members who join for the promise of ascension but only a few can be chosen, cryptically named leadership (the elders); also, one of the leaders is omnipresent, so Big Brother Is Watching is not too far-fetched. They also have a prison with no windows where a guy can smash things and scream his lungs out and nobody will notice a thing. There's also the fact that Jiaying did not reveal herself as Skye's mother, though it's understandable that she might want to drop that bombshell under less tense circumstances (and in private).
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    • The fact that Jiaying is still alive paints her character in a very different light. To avenge her, Cal had gone through extreme measures, such as taking a Psycho Serum, sacrificing part of his sanity in the process. Not only didn't she stop him, but her disciple and successor Gordon (whose Establishing Character Moment was him crying in Jiaying's arms, grateful that he had her to guide him) only showed him contempt, calling him an experiment and not "one of them".
  • Ancestral Weapon: When Gonzales offers May a seat on "real" S.H.I.E.L.D.'s board, he presents his grandfather's WW2-era pistol, which he claims was used in combat against the Nazis.
  • And I Must Scream: Gordon has locked Cal up in a room with no doors or windows for so long that Cal can't even tell what day it is anymore. And if you look closely Cal's hands are bandaged up because he's been trying to punch his way out, and not succeeding.
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  • Artistic License – Biology: Hunter tells Coulson that alcohol will keep them from getting cold during the night even though alcohol actually lowers one's body temperature. Of course, he does add that the second glass is for "the one keeping me warm."
  • Badass Boast: May does one on behalf of Coulson. Gonzales doesn't need to look for Coulson. When Coulson's ready, he'll find Gonzales. He's the one man you can never put down.
  • Back from the Dead: Jiaying, who we last saw as a corpse dumped into the woods by Whitehall, is alive and kicking. She has a few scars on her face, but looks no less worse for wear. Apparently her regenerative powers don't stop at "never ages".
  • Behind the Black: Coulson and Hunter's attempt to hijack a Quinjet goes awry because they didn't notice a second, cloaked, Quinjet filled with "Real" S.H.I.E.L.D. agents less than a stone's throw away.
    Coulson: Didn't see that coming.
  • Berserk Button: Skye loses her temper when Lincoln lets slip that Raina is in Lai Xi, angrily storming into the room where they're keeping her. In their subsequent argument, Skye nearly kills Raina with her powers, but Jiaying manages to calm the situation.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Mike Peterson saves Coulson and Hunter from getting captured. It turns out he has been working a secret assignment for Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. since his last appearance, along with getting a few modifications to his cybernetics.
    • Jiaying turns out to not be dead after all, or perhaps she's just Back from the Dead, and has continued her work as a mentor for new Inhumans.
  • Bond One-Liner: After using a poker hologram to distract the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and use ICERs on them, Coulson quips "We had the better hand."
  • Brick Joke:
    • Fitz finally gets to enjoy a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich with "just a hint of pesto aioli".
    • The English translation of "Lai Xi" ("Afterlife") casts Cal's earlier statement about "meeting [his] family in the afterlife" in a new light.
  • Call-Back: Simmons packs a nice snack for Fitz: A prosciutto sandwich with mozzarella and a hint of pesto aioli.
  • Cassandra Truth: Despite Bobbi being a mole on Coulson's team, Gonzales has a bad habit of ignoring her whenever her facts don't fit his world-view. After Gordon rescues Skye, Gonzales assumes him to be working for Coulson, despite Bobbi pointing out that they've encountered the guy all of twice and don't even know his name. Gonzales claims Coulson was probably hiding his existence and they'll likely find proof in the Toolbox.
  • The Cavalry: Deathlok returns to save Coulson and Hunter from Gonzales' forces.
  • The Chooser of The One: The Inhumans, unlike Skye and Raina, use a different process to activate the Kree DNA within potential Inhumans, a process that usually only produces one subject every few years, and only then with rigorous screening. Skye and Raina essentially jumped ahead in line by using the Kree Temple and a Diviner, and are viewed with suspicion and envy by the others.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Crazy-Prepared: Played for Laughs with Hunter, who always keeps whiskey and a pair of shot glasses on hand.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Deathlok against the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. agents holding Coulson and Hunter hostage.
  • Cutting the Knot: Coulson tries to haggle with Honest Eddie over a beaten up SUV. Honest Eddie instead tries to offer him a tricked out jeep which is more expensive... and which Hunter has just decided to steal outright. Coulson is forced to shoot Eddie with an ICER to make a getaway.
  • Didn't See That Coming:
    • Word for word from Coulson, after being ambushed by the second cloaked Quinjet.
    • Gonzales never expected Coulson would have a super-powered cyborg backing him up.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Coulson and Hunter appropriate a couple of uniforms from the team they disabled, hoping the helmet and goggles will disguise them well enough to get close to the ones guarding the Quinjet. Turns out Gonzales was expecting that and they're caught on the spot.
