After a prolonged hiatus to make way for the utterly marvelous Agent Carter, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is back, and after last year’s barnstorming mid-season finale, things will never be the same again (which in the case of SHIELD, is no bad thing at all).
When it first began, Marvel’s flagship TV show promised to show the “human side” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, focusing on the everyday men and women living in and adjusting to a world that was now populated with super soldiers, Norse Gods, hulking green men and aliens invading from another world. In its early days however, the show’s initial links to its cinematic forebears were slight at best, the show playing more as a gimmick and cheap television cash in.
But of course, that was then. Things are very different now. With last season’s Hydra uprising storyline and now with season two culminating with the origin of the Inhumans, Marvel’s original foray into TV land has suddenly evolved from gimmick laden curiosity to a vital cog in the evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The appropriately titled ‘Aftershocks’ finds Coulson and his team still reeling from the aftermath of ‘What They Become’, with the team mourning the death of Agent Triplett, combating the last remnants of Hydra, and with Skye locked up in quarantine, traumatized and struggling to come to terms with her new found Inhuman abilities.
Following the mid-season finale would be no easy task, and the show makes the wise decision to take things down a notch for its return, taking a breather to focus on the main themes and ideas going forward into the remainder of the season; namely, the origin of the Inhumans and the psychological ramifications of Skye and her powers. Taking the time to understand and develop the Inhumans is a wise strategy on the part of the showrunners and Marvel executives.
The psychological damage and adjustments that come with superpowers is something that hasn’t really been explored within the MCU as of yet. Indeed, in most comic book movies, the superhero discovers their powers, has some trouble at first but once they work it out, it pretty much turns out alright. With Skye’s struggles to understand what’s happened and her teammates reactions (particularly Simmons’ hostile reaction to the “contagion” as she puts it), it allows for a more ‘human’ take on the consequences and repercussions of newfound powers thrust upon a person.
Despite some ropey dialogue, the otherwise wonderful prologue in 1983 – which featured Skye’s mother comforting a traumatized blind boy as he struggled to control his teleportation powers – was a great foundation on which the show will hopefully build upon in the coming weeks.
Simmons’ reaction to Raina’s transformation (which almost verged on the forceful) was a good indicator of the divisions to come, within the team and perhaps within the wider MCU as the Inhuman sub species gradually begins to reveal itself.
Speaking of Raina, we also got a look at what she became after being exposed to the Terrigen Mists. Once the enigmatic villain of the show, known only as the “girl in the flower dress”, Raina has suddenly become one of the most interesting characters in the series. Her distress and vulnerability in the wake of her new appearance was wonderfully handled by Ruth Negga, and it’s going to be exciting to see where they take her character moving forward.
As for Hydra, well, I don’t know about you, but I for one am glad that they are finally out of the picture. While Bakshi’s Godfather style elimination of his enemies was fun, Hydra and their cartoonish villainy have been nothing but a joke since the beginning of the series.
Although, it seems that Cal (Skye’s father) has decided to fill that void, suddenly becoming a parody of himself in his single scene with Raina at the shipping yard. Kyle Maclachlan was at his ham-fisted best as Cal ascended to the recently vacated position of Saturday morning cartoon villain of the week. What is with this show and their difficulty in coming up with compelling villains?
While ‘Aftershocks’ wasn’t classic SHIELD, it did a great job of laying the groundwork for what’s to come in regards to the Inhumans. If it stays on the right track, then it looks as though SHIELD will have moved out of its gimmicky television roots and become one of the major forces within the MCU.