In "Afterlife," "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." doled out the revelations: Gonzales expressed his extreme distaste for the Enhanced, Coulson recalled Mike "Deathlok" Peterson from a secret mission and Skye learned more about her heritage -- coming face-to-face with her mother Jiaying in the process, no less. This triple-headed Hydra (pun totally intended) all weaved together to pave the way for something that may just affect the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe: a Terrigen Bomb.
Analyzing these events in chronological order, we kick off with S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0: Gonzales has spoken of the Enhanced with disdain before, but in this episode, he was more candid than ever in his conversation with Bobbi. Obviously, to Gonzales, the Enhanced aren't superhuman -- they're subhuman. In his rant, he spoke as if they weren't even sentient, using phrases like, "something with powers of this magnitude," and, "powered pet" to describe them, much to Bobbi's protestation. He accuses Coulson of "collecting powered people," as if they are objects to be organized and used. He even tells Bobbi that he wants to put Coulson himself on the Index. Though he hasn't said it outright, it wouldn't be too far a leap to suggest that Gonzales wants to open Fury's toolbox to uncover even more of these "collected" Enhanced people. Like Calderon and Weaver, Gonzales has a vendetta against them; unlike Calderon and Weaver, his reason for this is unclear.
Nevertheless, Gonzales' extremist approach to the Enhanced is sure to clash with Coulson's softer (if still firm) philosophy. What's more, his conversation with Bobbi ended on a sour note as he instructed her on what she should do without hearing her out; some transparency, indeed. From the blurred line between S.H.I.E.L.D. factions to the growing significance of the Index, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." motors even further into "Civil War" territory thanks to Gonzales' insinuations.
Unlike Gonzales, who remained firmly rooted in his S.H.I.E.L.D. bases, Coulson was all over the place, from some small town car dealership to the Retreat and who-knows-where on the quinjet. As his interactions with Hunter have proved, he's not without a literal ace up his sleeve, and he isn't afraid to take charge. For all Gonzales' hot air about transparency (and his subsequently hypocritical follow through), it's Coulson's secret keeping and his willingness to work with the Enhanced that saves the day, for Gonzales' men -- and even Hunter -- had no reason to suspect that Deathlok was on the way. Cool action sequences and sweet new character design aside, Deathlok's arrival heralds some interesting news: He's been tailing Dr. List, one of Hydra's board of directors, for the past six months, and List has been keeping busy by conducting experiments on the Enhanced -- Hydra continues to pursue its interest in those like Raina and Skye.
Finally, and most importantly, the episode offered a host of new information regarding the Inhumans' existence within the MCU at large. Though we learned about a lot of different things, the biggest takeaway came from Lincoln as he attempted to explain Skye's unique situation to her: Inhumans are everywhere. Lincoln, in fact, grew up in Cincinnati. He let slip that candidates for Terrigenesis were tested and tried before they were approved for the process, and not everyone gets a chance to undergo the honor of Terrigenesis. Lai Shi, the place Gordon brought Skye, is essentially an Inhuman safe house. The Inhumans may have a secret society, but their kind are scattered across the globe, with some -- like Skye -- never realizing that they were different from any other person walking down the street. Sound familiar? It might, because that's what was set up in Marvel's comic book continuity just before Black Bolt released his Terrigen Bomb during the "Infinity" event, to be followed up by "Inhumanity," where thousands of unsuspecting people underwent Terrigenesis without knowing that their genetics had a little extra alien kick.
So how do these connect? Well, this isn't the first time I've theorized about "S.H.I.E.L.D." dropping a Terrigen Bomb. In previous episodes, we've seen Hydra attempt to build a weapon out of the Diviner -- which, as we discovered in the mid-season finale, was actually a Terrigen crystal. What's more, in "Who You Really Are," Coulson's team discovered that even more Diviners were among the contraband confiscated from Hydra in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s early days; this would be all well and good, of course, if they weren't all missing. We know Gordon has one of these, thanks to the tease at the end of "What They Become," but the other Diviners remain unaccounted for and could very well be in Hydra's possession, particularly following the events of "Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier." Between Hydra's potential Diviner(s), Whitehall's work on weaponizing the technology and their continuing investigation into the Enhanced, they could very well have a Terrigen Bomb in their hands without even realizing it -- and "Afterlife" has just added an unknown quantity of Inhumans into the mix. If Hydra does manage to create a Terrigen Bomb of some magnitude, that would create a whole slew of new Enhanced people who have no idea what they are or how to control their abilities.
