AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. RECAP: Going Dark In The USA (S2:E1)
Following a successful summer full of chewy popcorn goodness, Marvel Studios is back to the small screen with the return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC. Clearly you’re already watching if you’re a Marvel fan because they’ve got you and they’ve got your wallet. It’s that Disney influence.
If you’re not watching, what the hell are you waiting for? The show is actually entertaining now following an eleventh hour shift in storyline that reinvigorated the entire series out of holding pattern hell.
We know our characters and what to expect. Disappointment isn’t such a tumble.
Returning is Agent Coulson, the former comic relief connection to all of the Marvel Universe movies and current S.H.I.E.L.D. underground director. Melinda May, the bad ass former spy turned desk jockey turned spy once again. Skye, the newcomer hacker queen with a mysterious past and looks that no hacker possesses. Fitz and “Simmons,” our adorable scientific duo with British quirks galore. And finally Ward, the super spy turncoat who betrayed everyone at the end of last season and now finds himself at home in a makeshift prison with little to live for. Patton Oswalt is also here as Billy Koenig, along with newcomer Triplett who is joining the team full time after some guest spots.
This season picks up some time after the last one left off. The evil Nazi-connected organization HYDRA has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and crippled it from within. In the aftermath of those events, Coulson and team are forced underground by the relentless hunt of Adrian Pasdar’s General Talbot and the continued threat of HYDRA. Coulson has been given the reins by Nick Fury (Sam Jackson if you didn’t know) and is now working in the shadows to rebuild the organization while also trying to defeat HYRDRA. There’s also superpowered people everywhere, but they don’t really show up on network television that often.
Before we jump into any of that, we have to flash back to 1945 Austria. HYDRA forces are packing up research and attempting to hightail it before allied forces show up and whoop ass. This plan fails because, being evil, they have to take time to discuss some of their findings and provide the murky exposition the writers love in these serialized dramas. What mysteries are held within this mysterious unknown super metal they’re looking at? We won’t know until later in the season because here comes Agent Carter and the Howling Commandos.
Carter, “Dum Dum” Dugan and Jim Morita return from the first Captain America movie to beat up on some more Nazis (a pastime at this point) and connect this mysterious “obelisk” to the events affecting Coulson and his team here in the present. It’s sorta like Raiders of the Lost Ark, but with superheroes.
Back in the present, we’re gifted the beautiful visage of guest star Lucy Lawless as Izzy Hartley. Don’t worry about remembering these names, I have trouble doing it myself. Years of wasted days and wasted nights are the only reason I know as much as I do.
Hartley is undercover with a team of friendly mercenaries, a welcome sight to your normal, bloodthirsty types here in reality, and she’s pumping a rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agent for information. It just so happens that he’s pimping the whereabouts of our mysterious evil metal box and he knows exactly where it is stashed. The only problem is that Hartley isn’t the only one interested in this treasure.
A mysterious assassin bolts into action, snapping our S.H.I.E.L.D. pimp’s neck and jumping out of a window to escape. He leaves behind a piece of “metal” for everyone to ponder over and we get some nice witty banter between characters before Coulson pops on the radio to tell everyone to “go dark.” Then the credits roll and we’re off and running.
From there it’s pretty customary. Our heroic agents are forced to do a bit of detective work to find out what this assassin was after and what exactly is in the box. Fat chance of that happening in the first episode, but they’re going to give it a shot.
During this lull in the action, we get to see where our characters have arrived since last season. Fitz survived his brush with death, but something seems off. Simmons is there with him, but nothing is truly as it seems with these two. Their bickering is a little bitter and Simmons is sort of in the backseat. Fitz is a changed man.
Skye is now far more into the whole “secret agent” business, putting down her laptop for a chance at being full on Emma Peel from the British Avengers series (unrelated to anything Marvel, of course). May is still bad ass, but she’s got a more teacher like quality this time around, leading the team on the ground and showing Skye the ropes.
It’s Coulson that has changed the most with his new leadership role. Instead of running around and doing someone’s bidding, Coulson is forced to recruit and rebuild a full S.H.I.E.L.D. operation from the ground up himself. He’s the head honcho. No more flying cars (for now) and no more goofy trading cards. He’s all business.
After studying the “metal” left by the assassin, they notice it begins to bleed and change into a severed piece of flesh. A quick DNA check shows that the skin belongs to Carl “Crusher” Creel, a former boxer turned murderous criminal who has the power to absorb from anything he touches. So if he touches metal, he turns metal, hence the piece that fell off of him when a bullet touched him. Don’t question it!
The team also learns that Creel is most likely working with HYDRA due to his connection to John Garrett, last season’s big bad played by Bill Paxton. So to confirm it, they send Skye down to talk to the traitor Ward in Vault D. These two have that star-crossed connection and his betrayal at the end of last season was far more painful for her than any of the other characters. Ward isn’t taking it well either, of course. He shows off his self harm and suicide scars like some high school girl, proving that even super spies can get the blues, but Skye ain’t got no time for that. After some back and forth, he reveals how to find Creel before his next attack.
Turns out his next target is the cranky asshole General Talbot, who is narrowly saved by Agent May before being taken captive by S.H.I.E.L.D. to gain access to his fancy military base and find the mystery death metal box of magic and wonder. It’s important, dammit!
This leads to a nice scene where Coulson “questions” Talbot to get his biometric data and we learn that this guy is one of those stereotypical assholes that won’t sway their opinion, even with proper evidence right in front of them. The Lindsay Graham of the show.
There’s a lot of talking here and at the same time, Creel is held prisoner at the very base he was trying to get to anyway. Before long, everyone is free again and off to find the evil metal box or stop evil or something.
Coulson’s team joins with Lucy Lawless to infiltrate the base using Talbot’s personal data, while Creel sneaks around by absorbing his surroundings and killing whoever gets in his way. Both methods are far too easy and I now worry about our nation’s security efforts.
Jumping forward a bit more, everyone is now in a warehouse full of mystery boxes. It seems daunting, but Lucy Lawless manages to stumble on the one they’re after. Sadly, Creel manages to stumble onto her and they start to fight. Lucy attempts to use the super mystery death metal as a weapon and it fucks her up. Her entire hand goes black and puts her on the ground. Creel runs away and alarms begin to sound, forcing everyone to hurry up and move it with the plot. We’ve only got like five minutes of show left.
May, Skye, and Triplett are after a S.H.I.E.L.D. Quinjet because they need cloaking technology in order to sneak around and do their job. Fitz has been working on such technology, but it is revealed that his brain is actually more damaged than we realize and he’s unable to do his work. “Simmons” isn’t actually there with him and the entire situation becomes really depressing. She left because she felt it would be better for his rehab, but the whole thing is just in the toilet. Way to punch me in the gut, Marvel. I didn’t know I was watching Up!
Meanwhile, Lucy Lawless is frantically trying to escape with her team and remove the mystery evil metal from her hand. As a last ditch effort, she tells her charming British mercenary friend to cut her hand off and save her life. He manages to do it, but is quickly interrupted by a now stone Creel in the middle of the road. The car is demolished, Lucy Lawless is apparently killed, and Creel walks away with the magic Nazi death metal, bringing an end to one hell of an episode.
At the very end, it is revealed that the Nazi doctor from the beginning of the episode is still alive and is the one pulling the strings. The whole thing perfectly sets up the season and we’re already in a better place than we were last season. It’s just far darker than I would’ve expected. I’m going to go listen to some Joy Division now and attempt to express my feelings through irrational poetry on LiveJournal. See you next week.
For More Andrew Roberts, check out his Sleepy Hollow season premiere recap!
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