This is a Review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Season 2 Premiere - There Will Be SPOILERS.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns and kicks off its sophomore year with a more focused season opener which attempts to provide a bit of purpose to the precarious position Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Co. find themselves in after Captain America: The Winter Soldier completely changed everything. This year they’re on their own!
“Shadows,” written by creators Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, is so much more than the episodic adventure it contains; however, despite a terrific appearance from Peggy Carter (Hailey Atwell) and the original Howling Commandos, as well as the introduction of a few new comrades - not to mention a weighty and emotional storyline for a fan-favorite character - there are still many times where, within the episode, the logic that’s being presented is counter-intuitive to the actions being taken by a group trying to, as they say, stay in the shadows.
For all intents and purposes, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has surprisingly acknowledged its awkward origins of last year and has evolved, in part, to remove much of the expectations that being semi-connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe can unintentionally bring to a growing series. Now that the series’ new “guardian angel” angle is fully implemented, Agent Coulson and his newly stolen aircraft are able to freely maneuver about with fewer MCU logic holes for viewers to be transfixed by.
The Carl “The Crusher” Creel storyline is, for lack of a better description, the main focus of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiere; though everything about it will make you think the contrary, and the importance of what’s onscreen is largely from what’s being told, not shown, which does take a bit away from the effects-heavy character that could have popped up at another time, perhaps when so many plans weren’t being put into motion at once. The introduction of Isabelle Hartley (Lucy Lawless) and General Talbot (Adrian Pasard), too, were lessened by the requirements of this premiere. Their inclusion, however, is more than welcome, and they help to bring fresh faces - and attitude - to the shrinking team.
In many ways, it feels as if the characters that are contained within this episode are being lost to the story the producers are attempting to tell. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s growth from season 1 to season 2 is more than apparent, and there are many times when you can see a mature vision attempting to shape this series into something more. Secrets still appear to be where this episode is continuously weighed down, however, and in this particular instance the new secrets, while interesting, do not make up for how disjointed this episode feels when everything is brought together – which is possibly why this premiere feels more like middle-season fare than the beginning of a new chapter.
Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), the series’ fan favorites, are as much of a joy to see together as they always where, and with the inclusion of their new (and honestly, tragic) storyline, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will have to do very little to keep audiences caring about the ultimate outcome and well-being of these two truly enjoyable characters.
Perhaps the most successful aspect to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 premiere is how little attention Coulson and his “problem” receives overall, if any. Even though everyone wants to see the answers to all the many questions that Coulson’s existence creates, the episode is largely unaffected by the series side-stepping this tale for the purpose of establishing a strong front for the team, as a whole, and the successful execution of this is quite exciting for the series' future. As always, there will be time for Coulson - or Skye (Chloe Bennet) - to reveal all.
Make no mistake: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still an 8pm television show, and its 9pm time slot may still do more to harm the series than to help it. Even so, Marvel’s continued drive to tell a fun story on broadcast television appears to slowly be turning into the success many hoped it would be from the start.
Sure, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t as dark and gritty as DC’s Gotham, and in many ways people will associate a more mature tone with a perceived “better” show. As this season of both shows continues onwards, it’ll be interesting to see how Fox’s new series deals with some harsh television truths they've yet to come across, while it’s very likely that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has learned much from their freshman year and is now on to bigger and better things – like bridging the gap between Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers 2: Age of Ultron.
As with most things, we’ll have to wait and see.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with “Heavy is the Hand” @9pm on ABC.