Following a shaky start the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really came into it’s own in the last few episodes, with changes to the universe that means things could never be the same again for the show, and the characters. The premiere episode of the second season had a lot to live up to, needing to maintain the momentum and quality of the end of the first season.
Thankfully the second season manages to start with a bang, clearly setting itself apart from the S.H.I.E.L.D. that had come before. This isn’t a big government organisation with glossy secret bases and high tech equipment, this a group of agents out in the field with no back-up, and working out of an old facility, they even lack any transport more advanced than a car. It immediately feels like a bold new direction for the series, one with a darker tone, more grounded in the real world than the Marvel movies.
Despite this feel of being a more real world spy show the episode is packed with comic book moments to make fans happy. The opening scene of the episode brings back Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough), and Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi) from Captain America: The First Avenger in a great flashback scene that shows them taking down a Hydra facility following the defeat of the Red Skull. The scene explores some of the beginnings of S.H.I.E.L.D. and even gives us an origin for the blue alien corpse seen in the previous season, all whilst introducing a new ‘Macguffin’ for the episode, a mysterious alien obelisk.
Back in the present Coulson (Clark Gregg) has assembled a team to track down the mysterious obelisk, which includes some interesting new faces. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Isabelle Hartley (Lucy Lawless) and her mercenary team of Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) and Idaho (Wilmer Calderon) are an interesting trio, one that helps to inject some new energy into the group, especially Blood’s Hunter, who is the only one of the three to make it out of the episode alive.
The mission to find the obelisk unfortunately comes into trouble when they cross paths with comic villain Carl ‘Crusher’ Creel (Brian Patrick Wade), or as most readers would know him, the Absorbing Man. Capable of taking on the properties of any material he touches Creel proves to be a great villain for the team, one that presents a big enough challenge for the group yet doesn’t feel too overpowered. The moment that he picks up his iconic ball and chain is definitely one of the highlights of the episode.
The premiere also sees a new addition in the form of Alphonso ‘Mack’ Mackenzie (Henry Simmons), a mechanic who looks like he should be a field agent because of the sheer size of him. Whilst there isn’t a great deal of development for him in this episode he already seems like an interesting new character and is sure to develop over time. The returning cast also shine in this episode, with Coulson seeming incredibly comfortable in his new role as Director, taking a step back from field work and making the tough decisions from the base. Despite how good it is to see the character out on missions this feels like a much better fit for him.
We also get to briefly catch up with the traitorous Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), who is now a prisoner after betraying his former team. It’s interesting to have seen Ward go from the confident hero to dastardly villain, and now to something of a pathetic character. It will be interesting to see how this will play our over the season, whether this is some kind of act or if he’s as broken as he appears, and how this will alter his relationship with Skye (Chloe Bennet).
The best character development, however, is Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), who we last saw suffering brain damage at the bottom of the ocean. Left to wander the new base and occasionally help out in the lab he’s clearly not the man we saw in the last season. Despite the brain damage, and the physiological affects that it has had on him, the saddest part is the reveal that Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) isn’t a part of S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore, and that Fitz has been hallucinating her the whole episode.
‘Shadows’ manages to maintain the quality that we’ve come to expect from the series whilst setting up some great new characters, an interesting new plot, and a whole new status quo of the team. A huge improvement on the previous season, and a great indicator of how things will be going forward.
Are you a fan of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? Let us know what you thought of this episode.