Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D / Screen

Midseason Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

The season didn’t start off great. The first episode introduced a bunch of newbies it was hard to care about, and the second episode paid way too much attention to Lance Hunter when it should have been getting back to the people we spent all of last season getting to know. But it seems to be a trend with AOS that its seasons start off slow and eventually start chugging along. Luckily season two finds its footings by episode three, not taking nearly as long as the first to do so.

First wonderful thing first: Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) has been a personal favorite in this new season. Introducing characters from the comic books has proven beneficial for the show before, giving well-versed viewers something to look forward to and really making the show feel as if it really does take place in the MCU. It also gives the show the chance to stretch its mythology muscles and change some things around in the name of fitting things to its own stories, making Bobbi not Hawkeye’s ex-wife but that of new addition Hunter (Nick Blood), who is made interesting only by his “hell-beast” ex-wife. Palicki does great work as Bobbi, and her debut episode “A Hen in the Wolf House” is easily a standout for the show. She’s just as amazing as Simmons says she is, kicking butt and taking names, but even in her short time on the show’s roster she’s managed to be given the kickass qualities of a comic book hero and still be emotionally grounded.

Which is more than can be said of some of AOS‘s other characters. Specifically the black ones. Like many a show, this one has a race problem to be cleared up. It’s not in much of a hurry to do anything with its black characters, and then it kills one of them off in the midseason finale and pretends that everyone will care. care because I loved Tripp, descendant of a Howling Commando and generally awesome person, but the show tried so very, very little to make him into a vital part of the team then decided the character had run his course completely. Tripp was essentially just a cardboard cutout to take up space, one that the show never really got around to fleshing out despite all the potential he had.

From all the post-midseason finale interviews I’ve read, Tripp’s death is supposed to hit Syke especially hard, with her new powers coming in and making everything complicated. I can’t recall a single instance of the two behaving as friends in the course of the season, aside from sharing some laughs in the group, but maybe my memory’s bad. The show’s reaching for some kind of emotional conclusion it didn’t try to build up, and it doesn’t work. It’s as if I cared more about Tripp than even the show did, dropping the characters into the convenient sacrificial slot to create the illusion of their being something at stake.

But onward.

I know Skye (or rather, Daisy) isn’t a fan favorite, but I’ve never minded her that much, and the change her character has gone through between this season and the last has been especially strong. Skye went from an idealistic and relatively inexperienced hacker and now she’s a field agent going hand to hand with Agent 33 and shooting Ward. The advancements in her character have made her feel more central than season one did. Now she’s an actual member of the team, not our window to the marvelous world of, you know, Marvel. That being said, her journey of discovering her birth parents hasn’t been the greatest. Dichen Lachman was absolutely wasted as Skye’s mother (which was on par with the waste of Lucy Lawless in the premiere if you ask me), but Kyle Maclachlan brings everything he has to Skye’s father Cal, also known as Dr. Hyde, constantly threatening danger and a massive freakout at every turn but also impressing just how much he wants to be reunited with his daughter.

The season really came together in its last few episodes, tying up the TAHITI mystery and letting it propel the show forward into new and uncharted territory. It took forever to get there, and by the time we got to “The Writing on the Wall”, I’d just about stopped caring about whatever it was that had happened to Coulson. It’s more of a relief that we likely never have to hear the word TAHITI ever again (please) as that door seems to be closed and another opened. This season’s done a much better job tying everything together than season one did. How Centipede and Hydra and various other whatevers of season one worked together is still confusing to me, but this season’s made a lot of strides in this department between Hydra and Whitehall, Skye and Cal, the Kree and the Diviner.

Raina (Ruth Negga) has also been changed by the Diviner, and I certainly hope her transformation, which looked more physical than that of Skye’s, isn’t going to mean we don’t get anymore of Negga or her flower dresses. Raina’s easily one of the show’s most compelling characters, mysterious but transparent, aloof but emotional and casually dangerous.

Unfortunately, you can’t go through this show without talking about Ward. I expect great things from Ward’s storyline, though I know I probably won’t get them. He was made a million times more interesting as a Hydra agent and he’s still got that going for him, but of course there’s nothing to like about him. It would be easy to keep this in mind, to have Ward round out the cast as that pesky pathetic dude who keeps trying to prove he’s not that bad while also being that bad and allowing his death to be one of the big events of some finale down the line. The introduction of Ward’s evil older brother was tepid (since he never seemed all that evil though I suppose it’s hard to live up to a super spy brother in that department), and though it tried to present a question of Ward maybe being even worse than we originally thought, it backtracked in the end.

Ward escaping the city with Agent 33 (now wearing May’s face permanently) gives me something to look forward to since I’m just strangely intrigued about how that will work itself out. What I do expect from the show, unfortunately, is for Skye to find her way back to Ward while coping with her new powers which is a big no-no. Skye, and everyone else, rightfully despises Ward, and Skye shooting him multiple times after he frees her has got to be one of my favorite Skye moments ever. But I don’t put it past any show these days to have a woman fall back into the arms of a terrible, terrible man in the name of romance.

Of all Ward’s season one crimes, nearly killing Fitzsimmons is perhaps at the top of the list. The ramifications are permanent, and it’s a relief that the show didn’t stray away from really going there even if it ends up changing what this season proves was one of its core relationships. Fitz’s brain damage has made everything into a struggle aboard the Bus, with him searching for words that would have come easily before and afraid of interacting with his teammates. His near killing of Ward, by depriving him of oxygen in his cell was a dark turn for a character that used to be one of the bright spots on the show’s roster, and Iain de Caestecker has done great work with the change.

Simmons too has gone through a lot of changes since we last saw her. Her absence was felt in the first two episodes, and her return as a spy inside Hydra in “Making Friends and Influencing People” also marks the season’s first good episode, having hit its stride in finding its way back to the people we care about. I’m still not sure why SImmons was chosen to go undercover, considering how little she would have been able to gather (an admission she makes herself), and it would have been better to see her time there last longer. With Bobbi around, we could have gotten a look at the two of them interacting together as co conspirators and gotten some insights in Hydra as an organization.

That being said, the show doesn’t suffer from Simmons being back. She’s still adorable, new hair cut and all, and she and Fitz are holding down an emotional center for the show at the moment. Though the episodes of Fitz and Simmons being apart as well as the lingering presence of an imaginary Simmons implied that the two would return to something resembling normal with her back, that hasn’t been the case. On the heels of Fitz’s confession to loving her in the season finale, Simmons is more of a hindrance than a help to Fitz, and they both know it .

As far as May and Coulson go, they should be, as usual, making out. At least one episode, “Face My Enemy” did exceptional work with the two of them as a unit, playing on the history the two have together (and featured the show’s first really awesome fight scene between May and Agent 33) to illuminate their present situation. May’s promise to not take Coulson out should he lose his mind, but to take him away and take care of him was one of the pair’s best moments together.

Stray Observations

  • What are the odds Mack will survive the rest of the season?
  • Favorite season episodes thus far include: “Making Friends and Influencing People”, “A Hen in the Wolf House” and “A Fractured House” (but only because of the fun of May on a mission with Bobbi).
  • The show does well with May and Coulson, but not so well with May on her own. We learn that she was married once, and that’s a relief because the news just dropped that her ex has been cast. May is easily one of the show’s best characters, and Ming-Na Wen has way more skills than the show has allowed her to use so hopefully bringing back someone from her past means we’re going to, you know, learn about her past.

 

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