  • Exact Words: When Skye asks him about Raina, Lincoln assures her that there's no one in Lai Xi that will hurt her. When she finds out Raina is in fact there, he insists he didn't lie.
  • Fake Defector: Simmons pulls it off again, convincing "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. she's willing to work for them while collecting the data needed to duplicate the Toolbox right under their noses so she and Fitz can swap it for the real one.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Gonzales again, referring to Skye as a "thing" and Gordon as a "freak", and blaming Skye for injuring his agents in self-defense. Bobbi angrily calls him out on it.
    • When Mike Peterson shows up, Gonzales once again assumes that Coulson is stockpiling powered people, even though the reality is that Mike was just the only agent Coulson could trust.
  • Food as Bribe: Gonzales says that Coulson managed to get FitzSimmons on his team by bribing Weaver with cupcakes. After he fails to convince them to betray Coulson, Simmons snarks that he should have brought cupcakes.
  • Gilded Cage: How Skye views the Inhumans' Compound: it's a beautiful place but nobody knows where it is, and only Gordon is allowed to leave (and take people with him) and make contact with the outside world.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Coulson is out of good options and so he has to resort to a "Bad Option". This means seeking Ward, since he's the only one who knows anything about Cal and he considers him his best hope of finding Skye.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: While Mack is quite comfortable with what "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. did and only regrets Fitz considering him a traitor, Bobbi is clearly a lot more conflicted about what's going on. Her co-workers aren't helping matters by doubling down on the Fantastic Racism and ignoring her.
  • Healing Factor: Jiaying's healing capability is apparently at Wolverine levels: she survived being vivisected with only some light scarring to show for it.
  • He's Back: In terms of a team: FitzSimmons is back and effortlessly cooperates and cons everyone around them without having to say a word to each other.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Some of Lai Xi's residents certainly give off "not our problem" vibe when it comes to the world outside their community, even though they are, on individual levels, still interacting with it.
  • Honest John's Dealership: The owner's even named "Honest Eddie".
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Played for Laughs; the car retailer clearly thought he was scoring another middle-aged guy in a middle of a mid-life crisis. Unfortunately, his customer just happened to be a master spy whose tiger was loosed a long time ago.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: According to Lincoln, everyone has this problem shortly after their mutation. He mentions that he nearly burned the place down before he learned to control his powers. Lai Xi provides personal "transitioners" and mentors to help smooth the process. Raina proves to be a special case because the Inhumans can't figure out what her "gift" is supposed to be.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Gonzales for the third episode in a row. He talks about how Coulson cannot be trusted because he is acting like a fugitive when it was his own coup that turned Coulson into a fugitive in the first place. He later makes a long speech to May about how S.H.I.E.L.D. cannot stand divided at a time like this, even though he's the one refusing to work with Coulson. May even threw this same point in his face when she said they should both be fighting HYDRA, which he ignored. He also disregards input from others despite the fact that he claims "Real" S.H.I.E.L.D. runs on democratic principle and makes it clear that his offer to May was done only because he has to abide by those rules rather than because he actually wants to.
    • A minor case with Skye; she kept ranting about how Raina couldn't be trusted because she's killed people. Jiaying called her out on this by saying that she was just as capable of killing as Raina, though the fact that Raina did so far more maliciously and by choice rather than necessity as Skye did, not to mention the laundry list of other crimes she committed, is glossed over.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Mike says this when Coulson tells Hunter that he wanted Mike's arrival to be a surprise.
  • Instant Expert: Mike is able to pilot the Quinjet by downloading the technical details through his computer uplink.
  • Irony:
    • Skye, who was first introduced trying to convince Mike that he was having a superhero origin story, is still somewhat oblivious that she is having a superhero origin story.
    • HYDRA agents (while continuing to be a totalitarian organization fundamentally opposed to individual freedom) frequently show embarrassment over their Nazi origins.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Gonzales makes a point of referring to those with powers with either insults like "thing" or "freak", or generalizing them as "powered people". Bobbi calls him on this, not that it helps.
  • Kick the Dog: Gordon has gone from putting Cal in his place to being excessively cruel: he's locked up Cal in a room without doors or windows, he gets Cal worked up by saying he can't see Skye so when Cal tries to punch him he can just teleport away, and then he brings Jiaying to see him, and she too turns down his request to see Skye.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Skye tries to use her powers to kill Raina, even though Raina, at this point, is more pitiable than anything.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: After Gonzales is forced to try a different tactic with May, he passes her a gun and tells her to shoot him if she thinks it's for the best. Otherwise, he has an offer to make her. She passes the gun back on the rationalization that Gonzales isn't stupid enough to give her a loaded weapon, but he then ejects the magazine and clears the slide to demonstrate that he was serious.
