If last week’s Agents of SHIELD belonged to Mack (Henry Simmons) and Deke (Jeff Ward), “After, Before” belongs to Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova) and May (Ming-Na Wen).
As the Zephyr’s time drive deteriorates, only Yo-Yo’s speed has any chance of saving them. But she’s still trapped in her post-Shrike powerlessness, so she and May embark on a mission to restore her gift with help from Jiaying (guest star Dichen Lachman).
Negative Emotion Feedback Loop
Even though it was Daisy’s (Chloe Bennet) idea to visit her mom in 1983, in between the Zephyr’s jumps, she was too weak to do so after her encounter with Nathaniel. Not to mention that a mistake could result in her ceasing to exist. Instead, May and Yo-Yo go in the hopes of seeing the latter’s speed cured.
Of course, Jiaying eventually becomes an enemy of SHIELD, so they are understandably suspicious once they arrive at Afterlife. It doesn’t help that a young woman named Cora is caught attempting to escape the place just as they reach it, but May’s empathic abilities have expanded and allow her to see Jiaying’s sincere intentions.
Her partner Lee doesn’t seem quite as sincere, but the crux of the storyline is May begrudgingly using her empath abilities to explore what psychological block is going through Yo-Yo’s mind. Unfortunately, learning that her loss of power is in her head only makes Yo-Yo feel worse. First, May uncovers that the problems started with Keller’s death – after all, it was Yo-Yo who had to put him out of his misery.
But the issue stems from even further back, when young Elena tried to rescue her grandmother’s necklace from a thief and ends up witnessing her uncle’s death instead. Feeling that her impulsiveness is a curse, she has been blocking herself – but it doesn’t seem to be much help. Regardless, it’s a beautiful and emotional moment of character growth for both women, as Elena reckons with herself and May actually reaches out to comfort her.
Too bad her powers still don’t get fixed when Cora runs into the newly-powered Nathaniel, who convinces her to use her uncontrollable explosive powers to take over After Life. Jiaying tries to reason with her “daughter” and Yo-Yo tries to help, but her powers still don’t work. Instead, she and May give Jiaying the coordinates to meet up with the Zephyr – provided it doesn’t cease to exist – and help her save Afterlife before it’s too late.
Not In The Best Shape
As Nathaniel wreaks havoc in 1983, Daisy is still reeling from the number he did on her. She is in and out of the Zephyr’s healing pad, and in one particularly poignant moment, she is joined by Coulson (Clark Gregg) who still doesn’t have his legs. He is powered on to help the team figure out the issue with the Zephyr, and together they bond over their sorry state. Poor Coulson is definitely grappling with the question of what it means to not be human, which is a recurring theme throughout the season.
Jemma (Elizabeth Henstridge) also has a heartachingly sweet moment when she leaves a message for Fitz to let him know the Zephyr may be unrecoverable, which her grandson Deke overhears. Not sure why Fitz had to be missing from the final season, but it’s about time Agents of SHIELD wove it into the main plot.
Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), meanwhile, has become very integrated since his introduction to the team. In “After, Before” he spends a good deal of time worrying about Daisy and preparing parachutes in case they must all abandon ship. As the seconds tick down and the jumps get closer together, it seems everyone will have to follow that route – especially when May and Elena return only for the latter to admit she didn’t get anywhere.
But at the exact last second, Yo-Yo’s brain clicks that she no longer needs to “bounce back,” and she manages to restore the Zephyr with her speed… Or so they thing. At the end of the day, the ship is still jumping randomly, it’s just happening with less frequency. Will the crew be able to find another solution next week, and can they help Jiaying before Nathaniel unleashes Sibyl’s master plan?