Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Heavy is the Head

Posted on October 01, 2014

Chloe Bennett, Nick Blood, Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen in ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

 

We’re afraid we don’t quite get what they’re attempting to do with this show in its second season. Widely criticized in its first season, partly because of the astonishingly bland and undeveloped characters, they appear to have rectified that by … just adding more astonishingly bland and underdeveloped characters. This week, we learn everything we never knew we wanted to know about Agent Lance Hunter and how he’s such a wild card because he’s grieving over the death of his partner. Who’s his partner? Uh… Oh,  right. Lucy Lawless, who died after a glorified cameo last week. We don’t know anything about her, we don’t know anything about Lance, but we’re supposed to be effected by her death and his anger over it. What’s going on with Ward? Don’t know. Never appeared this episode. What’s going on with Simmons? Don’t know. Hasn’t actually made an appearance this season. What’s going on with Coulson? He has to make the hard decisions and he’s keeping a secret from most of the team, which is exactly how he was portrayed last season. What’s going on with Melinda? She’s stoic and hard and she cares about Coulson, which is literally everything we already knew about her. What’s going on with Skye? She’s special. That’s it. She’s freaking SPECIAL, you guys. ACCEPT IT.

Okay, we’re being a little cranky. The show is definitely improving by leaps and bounds. The character work remains as awful as it ever was (with one exception), but at least the story is zipping along nicely. Unlike last season, we don’t end an episode thinking, “Remind me: What was the point of that again?” There’s an appealing sense of flow to the story; of things happening and then having an effect on other things. That may sound like we’re damning the show with the faintest of praise, since “things happen” is the very least one should expect from any story, but we don’t have the sense the show is spinning its wheels and waiting for something to happen. That was the impression we had through most of last season and one that turned out to be a 100 percent accurate once it was revealed that the creators were waiting for the Captain America movie to premiere. But they hit the ground running in season two and it’s clear that there’s a long game being played in the plotting.

General Talbot makes an appealing nemesis for Coulson; he’s an asshole and maybe even a little on the evil side, but he’s not technically a villain. Not yet, anyway. Instead he’s the very best kind of antagonist: the one with a different take on things who is assured of his own rightness. We were happy to see the return of Raina, and happier still that she’s toned down her Christina Hendricks impersonation considerably. We’re sorry to see Creel exit the story but, like Lucy Lawless, we strongly suspect he’ll be back before we know it. Things are looking good on the plotting front. If we can get the characters elevated to the point that they’re actually interesting enough to carry the story, this could be a damn good show.  Unfortunately, introducing a bunch of new characters instead of focussing on rehabbing the existing ones is a move that doesn’t fill us with confidence on that front.

The one bright spot in the character work is the storyline with Fitz. We half-thought that he and Simmons were being written out of the show, but it looks like there’s a long plan with this development as well. Even before the preview revealed what should have been one of the biggest shocks of the season (that Simmons is HYDRA now), we wondered if Fitz’s hallucinations are … well, actually hallucinations. It’s possible – and we’re certainly meant to believe – that the Simmons hallucination is a way for his addled brain to access knowledge he already has, but when she started pushing him to show Mack (who, as we know, is also HYDRA) what he was working on, we began wondering if that really is Simmons, beaming herself into Fitz’s head somehow.

As for Coulson’s “condition,” it’s another round of “Tahiti,” as far as we’re concerned and that little subplot last season was boring and disappointing all around. On the other hand, it’s nice that the show is embracing the fantastical elements of the Marvel universe. There are more gadgets, mysterious artifacts and superpowers on display in these first two episodes than in most of the entire first season . With Kyle MacLachlan joining the cast as a Big Bad (and presumably Skye’s father), we’re feeling an uncharacteristic sense of optimism about the show’s future.

We maintain the right to revoke that feeling at any time, however.

 

[Photo Credit: ABC]

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