Continuing storylines from the first season of Marvel’s mildly successful Agents of SHIELD, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team had to rebuild SHIELD, following its demise due to the resurgence of Hydra.
As you’d expect, Coulson came back fighting. This season, however, Hydra haven’t occupied the limelight, everyone’s favourite super cute hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet) has, with the story focusing on her quest to understand her newly gained powers, following her exposure to alien Terrigen crystals at the end of season one.
With season two, the show has begun to introduce the Inhumans and tie Marvel’s universe closer together. This is good but in TV it’s a fine balance. You don’t have the budget of film (despite being backed by Marvel) so you can’t go too big on spectacle; plus the most interesting thing has – and always will be – the human element, the interaction between the characters. Any special powers on display are fun, but they’re just there to dazzle. What we care about is the fate of the SHIELD team, Coulson and the gang.
Mostly this latest season has stayed focused on powers and with Hydra taking a back seat the season’s antagonist duties fell to Skye’s increasingly deranged father (Kyle Maclachlan) and (spoiler) the introduction of her scheming mother Jiaying (Dichen Lachman). So it becomes, in the words of Sly and the Family Stone, a family affair.
To a lesser extent we also have disgraced Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) as a sort of plan B antagonist, largely sidelined for most of the season but pop ups here and there to cause a little mayhem. The rest of the gang are all still present and correct, but maybe a little tougher and a little wiser, in particular Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Gemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), whose ‘will they won’t they’ relationship becomes more fraught – and therefore more interesting – as the season goes on.
Similarly another sub-plot involving Agent Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and her on-off fella, fellow Agent Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) is sweet enough but mostly just filler (except when Bobbi fights of course, that’s worth the price of each episode alone).
The trouble with the whole show is that it lives in the shadow of Marvel’s epic films, which I’ll argue we’re all becoming a little desensitised to, in terms of scale and spectacle. So it’s difficult for the team to face a credible foe over the sustained period of a season. They had an evil Hydra bloke who liked to experiment on people with powers but, by the time they finally caught up with him Coulson shot him straight away.
Perhaps this is a good thing. Keep changing up the baddie to keep the SHIELD gang – and by extension the audience – on their toes. Sometimes though, you just want a really clever, credible bad guy or girl. The show might be building up to that in season three with the Inhumans, so I guess we’ll see.
Despite my slight misgivings I do like the show and its tone and like spending time with the characters. They’re bright, breezy, sassy and kick ass (from time to time). They’re all slowly developing and evolving as the threats they face change, which is good to see. As long as it stays focused on keeping things human (and inhuman) then season three should be a fun ride.