  • Kirk Summation: Fitz calls out "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. on ruining Coulson's life's work simply because they're afraid of something they don't know.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Invoked by Skye, who says Raina deserves what she's become when Raina complains about it. Raina promptly uses the same logic on Skye.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Lincoln explains to Skye most of how life in the Inhumans' Compound works when asked. He's just used to people knowing this already. What he deliberately doesn't tell her is that her dad is a prisoner there and and that Raina was being transitioned there as well. He himself is kept out of the loop about the whole "Skye is Jiaying's daughter" loop.
  • Magnetic Hero: Coulson, as lampshaded by Gonzales; he considers this trait more dangerous than the actual superhumans he believes Coulson to be recruiting.
  • Mid-Life Crisis Car: Honest Eddie thinks that Coulson is at his dealership to buy one. Boy is he wrong.
  • Mundane Utility: Skye lampshades it when she's told Gordon uses his power to pick up pizza from Chicago for delivery to Lai Xi.
  • Next Tier Power-Up: Mike Peterson's appearance is much sleeker and cleaner than his last appearance, his face looks more normal (albeit still heavily scarred), and he's packing new weapons such as his EMP missiles.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Gonzales blames Skye entirely for the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents sent after her being injured, regardless of the fact that she was defending herself and Calderon deliberately ignored orders by firing at her with lethal rounds. Bobbi brings up both points and is just brushed off. Note that Bobbi was one of the agents sent after Skye and was caught in Skye's defensive outburst.
    • Gonzales claims he would have liked to talk to Coulson amicably, but blames Coulson's possession of the Toolbox for their hostility.
    • Gonzales is convinced Coulson is up to no good because he's acting like a fugitive. Apparently, he was just supposed to graciously accept Gonzales overrunning his organization without discussion.
    • Finally, he says S.H.I.E.L.D. shouldn't be divided, when he's the one deliberately antagonizing Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. while Coulson conversely wanted to recruit him. May calls him on this. Surprise, surprise, she's ignored.
  • Nerves of Steel: In order to punctuate his speech on "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. acting out of fear, Fitz grabs the Toolbox and playfully tosses it around while another agent is holding a gun to him, without so much as flinching.
  • Noodle Incident: May's mission in Bahrain, where she picked up her infamous nickname "The Cavalry" is again alluded to, with further detail that it wasn't just that a powered asset died, but that May personally had to "put them down."
  • No-Sell: Deathlok vs. the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. agents is hilariously one-sided. Bullets just bounce off, he's much stronger than them, and one guy who tries a swinging double kick from the hand rails doesn't even budge him.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Bobbi is still insisting that Coulson isn't stockpiling Gifted individuals, but Gonzales doesn't believe her because after Skye took out seven agents by herself, someone else teleported her to safety, and a cyborg helped save Coulson from his retrieval squad.
  • Not So Stoic: Gordon snaps at Cal when the latter asks to see his daughter.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: FitzSimmons plays Bobbi and the rest of "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. by having Simmons pretend to find a way to open the Toolbox, driving Fitz to leave, only for The Stinger to reveal that she switched out the real Toolbox with a fake and passed it to Fitz.
  • One-Man Army: Hunter is less-than-enthused that Coulson's backup is singular, not plural, until he learns that said backup is a super-powered cyborg.
  • Out-Gambitted: Both sides of S.H.I.E.L.D. have some very Chess Master action going on:
    • Coulson lures "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. to the Retreat, confident that its anti-Hulk reinforcements would protect them until his backup could arrive, but he doesn't expect the super ram.
    • "Real" S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't expect the two guys they are sent to subdue would be playing a game of cards while their door is being rammed outside. Their momentary confusion allows the two guys to take them all down with only ICERs.
    • Coulson's plan of hijacking the Quinjet is flawless, except for that second cloaked one that has enough agents aboard to easily surround them.
    • Finally, the super-strong, super-fast, super-well-armed cyborg showing up out of nowhere probably isn't something Gonzales planned for.
    • Bobbi thinks she'd scored big getting Simmons to open the Toolbox. Turns out it is all a ploy to get the Toolbox away from Gonzales.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Fitz is allowed to leave amicably when he refuses to work for "real" S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • Overlaps with Bait the Dog: Gordon brings Jiaying to see Cal, only for her to tell him that he's not allowed to see their daughter.
  • Public Secret Message: Fitz and Simmons communicate their plan to sneak out the Toolbox in the middle of the lab, surrounded by "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. It helps that their strained relationship makes everyone else think they are having an ideological argument with uncomfortable personal undertones.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Raina and Skye give dueling ones to each other, though Raina's is an attempt to goad Skye into killing her.
