After a successful fourth season, the heroes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. return once again for their fifth season, this time promising a stark departure from the antics of the hellfire cyclist Ghost Rider and the demented artificial intelligence Aida. In the last season, the team dealt with their own inner demons in the “Matrix-like” program that was the Framework. After returning to the real world, shaken yet triumphant, Coulson and the gang realized they may be in some deep trouble with the US Government, and spent their remaining minutes together before, presumably, being captured by enjoying a meal at an old-timey diner. When Season 4 ended, Coulson found himself waking up in a tiny room with a vantage point of outer space, promising the agents are living in some “extraterrestrial” times. With all that being said, do the first two episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s fifth season manage to hit the heights of Season 4?

“Orientation” begins happily enough with one of the captors of the team going for a swim, taking a shower next to his human suit, and getting dressed.

Wait, what was that middle part again?

Oh right, the suited man is not all that he seems, as he and a tactical military team capture the agents and place them in front of a brand new obelisk. The original stone structure we saw in previous seasons had teleported Jemma Simmons to another world where she needed to fight for her life against alien threats. This obelisk is now more white than dark, sending the Agents to a location that is still in space, though this has an entirely different twist.

We get a fantastic shot of a puzzled Coulson walking through a time-frozen spaceship where most of its passengers are being sucked out of an airlock. When time rights itself, Coulson hangs on for dear life, saving himself from an icy intergalactic tomb but uh oh, xenomorph! That’s right, what would a good space odyssey be without a killer alien aboard the ship as well? Coulson looks for answers from a rambling tenant of the ship, Virgil, only for him to be clocked unconscious by an angry Mack.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made a vast departure during its fourth season from the norm, as its earlier installments tended to mostly focus on Inhumans and Hydra. With Season 5, they have once again decided to take a bold step in a different direction, with the team not only being lost in space but the added caveat of being…wait for it….trapped in the future!

That’s right, as the team tries to figure out exactly what is going on, Kree aliens overrun the space station, and Daisy takes out the stampeding xenomorph, they begin to realize that this may be one of the hairiest situations they’ve ever found themselves in. The setting is certainly a fresh one, with Coulson and company being trapped so far from home, and it’s interesting to think of the possible implications of where they could go with this. Maybe we see descendants of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy come into play? Being able to be outside of the continuity of the current MCU certainly sounds like a positive direction for the series to move in.

The newest and most notable character to the team is the fast-talking, witty Deke, who is clearly modeled on Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy, face mask and all. For now, he — along with the remaining members of humanity — try to create a life for themselves while under the boot of the Kree Empire on the ship.

The daily aspects of their lives, which the Agents now find themselves wrapped up in, are laid out quickly, though it is a tad dreary. The environments themselves, along with the characters and the story structure, lean more significantly on something closer to Star Trek than anything we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. While this is all certainly interesting, it doesn’t have the same bite to it that seeing Ghost Rider in the Season 4 premiere did. That could be a matter of personal taste, but the Kree are a race that we’ve explored quite thoroughly in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. landscape, so I’m hoping that we see some more “out there” settings and characters as the season moves forward.

Aside from the setting, the characters we’ve grown to know and love over these past few years still don’t skip a beat. Mack continues to supply more than enough one-liners to give audiences a recurring chuckle, Agent May continues to kick ass even when she is teleported into a pipe on the spaceship (which looked exceptionally painful), and Daisy continues to be the Inhuman secret weapon of the team.

It’s also great to see that Yo-Yo has been bumped up to the status of series regular, as she’s certainly earned the title. Much like last season, the cast chemistry is firing on all cylinders, and while they may have a bump in the road when it comes to some of the new supporting characters, the core members of the team are still a delight to watch. Daisy also manages to give us a glimpse of tragedy as she realizes that Earth is destroyed in the future by none other than herself! It should make for a pretty fun time seeing how the rest of the characters react to that.

At the end of the day, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. manages to make a welcome and interesting return here, though not one that reaches the heights of its last season yet.

ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Emancipation TV Show Review. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 3, episode 20, ‘Emancipation,’ was a shell game, meant to shake up Hive’s (Brett Dalton) sense of certainty, but it may have gone a touch too far, in how Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) gambit may have played to fans, and in conveying just how important Daisy (Chloe Bennet) is to the series.

I expected the Secret Warriors to return, after the Daisy defection, but it was still nice to see the Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) come back. It was even better seeing her help a deflated Mack (Henry Simmons) get out of his funk – just in time for a little Fitz-Simmons (Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge) wish-fulfilment – with a little motivational talk about fear being for bullies.

Bullies like the Watchdogs – also returning to serve a purpose; but not the one they had in mind. If your stated purpose is to take down Inhumans, on account of them being so dangerous, then going after one to have fun with later – back home – suggests you might have a little madness to your methods. That’s okay – ‘Hellfire’ James (Axle Whitehead) was good for schooling fear-driven firing squads, too stupid to know how to be afraid responsibly. Next to Daisy and Lash (Matthew Willig), I was most interested in how his signature attack would come across, on the small screen. One wish down.

