Saturday, April 18, 2015

More Maya Angelou Stamps Featuring Quotations She May Or May Not Have Actually Said

Last week the beleaguered U.S. Post Office released a special stamp commemorating Maya Angelou, the late poet, author and civil rights activist. 

Unfortunately the stamp was marred by the fact that it featured a quote Angelou didn't actually write. The quote was from A Cup Of Sun, a book of poetry by Joan Walsh Anglund. 

One would think one might want to double check something like that before one prints a couple million stamps, but this is the Post Office we're talking about, so such a blunder is just par for the course.

The red-faced Post Office has vowed to fix the error, releasing an entire series of Maya Angelou stamps, featuring more quotes that she may or may not have actually said.

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 17: Melinda

This week on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. we take an oddly-timed break in the storyline, as the series answers the burning question: Why is Agent May called "The Calvary?"

Have you been wondering for the past two seasons how and why she got that particular nickname? Yeah, me either. But apparently it was a story that absolutely needed to be told, and needed to be shoehorned into the middle of the S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. and Inhumans storylines already in progress.

These unnecessary origin stories rarely if ever work. Do you like Boba Fett more now that you saw his childhood in Attack Of The Clones? Doubtful. Better they should have left him a kickass figure with a mysterious past.

It would have made a lot more sense if this Calvary flashback had happened last season, back when the show was spinning its wheels waiting for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But I digest...

Last week ABC announced they're planning a S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff series, which certainly came as a surprise. Despite the fact that the show's improved greatly this season, ratings are reportedly down, and I've been genuinely concerned as to whether there'd even be a third season. I guess the show must not be doing too badly, if they're considering a spinoff. 

So far there's no word as to what the spinoff will be about. The most logical scenario is that it'll be about a second S.H.I.E.L.D. team, possibly with May in charge. That could be what this whole S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. story arc is leading to, especially with May joining Gonzales and his group. I hope that's not the case, as as I don't want to see Coulson and May split up. That would only weaken both shows, in my opinion.

There's a slight possibility the spinoff could be about Deathlok, considering his surprise appearance last week. I'd be all for a Deathlok series, especially if he finally began resembling his comic counterpart a bit more.

Or maybe it's a Secret Avengers show, featuring a team made up of Coulson's Theta Protocol superpowered agents. I guess we'll find out for sure in a few weeks.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
We open on a flashback to seven years ago, as Agent May and her husband Andrew discuss starting a family. May receives a call from Coulson, and before you can say "cut to Bahrain," they're in Bahrain.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is there looking for a superpowered woman named Eva Belyakov. Coulson meets with her in a street market, but she bolts into a nearby building, surrounded by thugs. Coulson sends in a squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, but loses contact with them all. He sends May in to find out what happened to them. 

Inside she finds Eva's with a little girl, who she assumes is being held hostage. Oh, May. You couldn't be more wrong! Turns out the little girl is actually the superpowered one. Eva stole terrigen crystals and used them to transform her daughter Katya, giving her some kind of mind control/pain vampire powers or something.

Katya sends her mind controlled thugs after May, who's able to dispatch most of them. She then "absorbs the pain" of the rest of her thugs, killing them and making her stronger or something. Katya then starts to kill the captive S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, forcing May to shoot her in the head. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents come to, see May in the middle of all the carnage and assume it was her doing. They nickname her "The Calvary." 

May's so shaken by the whole event that she transfers to a desk job in the S.H.I.E.L.D. office, and gives up her dream of starting a family, which presumably led to her divorce from Andrew.

In the present day, May's accepted Gonzales' offer and is now in charge of the base. She discovers Coulson has been secretly moving around funds and was building dorms for superpowered agents. He also activated something called Theta Protocol. May begins wondering if maybe Gonzales is right about Coulson.

Meanwhile in Afterlife, Jaiying teaches Skye how to use her powers by having her cause an avalanche on a nearby mountain. Jaiying also tells Skye that she's her mother, and that after Cal pieced her back together, the two of them searched the world for her. She also tells her to keep their relationship a secret, which makes no sense to me, but this show loves secrets, so there you go.

