'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.': Marvel TV Prepares its Phase II

[This is a review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2, E9. There will be SPOILERS.]


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. jumps back in to action for the next few weeks, setting up the Agent Carter premiere, as well as revealing the secret of the hidden city before the year comes to a close. This week, Ming-Na Wen serves double duty, and Grant Ward (Brent Dalton) returns to takes control of the skies.

In this week’s episode, “...Ye Who Enter Here”, written by executive producer Paul Zbyszewski, Coulson (Clark Gregg) takes a portion of the team and races towards the recently revealed ruins below San Juan, while the other half attempts to rescue Raina (Ruth Negga) before Hydra can use her abilities to unlock the key to the mysterious Kree power. As Raina’s connection to the Diviner is explained to all, Ward goes to great lengths to secure Whitehall’s (Reed Diamond) human target, and Mack (Henry Simmons) finds out what happens when you go knock, knock, knocking on a temple door.  Elsewhere, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) have a much overdue conversation about the past.

A week before the big push towards next year and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should now be at a point where all the time invested begins to pay off. Thing is, for all intents and purposes (and past season squabbles), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 has been delivering some of the most entertaining television you’ll find on the networks this fall, so any need to make a quick dash for the holiday end is unnecessarily. Some say it’s better to simply show off just how few actors can be worked into additional roles, while others simply want a strong step forward towards the ultimate goal – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivers both.

For all intents and purposes, this episode is about undertaking a monumental spy mission with a minimal cast, on network television - and such an experiment has never been so successful. We already know that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. put in the work follow season one to strengthen its television experiment as best as it can. In this instance, its success came from relying on its cast – not its Marvel connections or theoretical library of resources – to help propel a story that audiences are excited to hear. And if an extra Patton Oswalt and Ming-Na Wen aren’t enough of a sign that the series is strengthening itself from within, nothing is.

Skye in Agents of SHIELD season 2, episode 9

This episode certainly provides proof that multiplicity, in this instance, is perhaps the most brilliant move the series could make. Not only does it allow the show-runners to put their strong cast to more use, but by replicating some of the series favorite characters (no matter their height), the producers are essentially shifting over the earned emotions of its audience on to a new path (without having to introduce new characters, to boot). Now, somehow, the series slyly earned itself a version of Melinda May with a robot voice – something last season could have never logically afforded.

As far as mysteries go, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has struck the perfect the balance of managing an overarching story - which gives the show a purpose to exist – and developing an ensemble cast as the core strength of the show. There is no single paragraph end to this series which will make all of these adventures worthwhile. An answer simply provides an end, it doesn't replicate the terrific journey which is being crafted along the way. Some of the most beloved shows on television became as such because of the strength of the ensemble on its own, not because of the adventures they go on, and the strength of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a cult favorite show looks as if it will last well into Marvel advancements into Phase II and III and beyond.

If one were to make complaints, the exceptional advances that Fitz has been making in the light of Simmons’ return has been more than any medical study known to man. This, however, is necessary as Simmons is still best with Fitz, and it would be more than a bit complicated to work her character back in while allowing mental damage to slow down this series’ momentum. Whitehall, too, has become a bit lost in everything that’s occurring – something Agent Carter will likely resolve, fortunately.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took the time to figure out what type of television series it wants to be, and because of that audiences are now able to enjoy this show for everything that it actually is - not could be or eventually will be, as with a show which carries a city-based name. These are the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and this their adventures, and the show is so much more of a success now because of it. Now, with Agent Carter coming up next year, television viewers have enough time to catch up on what will easily be a saving grace after such a tepid fall season.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with “What They Become” @9pm on ABC. You can check out a preview of next week’s episode below:

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