All the things you love about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are here. Action, humor, fun and drama. Plus Coulson. He makes everything good.
Not many negatives to speak of. We didn't learn much about new characters, but we might eventually.
The season opener did not disappoint! Going straight to the roots of S.H.E.I.L.D. we get a sweet glimpse of the upcoming new series, Agent Carter as she (Hayley Atwell) and her Howling Commandos storm and capture the last Hydra stronghold. In the aftermath, they box up all captured technology including a mysterious and deadly object called The Obelisk, labeled innocently as Item 084.
Agent Isabelle Hartley (Lucy Lawless) and mercenary Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) in an effort to acquire tech, instead come face to face with a lethal Hydra assassin who is invulnerable to bullets and a 25 foot drop in his escape with stolen intel. During Agent May’s (Ming-Na Wen) report, Coulson recognizes the original item 084 as something they simply can’t let fall into Hydra’s hands.
The race is on to retrieve The Obelisk from the military who are oblivious to how dangerous it can be. With twists, turns and both Hydra and the military at their heels, not everyone will come out of this unscathed. New allies, new enemies and a host of unexplained mysteries and loose ends from last season, leave us with a ton to cover. So lets dive in to everything we learned!
The Trauma of Last Season has Left Marks Seen and Unseen
As we search for answers to the mysterious Hydra assassin, we find our team struggling with the demons of last season. Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), obviously not himself and not at all mentally healthy can’t seem to think clearly or even finish sentences without the help of Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) at his side. When asked to investigate metal shavings left at the scene of the assassin’s theft, we all feel the pained expression of May as he struggles to update her on progress or even speak fluidly.
Were it not for the shavings dissolving before May’s eyes into flesh and blood, the source of the substance might never have been identified. Even Fitz knows his mind is not right as he plainly asks her if she sees it too. The team is able to use the blood to identify the assassin as Carl Creel, a man with abilities that should be dead, but appears very much alive.
In a painful conversation with Jemma, Fitz admits he can’t stand the way they all look at him and treat him. Words get stuck on his tongue as he speaks to Jemma, who is supportive but obviously worried. It’s a difficult conversation to watch as he defends his usefulness despite his difficulties. Jemma seems to be his only comfort.
“Talking to you is the only time I feel clear, and calm. Like I might actually get better.” ~ Fitz
Every time she supportively touches his shoulder, his hand reaches up to hers as if he were clinging to reality. De Caestecker shines portraying the struggle in these scenes. Especially when we learn he’s got good reason to doubt reality. The Jemma that’s been at Fitz’s side; the one that’s been so supportive and tender, isn’t real at all. She exists only in his mind. He has heartbreakingly been talking to himself. The real Jemma stepped away for his benefit, but if this shell of him is better, it’s probably best we didn’t see him before.
The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing—Declawed
In an effort to learn more about Creel and his Hydra or Garrett ties, Coulson turns to Skye (Chloe Bennet) who is the only person that can get information from the one traitor none of them want anything to do with—Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). All of us have been waiting for this confrontation since the season finale. Who is Grant Ward? What has he become?
Skye’s skin almost visibly crawls as she descends the steps into the dark room and you get the sense that she’s slowly stepping back into a hell she thought she had left behind. Ward’s creepy, monotone chit-chatty responses don’t lighten the mood either. He’s perfectly willing to share what he knows but he doesn’t sound at all like the Ward we last saw.
As she shows him Creel’s picture through the clear cell wall, she notices the scars on his wrists. He calmly and creepily recounts his difficult times of attempted suicide and recovery to a place where he’s accepted who he is and what he’s done. The look on Skye’s face says it all. She’d likely be just fine if one of his attempts had succeeded.
Skye threatens to walk if he has nothing to help and I’m sure every SkyeWard fan was either screaming at the TV or completely befuddled by dazed Ward. He tells her Creel can transform into anything he touches and killing is a pastime. Disgusted, she turns, but desperate for a few more seconds, he gives her the frequencies that Hydra would be using to send Creel messages plus a bold claim.
“It’s true and so will be every word I say to you for the rest of my life.” ~ Ward.
The sound of the words almost ring hollow. Perhaps this is on purpose, but it’s hard to tell. Dalton seems so detached in this scene we’re left unsure what to believe, but Bennet steals the show. Her disgust and frustration come though loud and clear.
It turns out Ward was telling the truth. Koenig uses the frequencies to intercept a transmission to Creel, but to the shock and dismay of everyone in the room he also finds Hydra locations all over the world. As red dots fill the map, the truth sinks in to all of us—S.H.I.E.L.D. is massively outnumbered all over the globe. Things are not looking good for our favorite agents.