Jaiying admits that Cal is in Afterlife, which causes Skye to freak out. Jaiying says she'll send Cal away forever if she has dinner with him one last time. She agrees, and the three of them are reunited at last. Raina then tells Lincoln that she dreamed this would happen, implying she now has clairvoyant powers, which supposedly don't exist in this universe.

In the tag scene, an on-the-run Fitz opens Fury's toolbox and uses it to contact Coulson and Hunter.

Thoughts:
• Kudos to actress Ming-Na Wen for her deft portrayal of Agent May at two distinct points in her life. She's actually a very gifted actress, but May's stoic, Vulcan-like nature doesn't give her a chance to shine very often.

• So May's reputation as "The Cavalry" is based on a false assumption. The surviving S.H.I.E.L.D. agents entered the building and saw her standing in the middle of dozens of foes and assumed she'd dispatched them all, not realizing the creepy Inhuman girl killed most of them. No wonder May gets pissed whenever anyone uses the nickname!

• It was also interesting to see the pre-Avengers Initiative, pre-dead Coulson.

• A few weeks ago it was announced that Ruth Negga, who plays Raina on the show, was cast in AMC's upcoming Preacher series. I wondered what that would mean for Raina's future on the show, and whether she'd exit or be killed off.

I realized tonight that it might not matter if Negga stays with the show or not. No matter how hard I squint, I can't see her under all that prosthetic makeup. It could be anyone under there, and we'd never know it. OK, so we might notice a difference in how a replacement would act, but not visually I don't think it would make much difference.

• In addition to looking like a human hedgehog, Raina also now has clairvoyant powers. This is interesting, as last season she was a follower of John Garrett, a fake telepath who called himself the Clairvoyant.

• When Skye used her powers on the mountain, I was disappointed that no visible shockwaves came from her hands. We saw shockwaves a couple weeks ago when she first cut loose with her powers outside the Hulk cabin. So why the difference? Not enough money for shockwave effects in the budget this week?

• Jaiying's reason for keeping her relationship to Skye a secret was pretty lame. Eva Belyakov was a resident of Afterlife seven years ago, and stole terrigen crystals to give her daughter superpowers. This upset the other residents of Afterlife, so Jaiying is afraid they'll think the cycle is repeating if they find out Skye's her daughter. Wha...? Like I said, lame.

 In this episode Skye finds out she's actually 26, not 25.

That reminds me of something similar that happened to a friend of mine. He thought he was 32 for two years, and when he realized his mistake at age 34, said he "missed out on being 33."

• Kudos to Kyle MacLachlan too, for his ability to make Cal seem pathetic, ecstatic and sympathetic all at the same time, as he was finally reunited with his entire family.

• Man, that was one scary-ass little kid they found to play Katya. That "insane smile" she had while trying to kill May was downright chilling!

That's Some Real Good Security Work, Boys!

This week in Washington D.C., the Secret Service was stunned when a private citizen somehow managed to land a gyrocopter on the front lawn of the Capitol.

The homemade gyrocopter, which was little more than a lawn chair with a propeller attached, was flown by 61 year old male who identified himself only as "The Gyro Captain."

When questioned by authorities as to why he landed his craft on the Capitol lawn, The Gyro Captain stated he was protesting the May 15th release of the new film Mad Max: Fury Road

"I want to draw the world's attention to a grave injustice! This new Mad Max movie is a bloody remake, innit?" said The Gyro Captain. "I mean really, why'd they have to go and start all over with a brand new cast, eh? They bloody well could have made a sequel, right? Max Max 4? Mel Gibson is still alive and kickin,' and I'm certainly available! But they didn't even ask me, the wankers!"

When asked why he chose to protest on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol when he's a native of New Zealand, The Gyro Captain had no coherent answer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Flash Season 1, Episode 18: All Star Team Up

The Flash is back— again! Jesus, these thrice-damned breaks in the schedule are getting out of control. At this rate the season finale's not gonna air until August.

