by Sam Robinson
Rated M. Starring Clark Gregg, Ming Na-Wen. Created by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen.
The seemingly unstoppable Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand this week, with the beginning of the second season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The first season was a real rollercoaster ride, beginning with an exciting pilot episode, before falling into a bit of a lull, but bringing back the pace with the thirteenth episode T.R.A.C.K.S. (If you haven’t yet seen that episode, it was an excellent piece of television drama set on a train, and well worth checking out.)
When the HYDRA infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. was revealed during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there was no doubt that this television series would be affected in a big way. And it was. From episode seventeen the tone of the show shifted as we were kept guessing over which of the agents had been playing for HYDRA the whole time. It came as a big surprise (to me, at least) when Agent Ward was revealed as a traitor. But by the end of the first season, with S.H.I.E.L.D. in tatters, we really weren’t sure how things would proceed – especially considering that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) handed over S.H.I.E.L.D. director duties to Agent Coulson (Gregg) in the final episode.
Across the first season viewership in the United States fell from 12 to 5 million, but thankfully, a second season was commissioned and no doubt Marvel are hoping fans stay tuned to see how S.H.I.E.L.D. will rebuild in the lead-up to The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits cinemas next April.
The first episode of season two, Shadows, starts to put the pieces back together. It opens in Austria in 1945 with the appearance of Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), no doubt preparing us for the Agent Carter television series set to begin in the coming months. She and other early S.H.I.E.L.D. agents stop a powerful piece of technology called the Obelisk from falling into the hands of HYDRA. She says, ‘We dedicate ourselves to making sure it never sees the light of day.’ Which means, of course, that it will.
And it does, in present day. The Obelisk has been stored in a box in a S.H.I.E.L.D. warehouse ever since, and is the only item with a ‘Level 10’ file. Which means it surely is very dangerous and cannot be touched by human hands. Most of this episode revolves around this powerful item, and there’s no doubt it will play a big part of this season. There’s also a new, seemingly unstoppable, villain, who can turn his skin into any substance he touches. Diamonds, steel, rubber, you name it.
But what’s interesting about Shadows is the state of the agents. There’s big problems amongst the team. Firstly, they’ve started hanging out with a couple of new agents that we’ve never seen before – which is surprising considering – as they’ve seen with Ward – that nobody can truly be trusted. They’re also at a new secret base called The Playground (it’s so good to see Patton Oswalt back for this season) and Agent Ward is being held onsite as a prisoner, within reach to mess with their minds. Perhaps worst of all, Fitz is off his game – after the events of the season one finale, he’s lost his mind. The team barely a team at all.
It’s interesting that when I reviewed the pilot double-episode this time last year, I mentioned that the focus of the second episode was that the new team had to unite to escape adversity. They were a team of agents thrown together, with different levels of experience and ability. And across the season they did indeed unite together. But the blows of lies, deception and a loss of authority meant disunity of a scale they could ever anticipate. Now in many ways, it’s back to square one for the agents.
‘[We must] disappear – become ghosts. That’s how we have to live now, in the shadows, to save people. Even when they don’t know it. Don’t want it.’
Coulson’s monologue in the closing moments reveals that he must rebuild his team because their goal is to save people. But to achieve this, in their situation, they must hide in the shadows.
Those who follow Christ as their Saviour share the same goal of seeing people saved, but saved eternally. Of course, it’s God who does the saving, but we have the calling to share the good news of the gospel with those who don’t know it yet. But we must never hide in the shadows. Our news is too good to keep secret. As Paul writes in Romans 1:16 –
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
We are called to unite together as Christ’s redeemed people and together hold out God’s life-changing gospel that brings people from death to life.
Shadows is a promising opening to the season, and I look forward to seeing what lies ahead, particularly when this season ties in with the new Avengers flick. Four stars.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs in the US on Tuesdays at 9/8C on ABC; and in Australia on Mondays at 9:45pm on the Seven Network. This review was written from a preview supplied by the Seven Network.