Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 1: Shadows

Holy crap! Now that's how you start a season! This is the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans wanted all along, and the one we should have got from the start. Fortunately for those of us who stuck with the show, our patience is finally paying off.

If you watched Season 1, you'll remember that the show started out strong, then floundered for months as it became little more than a standard police procedural with an occasional superhero name dropped in order to remind us it was supposed to be set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

With the theatrical release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the series finally picked up, as the creative team seemed to be actually listening to fan complaints and taking steps to improve the show. The improvements and course corrections continue in this latest episode, especially with the inclusion of the Howling Commandos and the Absorbing Man. Let's hope they can keep up the quality for the entire season.

I really love all this continuity and interconnectivity. It reminds me of the good old days of Marvel Comics.

One last thing– it's been a long time since I've watched a TV show live– probably since last year's S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale. I usually watch shows online or on DVD. I'd forgotten how many commercials there are in an hour show, and how annoying they are. How do you people who regularly watch live TV stand it?

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
After the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson and his Team have been slowly contacting former agents and recruiting new ones as they attempt to rebuild the organization. Complications arise as Fitz's injury has slowed him down considerably, General Talbot is determined to throw them all in prison, and the Absorbing Man shows up to steal alien artifacts for HYDRA.

Thoughts:
• The episode opens with a flashback to 1945, as we see Agent Carter and the Howling Commandos! Well, two of them, anyway. I guess that's all they could afford on a TV budget. Sill, it was awesome to see them!

I wasn't very enthused about the idea of the upcoming Agent Carter TV series, but this flashback changed my mind. Now that I've seen a taste of what I assume the series will be like, I'm a bit more excited by the prospect. Are the Howling Commandos going to be in the series as well? I hope so.

• Agent Carter and the Commandos arrive just as a squad of Nazi/HYDRA soldiers are packing various supernatural items into crates. Carter commandeers the items and sends them to a secure government storage facility, probably the same one that houses the Ark Of The Covenant. 

One of these items is a shiny hunk of metal called the Obelisk. They pack it in a case and label it SSR 084. If you're a regular viewer you'll know doubt recognize that 0-8-4 number. It's the classification S.H.I.E.L.D. gave to "objects of unknown origin."

• We get a brief glimpse inside one of the HYDRA crates, and it contains something blue and glowing. Coulson's alien Kree from last season, perhaps?

• I assumed that Season 2 would pick up right where Season 1 left off, but it appears that several months has passed since then. I think that's a good thing. Watching Coulson painstakingly rebuild SHIELD a brick at a time might well have become tedious after a while. It's always better to start your story in media res.

• This episode lobs several new agents at us, including Izzy Hartley (played by Lucy Lawless), Lance Hunter and someone named "Idaho." Izzy's OK, but the others are pretty forgettable. I can't tell yet if they're just there as redshirts or if they'll be fleshing them out more in later episodes. Hopefully the latter.


• By Stan Lee's Toupee! The Absorbing Man makes an appearance! Wow! I honestly never thought I'd see a TV series featuring him. And he looked pretty close to the way he does in the comic, too! OK, so this TV version was prettier than the Crusher Creel of the comics, but he was still pretty darned awesome. He even had his ball and chain there for a minute!

• Does Creel have magic pants that transform along with his body? When he "disappears" from his Plexiglass prison cell (more on that in a minute), it looks completely empty. Seems like we should have seen a pair of pants standing against the wall. 

Later in the storage facility, Izzy walks right by him as he blends in with the wall. Again, she ought to be seeing a pair of pants standing there. 

I don't think his pants are changing, because when he turns into gold (or whatever it was) for fun, his pants don't appear to transform. So he must be taking them off and standing there nekkid when he wants to hide.


• By the way, if the Absorbing Man had a son, would he be called Absorbine Jr.?

• Last season's super annoying Skye has finally become 95% less annoying. I shall call this new and improved version Skye 2.0.

• Skye 2.0 visits Evil Ward in his Hannibal Lecter prison cell. I'm a bit worried that they're eventually going to start trying to redeem him. I really hope they don't. He committed far too many crimes last season to forgive.


By the way, while talking to Skye 2.0, Evil Ward lists the various ways he's tried to kill himself over the past few months, including sawing at his wrists with a button, slicing his wrists with a folded piece of paper and running full speed into the wall.

Oddly enough, we see he still has a bed in his cell, complete with sheets. Seems like someone as resourceful and determined as Evil Ward could have figured out a way to turn those items into a noose, sharpened hospital corners or some sort of suicide implement.

• So about Talbot's aforementioned soldiers– they aren't the sharpest utensils in the drawer, are they? Their prisoner disappears from his clear plastic prison, and even though they can see right through it, they open the door for some boneheaded reason.

I get that the door needed opened for the plot to proceed, but surely there was a smarter way to go about writing it.


• Note that the Team use what appear to be normal handguns, but they all have a subtle blue glow when they fire. I'm assuming these are the ICERS Fitz invented last season?

• The Team breaks a government warehouse to steal the Obelisk and if it's not too much trouble, a Quinjet with a cloaking device. Trip disguises himself as a general in order to infiltrate the base. 

No offense to Trip, but he looks a bit young to be a general.

• Izzy's having a really bad day. The Absorbing Man attacks and Izzy grabs the Obelisk, I guess intending to bean him in the head with it. Unfortunately it bonds itself to her hand, turning it all black and crusty. 

She says she can feel the Obelisk killing her, and demands that Hunter or Idaho (I told you they were forgettable) cut off her arm. He does so, and then the Absorbing Man attacks their car, seemingly killing Izzy. A bad day indeed!

The episode heavily implies that Izzy's dead, but I wouldn't count her out just yet. This is a Marvel series after all, so I'm betting she'll return soon, complete with a bionic hand.

• Awesome use of Creel's powers as he touches a tire and absorbs the properties of the rubber so he can safely pick up the Obelisk.

• I was totally surprised by the big reveal that Fitz is only imagining Simmons talking to him, Gaius Baltar-style. I hope Jemma comes back for real soon, and doesn't spend the entire season in Fitz's head.


• It took me a while to realize that the Reinhardt, the Nazi/HYDRA agent we saw in the flashback, and Professor Whitehall are the same person. It doesn't appear he's aged much, if at all, in the past 70 or so years. He did say that the Obelisk had "powers over life and death" or something like that, so I guess that's got something to do with his appearance.

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