Agent’s of SHIELD‘s first season was something of a funny one. On the one hand, it made for a great set of boxing gloves for Marvel against competitor, Arrow; on the other, it was a show that began too afraid of its own shadow, only to be revitalised by the ground-shaking events of this year’s Captain America 2.
Now, standing bravely beside the upcoming Agent Carter and Daredevil series, director Joss Whedon needs to prove that Agents of SHIELD, in its second season, can stand firmly on its own two feet, and prove its worth amongst Kevin Feige’s growing kennel of big dogs.
The season two premiere begins with a flashback to Austria, 1945. To my slight disappoint, it isn’t to Cap whizzing his shield into the gut of a helpless Nazi soldier, but instead to the increasingly popular (God knows why) Penny Carter, as she suavely raids the last known Hydra encampment.
There, her team and the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve, for you Marvelites out there) secure a strange artefact, otherwise labelled as ‘Item 084’. Spring back to modern times, and we’re met with a SHIELD team, meeting to secure that very same artefact. Are Coulson and the gang involved? Of course, it’s their show!
Immediately from the ‘previously, on…’ part, it’s apparent that this isn’t the show we fans started with a year ago. No more of your light-hearted gimmicks and letting your kids (if you have them, of course) watch each week; this is a show with a gritty back bone, not letting you forget the hard realisation of Hydra’s presence within the MCU.
That backbone not only sits in the shows tone, but in its character roster (it’s a pretty big backbone, alright?). Initially, the show set out in its first season to create a set of clearly defined characters (albeit, rather one-dimensional characters) to break down across the weeks.
This time around, as Whedon presents with Director Coulson’s new friends, he’s created a set of indefinable characters that, hopefully, can be built from the ground up (well, the ones that still exist after this episode, SPOILERS) and have some interesting character developments.
In terms of the existing group, it seems the director’s work is done. Within about ten minutes, I warmed straight back to the show’s existing characters thanks to their new-found places in this torn world of SHIELD. Coulson, no longer a frail little man pondering about his past, but a confident leader ready to lead his team; Skye, who, yes, is still the team’s trusted little hacker, but now comes with a bashful side that sets her apart from her ‘equivalent to Laurie from The Walking Dead‘ likeability.
Looking more at the episode’s plot, it was a great blend of what’s made the show work in the past. Sure, it has that ‘We’re going on an adventure!’ feel, where its events can stand on its own rather proudly (what more could you want than an ‘absorbing man’?), but it also raises some questions for future questions, particularly about Skye’s parents and what miracle youth cream Dr Whitehall is using (seriously, he looks the same after fifty nine years!).
I think my biggest nit-pick, however, is in Fitz’s place in this episode. As much as I loved his and Simmons’ relationship in the first season, I felt that his treatment was a complete disregard for his character and how it developed over the past year.
Personally (all hate mail I accept), he should have hit the hay for good at the finale; but, hey, I may be proved wrong as the weeks carry on, and he could be the best thing to ever happen to this show (slightly pushing it, there).
All things considered, despite my angry fangirling, ‘Shadows’ was a very strong opener to what could be a very strong season for Agents of SHIELDS. If they can use the criticisms aimed at the first season (and not rely on the events of Captain America 3), then it’ll certainly fight for my attention with FOX’s Gotham. And Arrow. And Flash.
Christ… it’s a good time to be a comic book nerd.