– Spoiler Review –
After a rocky first season, which thankfully ended strong after Captain America: The Winter Soldier shook up the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), there have been some doubts about how a second season will pan out for Agents of SHIELD. And without any MCU movie releases to rely on, the show needs to be strong on its own, which is fitting given the team we knew in the show now has to be strong on its own too. After a rollicking and solid debut episode, setting a darker and consistent tone early, it looks like Agents of SHIELD (AoS) might just be able to pull its own weight.
While I watched the entire first season and mostly enjoyed it, there was the feeling that we were always waiting for something to happen. That something was Hydra revealing they’ve been secretly taking over SHIELD for decades and the organization descended into chaos as those loyal to SHIELD battled with Hydra for control. Both organizations suffered and everyone went into the dark corners of the world to lick their wounds. As Nick Fury stood down, Coulson was promoted to Director of SHIELD, tasked with rebuilding the organization and re-solidifying its purpose.
It’s been a few in-universe months since the first season finale and it definitely shows. Coulson is no longer on the ground with his team, instead locking himself away in his command center and going out on recruiting trips. He’s still the Coulson we all know and love, but the weight of his new position is showing. The only two who seem unchanged are May and Triplet, while Skye is a more confident agent, Fitz’s resuscitation has left its marks, and an imprisoned Ward is at a (weird) Zen-like peace with his life choices.
The group is now officially fugitives in the eyes of the government and the world at large, meaning they must work as clandestinely as possible to sweep up the chaos left by Hydra. Now Coulson decides where and when his more seasoned team strikes, setting a new and refreshing tone for the series. Previously, their waiting for orders and do-goodery, plus the amateur-filled team, made for questionable moments as to why such inexperience members were being put into such extremely dangerous situations. This season it’s not as hard to see them going out of their way being the secret protectors of justice and coming out on top, as their experience makes their victories seem more plausible.
But to counter the main team’s new mojo, a tougher villain had to be used and it comes in the form of Carl “Crusher” Creel a.ka. Absorbing Man (Brian Patrick Wade). He can, you guessed it, absorb nearly anything and in this episode we see him transform into glass, wood, concrete, while soaking up bullets like they’re nothing. As a villain, he posses a formidable threat and the special effects regarding his abilities don’t look cheesy in the slightest, really selling his character.
This episode starts with a flashback to the 1940’s, following Agent Carter (who has her own TV show coming up!) and some Howling Commandos securing a Hydra facility. It was really nice to have two actors from the original Captain America film reprise their Commando roles, and even better to get just a tease of Agent Carter’s excellence. There’s several important things from this opening episode to take note of, including the strange (but now almost familiar) blue body in a case, the mysterious Obelisk that becomes the world’s first 0-8-4, and the Hydra member Reinhardt (Reed Diamond). At least two of those show up again by the end of the episode.
See this 0-8-4, or at least it’s current location at a secure government facility, is being put up for the highest bidder from a former SHIELD agent. Our team is overseeing the deal, as another agent, Isabelle Hartley (Lucy Lawless) and her two mercenaries, Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) and Idaho (Wilmer Calderon) attempt to win the information. Things go sideways when Creel attacks and gets away, leaving Coulson to turn to his prisoner, former SHIELD agent Grant Ward, for information on Hydra. Ward only wants to talk to Skye, who he has obvious romantic feelings for, giving us some Hannibal Lector and Clarice Starling type moments. The info Ward does cough up, before Skye walks out on him, proves useful and reveals Creel has been sent to capture General Talbot’s family. While he’s been visibly outspoken against SHIELD, Coulson decides saving Talbot and his family can work for their advantage so they can uncover the Obelisk’s location.
Once they use Talbot to get access to the base holding the Obelisk, the team is sent in to recover it covertly. They nearly succede, until Creel shows up and causes lots of trouble. Hartley grabs the Obelisk and it begins to change her arm, flashing the strange symbols we’ve seen both Coulson and Ward’s Hydra teacher John Garrett draw (which they only started doing after being exposed to the GH-325). As the team splits to get their other objective, a Quinjet, Hartley makes the gruesome decision to have her teammate Hunter chop off her arm above the effected area. While this saves her life, it doesn’t last much longer in the shocking ending where Creel catches up and destroys their vehicle and flees with the Obelisk. Only Hunter survives that attack, while the Quinjet stealing team made it out safe.
It’s a darker, crueler world this season on AoS, but the humor still exists and feels like it meshes well with events in the episode. The stakes, however, have certainly raised and have made this show stronger as a result.
The bigger two twists are that Simmons left the team after Fitz’s injury, but Fitz has been imagining her with him this whole time. How long this lasts, and if it’s due to being without oxygen for so long, remains to be seen. The other twist, that Reinhardt from the 1940’s is alive, well, and hasn’t aged a day isn’t too shocking in a comic-book world. He looks to be the immediate head of the team’s Hydra nemesis cell. What his plans are with the Obelisk, and how it ties into the GH-325 introduced in the first season are compelling mysteries that hopefully this show will have a chance to answer. If the rest of the season can be anywhere near this first episode’s level, then we’re going to be in for quite a treat.
+ Confident and consistent tone
+ Confident and seasoned team
+ Absorbing Man
– Hartley’s dead already?!
MARVEL’S AGENTS OF SHIELD REVIEWS:
Season Two: 2.2 Heavy is the Head | 2.3 Making Friends and Influencing People | 2.4 Face My Enemy | 2.5 A Hen in the Wolf House | 2.6 A Fractured House | 2.7 The Writing on the Wall | 2.8 The Things We Bury | 2.9 …Ye Who Enter Here | 2.10 What They Become | 2.11 Aftershocks | 2.12 Who You Really Are | 2.13 One of Us | 2.14 Love in the Time of Hydra | 2.15 One Door Closes | 2.16 Afterlife | 2.17 Melinda | 2.18 The Frenemy of My Enemy | 2.19 The Dirty Half Dozen | 2.20 Scars | 2.21,22: S.O.S.
MARVEL’S AGENT CARTER REVIEWS:
Season One: 1.1 This is Not the End/1.2 Bridge and Tunnel | 1.3 Time and Tide | 1.4 The Blitzkrieg Button | 1.5 The Iron Ceiling | 1.6 A Sin to Err | 1.7 SNAFU | 1.8 Valediction