The folks behind ABC’s AGENTS OF SHIELD had a pretty tall order last season, and what made it all the more difficult was that no one knew they were being forced to swim with lead trunks on. Expectations were already high for Marvel Studios’ first television series, not only because of the studio’s stellar track record of success, but also because of the unexpected and massive popularity of their sole original character, Agent Phil Coulson as played by Clark Gregg, resurrected after his heroic demise in AVENGERS to anchor this new series. What no one knew was that their series was being forced to stay away from its greatest antagonist in the source material, Hydra, because of events that would be unveiled in last year’s feature film CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, which would both expose Hydra to the world and reveal its entrenchment in the ranks of SHIELD itself, resulting in the dissolution of the very organization the series was centered around.
As a result, the final six or seven episodes of last season felt like a different series entirely, as the writers were finally able to lost the shackles and let things really play out, with a fantastic finale that ended with Coulson being named director of a new in-the-shadows version of SHIELD, out to reclaim as much of the old organization’s tech so it can continue doing the work of protecting the world from superhuman threats, while remaining on the run from the government forces now out to apprehend them.
Sounds like a great premise for a series, doesn’t it? Well, the good news is, based on the second-season premiere, it’s working out to be just that.
Almost all of the problems I had with the series early on seem to be no longer present, with the previously cloying and unrealistic Skye now properly trained and serving on the team as a proper agent, and the dull-as dishwater Ward (who was far more interesting as a villain then he ever was as a hero) locked up in the basement growing out his beard and acting more than a little creepy as he hopes for a second chance.
Add a much heavier dose of Marvel mythology in the return of General Glenn Talbot, a very sweet flashback cameo by Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos, and what looks like a recurring villainous for Crusher Creel the Absorbing Man, and you get more Marvel fan service than we got for the first two-thirds of last season, and all that wrapped within a compelling story that firmly sets the direction for the season’s story arc.
And as if that weren’t enough, the episode’s kicker, revealing a devastating detail about the injured SHIELD scientist Fitz, provided a truly Whedonesque punch to the emotional solar plexus, the first time the series has ever been able to pull that off. I won’t reveal it here in case you’re DVRing the series and need to catch up, but wow.
With more Hydra and the introduction of Mockingbird on the horizon, AGENTS OF SHIELD has my attention. Keep it up.