Sunday, July 19, 2020

Agents of SHIELD S07E08: After, Before

A serviceable bridge episode.
by Brandon Coulson

“After, Before”, this week’s SHIELD entry, felt like a blast from the past both in the guest star as well as the style.

We pick up where the team had left Mack and Deke originally, quickly catching up to last week’s conclusion and nicely filling the gaps and merging the two stories. We quickly got the big set up for this week’s trip down memory lane as May and Yoyo visit the Inhuman village Afterlife run by the still alive Jiaying.

Seeing the time drive on the Zephyr is going haywire, and in typical ticking clock fashion, the time between jumps and inevitable doom is growing shorter and shorter. To deactivate the drive they need Yoyo’s speed which of course has been on the fritz all season, so it makes sense to go to the guru of all things Inhuman to fix her.

Their journey is the main crux of this week as everyone else sits around and waits, including a rebooted and rebuilt Coulson, whose scene with Daisy this week wasn’t quite up to their normal quality but had its moments nonetheless. May’s power came into play big time in the episode especially now that she can feel people's emotions from a distance as she lets Yoyo know that her reunion with Mack was good for her too, oh my!

It was fun having Jiaying back on the show as well as bringing back Inhuman technology like the Diviner test they give Yoyo to prove she is one of them. Along with Daisy’s mom we also get Li, an Inhuman with the power to …  make a knife appear? Okay guys, we’re all out of powers, now we have Swiss army man, and no not the film!

Li is set up as our red herring for the episode, throwing shade at May and Yoyo and threatening to never let them leave. But the big twist is the actual villains are Nathaniel, back again, and Kora, a  young girl first shown as a poor prisoner in the compound. We find out later she has great power and has been incredibly destructive, frightening the other Inhumans. She also happens to be Jiaying’s daughter, making her Daisy’s half-sister!

Leading up to all of that chaos however, we see Yoyo trying to unlock her ability again with zero luck even through a cute meditation and sparring sequence with May that reminded me what made Yoyo so fun to begin with instead of the sad, mopey, boring version we’ve seen so far. The big revelation is her problem is … all in her head! Yup, the most obvious answer that her PTSD and guilt were holding her back turn out to be the cause.

That was certainly anticlimactic as was the eventual last minute save as Yoyo somehow realizes that the main thing about her power that made her unique, that is how she always returned to her point of origin after using her speed, was also just in her head? I think we were supposed to see a flashback about her childhood as the origins of that, where she snatches a necklace to keep it from a thief who then in turn kills her dad. Now first off, this scene felt incredibly forced and poorly staged. It also came out of nowhere and if it is the supposed origin of her power’s limitation, well that’s just weird. Since she ran back into a closet she always automatically snapped back instinctually? And now she can just be a normal speedster? I mean, okay, since there's only a handful of episodes left I’ll just wave it off, but the whole affair seemed just thrown together and sloppy.

What was pretty awesome was May’s last minute ship flip move to dock was classic Cavalry badassness. With the setup of Nathaniel stealing and distributing more Inhuman powers alongside Kora, we could be shaping up for a gigantic final fight with lots of powered people, possibly why so many episodes have been so budget conscious.

Then after all that struggle to stop the time drive, the damn thing fired up even after being shut off and jumped our team to god knows where, and by the previews looks to be one of my favorite plot devices: a time loop! So this week was decent but probably one of the weaker entries of the year so far.

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