[Review] - Agents Of SHIELD, Season 2 Episode 1, "Shadows"

Courtesy of Marvel Television Productions
Why yes, I am a glutton for punishment. Why do you ask?

When coming off what could generously be called a "divisive" and realistically called a "flawed" first season, it is equally wise and unwise to start your second with cameos from more popular and engaging characters, from a better film and a more heavily anticipated series (which, let me get this out of the way right now - on the heels of recent casting announcements for Agent Carter, if Neal McDonough doesn't have at least a recurring role as Dum Dum, I'm out). It also does not bode well for what turned out to have to be a season of rebuilding that that first scene was the best of the episode. A scene that was mostly just shooting, exposition and nostalgia. Agents of SHIELD, looks like you're in for a long battle up a steep hill. In the winter. Both ways.

That metaphor started better than it finished.

Hit the jump for the review, which contain spoilers that grew their bangs out over the "winter."

Premieres are, without a doubt, the worst things to review, because you have no reasonable idea what threads are meant to be carried through. Will they be focusing on repairing damage from last year. Will it be a soft reboot? What tone are they going to establish for the next batch of ten episodes, and how long will that last before they say "screw it" and try something else. Which characters are going to last longer than the run time.

Seriously, this is exactly how not to do stunt casting, Marvel. I suspected that something was up when the opening credits rolled, and Nick Blood is part of the full cast, but Lucy Lawless and BJ Britt were relegated to guest stars. Britt still not being full time is a crime, but right now that pales to the boondoggle that is Lucy Lawless' involvement. Unless they are pulling another Deathstroke on us, and plan on bringing her back later on as some... thing, this was cheap. Announcing her effectively as full time staff, or at least never refuting that assumption, riding the coat tails of her being Lucy freaking Lawless and hoping that it would get you a bump in ratings is cold and dishonest and a little bit mean. I guarantee you the producers will be running around, talking to every blog that it was all part of the plan, and of that I have no doubt. But she could have been announced as a guest star. Leading us to believe that she was going to be something other than a red shirt is callous manipulation, and I don't need more excuses to not respect your show and how you run it.

Frankly, I'm glad she is gone, because the writers, aware that she wouldn't last the forty two minutes, didn't seem overly interested in giving her an endearing qualities. Her death is empty and meaningless because at no point in this episode did she do anything to earn my affection. Lawless, it seems, picked up on this too, because she shows no enthusiasm for playing... I don't even know her name. Lady SHIELD. That's what the writers saw fit to make her, so that is how I will relegate her. She was a high profile, completely disposal waste of effort and talent. In a series (and larger franchise) that is in need and is constantly reminded of their lack of strong, interesting female characters, this shoots them in their last good foot. You know, the one the other shoe hasn't dropped off.

But before I fall too far down the "well, it looks like we're in for this again" rabbit hole, what worked? Well, Carl Creel, The Absorbing Man, made for an effective if completely underwritten (did he have any lines at all?) antagonist and lackey for this season's Big Bad, Hyrda commander Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond). Creel was there to punch things and turn into various kinds of metals and polymers and apparently gets off on doing so. The visual effects for Creel's changes were good looking, and this is where being a premiere really handicaps me, with rare exceptions. The CG last season sucked. Is the improvement in this episode a sign of over all improvement, or did ABC give them a little extra cash to make episode one look nice and clean before going back to making them pick through Once Upon A Time's scraps. The best I can say right now is that what was in this episode looked good.

Annnnd... that's about it. I did like the character adjustment they made to Skye, making her into a mini-May, though me thinks the show has enough characters whose power is kicking people really hard. Skye is still naive and annoying, but she is at least showing signs of progressing in a forward motion as a character. Ward is... insane? Who knows, and frankly, who cares. his character arc is ended, and his presence here is a distraction. Also, it does no one any good for a show to ape Silence of the Lambs when you've got Hannibal on a competing network. Fitz probably got the biggest character overhaul, again pointless because his arc was nicely completed last year, and again to the utter detriment of a previously interesting female character. Not that I believe that Simmons is gone for good, but the show preferring to have the brain damaged boy genius on board, and have the woman having run off because of emotions is trivial and insulting.

If Coulson says the word "dark" again, I'm going to throw a shoe at my screen. Because the rest of the episode relied on implied drama, melodrama, and the sort of "should have been caught in the first draft" shit that bugged me the most in season one. Stuff like Skye wirelessly taping a hard wire. Or the top secret government facility, in which Talbot is dumping all Hydra and former SHIELD agents, as well as every bit of weird the find, appears to be no more secure then a Radio Shack warehouse. Or the biggest nag I had in this episode: If SHIELD is a terrorist organization, and Ward was hauled away by the Talbot's government thugs at the end of last year, why are SHIELD allowed to keep him locked in the basement? Did they break him out of Guantanamo just to keep him under the stairs? Seriously, how and why do they have him in a laser pen?

What I walked away from in this episode was twofold. First, it appears that Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen did not learn their lesson from last year, or at the very least aren't good at writing episodes. I'll be very interested to see if any improvements have been made on a macro-level, since micro, in this instance, has failed us. Second, I walked away feeling immense sympathy and support for Glenn "comedy mustache" Talbot. He's the one in the right here. He's legitimately hunting down terrorists, and Coulson's band of merry men breaks into Nottingham and steal all his cool stuff. Certainly, Talbot has to learn to treat the threat more seriously, but he's at least on the side of angels. That, and he got the best line of the night, with his honeycomb murder room jab.

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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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