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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - After, Before - Review

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “After, Before” was written by the team of James C Oliver and Sharla Oliver and was directed by Eli Gonda, whose only other directing credit is Husbands - I'm really not sure where show found him.... I was really happy to get a YoYo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) centric episode, and it was fun to have her partnered with May (Ming-Na Wen), but I wasn’t happy to be back with Jiaying (Dichen Lachman). While the season in which Daisy (Chloe Bennet) gets her powers was fun for having Kyle MacLachlan, Lachman added nothing and her acting really hasn’t improved. I also find myself wanting to see our entire team with so few episodes left to go – AND WHERE IS IAIN DE CAESTECKER????? I want me some FITZ!!! And as the big bad, I just want to spank Nathaniel (Thomas E Sullivan) – I mean he’s imminently hateable, but in an annoying way.

The episode begins with what was happening on the Zephyr last week. We discover that the time device was more heavily damaged than they thought. The Zephyr is jumping in increasingly shorter times. Simmons keeps her faith in mathematics, and welcomes the team back on October 6, 1983. Mack (Henry Simmons) has had time to recover and is ready to take command again. This weeks credits are very Tron.

Even with mathematics, Simmons has no idea what will happen if the jumps get so short that they experience a jump within a jump. Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) is happy that the scientists from the future are now on the same page with him! I’m VERY much enjoying his addition to the team! They can’t just disconnect the fuel cell regulator because they can’t reach it because the pulses are too fast for anyone to reach between them. Daisy suggests that they take YoYo to Afterlife to see Jiaying to restore YoYo’s power. I loved May refusing to do “time math.”

Mack is nervous about time implications and wants to talk it all through before giving the go ahead – and that includes bringing a half restored Coulson (Clark Gregg) online – and it’s super creepy! Simmons hesitates before re-booting Coulson, who isn’t thrilled. The big danger in messing with this time is that Daisy hasn’t been born yet – and anything that they do, could prevent it!

YoYo thinks that the plan is pretty thin, but May finds that preferable to living through the 80s again! Enoch (Joel Stoffer) tells them that the Zephyr will be waiting for them, and Mack gives the go ahead for the mission. YoYo is worried – and May doesn’t even need to touch her to know it. It’s hilarious that May “picked up” on YoYo’s “reunion” with Mack from outside their room! I loved Cordova-Buckley’s horrified response! May reminds YoYo that Jaiying was only a murderer after HYDRA cut her to pieces and left her for dead, but she also agrees that they should be cautious.

YoYo points out that they never really came up with a plan. Before they get to Afterlife, they stumble upon Kora (Dianne Doan) trying to get away and being captured by a young Gordon (Fin Argus) and Li (Byron Mann). Gordon takes them to Afterlife after Kora warns them that they shouldn’t have come.

They are brought to Jaiying and YoYo tells her that she’s an inhuman and needs her help. Li asks her to prove it by showing her powers, which is, of course, impossible. May convinces Jaiying to at least test her. Jaiying tells her to prove it by touching a terragen crystal. I loved that Li couldn’t even finish his little speech before she grabbed it – and then both May and YoYo realized that didn’t mean anything and she touched it to her face where it glowed. I also really like how this underscores how much her powers are part of who she is and how proud she is to be inhuman. Jaiying immediately agrees to help.

Li isn’t happy, but Jaiying needs to know how YoYo lost her powers to protect the rest of them. Li insists that they can never leave.

YoYo isn’t very patient as Jaiying uses acupuncture and other things to break down any poison in her body. Definitely a possibility after being infected with the shrike. YoYo thanks Jaiying for helping. Meanwhile, May is clearly getting bad vibes from Li, and tells him that as soon as YoYo is well, they’ll forget that they were ever there. Li tells her that he decides when they leave, and May asks if they keep many prisoners there. She wants to know what they did to Kora, and Li pulls a knife on her. YoYo tries to go to her help but can’t. Li covers that he was just curious to see if YoYo had made any progress. Jaiying isn’t impressed and sends Li away.

