For a show that was roundly ridiculed for much of last season, Agents of SHIELD managed to turn the corner after Captain America: Winter Soldier last Spring. After a strong third act in the opening sequence and an excellent first-seaon finale, SHIELD opened its second season even stronger, more assured, and relaxed. This is the show that we were hankering for all along: Chummy, clever, layered, action-oriented, and fun.
Yes, above all else, Agents of SHIELD is fun.
There’s no shortages of MacGuffins, either, which is what the Marvel Universe is built around. Let’s race to this thing, which will connect to another thing, which will bring all these characters together, at which point, we will forget all completely about the “thing.” In the season premiere, that “thing” an obelisk, which may or may not hold the answer to death itself.
That obelisk is first introduced in the opening sequence, when — back in post World War II 1945 — Agent Carter (who will be arriving to ABC with her own spin-off later this fall) reclaims it from the last known Hydra site (ha ha!).
In the present day, that obelisk bounces around the entire episode, allowing Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen to introduce Isabelle Hartley (Lucy Lawless) and her merry men of mercenaries and Carl Creel/The Absorbing Man, yet another neat villain the Marvel universe had in its cavernous hip pocket.
The obelisk exchanged hands a few times in the episode, until eventually Hartley lost her hand, her arm, and potentially her life (she looked dead to me, but this is a comic-book show) after escaping from a military base with the obelisk attached to her hand and sucking out her life force, only to collide into Creel, who had apparently absorbed a chemical compound best known as, “Don’t fucking run into me with your car, lady.”
Creel grabbed the obelisk from the wreckage, and it is is now headed toward Dr. Whitehall, Code Name: The Kraken, a Hydra agent from 1945, who is still alive and chewing scenery in the present day.
Meanwhile, back at the military base, May, Triplett, and a suddenly ass-kicking, marry-me-please Skye are following Coulson’s suicidal orders to get the Quinjet, which will allow him and the other SHIELD agents to “go dark,” and continue helping people who neither want nor asked for SHIELD’s help. So, basically, they’re the unwanted A-Team with awesome gadgets.
I’m OK with that.
Meanwhile, here’s your season two ship:
The neat twist in the episode — and one of the moments that has me most excited about this season of Agents of SHIELD — is that we were led to believe for most of the episode that Fitz was rehabbing his damaged brain with with the help of Simmons. Only, it turns out that Simmons is there’ He left, and Fitz’s brain is so far gone that he only thinks he’s having conversations with Simmons.
Well played, Whedon/Tancharoen. That reveal, along with Hartley’s possible death, brought a level of somberness and depth to the proceedings that we’re not accustomed to from Agents of SHIELD.
Meanwhile, it’s hard not to feel something for Evil Ward, who doesn’t feel so evil now that he’s apparently done some Yoga, had a come-to-Jesus moment and has decided to provide intel to SHIELD, but remember this: The nice beard, the truth-telling, the helpful intelligence, and the lingering crush on Skye don’t change this simple fact: He’s responsible for Fitz’s cognitive problems. He turned Fitz into a high-functioning vegetable. He’s broken.
So, kindly go f*ck yourself, Evil Ward. Next time you find a piece of paper, try harder.