Thursday, June 18, 2015

TV Series Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (season two)

I blame cosplay for this post going up late but at least at this point it's still before midnight. Let's just go ahead and dive into it shall we?

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

SHIELD is no longer what it once was but Coulson is still determined to do good and help keep the world safe from extraterrestrial and villainous threats with the people he has since he has the best team he could want. They manage to recruit some more good folks, abet ones with agendas all their own, and then the story takes an odd turn. Despite Coulson's insistence to the contrary, it seems like there are people out there with superpowers, naturally occurring ones, and if there's even a hint of alien involvement behind it then it's their job to find out, no matter what the cost to the team is.  

I've seen a lot of people say that this season was much stronger than the first season, or that its ending was way stronger, and I didn't feel the same way since I thought the second half of the first season was already pretty good! The first half was rather meh and average, it seemed to find a groove by the mid-way point and only kept going up from there especially in the final third when it connected with the Captain America 2 and Hydra plots. That almost made parts of this season feel like a let down since it bobbed up and down but didn't have that strong upward tick, even the Age of Ultron didn't produce an immediate "it got better!" scenario, but part of that was because this season of the show was much less dependent on the outside, other movies to keep it going. SHIELD has its own characters, its own plot lines now and, while I'm sure season three will tie into Captain America again, at this point SHIELD is starting to even add to the Marvel universe since this was where "inhumans" (mutants) first cropped up and this is the property that sets the stage for even more to be introduced.

That does lead me to a problem I noted in my Age of Ultron review however, this series of movies is becoming more and more connected so when things don't line up near perfectly across mini-franchises it's really noticeable. In this season we had a big plot, especially in the second half, about "another SHIELD" which was admittedly a bit of a stretch of logic within the show but outside of it, it doesn't come up at all in the movies. Maria Hill, in Age of Ultron is working with Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers running some part of the Avengers Initiative, is clearly aware of it but if I hadn't seen this tv show I would have assumed she was running some new version of SHIELD which (probably) isn't the case. Or heck, at the very end of that movie we see an even bigger base for the Avengers and company, whose running that if not a third version of SHIELD? That little gap in world-building really does throw me out of the story a bit and that does make me a bit concerned for the larger Marvel universe in the future (but not Agents of SHIELD which handles their non-involvement in the movies in almost an arch manner by now).

Getting back into the show, while the overall plot was more consistent and present than the first season it's really the characters who make or break the show and it's a bit of a mixed bag here. There are a few characters who rubbed me the wrong way when I don't believe they were supposed to (I am completely uninterested in Grant's storyline by now and Skye's father felt overused) but a lot of these characters have really grown on me. I still say that Coulson is my favorite Avenger and Melinda May had grown on me by the end of last season and Skye has finally grown up from a weird, not fully fleshed out character to a character whose not always as in the loop as she should be which creates understandable frustrations. I think you could make a good argument for these three being "the main characters" above all else which is pretty good since it's two ladies, both people of color (I didn't realize it last season but Skye's actress is actually part Chinese and thus her character here is half-Chinese) and Coulson but this is also the show which looked like it might seriously kill off all three of it's important, reoccurring black characters in a single episode. I'm almost never a fan of character deaths and this season racked up a surprisingly high body and injury count, after the last episode ended I was left wondering if they had tried to simply get two female characters out of the show and was relieved to see that they were both coming back for the next season. 

It is a little funny to look at the rest of the movies, with a few supporting female characters and no female-lead movie coming for years, and then to look at this show where 75% of the fight sequences feature at least one if not more female characters involved (that ranged from "silly but not sexy" to "painful and not sexy"). I'm not super fond of a lot of the romances in the show, they range from being just too ordinary and boring to just too much of a bad idea for me to become invested in them, but I was surprised at how interesting Fitz and Simmon's relationship has become. The first season ended badly for them (a failed confession and Fitz receiving brain damage to save them from a life or death situation) and I expected to hate Fitz for forcing such a bad situation but the show actually handled it pretty gracefully and gave the characters more traits that didn't involve each other and when they did get back together (in a working, non-romantic sense) it felt very natural to see them gravitating and conspiring together again. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about how their relationship stood at the end of this season for several reasons but at least it's a lot less boring than most of the others in the show.

So, for anyone who is looking to get into the show I do recommend it, I'm sure there are some people online who can recommend what episodes of season one to skip before "it gets better" but by this point I think that all of the episodes fit together tightly enough that you should watch all of them. Presuming you can even find them however, like last time ABC has decided to only have the latest few available on their website and hulu which I continue to find frustrating and stupid, hope it pops up on Netflix before the third season starts in the fall for the newcomers!

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