Sacrificing and Giving All for What We Need—To Disappear, Become Ghosts
After saving General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar) from a very public confrontation with Creel, the team uses the incident to kidnap him and offer themselves as help in his efforts to find and end Hydra. Talbot, as stubborn as ever and played quite convincingly by Pasdar flat refuses even while captive. It didn’t matter. Coulson had other plans anyway and shoots Talbot with an I.C.E.R.
When Talbot wakes in his car alone, his first reaction is to call for assistance and increase the detail on the capture Creel. In a light moment, Koenig is on the other end of the rigged line assuring the General that help is on the way, while giving Skye the access codes they need to get into Talbot’s secure base and recover the 084 before Creel escapes detainment and does the same.
Once inside, the team finds themselves deep in an Indiana Jones moment. Row upon row of boxes fill a warehouse that almost certainly contain multitudes of deadly or bizarre artifacts collected by S.H.I.E.L.D. over the years. Splitting up to find what they came for Hartley tracks down the 084 only to find herself face to face to Creel who has escaped his cell by impersonating everything he’s encountered.
Figuring her only chance is to use The Obelisk to defeat Creel, she grabs it only to find to her horror that not only can she not put it down, it appears to be slowly killing her starting with her hand and working it’s way up. Then things get really hairy. Hunter and Idaho (Wilmer Calderon) take the injured Hartley and refuse to assist in getting what they REALLY came for, a cloaked quintet. As the jet lifts off and cloaks to disappear with Skye and Tripp, May races away by motorcycle.
“That’s how we have to live now. In the shadows. To save people.” ~ Coulson
Hunter, Idaho and a suffering Hartley speed through the front gate. She pleads with Hunter to cut off her arm. The decay is spreading up her arm and fast. Shock sets in and where Nick Blood had been primarily comic relief early on, he convinces that he can deliver the powerful scenes too. Especially when Creel appears, becomes part of the road and flips the truck. The fear and horror of the moment hits us through Hunter’s eyes in the smoking upside down wreck. He seems frozen with fear as Creel walks away with The Obelisk.
If there was any doubt that the second season opener wouldn’t carry the power of the last few episodes from Season 1, those fears were swept aside as the back half of the episode fell into place. Superb writing by show runners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen took center stage in the best and most memorable moments. Coulson’s monologue over the final sequence was powerful. Punctuated with gritty performances that emphasized his sentiment that S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t who they used to be. Their mission is the same, but their methods will be different. They will operate as ghosts from the shadows. They will persevere so that the sacrifices of those willing to give all to the cause will not be given in vain.
Director Vincent Misiano got the best out of a cast that knows their world now even with new faces. Almost all the characters have grown and changed and the handling of both the emotional moments as well as the action sequences hit the mark. Humor, emotion and nuanced character interplay were balanced well throughout the episode. It was an enjoyable ride that flew by and was over too soon.
S.H.I.E.L.D. has an uphill battle now. They are the underdogs. The task set before them is a huge one. That map had a lot of red. They are outnumbered and the odds are stacked against them. But that tends to be when this show shines and this episode was no exception. We’re left with many questions. Some new and some old. This feels like the start of a much bigger story and that’s an exciting prospect for those of us that have been eagerly awaiting the return of Coulson and team. Season 2 should be a hell of a ride!
Questions, Comments, Concerns and My Reaction on Twitter…
- And flying economy blows.. Yes it does! #AgentsofSHIELD
- The original 084, Hayley Atwell, SSR, crispy bodies and an invulnerable enemy. Awesome first 15 minutes!! #AgentsofSHIELD
- Brass balls? Pfft.. WWMD. What Would May Do? Bring the Hate-Fu! #AgentsofSHIELD
- Well that was an expensive looking Michael Jackson look.. #AgentsofSHIELD
- Or I’ll have you so deep in horse manure you’ll need a snorkel!! Coulson is the ONLY person that could get away w/that!
- Emptied our mags at the guy. Might as well been blowing kisses. HA!
- I’m seeing a lot of red on that map. That’s no good at all. Hydra is everywhere.
- We have to fight on for him—for those we’ve lost. We have to take risks—so the sacrifices they’ve made were not made in vain
- Damn. Bit of Red Skull and Cap moment there at the end Reed Diamond. Why hasn’t he aged??
- Would silly putty be the Absorber’s kryptonite? #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm
- Talking to you is the only time I feel clear. Like I’m getting better. #FiztSimmons is breaking my heart. #AgentsofSHIELD