Saturday, May 30, 2015

Idiot Boxing: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 (2014-2015)

The team at the start of the season. Things do change,
in highly entertaining fashion.
An excellent sophomore season of a show that has really found its footing.

Season 2 of Agents has several interesting stories running through it. The first half, comprising 10 episodes, follows two main stories. One is the attempt of Coulson and the remnants of his team to deal with the remaining Hydra agents in the world, who themselves are attempting to regroup and usurp any advantage which SHIELD might attain. The other story involves the pursuit of Skye's insane father, Kal, and Raina of the strange alien artifact which may hold some key to Skye's origins.

Unlike the first season's initial 10 episodes, season 2 has virtually no tepid "filler" episodes. While there are one or two episodes which stand alone, and do it fairly well, the entire sequence clearly has a long-term purpose in terms of storytelling. The pacing is strong, and it all brings us up to the mid-season break with a great cliff-hanger episode during which a close team member is shockingly killed.

Once the season returned from the hiatus, it picked right back up. The latter half of the season is very much about Skye, who has now had latent superpowers triggered. Her story helped drive the plot along at a nice pace, gaining plenty of momentum by the final three or four episodes.

At this point, the characters are fleshed out well, and we get more insight into the stoic and enigmatic May. The characters introduced in this season begin to shine, as well. While I don't find actress Adrianne Palicki particularly talented in terms of acting, she does certainly have the physique of an intimidating, badass spy. If only the show-runners didn't seem to feel the need to have her hair looking Pantene-perfect in every shot, I might be less annoyed. This is a bugaboo of mine, but when a character has just punched and kicked her way through dozens of heavily-armed adversaries, her hair should not look like it was just primped for a 5-star Glamour Shot sitting.

The revelations and developments of Skye's character
some of the several strengths of this sophomore season.
Little nuisances like this aside, the new and old characters blended and conflicted in highly entertaining ways. The two-part season finale was a great piece of action storytelling, complete with fun twists, clever one-liners, and well-executed fight choreography. Underlying it all is a basic story that has a surprising amount of heft to it, dealing with the concept of pre-emptive strikes. This is something touched upon in Captain America: The Winter Solider, and it is a topic at the heart of the final chapters of this season of Agents. The show-runners work in this rather gray area well, making the ambiguity and chaos of it work for their fantasy tales.

I was very pleased to read, shortly after the season ended, that it has been renewed for a third season. Given the way that this season ended, with more than one fascinating cliff-hanger, I'll be excited to see where the show heads later this year.