Instant Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Shadows”

*Update: My full recap of “Shadows” is now live.  Read it here!

Agents of SHIELD is back!  I don’t know about you but I was an energizing mix of excited and nervous for the premiere, full of questions but eager to finally get back into my favorite show.  Would the new season live up to the first?  What’s the status of all of the mysteries left over from last season?  What’s going to happen to Ward?  What happened to Fitz?  How will Skye’s new hairdo look?  We got some glimpses at the answers to these questions along with a whole host of new mysteries for season 2 in tonight’s episode, “Shadows.”

I’m going to be trying something new this season as a result of SHIELD‘s later timeslot and in an effort to maintain a more human sleep schedule.  After a new episode airs I’ll post an “instant reaction” like this one, and in the following day or two I’ll put up my full recap as usual, going into more depth than this quick reaction and covering the entire episode, with my customary S.H.I.E.L.D. thoughts to cap it off.  Please be patient with me, as it will probably take me a little while to find the right balance between the two (and please offer any suggestions you might have on how to improve things).  These quick reactions will be in the form of bullet points, not necessarily in order, and will hit some of the big moments from the episode along with anything that catches my eye.  Some of them will pop up again in my full recap while others will only live here.  Once my full recap is posted, I’ll update this post to include a link to it.  So without further ado, here are my thoughts about “Shadows.”

  • I have to start with Fitz!  I’m so very thrilled he’s alive, even if he’s suffering some long term effects from his ordeal escaping entrapment at the bottom of the ocean in last season’s finale.  It was really painful to watch him struggle to come up with the right words.  For someone as fast-talking as Fitz, it must be immensely frustrating, but worse than that was how useless he felt.  Iain De Caestecker did a fantastic job tonight, really driving home the emotional toll of his situation, but I was completely unprepared for the final revelation.  I was so touched by Simmons’ devotion to him, and it broke my heart to find out that everything we’d seen was just in his head.  Things are obviously worse for Fitz than we first were shown, and it will be interesting to see how he and the team deal with his condition as the show progresses.  And where is Simmons?
  • I loved the style of the opening sequence, and if that’s what we can expect from Agent Carter then I’m thrilled.  It had such a gung-ho attitude to it, which was quite the contrast with the secretive, covert, troubled nature of SHIELD.  Hayley Atwell didn’t get to show us much, but she’s a commanding presence on the screen and it’s easy to buy her as the leader of an SSR team fighting HYDRA.  It was a nice touch to have Neal McDonough and Kenneth Choi return as Dum Dum Dugan and Jim Morita from Captain America: The First Avenger.  It helped tie the Marvel Universe together, and gave a little more heft to this sequence.
  • I have a theory on the 0-8-4 material, but I’ll save it for my recap, but I’ll give you a hint.  It might have a connection to Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • Favorite line of the night: Coulson improvising as General Talbot threatening a soldier, “I’ll have you so deep in horse manure son you’ll need a snorkel!”
  • We had a lot of new faces tonight, most especially Lucy Lawless’s team of ex-SHIELD mercenaries.  Hartley, Hunter and Idaho gave a nice contrast to Coulson’s crew, with their laid-back, questioning attitude and different agenda.  Lawless’s Hartley is an interesting blend of the two, with her obvious SHIELD background and her trust of Coulson, but still with a mercenary edge.  Lawless is great, of course, and I hope Hartley survived the wreck.  We know Hunter did, as Nick Blood has joined Agents of SHIELD as a member of the main cast.
  • Coulson’s clearly taking a page out of Fury’s book and compartmentalizing his troops.  Just as Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff were sent on the same mission with different objectives in The Winter Soldier, May, Skye and Triplett had a different goal than the mercenaries.  That’s all well and good while he’s treating the two teams as separate units, but if he were to do the same things within his crew, say sending May and Skye out with different objectives, it might come back to bite him in the ass.
  • I liked the brief theorizing Triplett did on Billy Koenig’s relationship with Eric Koenig, as it was a nice nod to the fans.  There’s been a lot of speculation about him being a Life Model Decoy, which is obviously a possibility, but I doubt it’s a mystery that’s very high on the writers’ list of things to address.
  • It’ll be interesting to see what effect, if any, the timeslot change will have on the show.  The obvious suggestion would be that the show will become darker, but I don’t think it will change much.  There were plenty of dark moments in the first season, and that continued tonight with Hartley’s severed arm.  (She’s definitely a badass, though.)  One thing that will probably help the show as far as the time change is with the ratings.  Last season it was often up against NCIS, a ratings juggernaut, which did it no favors.  But more importantly, the expectations for a show on at 9 pm are different from those for one on at 8, which might be expected to pull in large numbers of families (like ABC’s Sunday night show, Once Upon a Time).  Hopefully expectations will be tempered and people won’t immediately assume the sky is falling like last season.
  • The Absorbing Man is a classic character from the comics, and I thought he worked well on screen.  The transformation to different materials was visually interesting (and the effects were solid), but it also allows for more variety from action scenes.  Season one mostly consisted of fistfights and gunfights, both of which can be great but the addition of powers to the mix helps things to stay fresh.  Creel using a ball and chain to fight May was an exciting touch, as was him turning into concrete to stop the SUV.  It’s too early to tell if he’ll be making many appearances this season or just a few, but it’s a good reminder that SHIELD does still exist in the Marvel universe.
  • I don’t have any theories about Reed Diamond as Dr. Whitehall, but I’m glad he’s here.  They’re setting him up as the season’s big bad, which is fine with me.  He was great on Dollhouse and in Much Ado About Nothing, with a surprising comedic ability that I hope they find a way to exploit.  We obviously haven’t seen enough to have any idea why he hasn’t aged since World War II (or why he lost his accent), but perhaps this will allow him to appear both on SHIELD and on Agent Carter when it premiers during SHIELD‘s winter hiatus.
  • And lastly there’s Ward.  I know he’s been a divisive figure online this summer, particularly with speculation about a possible redemption story for the character, which some fans strongly oppose.  He seems to honestly want redemption, promising nothing but the truth to Skye and wanting simply to help in order to make peace with what he’s done, but there’s no way to know yet whether he’s telling the truth.  Will assisting SHIELD earn him a parole from his Silence of the Lambs-esque prison?  His story about his repeated attempts to harm himself, even down to running head-first into the wall when he became desperate, were certainly chilling, and I do believe he regrets what he’s done, but is that enough?  Is he after redemption for the right reasons, or is it part of some twisted desire to be with Skye whatever it takes?  I will say that the attention he paid to Skye was extremely creepy, and he has a long way to go if he’s going to convince anyone that he’s truly sorry for what he did.

