September 24, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Agents of SHIELD”



It took most of its first season for AGENTS OF SHIELD to start becoming the show the synergy experts at Disney, Marvel and ABC desperately wanted it to be, and by then it had squandered most of the gaudy ratings that had greeted it last fall.  Only when the plotline of Captain America: The Winter Soldier allowed Agents to trash SHIELD itself did the series show signs of being more than a lower-cost, less urgent version of Marvel’s mega-movies.  Last night’s Season 2 premiere, while not particularly  moving the series forward, suggested that at least it knew that it had reached the right track.

Written by series co-creators Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen (the other co-creator, Avengers mastermind Joss Whedon, hasn’t been around since the pilot) and directed by Vincent Misiano, the season premiere got into the synergy game at once, with a World War II-era prologue that featured Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter, who will soon have her own spin-off series to run during Agents’ winter hiatus.  (Neal McDonough also repeated his role from the first Captain America.)  The sequence served to introduce both the McGuffin and the apparent big bad of the current arc, an alien substance that can doubtless destroy the Earth, and a Nazi villain played by Reed Diamond.

It was no surprise when the episode’s tag revealed that the Nazi was still alive and relatively youthful in 2014, especially since the Ageless Nazi has recently popped up in X-Men: First Class and The Strain.  (Unfortunately. this one seems to be repeating the Kevin Bacon First Class version by having Diamond without his fiendishly enjoyable accent in his modern-day form.)  The more interesting part of the premiere was the depiction of post-SHIELD SHIELD, with stalwart Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) running the now-outlaw organization on the fly, with the help of clone (?) Patton Oswalt and mercenaries led by guest star Lucy Lawless (and new regular Nick Blood–a perfect Marvel name–as Lance Hunter).  The traitorous Ward (Brett Dalton) is being kept prisoner in a high-tech cell downstairs–his interrogation by one-time romantic interest Skye (Chloe Bennet) was very Silence of the Lambs-y–Fitz (Ian de Caestecker) is still suffering from brain damage at Ward’s hands, the group lacks its cloaked aerial headquarters, but still they’re determined to save the world, against both the forces of HYDRA and the US general (guest star Adrian Pasdar) who wants the remnants of SHIELD crushed.

With what may have been an expanded season premiere budget, the episode boasted some solid action sequences, mostly involving the mutant of the week, a guy who could transform into any substance (rubber, concrete) that he touched.  It was a fun hour.  What it lacked, though, was any sense that Whedon and Tancharoen and their corporate minders had come to grips with the show’s need for some bigger changes, especially in the core ensemble.  Having Simmons’ (Elizabeth Henstridge) presence throughout the episode revealed as Fitz’s Fight Club-ish hallucination was more confusing than anything else, and Ward seems to have reverted to being dull–and while that may well have been a ploy on the character’s part, it wasn’t an especially entertaining one.  Bennet’s Skye is still a soft center of the ensemble, and while Gregg is more dynamic and decisive as Coulson 2.0 (actually more like 3.0, considering that he’d already died once), his barking out orders will get repetitive fast.  Agents still isn’t as effective as CW’s (and DC Comics’) Arrow.

Agents of SHIELD returned to lackluster ratings last night, not even as high as last May’s finale, and it seems unlikely ever to achieve the blockbuster status that once seemed inevitable.  Still, there are strong business reasons for the network and studio to keep it going, and plans are almost certainly already underway for a tie-in to the sure-to-be-gargantuan Avengers 2 that will open just around the time of the Season 2 finale.  Barring a complete ratings collapse, this SHIELD is likely to remain open for business for the foreseeable future.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."