Marvel's Agents of SHIELD: 5.01, 5.02 Orientation Parts 1 and 2
Season four of Agents of SHIELD was arguably the best yet and finished on an interesting cliffhanger of Phil Coulson waking up in spaceship. That was almost a year ago for UK viewers but the US started the fifth season … wait for it … three months ago! Why you ask… I’ve no idea and it’s highly annoying. Because it’s been so long, the “previously” section (certainly for me) should’ve been three hours long as opposed to its 60 seconds. Regardless of any issues I have with the political scheduling, Orientation was an excellent two-part feature that introduced us to a new and interesting world. (If you’re confused or struggling to remember last season I highly recommend you read Baz Greenland’s season four review here).
Orientation begins with a flashback where an alien (we know this because it wears human skin, removing it before having a shower), leads a SWAT-like team to kidnap the agents. Our team ends up in a room staring at a white monolith and the next thing we know they’re on a spaceship. From this moment it becomes a hard hitting action sci-fi; with the introduction of several new characters and the building of a new environment, this could just as easily be a new show.
Rather than answering more obvious questions, the first hour concentrates on introducing new characters, slowly allowing the audience to adjust to the change of pace and surroundings. There are several newcomers. Virgil (Deniz Akdeniz) is someone who seems to know all about Coulson and SHIELD, and thinks he’s some kind of savior; unfortunately, he doesn’t last long as he’s killed by alien monster roaches. Next up is Deke (Jeff Ward), who the creators clearly want you to see as a Peter Quill (Star Lord) like character; he wants nothing to do with the outsiders. And finally there is Tess (Eve Harlow), attached to Virgil in some way but who as of yet has done nothing aside from provide explanation. The newbies have fantastic chemistry together with the main team and I look forward to seeing relationships develop.
The spaceship is run by the Kree, who we later discover have taken over what’s left of the human race after the Earth was destroyed. Yes I said destroyed, and I must say the outer-space imagery used throughout is breathtaking. The team continues to query where they are and how to get back, although, after some back and forth, the team learns the monolith sent the agents into the future, years after the Earth had been shattered. I know the Agents are trained to handle difficult situations, with little surprising them, but upon discovering the Earth’s fate and their Kree captives, their emotions felt a little lacking. I suppose I would’ve expected more confusion but perhaps this is another day at the office for the Agents of SHIELD
The most appealing element has been the world building and character development; it doesn’t bash you over the head with complex explanations. The script has a healthy balance of mystery and keeping your interest by giving you just the right amount of information. There’s no doubt it’s confusing but in a very intriguing way, for example the remaining humans must wear ‘metrics’, an embedded device that give the Kree control. Humans work for credits and must kill in some circumstances to survive. There is still plenty to tell but you’ve got enough to peak your interest.
The introduction of new characters and gigantic change of scenery has allowed for a flare of renewal. Rather than fighting another iteration of HYDRA or seeing the team play out their usual roles (May fights, Coulson’s the leader, Daisy has powers and Mack’s the muscle), the change of pace is what’s needed to remain exciting and relevant. Also this helps to distance themselves from the events throughout the rest of the MCU.
In a sequence that re-introduces the Framework from last season, Deke’s managed to piece together small pieces of human history previously banned or destroyed by the Kree. Daisy enters the scene and they learn that she is responsible for the destruction of Earth, essentially Quaking it to breaking point. Frankly this was the part I disliked the most. It felt unimaginative; why does everything always have to involve this team? Given the levity of the situation no doubt we’ll have to put up with Daisy again moping around blaming herself. Oh the joy!
While the Agents roam “free”, Simmons helps an injured man, gets taken by the Kree and as is made into the personal servant of Kasius (Dominic Rains), the Kree leader who deafens her to attain obedience. As for her partner in crime Fitz, he’s thus far out of the picture and wasn’t transported along with the rest of the team. They do however find a message from him that simply reads “working on it” Again this could mean anything but keeps things interesting and I hope he comes back soon as I love his character and personality.
Overall, Orientation was a great opening feature episode, the performances were exactly what we’ve come to expect and the cinematography really helped envelop me into the new surroundings. The character and world building was both fantastic and out of the box, certainly moving away from the show’s standard comfort zone. Well done SHIELD I hope you continue to impress.