Well that was definitely a way to kick off a new season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and if the rest of Season 2 is anywhere near as good as the premiere episode “Shadows,” “Arrow” may have some tight competition for best comic book based TV show this year.
For viewers who stopped watching early on during the rough stages of the show last fall, but kept hearing all the positive buzz after the “Captain America: The Winter Solider” tie-in and decided to give it another shot, the show must seem dramatically different — entirely for the better.
But first, we take a bit of a flashback to 1945 to watch Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell), Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough), Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi) lead an assault on a HYDRA base. The HYDRA leader Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond) had plans on using one of The Red Skull’s weapons, but Carter and company capture him and seal the box to keep it from falling into the wrong hands.
Fast forward a few decades and Coulson (Clark Gregg) is no longer preoccupied with what happened to him after being killed by Loki and is now running the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. with a steely focus that would make his mentor Nick Fury proud.
Skye (Chloe Bennet) isn’t acting like a 90s hacker chick and is instead an actually credible bad-a$$ field agent joining the primary strike team of May (Ming-Na Wen) and Trip (B.J. Britt). But with loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. members scattered around the globe, Coulson has had to call on his old ally Hartley (Lucy Lawless) and her mercenary partners Idaho (Wilmer Calderon) and Hunter (Nick Blood) to aid in missions. Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. does have some support in tech whiz Mack (Henry Simmons) and security head Billy Koenig (Patton Oswalt).
Fitz (Ian De Caestecker) is still recovering from the brain damage suffered in last season’s finale and progressing slowly on repairing the ship’s cloaking device, but thankfully Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is there to lend an encouraging word. Shifting Fitz from an awkward, nerdy genius to a frustrated, easily angered genius proves a fascinating change of direction that seems ripe for material as we await the return of the old Fitz especially after the twist at that end of the episode (more on that later).
The team is close to plugging another S.H.I.E.L.D. leak when Carl Creel (Brian Patrick Wade) shows up and proceeds to lay a proper Absorbing Man(!) beating on them and make off with the intel. With no good leads on Creel, Coulson is forced to talk to Ward, the HYDRA traitor on his team — or more specifically make Skye talk to him. There’s some tension between Skye and Coulson now, but neither address it yet. Another good switch as now Skye isn’t being treated like the favorite student.
Ward has had it rough in S.H.I.E.L.D. prison and has the attempted suicide marks to prove it, but Skye isn’t biting — she just wants information on Creel. Brett Dalton has found a solid mysterious edge to give Ward and while he’s playing nice, he’s made Ward complex enough that like Skye, we know not to trust much of anything he says now even after he mentions Skye’s father.
Creel’s HYDRA bosses send him off to engage Gen. Glenn Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) leading to a full on Absorbing Man fight with S.H.I.E.L.D. complete with ball and chain. The show’s budget must have been pumped up a bit as there’s no shying away from using Creel’s powers fully and it looks exactly like the character from the comic and not a stripped down version for the sake of TV.
Coulson is using his full bag of tricks and outwits Talbot into gaining access to the army base where the Red Skull’s weapon is being held. Fortunately, Hartley grabs it before Creel, but the weapon begins decaying her hand prompting Idaho and Hunter to abort the rest of Coulson’s mission in order to save her. Hartley is prepared to lose the hand to save her life and just as Hunter finishes slicing warrior princess limb, Creel crashes into the car – killing Hartley and Idaho, leaving Hunter feigning death so he won’t be taken out too.
May, Tripp and Skye finish the true task – getting possession of one of the captured Quinjets. Turns out Fitz has gone “Sixth Sense” on us as Simmons left months ago to help him focus, but Coulson reveals her absence has only made him worse to the point where he’s talking to himself and essentially worthless. Show of hands of everyone who saw that one coming. Put ’em down, you’re lying.
The final sequence played out much more like a movie than a TV show and this is the advantage “S.H.I.E.L.D.” has over the rest of the competition. It’s tied to a movie universe and can call on any character to help remind viewers this is part of a much larger world.
In the post-credit scene, a HYDRA agent delivers the Skull’s weapon to his boss, the mysteriously still alive Daniel Whitehall, a character whose appearance leads further credence to my thought that “Captain America 3” will indeed be covering the latest Secret Wars comic storyline.
This was one of the better 44-minutes of the series so far and opens up a whole slew of questions. We’ve got a long season to go, but this kick-off certainly looks to pick up on the momentum from the back half of the first season and if that remains the case, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” will definitely be living up to its full potential this season.