This was a more lighthearted episode, most likely the last one we'll get for a while as the season enters its Reverse Flash-centric home stretch.

Once again it's always great fun when Felicity Smoak pops up in an episode. I've not been
following Arrow lately, so I wasn't aware she was dating the Atom. It seems like the two of them are a better fit on this show than they are on their own grim & gritty series.

This week Barry finally decides to tell Cisco and Caitlin everything he knows or suspects about Dr. Wells. Could this be what sets them on their inevitable paths? Will it cause Cisco to become a hero (Vibe), while Caitlin goes over to the dark side (as Killer Frost)? Stay tuned!

I'm also foreseeing that Eddie's situation with Iris will blossom into resentment of Barry, if not full blown hatred somewhere down the line, which could lead him to his ultimate fate as well (as another version of the Reverse Flash).

It's looking more and more like Dr. Wells' secret will be revealed in the season finale. That's too bad, because I don't see any way he can remain a regular on the series once that happens. He definitely won't be hanging around STAR Labs in a wheelchair once his secret's out! I doubt they'll kill him off, given his role in the murder of Barry's mom, which probably won't be resolved for a few seasons yet. Maybe he'll still make the occasional guest appearance?

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Barry uses his super speed to help Joe and Eddie round up dozens of criminals in Central City. Despite the fact that this is a good thing, Eddie doesn't seem to approve. Maybe he thinks it's cheating? The same night, a robotics professor at Hudson University is killed by a swarm of bees. Barry examines the professor's body and realizes the bees didn't leave any stingers behind. You know what that means— super powered bees! It's always something in this city.

Meanwhile, Iris is becoming suspicious of Eddie, who tells Joe he can't keep lying to her about Barry's secret. Joe says he has to for Iris' safety, which apparently makes sense to the writers. Barry wants to tell Cisco and Caitlin about Dr. Wells, but once again buttinsky Joe warns him not to. He's afraid the two may be secretly working for Wells.

Back at STAR Labs, Felicity Smoak wanders over from the Arrow set for another visit. She brings her new boyfriend Ray Palmer, who's hoping Cisco can help him improve his Iron Man, er, I mean A.T.O.M. suit. I guess Ray doesn't care who knows his secret identity either. At first Barry's taken aback that Felicity has a boyfriend, but eventually comes to terms with it.  Cisco and Ray bond while working on the suit.

Just then another robotics professor is killed by bees, and Barry rushes to investigate. Despite the fact that he can literally move faster than lightning, he's attacked by the bees and dies from anaphylactic shock (!). Cisco is able to revive him with a defibrillator that's built into the Flash suit for some inexplicable reason. I guess Cisco put it in there just in case Barry was ever killed by bees.

The STAR Labs Gang manages to capture one of the bees and discover it's a robot. They contact Dr. Tina McGee, who tells them they're dealing with Brie Larvan, a disgruntled former employee. Larvan was working on a robotic bee project to help the agriculture industry, which isn't a bad idea, but was fired when she began weaponizing them for the military. Now she's apparently targeting those who "wronged" her. Joe wants to put Dr. McGee into protective custody, but she declines, providing the writers with a third act.

Iris confides to Barry that Eddie's keeping secrets from her. He gently reminds her that Eddie's a cop, and there are always going to be things he just can't tell her, which makes perfect sense. Iris brushes off Barry's advice and tells Eddie that either he spills his guts or they're through, in a plot development that makes a woman who controls robotic bees seem realistic and sensible.

The STAR Labs Gang's magic computer somehow tracks the robot bees to Mercury Labs, where Dr. McGee is indeed being targeted. Tony Stark, er, I mean Ray Palmer blasts off in his Iron Man, I mean A.T.O.M. suit to save her. Felicity traces the bees' wifi signal or something to Larvan's lair, and Barry speeds away.
 
