Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. assembles its 11th Season 2 installment with 2015 premiere “Aftershocks,” as Coulson works to draw out Hydra leadership, while Skye struggles to understand her new Inhuman abilities, and Bobbi conceals a secret from the team.

Last year’s S.H.I.E.L.D. finale, “What They Become,” saw Skye finally coming face to face with her father, while Coulson and the team uncovered the truth about the mysterious hidden city, and a larger connection to the Marvel Universe was revealed. So, how does ABC’s Avengers-adjacent series continue its marvelous new season?

Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 2, episode 11, midseason premiere “Aftershocks”!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. left us with quite a bit to contemplate in the wake of a Terrigen bomb introducing Marvel’s Inhumans, with only Agent Carter in its wake to satisfy our superhero cravings. One unexpected side-effect of Carter’s resulting success, however, reinforced that super-spy series fare much better with a smaller character focus, and a limited number of episodes to keep its central plot moving. That makes Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Inhuman expansion seems like a dangerous gamble, but “Aftershocks” thankfully felt much less like an overbloated series than a new one altogether.

Right off the bat, tonight’s installment introduced us to another component of Inhumans in flashback, the teleportation powers of which establish a very different visual palate for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., one where special abilities are a regular occurrence, and certain characters even wear their mutations transformations on the outside. Those suggesting Inhumans may prove Marvel’s workaround to FOX’s hold on the X-Men rights seem to have proven correct, as “Aftershocks” establishes that “Terrigenesis” is best undergone in puberty, lest the psychological ramifications overwhelm characters like Raina or Skye.

Establishing the Inhumans world (or at least those with knowledge of their evolutionary status) provides a neat little bridge into establishing Skye’s mental state, even as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. still occasionally suffers its habit of culling conflict from thin air. However much transformation Skye has undergone in the second season, episodes often lean on exposition of Skye’s significance, a cardinal sin of screenwriting to tell, rather than show. “Aftershocks” too falls victim to the trend, as Bobbi reassures Skye (read: the audience) of Skye’s tenacity, to have survived the cave-in in the first place, or in multiple instances mourning Trip’s death with exposition of his deeds and traits that were never relevant to viewers in the first place.

It’s a tough line to tow, considering “Aftershocks” goes out of its way to present Skye’s new abilities as a danger to everyone around her, or even a potential “plague” of sorts, leading Skye (and later Fitz) to keep the true extent of her transformation hidden from the team. Understandably, Agents wants to treat Skye’s evolution as a point of tension, much like her initial backstory or Coulson’s resurrection, missing an opportunity to simply embrace the more exciting aspects of change. Producers have spoken at length about the latter half of Season 2 giving rise to the “birth of a superhero” through all the nuts and bolts it would entail, though for the moment, Skye’s secrecy and Simmons’ superhuman shaming feel a tad conjured.

At least until her supervillain transformation into "Jemmacide."

Secrecy is all well and good, and a functional means to afford each character of a major ensemble something to do, though “Aftershocks” seemingly had enough going on without sowing so many new seeds of dissent among the team. Coulson’s fiery pursuit of Hydra as revenge for Trip’s death made for an intriguing look into the evil organization’s infrastructure, keeping the show’s zippy spy elements in place with the subterfuge of Sunil Bakshi. Raina too had her own arc in confronting the Doctor (whom I guess we’ll call Calvin?) over her grotesque and painful transformation, in turn pushing Calvin to reignite his rivalry with Coulson by forming a super-team of his own. “Gordon” rescuing Raina from an apparent suicide-by-cop also made for an exciting visual sequence, though one wonders how much of Raina we’ll see going forward, considering the extensive makeup work required of Ruth Negga.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could certainly still benefit from the more intimate focus of Agent Carter, though its myriad character pairings continue to grow, as Fitz bonds with Mack over their difficulty in reconciling past actions, newly-upgraded series regular Adrianne Palicki acquits herself with Skye and Hunter, and Coulson and May share their usual witty rapport. These relationships provide crucial bedrocks, now that Trip’s death has leadership dynamics on edge, Bobbi and Mack begin their own apparent side mission, and Agents draws deeper into the Inhuman world.

The secrecy and internal angst seem a bit like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is insecure with its ability to craft more personal drama against a rapidly-expanding superhero landscape, but “Aftershocks” deserves more credit as a very promising start to the latter half of Season 2. We’ve missed these characters, and the introduction of new superpowered factions only ups our excitement for the future.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • No Ward this week, but count on some super-weird Agent 33/Evil May bonding (and probably make-outs) to come!
  • I would have sworn that Simmons’ apparent malevolence toward superpowers was a ruse to draw out Skye’s abilities, much like May seemed uncharacteristically trusting of Skye’s excuse about the broken glass later.
  • All this talk of Baron Strucker, but might we ever meet the man? That was his associate from The Winter Soldier, no?
  • Coulson’s performance in selling his and May’s last stand was a thing of beauty.
  • We can exclusively confirm that yes, all RadioShacks were in fact Hydra outposts.

Well, what say you? Did Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s “Aftershocks” keep up the momentum as successfully as you’d hoped? How do you think the show handled its Inhuman incorporation? Stay tuned for more coverage of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2's latest, and join us next week for our review of Lady Sif’s grand return, “Who You Really Are” on ABC!