Additionally, this episode and the one preceding it made a conscious effort to establish just how Gonzales' S.H.I.E.L.D. feels about the Enhanced. With Coulson and his team finding a new appreciation for the Enhanced through Skye and Deathlok, Gonzales, Calderon and Weaver's intolerance is emphasized by contrast. If the two factions of S.H.I.E.L.D. have set us on the road to "Captain America: Civil War," then this particular point may well be the nail in the coffin that will keep them firmly divided. A Terrigen Bomb would only be the catalyst that engenders a full-blown war between the S.H.I.E.L.D.s -- perhaps one so large that the Avengers themselves will find themselves in the fray. Regardless, "Afterlife" appears as though it brings the show ten steps closer to a huge Terrigen bombshell and civil war.
In This Week's Book of Revelations:
- Yeah, yeah, Gordon showed up in Ryan Stegman and Ryan Lee's backup story in "Uncanny Inhuman" #0. With such a small cameo, I think there's a good chance this is a red herring to throw us off, as "S.H.I.E.L.D.'s" Gordon really syncs up with Reader so far.
- Jiaying! Skye's mom! She lives! I had a feeling she wasn't dead, considering immortality is her gift, but didn't have the evidence to really back it up. Glad to see her kicking around, even if Skye doesn't yet know who she's dealing with.
- Let's talk about that awkward hug between Cal and Jiaying. We got some pretty hard talk about genetics in this episode, and Gordon called Cal "a science experiment" at the end of "One of Us." While that could very well refer to Cal's experimentation on himself and his resulting furious alter ego, I think it runs deeper than that -- what if Jiaying never loved Cal at all and had a child with him to track how Inhuman genetics mesh with humans' in a controlled environment?
- If Jiaying never loved Cal, is it possible he experimented on himself to make himself closer to Inhuman so that she would?
- The Elders: Lincoln mentioned these guys and, since Gordon goes running to them for permission, they're obviously going to crop back up sometime soon.
- Lincoln's reaction to Jiaying: Could she be one of the Elders? Lincoln looked pretty freaked when he saw her. Plus, she's certainly old enough to be.
- Lai Shi: A quick Google search tells me this translates to something like, "Of all time," "Before the memory of men" or "Since the beginning of history." If you know what exactly it means, please hit us up in the comments!
- Lai Shi's location: Obviously, as pointed out by Lincoln, Lai Shi's name is Chinese. He may not know where exactly Lai Shi is located, but that's a pretty solid clue. Additionally, it's in the mountains. When the Inhumans were introduced in "Fantastic Four," they had a secret base in the Himalayas. Hmmm...
- Lai Shi is chockfull of secrets: Raina's residency, Cal's captivity, the Elders... Something tells me it isn't quite as serene as its name implies.
- Last week, I pointed out that Skye was in a position very similar to NuHuman Iso when she was about to get her body stolen in Charles Soule and Ryan Stegman's "Inhuman." In the episode, Lincoln mentioned she'd be weak for a few days and that the process was supposed to help her control her abilities; could it also have mapped her body and tested her in some way?
- Only a few Inhumans in Lai Shi are selected to undergo Terrigenesis. This sounds very similar to the Inhuman society that raised Thane, Thanos' son, which chose a select few to undergo the transformation due to there being so little Terrigen Mist to go around.
- FitzSimmons: Reunited! It's great to see these two back working together, particularly considering Simmons' new skill set as a double agent.
- It can't be long 'til Bobbi switches back to Coulson's side. Her discomfort is palpable at this point, particularly following her very one-sided conversation with Gonzales.
- May: With the added information that May faced down an Enhanced in Bahrain and subsequently earned her nickname from said event, will The Cavalry's sympathies align more closely to Gonzales' after all?