He confronts Larvan, now known as the Bug-Eyed Bandit, but she sics her bees on him. Felicity manages to hack into the BEB's computer and shut down the bees. One bee somehow survives, and just as it's about to sting Ray, Cisco intercepts it and is stung. He too dies, but gets better when Barry uses the power of... static electricity, or vibrating hands or something to bring him back to life. If you're scoring at home, that's twice in one episode that they incorrectly depict how defibrillation works.

Later Barry's apparently decided he can trust Cisco and Caitlin, and invites them to his office where he tells them that Dr. Wells is the Reverse Flash. Cisco believes him, because he's inexplicably been having "dreams" in which Dr. Wells kills him. Caitlin's less impressed with the evidence and doesn't believe him.

Thoughts:
• In the opening scene, Barry zooms around the city, depositing numerous criminals into Joe and Eddie's squad car. Realistically (!) every episode should play out exactly like this. After all, as we were shown a couple weeks ago, Barry can move faster than lightning. He should be able to clean up the entire city in under a minute.

• Felicity barges right into STAR Labs just in time to deliver a pithy one liner. Her appearance seems to surprise everyone, as she doesn't set off any alarms or intruder alerts. Apparently anyone can just stroll into this hi-tech lab full of dangerous equipment (with a jail full of super villains in the basement yet). Does that seem right?

This got me to thinking it appears there are only three employees of STAR Labs, plus Barry. We've never seen anyone else working there, ever. It looks like a pretty big place too, easily as large as a sports arena. Who mops the floors and empties the trash? Who maintains the grounds? I bet the place is getting pretty dusty right about now.

• Felicity brings her new boyfriend Ray Palmer to STAR Labs on the pretense of seeking help with his Iron Man, er I mean A.T.O.M. (Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism) suit. She sheepishly admits she told Ray about the Flash's true identity, meaning there's now yet another person who's in on Barry's secret. Jesus, again I ask: why is he even bothering to wear a mask at this point?

Later when Eddie finds out that Ray knows about Barry, he says, "So everyone but Iris knows?" Hey, I know how you feel, Eddie.

• I've only seen the first season of Arrow (sorry, but I don't have time to watch everything) so this was my first exposure to the TV version of the Atom. He's pretty much Tony Stark, but without the cocky attitude. He's a billionaire owner of a tech company, he's a brilliant inventor and he has a flying suit of armor that's pretty much identical to Iron Man's. It even fires energy blasts from the gloves!

Seriously, those shots of him flying over the city couldn't have looked more Iron Man-y if they tried. They even had close-ups of his face inside the helmet!

I was very surprised that he doesn't seem to have his shrinking power yet, which you'd think would be a given for someone who calls himself "The Atom." I guess they're saving that revelation for the Arrow season finale?

• By the way, Brandon Routh seemed to be having a blast playing the Atom. Maybe he's just happy wasn't totally ruined by Superman Returns.

• The Bug-Eyed Bandit is played here by Emily Kinney, aka Beth Green of The Walking Dead fame. I have to admit, when I saw the robotic bees and her honeycomb-patterned clothing, I thought she was supposed to be the Queen Bee, another insect-themed supervillain in the DC stable.

In the comics, the Bug-Eyed Bandit was a man named Bertram Larvan. I guess he got a gender change in order to placate our overly sensitive, politically correct excuse for a society. Bertram invented a mechanical bug that could wipe out insect pests, but couldn't raise funding for the project, so he turned to crime and stole the money he needed. He then built an army of robotic insects (not exclusively bees) and went on a crime wave.

The Bug-Eyed Bandit was primarily an Atom villain, so it makes sense that she'd pop up in this episode.

• Fun lines in this episode:

Cisco: "Bees. Why did it have to be bees?"

Caitlin: “Is that a bird?”
Cisco: “It’s a plane?”
Felicity: “It’s … my boyfriend.”

Ray: "I can't keep it up."

• A guy who can run faster than lightning and vibrate through walls ought to be able to avoid being stung by bees. Even robotic ones. I'm just sayin.'

• Sigh... once again a TV show erroneously depicts the way a defibrillator works. What a surprise! As an added bonus, The Flash even gets it wrong twice in the same episode!

