Season Two of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. kicked off last night with a change in tone and a look back to 1945. This season should be more cohesive than Season One, if only because they have a plan in place from the start, with a ten-episode first half, followed by the short eight-episode crossover series Agent Carter, and then we’re back for a twelve-episode second half, all with as limited interruption as is possible in today’s TV schedule. They’re also not going to be able to tie-in to Marvel’s big-screen releases unless the season finale lines up with the May 1, 2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron premiere (May is also the tentative release date for Marvel’s upcoming Netflix series Daredevil), so the creative focus should be more self-contained. Beware. There are spoilers ahead. The confidence that this engenders is on display from the opening moments as we flash back to 1945 Austria as HYDRA is trying to consolidate their mad-science artifacts and discoveries — specifically for our purposes here, the original 084: known only as the obelisk. Whatever it is, it’s deadly, turning whomever it touches into a charred black corpse, so Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell), along with Original Howlers, Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough) and Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi) swoop in, taking out HYDRA agents and securing their prizes in the name of the Strategic Scientific Reserve. And if you’re paying attention you’ll get a brief glimpse of something (someone?) big and blue in one of HYDRA’s boxes. Fast forward to modern day and we jump right into the post-Winter Soldier Marvel Cinematic Universe as guest-stars Lucy Lawless, Nick Blood, and Wilmer Calderon are trying to buy classified info from an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who’s selling to the highest bidder. Before the transaction can go down, however, the newest Marvel baddie, Crusher Creel, The Absorbing Man (Brian Patrick Wade), busts in, kills the rogue agents, deflects a few bullets, and makes a mad dash out the window once our heroes May (Ming-Na Wen), Skye (Chloe Bennet), and Triplett (B.J. Britt), arrive to break up the scene. Taking a page from the impressive Season Three premiere of Walking Dead, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. leaps forward in time from this past spring’s Season One finale, giving us a crack field team, honed razor sharp over a winter on the run. I mean, we knew May and Triplett were awesome, but even SKYE IS BADASS NOW. She triggered a flashback to watching Carol and Carl clear out a house of walkers like bosses. If we consider the first season an origin story, everything bodes well for Season Two providing the creative minds behind the show a chance to spread their wings and build on that foundation (or whatever other mixed metaphors you want to throw into the mix). By launching into the story in progress, we’re able to hit the ground running plot-wise, although it does force a couple of awkward info-dumps to get viewers up to speed. And that means re-establishing the new headquarters “The Playground” and its clone/twin/LMD(???) Caretaker Billy Koenig (Patton Oswalt ), introducing another new team member, Mac (Henry Simmons), clarifying Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) new status as Director, as well as the new heartbreaking status quo for Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons’ (Elizabeth Henstridge) relationship. And showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen handle it all with a casual skill that almost effortlessly sets a new standard for scripting this show. The quips are still scattered throughout the interactions, but they’re not as prevalent as they had been in the past. This is a script that gets down to business and takes a serious look at the repercussions of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s collapse on our heroes. While Skye has been tempered by the experience, poor Fitz has broken. The brain damage he sustained in the finale wasn’t terminal, and thankfully we skipped the weekly melodrama of waiting for him to come out of his coma, etc. Instead, we get to watch as he struggles to find lost words and just can’t quite figure out how to repair the Bus’ cloaking technology. To be honest, the big reveal at the end should have been more obvious to me, and I’m sure it’s not going to surprise a lot of people, but that’s really kind of beside the point. The surprise serves more as a dawning of our realization that he’s not really getting better, but is slowly slipping away. The missing piece of the team’s puzzle, turncoat agent Ward (Brett Dalton), also appears this week, and if this doesn’t serve to alleviate some of the anxieties about his potential redemption, then I don’t know what will. I had been expecting some sort of late-in-the-game reappearance in our heroes’ lives, perhaps swooping to save the day after going through his own storyline of redemption, but instead Whedon and