Agents of SHIELD is back, and to celebrate the return of weekly superheroes, villains and not-so-super heroes, I had myself a little Marvel day. In preparation, and to make sure I wouldn’t miss out on any crossover material, I finally saw the summer’s top movie, Guardians of the Galaxy.
And I was not disappointed. There were no direct references to the television series in the film, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t pave the way for Agents of SHIELD season 2 to play a major role in the greater Marvel Universe.
Ratings aside, Agents of SHIELD is an extremely important cog, bridging the gap between blockbusters and ensuring that they won’t all have the same plotline. The running theme of the superhero flicks is that they are building toward Thanos collecting all six so-called Infinity Stones and harnessing their power in an attempt to control the cosmos and everything contained within them.
And so far, four of them have appeared in the various films. Now, it appears the fifth is making its debut on the small screen, as the very first 084 unexplainable object. And it is revealed with a little help from Agent Carter, in a little teaser to the spin-off series headed to your living room during Agents of SHIELD‘s winter hiatus.
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A Blast from the Past
Season 2 kicks off with a trip back to 1945, with HYDRA agents led by Dr. Daniel Whitehall, aka The Kraken, gathering artifacts from a Nazi site. Agent Carter and other allied forces intervene, collect the objects and spray-paint them with stencils. One box, which contains a mysterious obelisk, is labeled “SSR 084.”
Another box contains a mysterious blue corpse, which is likely the alien life form that provided the GH325 serum that saved Coulson and Skye. And after watching Guardians — spoiler alert — that body is almost definitely a Kree.
Back in the present, Coulson’s SHIELD team remains in disarray, scattered around the globe with no idea who is friend, foe or for-hire. If you need a refresher on how season 1 ended, capping off the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and revealing that HYDRA has infiltrated SHIELD on an unprecedented level, check out my recap of the finale here.
Odds and Ends
Before we get to the actual events of “Shadows,” there are two side plots worth mentioning that don’t factor in much yet. First, Agent Ward is a prisoner at the Playground, which is the new SHIELD headquarters run by Billy Koenig. He attempted suicide several times and apparently awoke from sedation with an acceptance of who he is and what he’s done.
Locked up in his cell, he will only talk to Skye and seems insistent on helping in any way he can, particularly when it comes to intel on HYDRA operations. Whether he really has turned over a new leaf remains to be seen, but for now, he is somewhat helpful to the cause.
The second development is that Fitz survived the oxygen deprivation of his ascent from the bottom of the ocean, but he suffered severe brain damage that has limited his ability to help the team. He forgets words and relies on Simmons to fill in the blanks in his road to recovery, but at the end, we find out that Simmons has left and that everything is a figment of his imagination. Coulson speculates that he is too far gone and getting worse.
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Enter The Absorbing Man
Yes, that is literally the new supervillain’s name. Can you guess what former boxer Carl Creel can do? The Crusher, as he was known in his ring days, can touch any substance and absorb its properties, allowing him to transform his body into that substance. So if you shoot him, he can turn into lead. (On background, in the comic books, he drank a liquid that Loki spiked with a magical potion.)
So when a former SHIELD operative is trying to sell intelligence about that first-ever 084 to the highest bidder, The Absorbing Man (henceforth ASM) intervenes and steals the documents. His buyers are actually SHIELD mercenaries led by none other than Xena the Warrior Princess, Lucy Lawless.
May, Skye, Tripp and the previously unknown backup team (Hartley, Hunter and Idaho) all head back to the Playground to figure out the next move. Director Coulson pays them a surprise visit, having spent the past several weeks tracking down possible allies around the globe. But he has to fly coach, as the team is without cloaking technology and Fitz is slow to figure out how to restore it.
Kidnapping and Manipulation
After bits of metal recovered from the scene turn back to ASM’s flesh, Fitz is able to get an ID on Creel. And when it is confirmed he is working for HYDRA and after the SSR 084, Coulson sends Skye to chat with Ward. The conversation is cold and curt, but Ward reveals how HYDRA hides their messages, and SHIELD intercepts a directive to target General Glenn Talbot. Since we last saw Nathan Petrelli overtaking a good-guy base, he has been promoted and made it his life mission to bring down any remnants of SHIELD/HYDRA.
The agents thwart ASM’s attempt on Talbot’s life and let the military take him captive, but they keep the good general for themselves. Coulson tries to convince him to work together with SHIELD, pointing out that ASM wants a weapon that is housed in the same building where captives are being housed, so in essence, Talbot led ASM straight to the prize he was seeking.
Talbot refuses to team up, so Coulson shoots him with a night-night gun and then listens in when Talbot wakes up and orders reinforcements to ASM’s location. Despite the dangers of sending every loyal agent into a fortified military installation, the team is dispatched with a double mission.
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Obelisks and Amputations
Of course, ASM has already escaped, camouflaging himself by touching the clear walls of his cell, thus tricking the guards into opening it. And man, this dude never wears a shirt. Not that I would, if I looked like that.
The agents scheme their way into the relics area of the base, where Xena finds the box labeled SSR 084. She is promptly jumped by ASM, and to defend herself, she grabs the obelisk and is unable to drop it as it turns her hand and wrist a decaying black. ASM runs away and alarms sound, yet Coulson orders the team to continue the mission.
Xena’s loyal cronies refuse, leading her to the getaway vehicle and peeling out. As they flee, Xena makes her man cut off her hand, as she feels the object slowly killing her, which is what Infinity Stones do to mere mortals. ASM then turns into asphalt and flips the SUV, killing two of the three inside. He rubberizes his hand and picks up the obelisk, leaving one survivor to tell SHIELD all about it.
Meanwhile, Skye, Tripp and May manage to elude the guards and steal a cloaked plane and a motorcycle.
The episode ends with an unknown man telling a HYDRA leader that ASM has completed his mission and will be delivering the obelisk soon. That leader is revealed to be Dr. Whitehall, aka The Kraken, aka Damien Karp from Franklin and Bash, who looks exactly the same as he did back in 1945.
And that’s it for the kickoff to season 2, and in all honesty, it was just good but not great. The two main cliffhangers from last season — the identity of Skye’s father and Coulson’s alien etchings — were just passing mentions. Ward apparently has information about dear old dad, while Coulson has Skye investigating the symbols.
It was a lot of setup for the season without a lot of action or payoff, as it focused mainly on the interactions between characters and the struggles Papa Coulson and Mama May have in rebuilding and restoring SHIELD to its illustrious past. Heck, they already killed off two of the main characters they just introduced, including one played by Xena Warrior Princess, for crying out loud. And immediately after she cut off her arm, too. I’m no surgeon, but she probably could’ve left that one alone.
As always, I was entertained and maintain my loyalty to the Marvel brand. But if you were hoping to open season 2 with a bang, well, you might be disappointed. However, if you were hoping to open season 2 with bangs, then Skye’s sleek new hairdo fulfilled all your sexy desires.
You can watch Agents of SHIELD every Tuesday at 9pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)