Agents Of SHIELD (Shadows)

agents-of-shield s02

ABC

Season 2 Premiere Date: September 23rd 2014

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Agents Of SHIELD (Shadows)

Starring: Clark Gregg, Ming Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Brett Dalton, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Nick Blood, BJ Britt, Patton Oswalt, Adrian Pasdar, Reed Diamond, Simon Kassianides, Henry Simmons, Brian Patrick Wade, Lucy Lawless, Wilmer Calderon

The wait is officially over. If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe like me; then you are well aware that Agents Of SHIELD premiered its second season this week. If you have read my recap on Agents Of SHIELD Season 1 and are still unsure and hence wondering when the new season starts, let me say that the first episode of Season 2 (“Shadows”) premiered this past Tuesday at 9p. Let me tell you it was a total game changer, setting events in motion til at leat the mid season finale, and there’s plenty of parallel storylines to talk about and analyse.

Whether you are a fan of comic book or superhero films or series, or not; the fact remains that these types of shows have resonated so much with fans and the public, that each incarnation of superhero films and series are so epically crafted- it would be hard pressed to find another era in which superheros are so huge, with other shows The Flash and Gotham joining Agents Of SHIELD and Arrow as the superhero representatives this season. But, we’ll get back to the recent hype of superhero films and shows in general a bit later- let’s dive into the plot and the characters shall we? And remember there are spoilers ahead… don’t say I didn’t warn you if you are spoiled!

First of all, one thing to note is that the show is darker (literally visually darker through the camera work and the inside locations, as well as thematically as well). We always knew that after Hydra was revealed to have infiltrated SHIELD all this time, that the tone and atmosphere of the show was changed; but I didn’t expect for the show to change that much in the first episode of the new season. But this change isn’t bad at all, it’s just different, and probably was intentional and reminding us that the team of SHIELD agents are different, harder, more guarded, considering the betrayal in the first season and the fact that many government agents are still after them, including the arrogant, ruthless Brigadier General Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar). As the setting has changed also (from the ship to a land facility which the location is not known), that is interesting as well, and is a metaphor and allegory for the changing up of the show thematically, as the team battle unseen enemies, as they venture outside their comfort zone.

Let’s re-meet the team shall we? There are a few new faces, with potential for backstory, drama and conflict as the season progresses. As Coulson (Clark Gregg) is the director of SHIELD, replacing Fury after he faked his death at the end of Captain America 2, the team has had to shift its roles a bit. When we last met our ragtag team of heroes, they were introduced by Billy Koenig (Patton Oswalt) to The Playground (whereabouts unknown), and now the team has expanded. Since The Playground isn’t a ship like the base in Season 1, Melinda May (Ming Na Wen) has had plenty more opportunities to be a field agent again, rather than a pilot who occasionally fights in combat from time to time. In fact she, Skye (Chloe Bennet) and Antoine Triplett (BJ Britt), as the veterans of the team, work well together, as evidenced by the very first scene. All three of them ‘went dark’ and were backup for the 4 newer recruits to Coulson’s team- and this is where we are introduced to a new main character and potentially recurring characters.

Isabelle Hartley (Lucy Lawless) is an old friend of Coulson’s and was added to the team along with her recruits. Idaho (Wilmer Calderon) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) are mercenaries who are trained to be more ruthless (and serve under Hartley), and mechanic Mack MacKenzie (Henry Simmons) is content just to work on cars and be muscle when needed, usually back at the base. While these 4 new characters haven’t been really fleshed out that well in the first episode, it’s clear from the outset that while Triplett is happy for new people to be on the team (and Skye is just preoccupied with her intense conversation with Ward- more on that below!), May’s opinion of Hartley’s ‘team’ (Hunter and Idaho) isn’t that positive. While she respects their methods, she complains to Coulson in a scene that they’re mercenaries, only aligning themselves with SHIELD for the money. But Coulson, who has plenty more allies on standby all around the world, trusts Hartley and says that her people should be given a chance, and May grudgingly accepts that their team has grown.

Plotwise, there’s plenty to be excited by, inclusive of a flashback to a few years after the events of Captain America and around the same time that Agent Carter will be set in next year. Starting off in 1945, where Daniel Whitehall aka Kraken (Reed Diamond), who is taking over the role of General Zod in terms of leadership of one of the factions of Hydra, acquires the very first 0-8-4 (a shiny metallic rectangular box thing!); there is an ambush and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and her team surprisingly and quickly retrieve the 0-8-4 from Kraken. Fast forward to the present day, and Skye, Triplett, May, Hartley, Hunter and Idaho are on a sting operation trying to trap a rogue SHIELD agent. But their op goes sideways thanks to the Absorbing Man aka Carl Creel (Brian Patrick White), who storms in and kills almost every other person.