Tancharoen go dark. Literally. He’s being kept in an unlit-until-necessary high-tech cell in the basement and has gone a little bonkers. After a handful of suicide attempts something snapped in his mindtank and Skye is the only person he will talk to as she is the only light in his life; which disgusts and annoys her to no end. It’s like seeing the Hannibal and Clarice relationship through a funhouse mirror, where Hannibal is pathetically simpering and Clarice is a no-nonsense hard-ass. It’s kind of beautiful. Of course, his damage could end up being an act, which would be par for the course, but the intensity and sincerity with which he declares that he’ll never lie to her again was spot on. Dalton does an excellent job projecting just how lost Ward is and how desperate he is to be, if not forgiven, at least acknowledged. I really wasn’t expecting them to take this approach. Especially the whole private cell away from lawyers, etc. and subjected to what some might call psychological abuse. But then again, Coulson did promise him psychological, along with some physical, pain. Looks like Coulson is a man of his word. The expansion of the cast provides a few welcome improvements over the start of Season One, both in terms of racial diversity and in star power, with Lucy Lawless being cast as Isabelle ‘Izzy’ Hartley, an old ally of Coulson who is still dedicated to the cause. Of course by the end of this episode, there’s some question as to whether she’s going to be around for the long haul. In fact, not only did she undergo some emergency amateur surgery to save her from the corruption of the obelisk, she doesn’t look too good after Creel smashes up her car. Of the other two new mercenaries, Idaho (Wilmer Calderon) might also be dead, and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) isn’t doing well after the attack by Creel. On the plus side, the gang does steal a Quinjet (with cloaking tech intact). On the bad side, HYDRA gets the obelisk and Creel escapes. We are also introduced to the new head of TV’s HYDRA branch, Dr. Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond), otherwise known in the comics as Kraken. He also happens to be the HYDRA leader that Agent Carter took into custody back in 1945, but he doesn’t seem to have aged a day. Interesting… So if you were one of the people who stuck with Agents of SHIELD from the beginning, you should be patting yourselves on the back right about now. If the back half of Season One wasn’t validation enough for your patience, the second season opener should do the trick. If you gave up on the show early and didn’t bother checking back in at the end of last season, give it another shot. Although, you may want to go back and start watching at least from Episode 17 “Turn, Turn, Turn,” but I’d recommend going back to Episode 11 “The Magical Place.” Agents of SHIELD 2.01 “Shadows”4.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 3 Responses Dignan September 26, 2014 The episode was fairly entertaining, but I must admit I felt lost at the outset seeing new characters seemingly incorporated into the team without any introduction. I THOUGHT that looked like Lucy Lawless, but for some reason I convinced myself it was not her ( I guess I didn’t watch the credits). Yeah, I got the impression she was dead in the end. I know this may seem nitpicky to some, but the new baddy, who makes himself into asphalt and then causes the SUV to crash violently into him, while suffering no ill effects bothered me. It’ called MOMENTUM folks – the car takes a lot of damage, all that momentum has to be spent, and every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I hate when the writers just ignore physics because it’s inconvenient. But since this is a universe that contains Iron Man and the Hulk, I guess I shouldn’t complain. I wish they were a little more intelligent about things sometimes. Keeping Ward in a cell which will apparently become useless as soon as the electricity goes out doesn’t seem like the best idea. Something tells me he won’t be in there for long. I also feel like they have to go somewhere with the new Fitz storyline, there’s no way they’ll keep him as he is or get rid of him (or they would have just killed him last season). Via some Maguffin he’ll either rehab back to normal, or become some hyper-intelligent genius, which would be far more interesting and better keeping with the shows premise. I’ll be tuning in. But I still hate Skye. Log in to Reply Shawn EH September 27, 2014 He wasn’t just asphalt in that case, I don’t think: he was the road itself. Creel can take on the qualities of what he touches; he can also merge with it in some way. So it was like they suddenly hit a giant speedbump or ramp that wasn’t there a second before. The road was strong enough to absorb the impact; the car (and the fragile flesh inside) wasn’t. Log in to Reply Agents of SHIELD 2.02 "Heavy is the Head" - Psycho Drive-In February 23, 2015 […] our review of Episode 2.01 “Shadows,” to get us caught […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.