Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned for it’s second season Tuesday night and catching up with Coulson and his gang was a lot of fun, but it was also A LOT to digest, or shall we say … absorb.

The first season of Agents required quite the commitment. The show was, like many other Whedon-run shows, a slow burn. It spent a good amount of time baiting it’s audience by including many early plotlines that said “Hey, remember that awesome movie The Avengers?!” However, it was the show’s direct ties to another Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that allowed it stand on its own and thrive.

Now, here we are in the post-Winter Soldier world. Where S.H.I.E.L.D is no longer an extension of the intelligence community, but has become a rogue entity.

The premier’s prologue flashes us back to 1945 where we find Hydra, led by Daniel Whitehall (more on him later), procuring yet another mystic relic. Like most of it’s kind, it’s shiny and it is deadly. Whitehall and his Hydra footsoldiers soon have their party crashed by none other than Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos. Hey, remember those guys from that Captain America movie? Agent Carter secures the relic (which is marked a 084-classification, just like Skye), along with a few others (was that a blue alien corpse like we saw in T.A.H.I.T.I.?) and teases just enough to make us anxiously wait for the debut of her own show. Marvel’s Agent Carter will air when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. breaks mid-season in January.

We flash forward (but never sideways-ZING!) to the present, where Xena Warrior Princess Isabelle Hartley and her associates, the horribly named Lance Hunter and “Idaho”, are attempting to buy old intel pertaining to the 084-marked relic. Agents May, Skye and Triplett hang back to monitor the sale, but are forced to intervene when a new villain interrupts and puts down every character in scene that is NOT important to the plot of this episode and/or show.

When we return to the Playground we see that Director Coulson hasn’t been seen in months and this isn’t sitting well with his team. The most noteworthy thing, thus far, in Season Two is that this team has definitely come into their own. The first season explored the introduction of Skye into the ranks, and ended with the deception and betrayal by Ward. However, this team is now a fully functioning unit, and all though some of its pieces may be broken (Fitz) it’s refreshing to be done with the introductions.

We quickly learn that our new villain is Carl Creel, the Absorbing Man. His super-cool, super power is that he can replicate the abilities of anything he touches. Coulson & Co. need to stop this guy from obtaining the shiny, deadly, 084-relic (which, turns out, is the ORIGINAL 084). To do so, Coulson needs Intel and he sends Skye down to Vault D (aka, the Basement) to question the traitor everyone loves to hate, Agent Ward. Ward’s been through some tough times, displaying the scars of his many attempts at suicide, but sporting a very well-trimmed beard for a prisoner. Skye and Ward put on their best Hannibal Lecter/Clarice act, and Ward ends up divulging how Hydra sends out their messages/orders. Once the team knows where Absorbing Man is headed, they give pursuit.

Here we meet up with an old buddy of S.H.I.E.L.D, General Talbott. He’s now been promoted to Brigadier General and really, really hates Coulson & Co. Creel shows up, the Agents engage, the military engages, and General Talbott ends up in the back of a S.H.I.E.L.D. SUV. After being brought to Coulson’s “honeycombed death room “, the gang pulls together some neato, tech stuff, and the heist is on.

The team and Absorbing Man meet and tangle at a military warehouse containing all of the old S.H.I.E.L.D loot. Xena Hartley makes a bad move and grabs hold of the shiny, 084-classified relic, and it’s not good. With her life in danger, Lance and “Idaho” abort (with the relic) in hopes of getting Isabella to safety. Coulson, however, gives the order to continue with the mission. What mission you ask? Apparently stealing a fighter jet with cloaking capabilities.

As Hartley and her crew make their getaway, they’re intercepted by Creel. He obtains the relic and flees. Coulson makes a speech that basically goes “Blah, blah, blah, we go dark. Blah blah blah sacrifice. Blah blah blah, shadows.” It’s the same type of speech that he seems to give every few episodes. Don’t be surprised when you hear another one, about “going dark”, during next weeks episode.

Whew! It was quite an exhausting premiere, but a show that once lacked style and substance, seems to be getting off on the good foot.

And another thing …

  • Fitz is broken. His frontal lobe is damaged, he’s forgetful, and seems to have lost his grasp on a once extensive vocabulary. In true Whedon form, it’s revealed that Simmons, whom Fitz had been talking to the entire episode, is not actually there. She left fearing her presence would only hinder his recovery. So, Fitz has gone all John Nash (Spoiler alert from 2001: A Beautiful Mind). It must be a Whedon family trait to completely break down and abuse (or kill) the most lovable characters on the show.
  • The strange markings that Coulson was seen making on the wall at the end of last season, show up on the shiny relic. Skye had been trying to “crack the code”, but to no avail. The markings appeared as Hartley clutched the relic, and they did not go unnoticed by Skye.
  • The Bus is grounded, and it wasn’t clear if the theft of the fighter jet would help equip the Bus with a cloaking device, or if the fighter jet would be a temporary replacement.
  • Daniel Whitehall, seen again at the conclusion of the episode, is also known as … POTENTIAL SPOILER FOR NON-COMIC READERS … The Kraken. I wonder if Kraken’s Helmet will be introduced.
  • Coulson’s speeches are getting redundant. We get it, you’re a good guy.

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Daniel J is a writer living in Baltimore, Maryland. He’s spent a lifetime compiling an impressive backlog of pop culture knowledge. He comes in handy at bar trivia.

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