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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Continues to Set Up the Story for Season 2

Bob Chipman | 1 Oct 2014 12:00
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So how was it?

Pretty damn good, actually!

It feels as though the serialized-adventure format (as opposed to straightforward "monster of the week" format) of the post-Winter Soldier half of season 1 is going to hang around through season 2, and it's a decidedly better fit -- though the "feeding dead/defeated baddies to Talbot" angle is obviously designed to make sure one-off threats are still a presence. Still, things feel strong and confident -- which is not something you could say this far into season 1.

I imagine the sudden shift to Hunter as the team's new Wolverine (or maybe he's closer to Gambit?) will rankle some fans, especially given how enthusiastically Tripp was received as a superior-replacement for Ward. I'm not over the moon for the character just yet, but I like the story-possibilities in Coulson subcontracting the nastier business of spycraft to rogues in order to keep S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 clean for the time being. There's inklings of a mutual-attraction happening with Skye, but I hope they don't feel the need to jump back into that right away. Bottom line: It's an action show, and Blood has serviceable action-guy chops, so I'm onboard for now.

Speaking of relationships -- the unexpectedly excellent rapport Fitz and Mac have is easily the happy surprise of this episode. I especially like that we don't get some kind of convoluted "He reminds me of..." or "I knew his..." reasoning for why the burly, blunt-speaking mechanic wants to engage with the Team Geek -- Mac just seems to want to be friends. The scripted structure of the ice breaking between them was a bit on the clunky side (Mac is the one who figures out that Fitz's frustrated sputtering of "I didn't solve this today..." doesn't mean that he's giving up, but that the answer is something he already invented but forgot) but the chemistry makes it work.

...Speaking of chemistry, since I'm sure Tumblr has already decided that this is a "thing," yes -- I did in fact notice that "Ghost Simmons" sizes-up Mac in subtly curious fashion before encouraging Fitz to accept his help, and yes that is interesting since she's just a projection of Fitz's subconscious. It certainly isn't chiseled in stone anywhere that Fitz is 100% heterosexual, and we know next to nothing about Mac's background, so it's within the realm of possibility and it certainly would be an unexpected turn, I'll say that much.

I get that "What is Skye?" and "What was the Blue Guy?" are likely the mysteries-worth-answering for this season (especially since both seem tied to eventual Agent Carter mid-series) and thus the alien writing needs to stay in the plot, but I was a little disappointed to learn it's still a prominent problem for Coulson. Seeing him struggling with the weight of his new Director responsibilities was a great new angle for the season, and it's somehow less interesting if he's also still dealing with this craziness on top of it. A "normal" Coulson straining under real-world (relatively real, at least) pressure is relatable -- Coulson dealing with that and possible alien-possession and not bouncing off the walls in a strait-jacket practically makes him a superhero in his own right at this point.

Still, at this point it feels like the season is still in setup-mode, introducing the new plotlines and toys we'll be following through both this series and Agent Carter, so it's possible there's a point to doubling up on Coulson Issues that I'm not seeing yet. Similarly, I do feel like if we get to the mid-season break and "What is Skye?" hasn't evolved into "What does Skye being ______ mean?" that particular thread will have gone on too long; but I'm willing to wait and see... Especially since the promos for next week's episode are teasing the return of Simmons... as a HYDRA Agent! (Evil Natasha Henstridge? Which gods did I please?)

The Bottom Line: S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 continues to impress, but shows faint signs of slipping into season 1's bad habits. Hope it keeps coming, and that the great two-episode turn for The Absorbing Man is a new baseline for how the show handles better-known Marvel characters and not a ceiling.

Recommendation: A worthwhile watch for fans, though I can't begin to guess what all this mythology means to anyone who didn't stay versed in season 1.

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