I won't go into the explanation again here, but I will say that your heart is not like a car battery, and a defibrillator does not work like jumper cables. There's much more to it than that.

I'm also at a loss to explain why Barry's Flash suit would contain a defibrillator.

• I know it's a standard scifi trope (as seen in the Yesterday's Enterprise episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation), but I'm struggling to understand how Cisco can "remember" events that happened in an alternate timeline. I don't "remember" eating pizza last night after I decided to eat spaghetti instead, so I don't see how he can "remember" being killed.

• Help me understand the Bug-Eyed Bandits' plan here. She was working at Mercury Labs developing robotic bees. She was fired when she began weaponizing the bees for the military. She's now bitter and angry that her research was destroyed and her life was ruined, and vowed revenge against those who wronged her.

Yet she's somehow able to set up an advanced lab full of sophisticated computer equipment, as well as recreate her research and construct an army of robotic killer bees that obeys her every whim. Sounds like she's doing OK to me. She must have received a hell of a severance package!

If she was able to create a setup like that, why'd she need Mercury Labs in the first place?

• Iris senses Eddie's keeping something from her, and gets all pissy with him. Of course he is keeping a secret from her Barry's identity. But he's a policeman! How does she know he's not working on some top secret case? There're always going to be things he can't tell her. It's part of his job.

She's supposedly a reporter aren't they supposed to their sources a secret? So why can't she understand that the same deal applies to Eddie? Add to that her ultimatum that he tell her everything or they're through, and she comes off as very childish and petulant in this episode.

This whole subplot is a huge misstep in my opinion, and further evidence that the writers have no idea what to do with Iris. At this point Eddie's better off without her.

• Dr. Tina McGee returns, and tells Barry that the night Dr. Wells' fiance died, it's like he became a different person. Oh, Tina, you have no idea!

• Insane Theory Of The Week: In the comics, Cisco Ramon is the superhero known as Vibe. Some fans have pointed out that a few episodes ago, Dr. Wells killed Cisco by plunging his rapidly vibrating hand through his chest. Then in this episode Barry appears to use his vibrating hands to bring him back to life.

Either they're just foreshadowing here, or maybe all this vibrating will somehow turn him into Vibe.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Fifty Shades Of Shades

Saw this last night at my friendly neighborhood Target store. No, your eyes aren't deceiving you— Target is now selling genuine Fifty Shades Of Grey merchandise. Specifically blindfolds, from "The Official Pleasure Collection," no less.

Blindfolds. From Fifty Shades Of Grey. At Target. Target, the store that's exactly the same as Walmart, but with better press. 

I'm assuming they'd already sold out of the riding crops and nipple clamps.

Thank you Target, for at long, long last fulfilling America's sexual fantasies and bringing S & M to the suburbs.

Browbeaten

This week Fox finally released a clear image of the Thing from their upcoming train wreck, er, I mean summer blockbuster film, The Fantastic 4. Or as the promotional material spells it, The Fant4stic.

Sigh... once again Hollywood fails to get the look of such a simple character right.

Judging from the asymmetrical shoulders in the photo, it appears the filmmakers believe the Thing is covered by a dense layer of rock, or worse yet, composed of rock. If so, they got it absolutely wrong.

And of course once again they left out his trademark brow.

This is what the Thing is supposed to look like. He's not made of rocks, he just has a thick hide with a "dry river bed" texture. And a thick, overhanging brow. Those two things are what makes the Thing look like the Thing. Without those two crucial elements, he's just a generic monster made out of mud.

I don't understand why it seems to be so difficult to get him right.

Roger Corman's ill-fated 1994 Fantastic 4 movie didn't get him right either. It looks like kind of attempted to give him a brow but failed mightily. His body texture's all wrong as well, making him look more like some kind of dinosaur man.

Fox's previous two awful Fantastic 4 films came a bit closer to his comic book look. The texture of his body's pretty darned good— almost perfect in fact. But once again he's missing his damned brow. Without that he's just not the Thing.

Here you go, Fox. I added a brow and fixed your Thing for you. You're welcome. This version still doesn't look particularly good, but it looks better than it did.

