The first season of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” ended just over four months ago, and it was a hell of a ride. It began as most comic book superhero TV shows do, with lots of hope, hype, and enthusiasm. When it did not deliver what most of the audience wanted, they fell away, but those that stayed away missed the magic trick of the year. The series proved itself more than anyone thought, pulling off a coup crossover with Captain America The Winter Soldier and proving they knew what they were doing all along. Meet me after the jump for a quick primer on last season, and what to expect this season on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
S.H.I.E.L.D. has several different abbreviations, used at different times in its comics history, but whether it is as ancient as the pyramids, fighting the hordes of Hydra, aiding the Avengers, battling Zodiac, training young heroes, or even corralling radioactive dinosaurs like Godzilla – S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been a peace keeping, law abiding organization. These are the good guys, the white hats, the superhero support, and the spies who fight for right.
In the comics, the cartoons, the movies and here in ABC’s current TV series, they are led by super-spy Nick Fury. Whether he looks like Samuel L. Jackson, David Hasselhoff, or Charles McGraw from The Narrow Margin in 1952 (after whom Jim Steranko designed his version of the character) Fury is always the rough and tumble soldier spy with all the answers and all the guts. Nobody messes with Fury, and he always has a back-up plan. What better guy to run an organization like S.H.I.E.L.D.?
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. is introduced right at the start in 2008’s Iron Man as an organization seeking to recruit the new hero into something called ‘the Avengers Initiative’ in the first of Marvel’s post-credits sequences. They later aided in the capture of the Hulk, found the hammer of Thor, and was there to help Captain America when the World War II hero was revived in the 21st century. The organization was the thread of continuity that held these movies together.
Finally when Loki threatened the planet with an alien invasion force, S.H.I.E.L.D. gathered these heroes together as the Avengers. Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson was front and center, and it was his death at the hands of Loki that cemented Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and the Hulk as the Avengers – it was his death primarily they were avenging. As the “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV series began, with Coulson leading the team, the mystery of his resurrection became a major plot point.
Coulson led an elite team in the series, composed of seemingly handpicked agents, with the mission of locating, cataloguing, training, protecting, or disabling super-powered individuals and alien technology. If it’s too big for the police or military, but not big enough for the Avengers, it’s SHIELD’s job. The collection and assessment of these 0-8-4s as they’re classified, as well as keeping them out of the hands of those who would misuse them, is job one.
Quite a few 0-8-4s have been intriguing, one of them, Skye, a hacker for The Rising Tide, just one of SHIELD’s opponents, actually joined the team. But The Rising Tide wasn’t SHIELD’s greatest threat, that would be a menace from within the organization itself – Hydra. SHIELD itself was infested with terrorists plotting world domination, and in Captain America The Winter Soldier, it all came to a head, and SHIELD collapsed. Coulson’s team, itself crippled by traitors, became the agents of nothing, fighting against former comrades for their lives.
As with most series developed by Joss Whedon (although his brother Jed Whedon and Jed’s wife Maurissa Tancharoen are the actual showrunners), the cast is half the battle, and are put through their paces as the characters ride a wild roller coaster of transformation. Skye changes the most over time, and Chloe Bennet is wonderful as our eyes into this spy team in a superhero world. Also evolving over the season are Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge as resident science geeks Fitz and Simmons, growing from their combined pun name into individual characters we care for.
Ming-Na Wen is the tough as nails super agent and old friend of Coulson, Melinda May. She also is there to keep watch on him in case he gets too close to finding out how he survived his death. Her not-so-secret affair with Agent Grant Ward, played by Brett Dalton, is a major plot point as he is the traitor in their midst. His performance has been seemless, even though he did not know ’til late he was the bad guy.
When the show was not the Avengers every week, viewers did unfortunately bail, but they missed out on what I thought was something special. “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was something we had not seen on television in quite some time, an espionage show in a superhero world, mind you, but still an espionage show. And they did it well. The gadgets and vehicles, a call back to the golden age of James Bond and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” just rocked.
Along the way, fighting while fighting Hydra, The Rising Tide, and Project Centipede, they did also run across many extras from the Marvel Universe proper, like Deathlok, Graviton, Lady Sif, Lorelei, Blizzard, Blackout, Maria Hill, Victoria Hand, Glenn Talbot, an Asgardian berserker, and of course Nick Fury himself. In the end, Coulson is left in charge of what’s left of SHIELD, to build the organization back up.
The New Season
As the new season opens tomorrow night, rumor has it we’ll get a peek at both Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos. “Agent Carter” will be used as a fill-in show, although tied in with the continuity when “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” goes on hiatus after ten episodes. After “Agent Carter” the show returns with its final twenty-odd episodes of the season. Both series should form one cohesive storyline. If you thought the crossover with the Captain America sequel was brilliant, this should be just as good.
And don’t forget that this summer Avengers: Age of Ultron is coming, and I don’t doubt for a second that this will tie into that somehow. Appearing in the series this second season we’ll also have Adrianne Palicki as Bobbi Morse, who in the comics is SHIELD agent and Avenger Mockingbird. Patton Oswalt and Lucy Lawless will be around. Rumor has it that Blizzard and Graviton will be returning, and the Absorbing Man will also be making at least one appearance.
Awesome. I can’t wait. See you tomorrow night.