Now on a mission to find out who else in on the Absorbing Man’s warpath, Coulson and co. soon discover that Hydra want the original 0-8-4 (in Talbot’s possession at his base), for purposes unknown, so they decide the track it first- it seems that Creel is under orders to obtain it as well. As Creel lets himself be captured by Talbot’s men, after allegedly trying to ‘assassinate’ Talbot. Though Coulson saved him, and that subplot only highlighted how much Talbot hates Coulson (for what reason, I don’t know- maybe more backstory later?); Creel was where he wanted to be- in prison in the facility where the 0-8-4 is held.

With Koenig, MacKenzie and Coulson back at base, the rest storm into Talbot’s facility (without Talbot’s knowledge, as Coulson masquerades as Talbot vocally via the phone, and Triplett tries to pass off as a general), but Creel is waiting for them. He battles Hartley, and after contact with the object, her hand turns to dead inanimate matter, probably metal, while still clutching the 0-8-4. While Triplett, Skye and May want to wait for orders from Coulson, Hunter and Idaho defy orders to drive her to the hospital. But Creel flips the car as he absorbs into concrete, and Hunter is apparently the only survivor (now I understand the reason why Nick Blood was promoted to series regular) – who plays dead while the 0-8-4 is nabbed by Creel. Creel delivers the object to Kraken, and that‘s one of the surprises of the episode. Is Kraken like Captain America, in that he was cryogenically frozen for a period of time? And is Hartley really dead? Only more episodes will unravel those mysteries.

While the team dynamics are different this season- for instance we never once saw Triplett and Skye having a meaningful conversation, but here we see them at ease with their friendship, talking about theories of what Koenig is; the episode was overall very entertaining and well worth the watch as the premiere. However two sub plots in terms of characters are very interesting to see and are the pinnacle of any character development in this episode.

For one, Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) is kept in the basement of The Playground, and is sealed off with a glass perimeter. When Skye presses Ward for information on Hydra, Ward tries to use emotion and his supposed feelings for her to persuade her to lower her guard. But it’s not working- it seems that May is Skye’s new SO, and is training her very well. So with Skye’s threats, Ward caves, telling her the information she needs (which proves to be correct). Yet Skye leaves before Ward has the chance to tell her about her father. And no doubt that storyline will be revisited soon.

But the most heartbreaking of surprises pertained to Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), who was working in the lab in The Playground trying to crack the cloaking code. Though Coulson and co. managed to steal one of Talbot’s ships that has the ability to be invisible, this episode highlighted Fitz recovering from PTSD after his near drowning, and stuttering when talking to Jenna Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). Yet it turned out that Fitz was actually hallucinating Simmons being with him at all at The Playground. The whole team know that Simmons has taken some time off and has left to an unknown place, but how do they tell Fitz, who is trying to cope with her absence by blocking it out? This and Ward’s redemption storyline seem to be the most interesting character developments that are sure to last the season; and I can’t wait to know more on those two topics.

While the acting hasn’t really changed that much from season 1, except for Brett Dalton and Chloe Bennet, who have broken out of their stereotypes of the pretty boy hunk, and eye candy respectively (which is essentially what fans were saying pre-episode 15) (and this is a good thing!)- the cast have great chemistry with each other as always, though  the large cast in season 2 may mean some main cast may have less screen time in favour of the recurring hero or villain in this season.

Lance Hunter no doubt will have more screen-time, as well Kraken, Creel, and MacKenzie, possibly at the expense of Simmons, who appears right now only to Fitz, and will probably show up for real in the mid season finale. Skye’s father will also show up during this season (we don’t know whether he will be a villain or not), and it is the changing up of the team, and making the show unpredictable, that makes it very good.

While the premiere demo of a 2.1 compared to the series premiere demo of 4.7 in season 1 is a stark contrast, let’s hope that the show has found a core audience. Airing at 9pm instead of 8pm, hopefully this change in timeslots means a change in ratings as well. With the show still reminding me that nothing is impossible if people are willing to work on their mistakes and focus on their strengths as well- something we should all remember when leading or joining a team; it’ll be interesting to see the SHIELD veterans react to the new members- a metaphor and allegory to how we will react when we work with new people.

Did the 1st episode of season 2 of Agents Of SHIELD leave a lasting impression on you? Did any themes in the episode speak to you, and which was it? What elements of the show are you enjoying and looking forward to- Ward’s possible redemptive storyline, the integration of Lance Hunter into the SHIELD team, the ‘immortality’ of Kraken, or Fitz’s apparent mental break? Will you be tuning in next week when Season 2 continues? Let us know in the comments.

RIYL: Person Of Interest, The Blacklist, Burn Notice, Arrow, Marvel Cinematic Universe films

Rating: 4/5 (based on 1 episode)

Agents Of Shield Season 2 airs every Tuesday at 9/8c on ABC.

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