RIP TripWe’re back at last to Agents of SHIELD, picking up after the epic December finale. I’m going to try to change this up some and have the review be more “review” and less “Recap.” What this really means is they might be shorter, but they’ll have more of (what I hope) is the important part. Let’s get going!

SHIELD has been on an amazing string of episodes, and that trend hasn’t let up after its extended break. It confirmed some of the things that were kinda up in the air: Trip is indeed dead, as is Whitehall. Skye and Raina have developed powers, and neither is very happy with it. Cal is on the loose, hatred for Coulson cranked up several notches.

How else would you know this ominous meeting was HYDRA?

How else would you know this ominous meeting was HYDRA?

What’s more interesting is the way this episode picks up the pieces and chooses to deal with the fallout of the finale. That’s not always the case with TV, and a timeskip that roughly mirrors the actual passage of time in real life wouldn’t have been unexpected. Instead, we pick up just a few days later, while SHIELD is still digging through the rubble of the underground city. The repercussions of that decision for the episode is largely that Trip’s death is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and it gets plenty of attention in this episode, from serving as the catalyst for friction amongst the team to Coulson dutifully informing his mother all the way to the ending scene of the team reminiscing about their fallen friend. It’s excellent to see how much this heavy moment is weighing on them, and with the idea planted in Skye’s head that she may have been responsible for that earthquake, it seems like it won’t be going anywhere in the near future.

The plot to trick Bakshi, whom they captured a while ago and which makes up the majority of the episode, was a little transparent to me. Coulson and May would not normally be so careless as to discuss such important matters in front of a prisoner, and after the way they’d treated prisoners in the past, it was clear almost immediately that this was a setup for Bakshi. But it worked out beautifully, and from an in-universe perspective there was nothing wrong with it. Just writing-wise, it was obvious, and even that is largely due to how well the characters were written in the past, making it unbelievable for them to behave so stupidly.

While he seemed quite villainous last episode, he actually seems like a good guy here.

While he seemed quite villainous in his cameo, he actually seems like a good guy here.

The real emotional throughline is Skye and Raina’s reactions, however. Raina was expecting to become something beautiful, and is thus naturally disappointed that she’s a porcupine thing. Her interactions with this new Inhuman character should be interesting from here on out, and given that I liked her character, I’m hoping he can get a hold on her new murderous impulses. For Skye, interacting with the various characters through the glass provided some excellent relationship moments. We hadn’t seen much between her and Bobbi so far, for example. Seeing how shaken up Simmons was and is about Trip’s death, and her sudden shift to this campaign against gifted individuals was a little jarring, but I’m sure it’ll work. And the decision to use Fitz as the one to reach out to Skye and assure her that just because she’s now different doesn’t mean she’s lost who she was or that she’ll no longer be an asset to the team was an excellent one.

Overall, a strong episode and a good start to a run of episodes that’ll lead up to other highly anticipated Marvel projects like Daredevil and Avengers 2. There’s a setup towards the plot points for the rest of the season, like Cal’s decision to put together a team of superpowered villains to take down SHIELD (could we finally see Graviton?) and developing these Inhuman characters like Gordon, who we’re just getting to see for the first time. Next week, Lady Sif returns to help explain what’s going on with Skye.