Back in their room, May tries to get YoYo to rest. YoYo isn’t happy with the “spa” treatments. They hear Kora struggling in the corridor and Jaiying assures them that she is fine and just needs rest. She also tells them that she has a theory about YoYo that should be confirmed once all the lab tests come back. Jaiying wishes them a good night – and locks them in. May tells YoYo that whatever is going on, it’s not their problem. They can’t afford to get involved.

Back on the Zephyr we get a little comedy relief between Enoch, Deke (Jeff Ward) and Sousa. Deke tells Sousa that “electricity is bad” when they are trying to fix the time guide, and Sousa, rightfully insulted, asks if he looks like a Neanderthal. Enoch jumps in to say that he spent time with a tribe of Neanderthals (of course he did!!!) and Sousa does not resemble them. It wasn’t really the support that Sousa was looking for… Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, and Sousa suggests that he get the plane ready for them to abandon ship.

Jaiying arrives the next morning. YoYo slept – but May didn’t. Jaiying tells them that the test results confirm that YoYo’s problem isn’t physical – it’s her mind that’s holding her back. YoYo is determined to leave, convinced that Jaiying is wrong and can’t help her. Jaiying has noticed May’s empathic gift and insists that May can help YoYo. Neither May nor YoYo are impressed when Jaiying suggests that May can guide YoYo on an exploration of her emotional past. YoYo laughs and insists that emotions aren’t May’s thing – to which May heartily agrees! I think it’s hilarious.

May and YoYo sit cross-legged, facing each other with their eyes closed, surrounded by candles. May declares that it is literally her worst nightmare – and YoYo agrees. Jaiying gives YoYo something to drink and tells May that she does have to be that close. She sees that her presence is making them self-conscious and leaves them alone. YoYo declares it’s worse alone, and May is only feeling embarrassment from her. May suggests a different kind of contact – fighting! And that does serve to jog loose some emotional memories, like Ruby (Dove Cameron) and Tess (Eve Harlow), and eventually Young Elena’s (Sophie Rabe-Martinez) most traumatic memories. Wen and Cordova-Buckley are particularly great in these scenes, moving seamlessly from comedy to fight mode, to emotional devastation.

Back on the Zephyr, things are getting more dire. Simmons declares that they’re working as fast as they can – and Daisy tells her that there isn’t enough time to save them all. Sousa limps through on his way to ready the parachutes. He’s clearly happy to have found something that he can do! Simmons insists that she can try and grabs a box and follows Sousa.

Daisy points out to Coulson that they aren’t in the best shape. I will always love the scenes between these two. Coulson tells her that he was thirsty for a year and a half – with no way to actually drink. Daisy empathizes that it must have driven him crazy. He tells her that he’s happy to see her healing – and then says that at least it feels like happiness – he’s clearly still having an existential crisis over being an LMD. Daisy says that she was lucky. Sousa got her out of the wreckage and got her home. Coulson clearly sees that Daisy “likes having Sousa there” and tells her that that makes him happy too.

Meanwhile, Sousa is laying out parachutes for everyone and tells Simmons that he was a paratrooper in the war, and that he likes to be prepared. He asks her if she’s ever jumped out of an airplane before – clearly expecting her to say no. After all, she’s a woman AND a scientist. She tells him twice – and that the second time she had a parachute… I loved the look on Sousa’s face! She also has another surprise for him – a new prosthetic leg! He’s pretty happy about it too! He apologizes for not being fair to her and won’t let her excuse him for it – have I mentioned how much I love Sousa!

YoYo tells May about her father (Ricardo Cisneros) getting mixed up with some bad men and one of them (David Bianchi) tracking them down. Concerned that the bad guy was going to take her grandmother’s necklace, she jumped out from where she was hiding with her cousin Francisco (Lucas Armendariz) and took it, resulting in her father being shot and killed. YoYo tells May that she never should have moved. She shouldn’t have taken the necklace. I thought it was a nice parallel to Mack losing his parents in the last episode – another thing the two have in common now. May comforts her that she was a child and urges her to forgive herself.

