Agents Of SHIELD: 2.01 Shadows
For those viewers who gave up on Agents Of SHIELD early in its run but decided to dip back in with season two, they would have been presented with a very different show. Agents Of SHIELD is as much more confident series now. Its characters have depth, while the story line and missions have purpose as the ramifications of the HYDRA arc are still very much prevalent.
We opened on what was surely a tease for the upcoming Agent Carter; Captain America's first love and his band of Howling Commandos raided a HYDRA base at the close of the Second World War, rescuing a dangerous artefact from the villainous HYDRA commander played by Dollhouse's Reed Diamond. It was a great opening that kicked off the theme of the episode - and possibly the series - the ongoing war against HYDRA.
From 1945 to the present day, we saw just has changed our heroes are. Coulson is now very much a shadowy figure; gone for now are the quips and action sequences. He's the man in charge and there is the sense that he has a long way to go and many battles to face. May continues to soften, yet still maintaining her badass self and Skye has grown leaps and bounds. Under Mays tutelage and Coulsons's support, she is far removed from the slightly irritating, 'sassy for sassy sake' hacker that she was a year ago.
And Fitz...poor Fitz. I liked that he was far from recovered from his ordeal at the end of the last season. The aphasia might have been an obvious symptom to demonstrate his brain damage but it was also an effective one. At least he was showing signs of recovery...right up to the moment Coulson pulled the rug out from under the audience and revealed that not only was he imagining Simmons at his side but that he was showing no sign of every recovering.
Still, there's sure be a special device or alien artefact hidden in the archives of Marvel comic lore that could heal him? We can only hope right?
Shadows started season two all guns blazing and showed no signs of letting up by the time the credits rolled. We saw some interesting new additions in Lucy Lawless's Izzy and her mercenary friends helping Coulson to rebuild an underground SHIELD and continue the war against HYDRA. I really liked her character and was surprised at - I presume - her death at the hands of Carl Creel aka The Absorbing Man.
SHIELD has teased some of the lesser known super-villains before but the Absorbing Man was by far the most successful. Becoming the thing he touches - gold, diamond, stone - he was a suitably credible threat without being so big that you wondered where the Avengers were to save the day. The stolen artefact also promises to up the ante in future weeks, particularly after what it did to poor Izzy's hands.
The threat of far worse things to come was brilliantly teased throughout the episode, from Creel and the artefact, to the map that revealed just how many HYDRA agents were still active to end reveal of Reed Diamond's character. For fans of General Talbot that felt he was a little underused last series, he gets a much meatier role in this episode - and we presume the season. The imprisoned Ward too was used very effectively and I'm intrigued to see how his Hannibal Lecter / Clarice Starling relationship with Skye develops, particularly the suggestion that he knows something about her missing father.
Shadows had plenty of action and intrigue that built on season one and set up many more plot threads for the episodes to come. If Agents Of SHIELD can keep up the momentum (and the buzz from the US suggests it does) then the series really is becoming the superhero show to watch. Is it going to steal Arrow's crown? Maybe. Watch this space.