Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. Season 2 Premier Review

9/23/2014 Stephen Colbert 0 Comments


Season 1 of Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. had some massive swings (both up and down), but finished strong with a little help from Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  The show did well enough to be interesting, but poorly enough to create a lot of skeptical fans.  I'm a little less skeptical, but season 2 had a little bit of an uphill battle for me.

I've been catching up on season 1 of The Blacklist on Netflix recently, and that's what I was watching immediately before watching the season 2 premier of Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.  As I was preparing for Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. to start, I had a brief flash of regret, worried that the contrast between the two shows would make S.H.I.E.LD. agents seem hokey and incapable and the show would just feel out of place.

I was very pleasantly surprised when I discovered I was wrong.  I'm going to cover a mostly spoiler free review of the season 2 premier, but there may be some season 1 spoilers.  My spoilery recap can be found in a separate post, coming soon.

Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. season 2 episode 1 immediately jumps right back into some of the big plot arcs of the first season, avoiding any monster of the week issues.  The episode opens with a flashback to the SSR raiding a Hydra outpost at the end of WWII, and there is an awesome cameo of Agent Carter and the Howling Commandos, which definitely raises some excitement for that show during the AoS midseason break.

Tonally, season 2 felt much improved over season 1.  S.H.I.E.LD. agents seem like skilled and capable operatives (including Skye), showing the version of S.H.I.E.LD. we wanted to see for 3/4 of last year.

The effects seemed significantly better.  There was some significant use of CGI this episode and it never once harkened back to any of the awkward Deathlok moments or any of the other special effects failings of the first season.  Objects look like they have the proper weight, guns seem like they are actually firing, and vehicle collisions are way less clean and product placement-y.

The music was also a big complaint of season 1.  I didn't listen for it specifically for it, but it didn't jump out to offend me.  The quirky humor was also way toned down.  It definitely feels far less childish than season 1.

Acting is also much improved, although this is likely due to better writing, less awkward humor, and a generally more serious tone.  Chloe Bennet's Skye was probably the most jarring offender in season 1, but right off the bat, her character is a full blown S.H.I.E.LD. agent, and her competence is made clear.

Fitz might be the best acted character in the show. Iain De Caestecker was a standout, and the most pleasant surprise of season 1 for me.  This continues to be the case in season 2, and His story is already one of the most intriguing so far.

I was never a big fan of Agent Ward last season.  I liked him best when he was Hydra.  I'm interested, to see what they have in store for him, but skeptical about his involvement being worthwhile.

The new additions to the show (Lucy Lawless, Wilmer Calderon, Nick Blood, and Henry Simmons) were excellent, but they felt very poorly written in.  I felt like I missed whatever was happening on Earth during Guardian's of the Galaxy, because we're dropped into the middle of this new version S.H.I.E.LD. with very little context of where these new characters came from.  I didn't even learn any of their names.

I feel like after the season 1 recap, there should have been a Coulson voiceover or journal entry or something to catch up on what's happened between the two seasons.

The good news is, this season jumps directly into the large questions from the end of the previous seasons, instead of middling around in one of single episode plot lines.  As such, the show maintains some of the momentum from the second half of the first season, getting off to a solid start right out the gate.

Hydra is still a big deal, and will likely be a significant villain for most of the season, tying Captain America: The Winter Soldier, to The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  The first season of the show was lacking with some of the tie-ins—specifically for Thor: The Dark World—but the Captain America tie-in changed the direction and tone of the entire season.

This new season of the show is already primed to focus on a plot that we know will directly connect the events of Captain America and Avengers, so there's a lot more promise of more connective tissue this time around.

This episode felt packed to the brim with new characters and plot content, which contrasts strongly against most of last season, which often felt almost like filler episodes.  If they continue to build on this momentum through the mid-season break, I can only imagine the epic-ness Agent Carter has in store.  However, in the converse, if the momentum is dropped, Hayley Atwell and company will have a hard uphill battle in front of them.

Season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. is definitely a change of pace from first season.  My big question—especially since I've been watching The Blacklist recently—is: will Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. stand up to some of the higher caliber shows out there?  I'm happy to say it could, but momentum is key.  The have it, but it'll be fun to see if they can maintain it.

Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC

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