The first season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a rough go of it for awhile there, but it really stepped things up in the homestretch with the reveal that Hydra was the Big Bad and Ward was a mole. It tugged on our hearts, it turned me off turtlenecks for life, and it compelled fans and critics alike to question whether the show would be able to maintain its newfound momentum in Season 2, or whether it'd go back to square one. Well, I think S.H.I.E.L.D. struck a perfect balance in "Shadows"—it was a pretty strong start to this new chapter in the story, but it also never forgot how the show came to be where it is.
Months have passed since the events of "Beginning of the End" and things definitely look different for Coulson's ragtag team of misfits. And this time I really mean ragtag; that word has never been quite as applicable as it is now. Coulson's team is small, its members are still being hunted like fugitives, and they're underdogs like they've never been before. The team now consists of May, Skye, Triplett, and Fitz (which I'll get to later on), as well as mercenaries Lance Hunter (played by Nick Blood, who might actually have the greatest name in the history of literally everyone ever) and Alphonso 'Mac' Mackenzie (Henry Simmons). Neither Blood nor Simmons had enough screen time in the premiere for their characters to really exhibit unique personalities, but I guess I shouldn't hold my breath for that to happen, as I'm still waiting for S.H.I.E.L.D. to flesh out Triplett, and he's been around for awhile.
We were also introduced to Lucy Lawless's former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Isabelle "Izzy" Hartly, and I have to believe that she's not really dead because you don't just hire Xena the freaking Warrior Princess to kill her off after a single episode. And you especially don't hire her just to kill her off after she instructs someone to cut off her hand because she's not ready to die. Denial, party of one right here!
As for the old crew, not only did Skye change her hair during S.H.I.E.L.D.'s hiatus—a #skyesbangs hashtag was actually trending on Twitter during the East Coast airing of "Shadows" and I swear that I had nothing to do with it—but she's also a full agent of this still-under-construction version of S.H.I.E.L.D. that Coulson is running. She's also more confident than ever in her role as a member of the team, and that confidence was on full display when she visited everyone's favorite traitor—admit it, you either love him or you love to hate him—in the bowels of the Playground, which is the new base of operations, it seems.
First things first, Ward is currently sporting a pretty sexy full beard—and I fully admit to trying to make #BeardWatch2014 a thing (and I will not give up until I do). He's also willing to give S.H.I.E.LD. information regarding Hydra; the only catch is that he'll only talk to Skye, because he luuuurves her (nope, that storyline didn't disappear over the hiatus). Perhaps the more curious development for the former Agent Handsome, however, is that he tried to kill himself after being captured in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Season 1 finale. It's a heavy reveal that feels a little too melodramatic, even in the aftermath of everything that happened with Skye and Garrett, the man who Ward credits for saving his life. Ward has never seemed like the type who'd commit suicide, but then again, few people do. It's extremely rare to look at someone's death feel like you saw it coming, and I guess this is where I ask you to just hear me out for a second.
Life is precious and this is a serious subject that S.H.I.E.L.D.'s writers have chosen to layer into to Ward's storyline, and the show will need to tread lightly as it moves forward. S.H.I.E.L.D. no longer resembles the glossy series it was at the outset, but a suicide storyline or even an attempted suicide storyline isn't something that any TV show should ever introduce on a whim. That being said, I don't know that I'm okay with the idea of ignoring that it happened, either. Now that S.H.I.E.L.D. has embarked on that path, it can't turn back, despite the fact that I wish it was never introduced at all. Even if Ward says that he's accepted his status as a traitor and is willing to help the team, what he's gone through is still part of his story, and I'm not convinced that he's actually accepted anything. He appears to be at peace with his predicament, but he doesn't at all resemble the man we knew last season. And even though he was faking a lot of his personality, we did see slivers of who he really was. He's more damaged now than he was in Season 1, and I'm curious as to how this storyline will play out. I'm also very interested to see how Ward will affect Season 2's other arcs. How long can S.H.I.E.L.D. keep this Hannibal Lecter imprisonment scenario going? And is Ward on the road to redemption? Skye doesn't seem to be picking up with he's putting down, but anything is possible, I suppose.
