Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had an uneven first season that finally seemed to get its legs when it tied in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Did the momentum carry over to Season 2?
Yes. Yes it did.
From the spoiler-free episode summary provided by ABC:
“Shadows” – Coulson and his team are now wanted fugitives with limited resources — but that’s not stopping them from keeping the world safe from powerful and unseen threats everywhere. However, with new members they hardly know, will S.H.I.E.L.D. ever be trusted again?
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” stars Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda May, Brett Dalton as Grant Ward, Chloe Bennet as Skye, Iain De Caestecker as Agent Leo Fitz, Elizabeth Henstridge as Agent Jemma Simmons and Nick Blood as Lance Hunter.
Guest starring are B.J. Britt as Agent Antoine Triplett, Nick Blood as Agent Lance Hunter, Adrian Pasdar as Brigadier General Glenn Talbot, Henry Simmons as Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie, Patton Oswalt as Agent Billy Koenig, Lucy Lawless as Isabelle “Izzy” Hartley, Wilmer Calderon as Idaho, Reed Diamond as Daniel Whitehall, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Brian Patrick Wade as Carl Creel, Matthew Glave as Roger Browning, Simon Kassianides as Sunil Bakshi, George Stephanopoulos as self, Raquel Gardner as Carla Talbot, Ben Turner Nixon as Hydra Officer, Franco Vega as Military Leader, Rich Ceraulo as Soldier #1, and JB Tadena as Private Tilden.
With “Shadows,” Season 2 of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. opened fast and just kept going. Director Vincent Misiano, working with a teleplay written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharon, didn’t give viewers much room to catch their breath in the season opener, which had plenty of surprises and carried the tone and urgency that the series picked up in it’s last six or so post-Winter Soldier episodes.
I’ll be honest—I wasn’t on board with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it launched last year. I liked the first episode well enough but then the show spent too much time spinning its wheels. I liked that it was connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though, and it was the desire to see how the show would fill the gaps between the Marvel Studios film franchises that kept me following it despite my growing disappointment with the show. The show’s first attempt to tie into the films—with Sif appearing in Episode 15 (“Yes Men”) and the cast combing through the rubble left by the Dark Elves in the wake of the events depicted in Thor: The Dark World—just didn’t do it for me. Beyond that. I did like the characters, for the most part, although some of the relationships, such as the one between Skye and Ward, feel shoehorned in for the sake of convention. I didn’t buy Coulson as a field operative, either. It just didn’t feel like a show based on Marvel’s properties, if that makes sense.
Then Captain America: The Winter Soldier happened. Not only did the Russo brothers’ superheroes-meets-espionage drama raise the bar for plot and narrative for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but by virtue of its tie-in with the series and its similarly spy-centric theme, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. received the creative jolt it needed. The last couple episodes were fantastic and showed how good the show could be when it is allowed to fulfill the potential of its premise as an interstitial between the Marvel Studios films—Ward’s betrayal, the ramped up “widescreen” mayhem, and the emphasis on espionage gave the show a real sense of drama it didn’t have before.
The second season opened recently and it did a good job of establishing the current status quo. Coulson was told by Fury to reform S.H.I.E.L.D. and defeat Hydra, and that’s what he’s doing, with the limited resources available to him. And has Coulson started to take on some of Fury’s qualities? It seems like there’s a more ruthless edge to Coulson these days, and that he’s more willing to risk his people if it means getting the job done.
There were some surprises in this episode as well. We learned the fate of Fitz and hints of what happened to Ward. Fitz was so heartbreaking and I have to give Iain De Caestecker all the credit for his performance. What an amazing acting job in this episode. What he was asked to do was tough and he pulled it off. I still have issues with Brett Dalton and the Grant Ward character, though. His performance in this episode wasn’t very good, but then again, I didn’t really like him in the previous season, either.
I dug the opening flashback, which helps bring Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos into the world of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and gives her a mission statement for when her own show starts airing during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s break. It was well done, tying the shows together without giving off the impression that it was something that perhaps ABC/Marvel Studios handed to the writers as a cross-promotional stunt.
I loved Skye’s new combat outfit and the growth and evolution of her character from last season. I can see her taking on a new role, but not losing any of what made her a unique character in the first place. And hopefully she’ll keep the new outfit.
The Lucy Lawless appearance was interesting, as well as the characters she brought along with her. I can’t help but think there’s more to that story, and I’m raring to see it expanded upon as the season progresses.
And of course, the episode’s most obvious highlight was that we got a real supervillain with real superpowers. I was surprised when Carl “Crusher” Creel, a.k.a. the Absorbing Man (and I loved the way he got named by Lawless’ character) was going to appear in this series. I thought for sure his first onscreen appearance be reserved for one of the movies given the nature of his abilities—it’s the kind of thing that I thought Marvel would keep in its back pocket for use in a production with a bigger budget—but he looked real good in the episode. The show hasn’t really shown much in the way of superpowered beings previously, which contributed to the feeling earlier in Season 1 that it wasn’t really part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bringing in Creel is a huge step towards remedying that. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pulled the Absorbing Man off in a way that didn’t seem hokey or corny.
I just really hope that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can keep this momentum going as it looks like it could turn into the show I always imagined it could be.