Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a rough start, to put it mildly. But the back half had momentum as everything changed around the show. So, did they manage to keep it? Perhaps surprisingly, very much so.
The show starts off with a cameo from Agent Carter and the Howling Commandos as they mop up the last of HYDRA’s WWII bases. They find an object so dangerous that to touch it can kill you, and, in the style of government agencies, they seal it in a crate and send it off to be studied by top men.
About sixty years later, HYDRA wants the McGuffin, and so they send the Absorbing Man after it. As SHIELD gears up, we get a convenient look at their latest operation. Coulson’s been flying around the world looking for SHIELD agents who aren’t either HYDRA or in the private sector. May is still May. Skye has become a credible secret agent, or at least is good in a fight. Fitz is basically a millstone, unable to remember words and suffering from rage issues. And Ward’s down in the basement, having grown a hipster beard and practicing his best Hannibal Lecter. He’s also obsessed with Skye, so there’s absolutely no way this is going to end badly.
There’s also a crew of mercenaries, led by Isabelle Hartley, that they promptly lose when their assault on a government facility to find the scary life-draining object goes awry shockingly quickly. By the end of the episode, two of three mercs are dead, a Quinjet has been stolen so we no longer have to pretend that jumbo jet set is in the air, and we find out that Simmons walked away from the team and that in her appearances, Fitz has been hallucinating her presence.
In all, it’s solid, and far better than the premiere last year. If nothing else, the Absorbing Man is well used and these characters now have actual problems and dimension, instead of just being vague wads of funtack to have plot points stuck to them. We’ll be curious to see if the show pays it off, and plays on what it can build.