What do you think?  Did you enjoy “Shadows?”  Are you glad SHIELD is back?  What do you think about Fitz’s condition?  Were you surprised by the twist about Simmons?  What did you make of Ward?  How about the new additions to the cast?  What do you think of my new react/recap format?  Tune in later this week for my full recap, and until then, talk to me in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Instant Reaction: Agents of SHIELD – “Shadows”

  1. Definitely a chilling opening and unfortunately not the first or last time I’m worried about EVERY single character. Oh AOS…

    As for Ward and Fitz, I can see a major theme of this season and the team is brokenness. Whether or not Ward is redeemable, he’s definitely a shell of what he used to be. Same with Fitz. Same with what we thought of the team. Although all the characters are back, it’s not what it was last season.

    Loved the Absorbing Man and the fact that he’s back next week. Really breaks the Villain of the Week staple.

    And where is Simmons? It feels out of character for her to leave Fitz when he needs her most, but it would also depend on where she is. Is she trying to avoid him? Is she trying to find a way to help him? (GH 325?) Is it worse?

    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    Like

    • I’m really starting to get worried about every single character, too. Especially with Coulson compartmentalizing the way he is. As director, he’s going to have to make some difficult decisions, and I hope that doesn’t mean sacrificing any of his crew, but he’d do it if he had to.
      You’re exactly right about brokenness being a major theme this season, and I plan on touching on that in my full recap.
      I think having HYDRA (with its various agents/mercenaries) as a dedicated threat will do wonders for the show, getting away from the mystery of the week or at least keeping that HYDRA threat always looming.
      I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Simmons is trying to find a way to help Fitz, but what risks is she willing to take in order to get him back to the way he was?

      Like

  2. Glad to finally be able to watch the episode online, though, if Amazon had it, I think I’d pay the 1.99 I’m paying for Dr.Who just to skip the skippy jerky repeaty commercials. Gaaaaahhhhh. Binge watched Dr Who last night and this AM, and then SHIELD.

    Which is all the TV I watch. Period. Except for Sherlock. And random PBS stuff.

    Odd watching those two shows back to back. SHIELD is less quirky and more serious than Who, at this point, and somehow a bit darker, for all that it is a Marvel comic. SHIELD is stacking up to be a fantastic 2nd season, and one of the finer offerings on TV.

    I too want to know what happened to Simmons. And it was one of those Whovian style gotchas when we realize Fitz has been fratzed, and all of that was imagined. Hoping he can regain his brilliance, though here is a chance for a TV series to show the audience something about this medical condition and its consequences, and create an interesting character arc.

    Was not familiar with the Absorbing Man, but he made an interesting villain for those of us who were not familiar with his story in the comics.

    Agree with the idea of getting away from fistfight/gunfight/fistfight/gunfight. It is a comic, but Dr Who is sci-fi, and I note that there, the heroes do not use weapons at all… more brains vs brawn. Surely SHIELD can do more of the brain, clever ruse, techie stuff, character development thing too.

    I have zero use for the “oh Ward is just a misunderstood puppy” crowd. I would cheerfully have shot him. Multiple times. Dedededed. However, this being SHIELD, things could get interesting. I suppose I have a much more Thorish/Cappish black and white view of good and evil, and Ward is now on the side of Evil and… ex-ter-min-ate… ex-ter-min-ate…ex-ter-min-ate.

    Skye seems much older somehow. More grown uppish.

    May still rules.

    And papa Coulson is the best Coulson.

    Carry on SHIELD.

    Like

    • Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond! Are you able to watch it online? I think Amazon does have the episodes for $1.99, although I don’t know how quickly they go up after the episode airs. They do have the first two episodes of the season up, or you can buy a season pass for $40 if you’re interested. Or wait and watch them somewhere for free.
      I’ve actually never watched Dr. Who. I’ve caught a couple segments from random episodes here and there, but I’ve never gotten into it. Maybe it’s something to try one of these days. I’ve heard mixed things about the show, so I’m kind of reluctant, but it does seem to be up my alley. What do you think, should I give it a try?
      I’m most worried about Simmons and Fitz at the moment. I want to know what’s going on with Simmons and I want them to find a way for Fitz to get better. It’s always the seemingly “innocent” ones in a team who get hurt.
      I definitely am not on the “Ward is a misunderstood puppy” ship. He’s an adult and is definitely responsible for his own actions. That having been said, I believe in forgiveness and in second chances, but while forgiveness is supposed to be given, second chances must be earned. I’m curious to see how his story plays out, and whether he can earn a second chance. Ward hasn’t shown me any inclination that he’s interested in redemption, only that he’s obsessed with Skye, which is not the same thing at all. If he is to find redemption, I want it to only happen after he learns what it truly means and not just by moping around about Skye.

      Like

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