I’ve kept this spoiler free. If you’re watching in the States please don’t spoiler me as the UK is several weeks behind.
The very fact that Agents of Shield is back for a second season is remarkable. For most of its initial run it was resolutely mediocre. As a result, both audiences and critics had largely given up on it by the time it found a run of form in the closing stages of the season. Much to the surprise of just about everyone it suddenly became one of the most exciting shows on telly with a succession of clever twists and cliffhangers. This earned it another chance. So the pressing question regarding this new series was whether it would maintain its quality or slip back into its bland old ways? The answer on the evidence of the first episode is somewhere in the middle.
It is clearly weak relative both to Marvel’s other on-screen projects and other Joss Whedon TV shows. Charachterisation remains its biggest weakness. Which is not to say it doesn’t produce interesting characters but these to be in the supporting cast. The main players remain remarkably unengaging, which given the length of time we’ve now spent with them is disappointing to say the least. Neither was the action particularly riveting And the plotting remains creaky. Firstly, Marvel continues its annoying habit of basing stories round McGuffins. Secondly and more specific to this episode, it felt like there was a lot of setting up for very little pay off. While its inevitable that a series opener will spend a lot of time laying the groundwork for future episodes, that seemed to be all this episode was. Which is something a good writer ought to be able to avoid.
That said it still a quantum leap ahead of the limp opening of the last series. That it felt like it was setting things up implies it has some sense of direction and therefore won’t drift like its predecessor did. In fact, the whole thing felt more assured. The visuals were no longer being despoiled by crappy CGI. Reinhardt and Absorbing Man felt like the kind of villains SHEILD should be battling. And it steered well clear of grating goofiness. In short, it felt like it had matured.
So while it was far from a flawless start, it’s an encouraging one. It’s a reasonable baseline for the show to build from. If it can manage a fraction of the improvement, it did as last season progressed then it will be a treat!
Verdict: 6/10 for the episode itself, 8/10 for what it suggests about the season ahead. It might not have caught fire but the fuel to do that is there.