Naturally, "Afterlife" is not the game changer that "One Door Closes" was, instead taking it's time to set up what I presume will be the end game of the SHIELD vs 'real SHIELD' storyline while also introducing us to the characters that live in Afterlife, the aforementioned secret base for Inhumans. As such, there is something of an exposition dump in the Afterlife sections of the episode, a problem that it copes with by having Skye act as an audience surrogate, someone with even less knowledge of Afterlife and the people that inhabit it than the audience has.
Our introduction to Afterlife is fairly comprehensive, giving us a look around at some stunning scenery (there's just something about mountainous regions), briefly explaining the way things work in the base and taking the time to have both the audience and Skye acquainted with Lincoln, who I imagine will be fairly important in upcoming episodes. There something disconcerting about this place - whether that's intentional or not remains to be seen, but more than a part of me felt like I was watching a cult. Like I said, this part of the episode is all introduction and exposition, so I'm hoping that this will all begin to pay off soon (something that Agents of SHIELD has been getting much better at).
Much more interesting, at least to me, is the more grounded 'spy vs spy' side of things. I find Gonzales to be a very strange character, and I'm not sure that the show really knows how to handle him - one minute he is calling Skye a monster and saying that Coulson should be on the Index, but the next he is convincing Agent May to join them by telling her that it's only right that Coulson should have an advocate amongst them when he is bought in. Despite the democratic nature we've been told about of 'real SHIELD', it certainly seems that Gonzales is still the one in charge, and I can't help but wonder if that will be the reason that Bobbi and Mac eventually switch sides again, which seems like an inevitable development, and one that I will be happy to see.
Coulson and Hunter don't have a huge amount to do this episode, but what they do do is pretty entertaining in it's own right while also setting up some potentially pretty big things for the future - a certain character who we haven't seen since the first season makes a comeback this episode, and if the show goes where I think it is going to go, the dynamic on Coulson's side of the SHIELD vs SHIELD battle could be very exciting indeed, especially considering what my main man Fitz ends up doing this episode.
It's beginning to look like the mid-season break of this season of Agents of SHIELD is going to mark the same increase in quality that the first seasons mid-season break and the gap between season one and season two did, and that is just fine by me. Agents of SHIELD is moving at full throttle towards both the tie-in episode with Avengers: Age of Ultron and the season finale, and I'm more than confident that neither will disappoint.