In the end I don't much care what he looks like. The Fantastic 4 has been my favorite comic book since I was old enough to read, and I've been waiting for the definitive movie version to come out ever since. I've already sat through one mediocre and two downright awful FF films— I can't sit through another. This ones got "bob" written all over it as well, so... it's gonna just have to go watch itself, without me.

Dear God, if you really exist, please let Marvel Studios get back the rights to the Fantastic 4. And soon.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Happy Fortieth (!) Anniversary To Monty Python And The Holy Grail!

Hard to believe, but it's been forty years since the premiere of Monty Python And The Holy Grail on April 9, 1975. Forty years!

I won't bore you with the usual tedious pack of movie quotes, so instead I'll bore you with a few facts about the production:

• The film's budget was $400,000, which was small even in 1975. Much of that amount was supplied by rock band Pink Floyd, who were fans of the Pythons.

• On the first day of the film's American screening in New York, fans were lined up to see it at 8 am. It eventually made $5 million, more than ten times its budget.

• The "banging coconut halves together" gag was added after the producers realized they couldn't afford real horses.

• In Japan, "Holy Grail" was translated as "Holy Sake Cup."

• The opening credits, consisting of humorous text, are so simple and plain because the production had run out of money at that point.

• The castle of Camelot was a plywood cutout placed on top of a hill. It reportedly frequently blew over in the wind (the cutout, not the hill).

• Graham Chapman (who played King Arthur) was suffering from a long-standing alcohol addiction during the production, causing him to forget his lines. After a few rough days he sobered up for the remainder of the shoot, and eventually kicked the habit altogether (although it took him until 1977 to do so).

• "God" was played by a photograph of one of England's most famous cricketers, W.G. Grace.

• 1975 audiences were supposedly horrified by the scene in which the Black Knight systematically gets his limbs chopped off. Director Terry Gilliam theorizes that people were still sensitive about such violence due to the Vietnam War, which was still raging at the time.

It wasn't until the Knight lost all four limbs and "called a draw" that they finally began cautiously laughing.

• During the witch hunt scene, you can see Eric Idle biting down on his sickle. He did so to keep from laughing.

• Graham Chapman was the only cast member who wore real chain mail armor. The rest of the cast wore knitted wool, painted to look like metal.

• Just as they did on their TV show, the Pythons all play multiple roles. Michael Palin plays the most characters, at twelve.

• All the main characters have relevant symbols on their shields and armor. King Arthur, who is ordered by God to find the Grail, has a sun symbol. The gung-ho Lancelot has a dragon symbol. The scholarly Bevedere has a tree (presumably a tree of knowledge). And the cowardly Sir Robin has a chicken emblem.

• For the Killer Rabbit scene, Terry Gilliam recounts that the production rented a bunny from a pet owner. The woman was adamant that her rabbit not get dirty or damaged. They added red dye to it to simulate blood, and were shocked to find it was permanent and wouldn't wash off. When the woman saw her red rabbit, she reportedly "became crazed." 

Bronto Soar!

The Brontosaurus is back! Huzzah!

This week a new scientific study has revealed that the Brontosaurus, retconned into oblivion years ago, really is a distinct species.

Here's the long and twisted story— way back in 1874, paleontologist O.C. Marsh discovered one of the most complete dinosaur fossils ever, and hurriedly announced he'd discovered a new species, which he dubbed Brontosaurus (which means "thunder-lizard").

Why was he in such a rush to announce his discovery? Because believe it or not, back then discovering new dinosaurs was a huge deal that led to fame and fortune. This just goes to prove that there've always been people who are famous just for being famous.

In 1903, scientists determined that Marsh's Brontosaurus was really just another example of an Apatosaurus, a dinosaur that had already been discovered decades before. Astonishingly, news of this didn't reach the general public's ears until 1974. And you say we don't need more funding for science in schools!

But now it turns out that Marsh was right after all, and the Brontosaurus has been rescued from Limbo. The Flintstones is looking more and more like a documentary every day!