  • Saying Too Much: Lincoln accidentally lets slip that Raina is in Lai Xi when he mentions another Inhuman who recently transformed with severe physical mutations. As he had previously noted Skye's highly unusual and unscheduled transformation, this instantly clues her in to his deception.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Fitz leaves S.H.I.E.L.D. rather than betray Coulson, while Simmons stays behind. Turns out it was part of a plan he and Simmons cooked up to keep the Toolbox out of Gonzales' clutches.
  • The Shangri-La: Lai Xi (referred to in English as "Afterlife"), the Inhumans' hideout is a beautiful place that may or may not be in China and is repeatedly stated to be a place for people that need somewhere safe to be for a while.
  • Sherlock Scan: Honest Eddie tries one on Coulson but gets nowhere close to the truth.
    Honest Eddie: I look at you and I see a man who's played it safe his whole life but lately feels like he's stuck in a rut. Life lost its thrill. The kids are monsters. The wife's taken to muumuus. And now you're thinking: "It's time to let the tiger loose!" Am I hitting the mark?
    Coulson: (unimpressed) Amazing.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Lai Xi sure looks a lot like Rivendell.
    • "Honest Eddie" shares his name with the famous "Honest Ed's" department store in Toronto, Ontario.
    • Coulson and Hunter use a hologram to fake out the S.H.I.E.L.D. guards, like Lex Luthor used in Superman II.
  • A Simple Plan: Coulson's plan is for him and Hunter to steal a Quinjet. The problem is that neither of them know how to pilot one. Things go downhill from there.
    Hunter: There's the small matter of who's going to fly that thing. Do you even know how?
    Coulson: I've watched May fly. I know a little.
    Hunter: How little?
    Coulson: I can get us off the ground.
    Hunter: You do know that there's a little more than that, right? Like getting us back on the ground, for example?
  • Sore Loser: Gonzales doesn't hide his displeasure at being outvoted in making May an offer.
  • Spoiler Opening: J. August Richards and Dichen Lachman are both listed in the opening credits, which spoils the intended surprise of their appearances somewhat.
  • Suicide by Cop: Raina tries to goad Skye into killing her. Jiaying intervenes before Skye can oblige.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: Coulson insists on using ICERs on the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, as he considers them loyal agents regardless of their differences and actually sympathizes with their point of view, much to Hunter's chagrin.
  • Toilet Humour: When Lincoln mentions he once heated up a small pool, Skye jokes that any five year-old can do that.
  • Troll:
    • Coulson admits he didn't tell Hunter about Mike Peterson because he wanted to see the look on Hunter's face when he discovered their backup is a super-powered cyborg. It is priceless.
    • Coulson didn't tell Hunter (or the audience) anything, presumably to see his face when "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. brought in the one weapon that could make short work of the house's defenses, only to casually pull out a card deck and ask Hunter if he played.
  • Undying Loyalty: Gonzales states that Coulson's ability to inspire this in others makes him more dangerous than a Gifted, which shows in the reactions of his team.
    • Fitz and Simmons refuse to betray Coulson, so they concoct a plan to smuggle the Toolbox out of HQ right under Gonzales' nose.
    • Gonzales tries to get May to turn on Coulson by pointing out that even he asked her to keep an eye on him. As he's just dredging up past conflicts that no longer apply, she doesn't go for it. He's instead forced to offer her a seat on the board, playing into her loyalty by claiming she'll be in a better position to help when they capture him.
    • Hunter tells Coulson he's one of the few people in the world he'd throw down for without a second thought, while he wouldn't do the same for Gonzales if Hell froze over.
    • Mike Peterson is the only agent available that Coulson says he trusts, thus implying this of him.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Fitz realizes Simmons has collected the information needed to make a duplicate of the Toolbox so it can be swapped for the real one, without the two of them having to talk to each other.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: Gordon tells Cal that his violent behavior has decided his fate as well as Skye's.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: May bluntly tells Gonzales that they should be tracking down HYDRA remnants instead of fighting a civil war with each other. He ignores it, then tries to use this same point on her later by offering her a spot on the board.
  • We Can Rule Together: Gonzalez offers May a spot on the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D. board, arguing that they're going to capture Coulson sooner or later and he's going to need a defender.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Fitz to Mack, after Mack's involvement in "real" S.H.I.E.L.D.'s coup. Only his friend Mack can call him "Turbo" and they're not friends anymore.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Mike Peterson forcing open the plane door.
    • Jiaying showing up alive.
    • Fitz with the real Toolbox in his possession.
  • With Us or Against Us: Gonzales tries to frame the conflict as "loyalty to S.H.I.E.L.D." vs. "loyalty to Coulson". As May bluntly tells him, Coulson is S.H.I.E.L.D.

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