Meanwhile, May overhears Li and Jiaying, and it becomes obvious that they were hoping to use how YoYo lost her powers to take away Kora’s. May follows the two to a room that has been destroyed. She thinks they’ve done something to Kora, but the problem with Kora is that she can’t control her power. Holding in her power causes her pain. Jaiying is trying to save her, and thinks that Kora has run away with a guard’s gun because she’s afraid of what Li will do to her. May tells them that’s not what she’s afraid of.

Kora is about to kill herself with the gun when it suddenly shakes apart – and suddenly Nathaniel is there, telling her she doesn’t have to die. He tells her that he was supposed to die too. He tells her that he’s found an escape hatch. Sibyl has told him to go to Kora because Sibyl knows how everything is going to play out. Kora insists that Afterlife is her home. He tells her that they’ve brainwashed her. He tells her to let her power out – there’s no feeling like it. He tells her to say yes to coming with him to cause some chaos and she never has to feel trapped again.

May and YoYo join the fight to save Afterlife. Nathaniel and Kora face off against Jaiying. Kora is now convinced that Jaiying has only been protecting the world from her – she doesn’t love her. Afterlife is a prison. Li tries to stop her and she burns him. Gordon gets Jaiying, YoYo, and May away. May gives them the watch and tells them they’ll send coordinates and come back to help them.

Meanwhile, on the Zephyr, Simmons leaves a message for Fitz, telling him that the drive is malfunctioning and they may have to abandon the Zephyr in 1983. Deke overhears as she says that she knows it won’t be easy, but they’ll find someway to be together again. Time, space… it’s never stopped them before. She tells Fitz that she won’t stop trying and that she loves him. Deke interrupts after she hits send to say that they’re all gathering in command to wait for May and YoYo to return.

Enoch announces that they are mere moments away from catastrophic failure. Sousa tells Mack the parachutes are ready to go, and Mack gives the order to abandon ship.

May points out on the quinjet that they are a jump late, but as long as she gets in on the first pass, they should be able to dock. YoYo points out that it’s all been for nothing anyway as she’s not about to save the day. May points out that it’s not all on YoYo – the team might have found another solution in the last 2 days… and YoYo points out that it’s only been 20 minutes for them. Of course, May sticks the landing, and Mack asks if YoYo can help. Mack tells everyone to get to the quinjet.

May tells YoYo it’s not her fault, but YoYo knows it is if it’s all in her head. May tells her that she’ll bounce back – she always has. YoYo suddenly realized that she doesn’t have to bounce back because she never really lost her powers – and suddenly, she can go! YoYo saves the day. And we get another Mack/YoYo reunion. She tells Mack that Afterlife was not a huge success. Daisy goes back into the healing chamber and Sousa sits down to wait.

Simmons tells Coulson that he needs to power down to completely restore himself. He’s clearly not happy about it. She tells him to think about it like a nap. He asks to at least push the button himself. Deke watches as Enoch checks over the time drive. He asks Enoch if he plays the drums – clearly wanting to get the band back together… and then suddenly the Zephyr jumps and Enoch declares that it didn’t work.

The final scene has us back at Afterlife. Nathaniel has all the inhumans tied up. Nathaniel wants to give the world anarchy – and it seems that his plan is to take their powers and give them to other people…

I didn’t love this episode – or hate it – but the chronicoms are a lot more interesting as villains than Nathaniel. Some really great scenes in this episode – especially the May/YoYo sparing/sharing scene. It looks like next week is the S.H.I.E.L.D. take on Groundhog Day. You can’t really have a time-bending season without doing it, but it’s still feeling like a bit of filler with so few episodes to go. Please. BRING BACK FITZ!! But also, please carry on with Dousa! What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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