Now we just need to get rid of the cockamamie idea that dinosaurs were covered in feathers like big chickens, and reinstate Pluto as a planet.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 16: Afterlife

This week Coulson and Hunter star in their own little buddy-cop movie, the S.H.I.E.L.D. vs S.H.I.E.L.D. storyline goes nowhere, an old favorite character returns in new duds, and we get a low-budget peek at an honest to goodness Inhumans city, even though the show steadfastly refuses to say the word (yes, I know Fitz said it a few weeks ago, but it felt to me like he was using it to describe Skye's condition, not saying it with a capital "I").

Oh, and in a move that shouldn't surprise anyone, it's hinted that Evil Grant will be rejoining the Team soon.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
On the run from Real S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson and Hunter steal a jeep from a car lot and make their way to the secret Hulk cabin. Once there, they discuss their options, all of which are bad. Coulson decides to call Real S.H.I.E.L.D. and when they arrive, steal their Quinjet. A squad of agents break into the cabin, and are dispatched by Coulson and Hunter. They hurriedly put on their uniforms, intending to walk nonchalantly into the jet.

Their plan almost works, but they're found out at the last second and captured. Just then, Coulson's mysterious "backup" arrives— Deathlok! He makes short work of the agents, and then uploads Quinjet-flying instructions into his brain, and the three take off. When Deathlok asks where they're going next, Coulson says their next stop is to pick up the one person who can help them find Skye— Evil Ward. Ugh.

Meanwhile, Skye wakes up in a mysterious, Chinese-looking compound called Lai She, also know as Afterlife. A fellow Inhuman named Lincoln infodumps the history of the place, telling her it's a refuge for special people like her to learn how to control their powers.

Everything's fine until Lincoln slips up and mentions Raina, who's also being housed in Afterlife. Skye flips out at this news, confronting Raina and demanding to leave. Just then, Skye's mother Jaiying appears, calming her down. As we all know, Jaiying was killed years ago by Daniel Whitehall (who wanted the secret of her immortality) but apparently she got better. Skye of course doesn't recognize her mother... yet. Jaiying asks her to stay a few days before deciding to leave.

We also find out that Skye's father Cal is being held in Afterlife, and Jaiying visits him as well. He asks her if he can see Skye, and she tells him no.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, Gonzales offers May a seat on his council. When she incredulously asks why, he says that once Coulson is inevitably captured, he'll need someone in his corner on the council. She stares at Gonzales in her typical emotionless way, but seems to be considering his offer.

Gonzales pressures Simmons to find a way to open Nick Fury's toolbox. She complies, which enrages Fitz. In fact he's so angry he cleans out his desk and quits S.H.I.E.L.D., leaving in a taxi. We then see he's got the real toolbox in his backpack, while Simmons "experiments" on a fake, and their whole angry split was just a ruse to fool Gonzales and return the toolbox to Coulson.

Thoughts:
• As far as I know, Lincoln the Transitioner isn't based on anyone from the comics.

• Skye's being held in Lai She, also known as Afterlife. No one in Afterlife knows exactly where it is, but judging by the surrounding terrain, I'd say it's obviously somewhere in the Himalayas. In the comics, the Inhumans' city was located in the Himalayas before being relocated to the Moon (don't ask).

Also, last year when we first started getting hints about Skye's past, we were told that as a baby she was found in the Hunan Province of China, protected by "monsters." I think it's a safe bet they were talking about Afterlife (and her fellow Inhumans) here.

Afterlife looked OK for a TV budget, but expect something much more impressive and expansive in The Inhumans movie.

• Lincoln and Gordon both mention a group of unseen, elite elders who seem to be in charge. These elders have got to be Black Bolt, Medusa and the other members of the Inhuman's Royal Family, who we'll be seeing when their movie comes out in a few years.
• In the comics, the Inhumans have an enormous bulldog named Lockjaw, who's primary power is teleportation.

I really hope they're not going to use Gordon as a substitute for Lockjaw in The Inhumans movie! Gordon's fine for the relatively low budget TV series, but I have a feeling if there isn't a giant CGI dog in the film, fans are going to tear down the cineplex!

