Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review: “Shadows”

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“Go dark.” That seems to be Director Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) new catch phrase in Season 2 of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as he leads what’s left of S.H.I.E.L.D. on their continued mission to protect the innocent.

Anything you read after this contains SPOILERS. You’ve been warned.

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Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) makes an appearance.

Marvel is big on the tie-in’s across their movies and Agents of SHIELD. The season 2 premiere of Agents, titled “Shadows”, was no exception as the recap contained footage from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in addition to footage from last season. The tie-in (and some foreshadowing perhaps?) continued with the opening sequence where we were taken to 1945 and World War II where we were treated to Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and the Howling Commandos storming a Nazi compound (Agent Carter will be a future TV series of its own). Nothing is by chance with Marvel, and here we are introduced to Daniel Whitehall (Reed Diamond), a.k.a. “Kraken”. Carter and her commandos are shown rounding up and crating artifacts to be stored in a secure facility, never to see the light of day again. Ya right, we’ve heard that before!

Fast forward to the present where we see some of the new blood introduced this season, including Lucy Lawless as Isabelle Hartley, a veteran S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned mercenary for hire, as her team is in the middle of an intel buy. Agents May (Ming-Na Wen), Skye (Chloe Bennet), and Triplett (B.J. Britt), watch from the shadows when the meeting is interrupted by a seemingly invincible third party. Meet Carl “Crusher” Creel (Brian Patrick Wade) – Absorbing Man – a HYDRA agent who can turn his body into any substance merely by touching it. Handy skill to have, I’d think.

Adrian-Pasdar-General-Talbot

Adrian Pasdar returns as General Talbot… with a slightly better looking mustache!

At this point, General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), makes his season 2 debut in form of a newscast where he’s vowing to hunt down any and all remaining S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra agents.

Once back at the Playground, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s new hidden base, Coulson’s team quickly realizes that the intel that Absorbing Man stole was related to a box SSR 084 – and according to Coulson is “the original 084”, object of unknown origin. Skye takes a piece of Absorbing Man to the lab and here we see Fitz and Simmons. The usual banter between Fitz and Simmons is missing, and we quickly realize that Fitz isn’t all there as Simmons is continually prompting him on what he should do next, and Fitz is having issues completing sentences.

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Agent Skye’s relationship with ex-Agent Ward is obviously strained…

Coulson and Skye have a short discussion and… we find out what happened to ex-Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). Imprisoned and unshaven, Ward is being held in a secured room on the base, behind an electro-magnetic wall. This first conversation between Ward and Skye since Ward’s capture is tense, and it’s obvious he’s the last person Skye wants to be talking to. Once she finds out the information regarding Hydra’s plans for the SSR objects, Ward tells Skye that from this point forward everything he tells her will be the truth, including information about – at this point Skye presses a button which throws up an opaque soundproof “wall” between her and Ward. We’re left seeing Ward finish off his statement with the words “your father”. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of Ward in the coming episodes.

Based in this new intel from Ward, Coulson decides to send his team with Hartley’s team into Talbot’s main base to recover SSR 084. A quick mission which involves saving Talbot from Absorbing Man, turns into Coulson and company kidnapping the General in order to get his fingerprints to access the area where the artifacts are stored. The agents gain access to the military base, assisted by a slightly over the top call to the gate from Coulson impersonating General Talbot through the use of voice changing device.

Once inside, Hartley finds the box containing the artifact and – surprise, surprise – cuts it open with a portable blowtorch. So much for never seeing the light of day again! In typical fashion, things never really go as planned, and this is when Absorbing Man – who had let himself be captured by Talbot’s men and subsequently escaped – makes an appearance and attacks Hartley with the aim of getting the artifact from her. Like any smart agent, Hartley looks at the artifact, says “let’s see why you’re so dangerous”, and grabs onto it. Almost immediately, her arm begins to turn black and she screams out in agony. Seeing this, and with the arrival of the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, Absorbing Man turns and flees. Skye radios in to Coulson, asking what they should do and Coulson indicates they should continue on with the mission.

And this is where we split the party – Hartley heads back to the vehicle with the help of one of her team members, Lance Hunter (Nick Blood). For those avid Marvel fans, you may remember that Hunter is a member of STRIKE in the comics, which is basically the British version of S.H.I.E.L.D. Once in the vehicle, the driver takes off and Hartley begs Hunter to cut her lower arm off because she can feel the artifact killing her. Hunter complies, and shortly after Idaho notices a man standing in the middle of the road directly in front of them. Before he has time to react, Absorbing Man turns into concrete and the vehicle crashes into him, flips over and when it comes to a rest we see Hunter barely alive, while both Hartley and Idaho have died. Personally, I was looking forward to Hartley sticking around for more of the season. The last we see of Absorbing Man is him walking down the street carrying the mysterious artifact with a rubberized hand.

While all this is going on, May, Skye, and Triplett appear to be pinned down on the military base when May’s gaze catches a pair of aircraft on the tarmac. Agent May jumps on a motorcycle (ummm… o.k.?) and next we see one of the jets taking off and cloaking while doing so.

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Things aren’t as they appear with Agents Fitz and Simmons.

Throughout all this, the show reveals Fitz’s true state as Coulson watches on a monitor as Fitz attempts to crack cloaking technology and we see that Fitz, thinking he’s working with Simmons, is instead working alone, muttering to himself and obviously hallucinating Simmons’ presence. Coulson goes on to state that it was Simmons’ decision to leave, thinking it would be better for Fitz. Only time will tell when, and how, Simmons will return to the team as a regular.

As if Fitz’s true condition wasn’t enough of a surprise if you didn’t pick up on it sooner, the final scene shows the artifact being delivered to none other than Whitehall – the Hydra agent Agent Carter captured in 1945… looking as if he hadn’t aged a day in the past 70 years.

Season 1 was often criticized for getting off to a slow start, but it really ramped up and redeemed itself down the home stretch with the tie-in to Captain America. The rise of Hydra and collapse of SHIELD in that movie really changed the feel and focus of the show, and the writing and directing has taken advantage of those events to really turn the show around. Season 2 is looking to be darker, more clandestine, and a lot more covert. “Shadows” answered a few questions, brought up a few more, introduced some new cast members and generally set the mood for the remainder of the season.

“Go dark…”.

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