Created by: Joss Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, based on the comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Starring: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Eliabeth Henstridge, B.J. Britt, Ruth Negga, Adrian Pasdar, Kyle MacLachlan, Nick Blood, Henry Simmons, Reed Diamond, Simon Kassianides, Adrienne Palicki.
This review contains spoilers.
With S.H.I.E.L.D. in ruins, its new director Phil Coulson (Gregg) struggles to rebuild the organisation while fighting the strange form of hypergraphia which is a side effect to his alien resurrection. He and his team must also combat the power of evil organisation Hydra, newly allied with a totally insane scientist (MacLachlan) who may just be Skye’s (Bennet) long lost father.
Coulson is not alone in having risen from the dead; Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pulled a similar trick in the middle of its first season, casting off the feebleness of the first ten episodes to emerge as the show it should have been from the beginning. So far, the second season has managed to go one step further, eschewing the lackluster stand-alone episodes that peppered even the latter parts of the premiere season, instead going for a strong, ongoing narrative closely tied to the larger Marvel Comics Universe.
In place of pointless namedropping we find meaningful connections, and this season weaves a satisfying and creative web of mystery whose strands consists of carefully chosen and tastefully “reimagined” characters, relationships and events from Marvel’s vast mythos. The show’s creators start out strong, in the very first episode throwing The Absorbing Man at us, one of Marvel’s cooler super villains, as if they want to assure us that this time there will be no frustrating avoidance of all the interesting characters available. And they’re as good as their word – to avoid spoiling things too much, MacLachlan’s character turns out to be someone very interesting indeed to Marvel fans, and we finally get most of the solution to the initially rather tepid mystery surrounding Skye’s background. Well judged episode after well judged episode leads us to a mid-season finale which will be exciting enough for most viewers and a positive nerdgasm for old Marvel fans like me.
The characters, though some of them are still somewhat tedious, are developing too, growing more nuanced and giving the actors a better chance to shine, but improved as the main cast is, not one of them – not even Gregg – can hold a candle to Kyle MacLachlan. I’ve always liked him, but I never even suspected he could pull out this level of intensity. By turns touching, funny and tremendously creepy, he steals the entire show to the point where you want him to be in every scene. It doesn’t hurt that he has a good part to play, nor that he is one of the primary driving forces behind this season’s tantalizing story.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wouldn’t be a Marvel property without plenty of action and spectacle, and it delivers in that department too, with some truly impressive effects work, a few brutal fights and a budget that is either increased or better utilised this season.
Much improved on every level, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now a vital part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is cleverly being used to foreshadow upcoming movies (The Inhumans, anyone?). It’s a great thrill ride with an exciting narrative, something I could never have dreamed when I forced myself through the first half of the initial season.
Rating: 8 of 10.