• Best line of the episode: Coulson tells Hunter that Real S.H.I.E.L.D. has taken over S.H.I.E.L.D., Skye's developed superpowers and has been abducted by an eyeless, teleporting Inhuman.

An incredulous Hunter says, “I was only gone one week!”

• It was great seeing Deathlok again! He looks much better in this episode too, as he finally got rid of the Lazertag vest he was saddled with last season. I think the producers really are listening to the fans.

His Iron Man-style arm rockets were especially cool.

I have to admit that when I first saw his hand as it grabbed hold of the Quinjet ramp, for a brief second I thought it might turn out to be Iron Man or even Hawkeye, two Avengers who've been rumored to show up at some point. But Deathlok's OK too.

• Last week I asked why the supposedly Hulk-proof cabin had an ordinary wooden door. I guess I spoke too soon. In this episode we see that the door, while appearing to be made of wood, is actually constructed from the same vibranium as the walls. So I guess that explains that.

• I'm not 100% sure, but it sure looks like the battering ram the Real S.H.I.E.L.D. agents use is the same one used to try and break into Nick Fury's SUV in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The "structural integrity readout" of the door looks like the same one in Fury's vehicle in that film as well.

• A few weeks ago Gordon delivered Cal to a mystery person who was in charge of Afterlife. We couldn't see who it was, but Cal smiled beatifically at them, signifying it was someone he knew.

Last week I said they wouldn't be keeping the mystery person's identity a secret unless it was someone we'd seen before, and the only logical suspect was Skye's mom Jaiying. And I was right! My plot twist predictions aren't correct very often, so excuse my while I gloat about this one.

Based on Jaiying's numerous scars, I'm betting Cal must have found her mutilated body and put back her back together.

Also, if Jaiying was able to survive what Daniel Whitehall did to her, it's pretty much a given that he'll be back at some point as well.

• Fitz decides he can't work for Real S.H.I.E.L.D. and says he's quitting. Amazingly, they let him leave! They tell him there'll be a short debriefing and then he's free to go.

Does that sound right? This is supposed to be a top secret spy organization, tasked with protecting national security. Jesus, I went through a more rigorous exit process when I quit my job at Sony!

• It was nice to see FitzSimmons again! There's been a huge wedge between them all season, so it was nice to finally see them (secretly) working together again to help Coulson recover the toolbox.

For the record, once Fitz figured out what Simmons was doing with the toolbox, I knew his blowup and resignation was all a ruse. I'm kind of surprised Mockingbird didn't pick up on it as well.

• Back in the episode The Things We Bury, Daniel Whitehall has an exchange with Cal.
Whitehall: Then why? What do you have to gain? 
Cal: I have nothing to lose. I've lost everything important to me. And I want to kill those who took it... and finally be reunited with my family.
Whitehall: Reunited? 
Cal: In the afterlife.
Obviously that little scene, which meant nothing at the time, was foreshadowing this episode and the very real and tangible Afterlife! Well done, writers!

• In unwelcome plot development news, Coulson wants to hook up with Evil Ward, because "he's the only one that knows how to find Skye." Why he thinks this is apparently none of our concern, as it's never explained.

I have a bad feeling the writers setting up Evil Ward's redemption and eventual return to the Team, which I think is a huge misstep. 

Evil Ward is nothing more than a cruel, calculating, cold-blooded killer. In the Clairvoyant storyline last season, Ward and Agent Victoria Hand were escorting Garrett to The Fridge for incarceration. Ward shot Hand and two other agents at point blank range in order to free his mentor Garrett.

He also tried to murder FitzSimmons (severely impairing Fitz's brain functions in the process), attempted to kill May at least twice, and killed Tripp's partner, and is now in a manipulative relationship with Agent 33. He's an evil, remorseless, unrepetant psychopath who shouldn't given a chance to for redemption.

I really hope that's not what the writers have in mind, but it sure looks like that's the direction in which they're heading.
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