This article is FULL OF SPOILERS! So if you haven’t seen SHIELD season 1 or Captain America: The Winter Soldier you may not want to read this.
Last year when Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD hit premiered, I sat salivating over the future potential of Marvel shows gracing my small screen on a weekly basis. Sadly, the first season of SHIELD was a bit hit-and-miss. While it started with a strong pilot, the next eight to ten episodes were considerably weaker. Marvel and the actors from the show made sure to inform everyone that they just needed to hold out a bit longer, the show was building something and was asking for our patience. Then Captain America: The Winter Soldier happened and turned the series on its head. It was revealed by Arnim Zola that SHIELD had been infiltrated by Hydra during the 1950s after World War II and that it was secretly controlling the organization for decades. The corruption traveled all the way up to the top of SHIELD, where we were privileged to hear Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce whisper “Hail Hydra”. What a shock to the MCU. SHIELD continued on the heels of Cap 2 and turned our team of heroes, led by Phil Coulson, into renegades. By the end of season 1 SHIELD was dissolved, Nick Fury had gone dark, and Coulson was left to rebuild SHIELD and help keep Earth safe from the insanity of super villains. Marvel had introduced some great villains in season 1: Graviton, Blizzard, and Blackout, classic Avengers villains who have the perfect power-scale for television. With the revelation that SHIELD “hero” Ward was actually a Hydra double-agent, things got very interesting. We were left with Ward in SHIELD custody, Bill Paxton’s John Garrett dead, and SHIELD scientist Fitz in a coma. Enter Season 2.
Season 2 begins with a flashback to the 1940s. A Hydra stronghold has been captured by the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR). This is where we see the television debut of Agent Peggy Carter and her group of Howling Commandos. This opening scene lays the groundwork for what will be Marvel’s Agent Carter, a spin-off show that will premiere when SHIELD is on a season break. If this opening scene is just a taste of what this show will deliver, I’d like to put in an order for the full meal. Firstly, Hayley Atwell’s Carter has become something of a fan favorite. Her ability to be feminine, heroic, and tough-as-nails is a perfect combination. As the SSR bursts into Hydra territory we’re greeted with some action, humor, and WWII antics. What’s most important is that the team picks up an unidentified object (an 084) and takes it into their custody. WE then jump to the present with Coulson’s team.
SHIELD has become a much grittier show since it’s opening episodes last fall. The team is now a group of renegade fugitives, they are working with mercenaries lead by Lucy Lawless’ Isabel Hartly, and are still branded enemies of the US government. This season has already improved upon the all-too-techy season 1 version with the insertion of some more muscly members of the team. Agent Triplet has become a full-time SHIELD member and we are introduced to mercenaries Lance Hunter and Alphonso “Mac” Mackenzie. This new team is much more of a spit and vinegar combination than last year. This episode also delivers some great action! Brian Pactrick Wade joins the series as Crusher Creel, The Absorbing Man. He’s one of the first real supervillains that the show has produced. His powers looked great on the show and he proves to be quite the challenge for the team to deal with. Luckily, he ends the episode on the run so we can expect he’ll be back in the future. There was also a nice touch when he picked up a ball-and-chain, which is his go to weapon in the comics.
The purpose of episode 201 is for SHIELD to start to establish itself again. Creel was sent into US custody to retrieve the 084 found by the SSR at the beginning of the episode. This mystery obelisk’s function is unknown though we see what it does to Hartly when she touches it, it turns her arm into a grotesque, blue claw and paralyzes her. We ultimately see Hartly die, but given the effects of all the mystery objects from Season 1; I suspect that she’ll also be back.
The strong point of the episode is Coulson’s more ruthless manner. In a shift of character Coulson is driven to rebuild SHIELD and is willing to sacrifice team members to reach his goal. He’s more detached, colder, and ultimately more interesting. Clark Gregg continues to display more and more of what Phil Coulson is like and it’s the perfect compliment to the series.
We also get to see a little bit of Ward in prison. The new SHIELD has taken Ward into custody and plans to use Skye as a tool to learn his secrets. We see Coulson using this to his advantage as he gets the info he needs from Ward. Skye has also grown into her role a bit more. Many viewers were not happy with the character in season 1 but it feels as though the writers now know what to do with her. She’ll never be as cold and brutal as Agent May, but she’s getting more relatable, which is a nice touch. Hopefully we’ll get more information about her origin throughout season 2.
The biggest and saddest moment of the episode revolves around Fitz. The techie was left in a coma at the end of season 1 and with the help of his partner Jemma Simmons, he’s making his way back to getting his brain working. The effects of the coma and loss of oxygen have made him forgetful and scattered. He’s clearly battling with the effects of losing his intelligence. Luckily, Simmons is there to help him stay on track. Then we find out that Simmons quit the team after the Hydra reveal, and that Fitz is just imagining that she’s there. It was a sad moment for both characters, showing some real humanity among the chaos.
Due to Fitz mental instability, the team is forced to steal a Quinjet so that they can utilize its cloaking technology to “go invisible”. Fitz continues to try to fix the cloaking device on “the bus” but his lack of ability has proven to be quite the roadblock. The appropriately named “Shadows” delivers upon its title across the board. The team now lurks in the shadows as a group of vigilantes. We see shadows of the past of what SHIELD was and what it is today. Episode 201 leaves the viewer wanting more. We want to know what the obelisk is, what happened to Hartly and how it connects to Coulson’s breakdown at the end of season 1. While this left me asking more questions, I am so eager to see how it pans out. With some real supervillains, a resurgence of Hydra, and great character shifts Season 2 looks like it will deliver.
Shadows was the perfect way to kick off season 2 as it left me wanting more. It struck a perfect balance between the action, character development, and story. I cannot wait for next Tuesday! Lasty, Patton Oswald’s Agent Koening is just great, I hope he finds his way into the films.