Mid-Season Reflections on Agents of SHIELD

20 Dec

Stewart here…

(Big SPOILERS coming up for this season of Agents of SHIELD so far…)

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So, what a cliffhanger we got left on, huh? As I don’t discuss Agents of SHIELD for NerdLush (The Flash fills the bill for my Tuesday recapping), I have been watching this season and enjoying the revised structure of SHIELD and its agents’ relationships. So, while both Flash and Arrow are on hiatus, I’m taking the opportunity to discuss many of the geek-worthy shows I watch. While we’ll discuss the seismic shifts (literally and figuratively, in this case) for the MCU that we all will have to theorize about until March (!), this write-up is to talk about the big improvements and those still needed to be made from season one to the episodes of season two so far. First, the good:

Stronger Story Arcs. A lot of season one’s big story arcs were stretched out to annoyance early on, more because of the need to play into events of the recent Captain America movie than anything else. But suffice to say, the last third of that season, when that big bombshell that destroys SHIELD as we’ve seen it up to that point is dropped, is when I think the show finally starts cooking. Season two has managed to do a lot in bringing a close to many of the series’ big mysteries in the ten episodes so far.

Just look at what’s been taken care of: that mystery sketching Coulson’s been doing, what exactly was that substance that saved both Coulson and Skye from certain death, and what happened to Skye’s parents. And what we leave the show on is likely a massive deal for the future of the MCU in bringing the elements to create Inhumans into light. Instead of being led by one movie’s storyline, SHIELD is laying out a stepping ground for a movie universe to follow.

Characters. While I never had the inkling of thinking Agents of SHIELD as the “Agent Coulson and those other guys I don’t care about” show like many critics, around the middle of season one is when I started to really appreciate the core group of this show. Of course, that led to some actual care as a viewer when certain members of them were in jeopardy (Fitz’s brain injury) and some revealed to be not who we thought they were (May being Fury’s spy on Coulson and Ward being a HYDRA mole) as last season ended. As we go into season two, we see a change in everyone on some level, from Skye being more than just some sassy tech genius, Ward being an unpredictable element of danger, to Fitz’s convos with a Simmons that only exists in his head. And as a result, you do start caring when some of them are threatened with or meet an unexpected death (Trip! Nooooo!). Plus the new characters dropped into the SHIELD ranks like Mack, Lance, Bobbi (the latter two proving some great laughs this season as they bicker with themselves), and the Koening triplets/siblings (?) have proven to be good additions this season.

Either they're secret agents or part of Arcade Fire.

Either they’re secret agents or part of Arcade Fire.

That also has translated to the baddies as well, like HYDRA honcho Whitehall, Skye’s extreme anger problem-riddled doctor dad, and literal agent of nothing Grant Ward. Season one’s baddies weren’t all that interesting, save Garrett at the end of season one (he certainly met the better defeat of a bad guy in this show hands down), and this season two has kept SHIELD’s adversaries very dangerous to tangle with, if not more complex. Skye’s dad is working with Whitehall, the man who dissected Skye’s mom for body parts to make him younger; and then there’s Ward, who made up with his older brother, only to kill him and his parents an act break later!

SHIELD’s the underdog. After SHIELD lost a lot of the big apparatus that made it what it was throughout season one, season two has succeeded on making this new iteration of SHIELD one that is constantly struggling to stay a step ahead of HYDRA and even the government itself. That adds tension when you realize backup may not be coming, and it may be too little too late if it does. One major suspense moment this season I’ll reference to make this point is Coulson’s bluff to deal with Raina’s threat of exposing an undercover Simmons to HYDRA. While Coulson had a plan to rescue Jemma from certain death in waiting already, it was a great reminder of how that could have gone down less dramatically in the show’s early episodes with all the vast resources SHIELD had. And even with a good backup plan, things can go squirrelly, like the surprising quick ends of Lance’s mercenary buddies in the season opener and Trip’s tragic end trying to save Skye in the most recent episode.

Now, some of the bad (or at least one thing bad):

Man, we need a good one-off episode. As good as this season has been, the plots have been so closely connected to each other that I wouldn’t mind if this next half of the season had an episode that had nothing to do with HYDRA and/or Inhumans. Not that I have a serious problem with things so far, but in terms of a nice entry point for the show this season, there really isn’t an episode that isn’t heavily connected to the overarching plots. And it’s not like we don’t have possibilities to choose from (like the big blob of gravitonium and Deathlok still running around), but an episode with a little less drama would be a nice break.

You should see Coulson's flow chart on what's going on in The Affair...

You should see Coulson’s flow chart on what’s going on in The Affair…

So until March (once again, MARCH!), I’ll be waiting to see how all this starts to play out now that Skye, ahem, “Daisy” can make the earth move and HYDRA is sans a live Whitehall. But hey, what do you think of Agents of SHIELD this season? Comment below, because what else are you gonna do for the holidays?

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