Which brings me to Fitz. Oh poor sweet Fitz. I'm really struggling to process the reveal that all those cute interactions with Simmons—in which we saw her guiding him and helping him—were just in his head. What a cruel trick S.H.I.E.L.D.'s writers played, not only on FitzSimmons shippers, but on all S.H.I.E.L.D. viewers. FitzSimmons' relationship, romantic or otherwise, has always been the emotional backbone of the show, and now Fitz is broken, possibly beyond repair. Coulson has no confidence in him or his ability to repair the Bus's cloaking device, which is why they stole another plane this week, and Simmons has split entirely. Where has she gone? When will she be back? Is she searching for a way to help Fitz? I have a lot of questions, but none are more important than this one: WHY, GOD, WHY? It looks as if Simmons abandoned her best friend in his greatest time of need, and if and when she returns (she'll be back on the team eventually, right?) that's going to put yet another strain on the already fragile FitzSimmons pairing.
No matter what, this situation features all the hallmarks of a classic Whedon Heart Wrench, and "Shadows" was written by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, so maybe ripping out viewers' hearts just runs in the family? I'm really looking forward to following Fitz's progress from week to week, because he's going to get better, right? He has to get better. I just worry about whether or not he can come back from this alone. To be honest, I find it odd that Fitz is even a member of the team in his state, but I find it more odd that no one is all that concerned about his recovery (aside from that short moment in which May agrees to stay and help him, I mean). I know it's been months since Ward supposedly dropped Fitz and Simmons into the ocean, but that is still fresh in viewers' minds and it's tough to come to terms with Fitz's condition after just one episode whereas the characters have supposedly had several months. Coulson feels colder in his treatment of Fitz than I'd like, even if I think his detached personality suits his role as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Coulson's journey as a leader and how it changes him is bound to be a storyline this season, but I just hope he doesn't lose what made him special.
This week we were introduced to Brian Patrick Wade (Ennis from Teen Wolf!) as Carl "Crusher" Creel a.k.a. Absorbing Man, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him (especially the abs part of him) not just because he's dismissive of Hydra, though that always makes me laugh, but because right now he's seemingly indestructible. He escaped with whatever the original 0-8-4 is that nearly killed Lucy Lawless (and was personally responsible for the crash that did kill her), which obviously means we're going to be seeing him again soon. Since we still don't really know what that object is or what it's used for or why Reed Diamond's Daniel Whitehall (a.k.a. Kraken) wants it, it's hard to gauge the when and where of it all. And speaking of that rascal, how is it possible that he hasn't aged since the 1940s? Thoughts to consider for next week!
DECLASSIFIED CASE FILES
– Coulson tasked Skye with figuring out or deciphering whatever it was that Garrett was scribbling on the wall in the Season 1 finale. She's been working on it for a month but hasn't made any progress. And it doesn't sound like Coulson told her he was also seen scribbling the same language.
– Um, did I or did I not catch a glimpse of the blue alien that eventually produced GH.325 in the flashback scene to Austria with Hayley Atwell's Agent Carter? Also, I'm suddenly a lot more excited for Marvel's Agent Carter.
– Ward has information on Skye's father, so start placing bets on how long until that information comes to light and what Skye will do once she finds out.
– Although Absorbing Man is an apt name, I do sometimes wonder how much thought goes into naming comic book characters. "Absorbing Man" does not, after all, immediately conjure up images of lean muscle and being able to take on the form of diamonds or steel. It makes me think of sponges, like he's a human version of Spongebob Squarepants or something. (I should just go to bed, right?)
– Skye's bangs vs. Ward's beard vs. Talbot's mustache: GO
– "Football or American football? Because a head trauma joke right now, Simmons, that is severely poor taste, even for you."
What did you think of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s premiere? How are you feeling about Season 2's prospects?