Since Hive’s stated purpose is (first X film) Magneto styled unity, burning Hellfire or being Inhuman worm food wasn’t in the cards, for the militia mutts. What they did get may have been our introduction to the Alpha Primitives – source characters I had hoped reserved for the eventual Inhumans film (whenever that will be). We could have both, sure; it’s just that Agents has been something of a designated landing zone, for low hanging fruit that the MCU has no plans for, is all.

Low hanging fruit like Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), I guess, since he seems to have settled into the role of viewer stand-in, whenever Coulson & co. pull a really big fast one.

Nothing like having a government sized Talbot hovering over you for focus, so May (Ming-Na Wen) – despite having personal problems of her own being poked at – had another talk with Lincoln (Luke Mitchell) that should’ve gone without saying. The fact that he never owned up to any of the reasons he was left locked away, when Daisy finally hacked her way into his cell (for superspy Skyping), left me hoping he had finally grown a pair. A pair of cranial hemispheres, that is.

If his acting like a dope fiend after a fix had turned out to be genuine, I would’ve declared him dead weight walking (and talking, and shocking, and various other things… annoying). Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait for an answer – some season-long wish-fulfilment was in order.

Then ‘careful what you wish for’ came blaring through my mind-speakers.

For viewers fretting over the notion that Agents has been entirely too much about Daisy, watching that wish wasted on just her will not salve their soreness. Still, it was nice to see Hive finally on the back foot – just as we knew he’d be, back when the wish didn’t seem like the kind of thing that would be wasted. That wish being wasted by Hellfire didn’t help, either (kind of insulting, if you think about it).

Ultimately, the wish was wasted in order to leave room for the central question of the ‘Fallen Agent’ arc to still hold sway. Our wasted wish was never an Agent; so that had to be ruled out pretty early. I had just hoped he’d be part of the solution, instead of the setup. With certain Agents having gotten over themselves, and a certain Trinket of Destiny having been passed to another, the question looms a little larger. I just hope the answer will come with enough satisfaction to justify this (currently) premature plot-twist sacrifice.

In this weeks episode we had a couple of different storylines playing out simultaneously and while at first blush there isn’t too much correlation between them, by next week at least two of them will combine (quite spectacularly) and hopefully the third will also start to play a factor.  While we don’t really have any major closure (or even progress) to the question of Skye and her powers arc … is she going to start training herself to use them? … one very cool comment from Fitz gives us an idea of where she could eventually end up.

The third arc while having some pretty significant screen time – namely the return of Grant Ward and Agent 33 – doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Coulson‘s SHIELD and the “real” SHIELD, but I’m guessing there is something there that they’ve glossed over or not really mentioned … the title of the episode does somewhat imply that HYDRA is back so quite possibly the whole conflict between the different groups is being orchestrated by them.

Recap

Well lets start with Hunter and his arrival at the real SHIELD where he is introduced to Robert Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) and the leadership council (to be honest these guys are all a bunch of suits and remind me of nothing more than the shadowy council in Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier … basically politicians!) who claim that they are the original founders of SHIELD & are extremely dissatisfied with the way it is being run by Coulson.  They go on to discuss his apparent change since being brought back from the dead by Fury and his apparent fascination with alien technology (leading to Tripps death) as well as the changes to Skye.  While Hunter agrees that there have been mistakes he doesn’t in my opinion state the obvious:

  • HYDRA was pursuing the hidden city anyways and regardless of Coulson’s motivations he stopped them.  If he hadn’t the consequences would have been significantly worse!
  • If this team had HELPED instead of hiding on the sidelines, perhaps Tripp wouldn’t have died in the first place!  Coulson made many comments to the fact that SHIELD was under-resourced while HYDRA by contrast seemed to have an endless supply of combatants.
  • Finally while Coulson did seem to be influenced by the writing (OK, lets rewrite that … while Coulson was influenced by the alien writing) he actually handled it quite well and ensured that May was in the loop and able to “manage” him.  Also when the alien city was discovered, the compulsion went away and was no longer a factor.

Regardless the mission of the “real” SHIELD is nothing more than a shakedown of Coulson’s operation by the looks of it and as soon as Hunter gets a chance he breaks out of the hidden base (turns out its on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean … reminds me a lot of Resident Evil actually) and steals a sub to get back to the mainland.  Gonzales sends Bobbi back to SHIELD to set the stage for their takeover before Lance can get there and warn Coulson but it looks like the warning might be unnecessary as Coulson and May definitely don’t trust the story that Mac is spinning about Hunter’s absence/disappearance.

Boyfriends Back

While all of this is happening we have the reappearance of Ward and Agent 33!  Yay!!  Although its only been a couple of weeks (how did he recover from multiple gunshot wounds so quickly??), I’ve missed his homicidal tendencies (!) and his character with his messed up motivations only gets better and better.  Ward is still hanging out with the disfigured Agent 33, whose nano-mask remains stuck in “Messed-Up Agent May” mode. They both kidnap a former SHIELD scientist who can fix the mask (in quite a cool sequence with pumpkin pancakes no less!) and while he’s unable to remove the mask, he is able to repair it so that she can take on up to 3 different faces.

Unfortunately Agent 33 (by the way, am I the only one who thinks of Agent 99 from that classic show Get Smart?), has had all of her memories wiped and while she can now change her fact to look like anyone she wants – the person she can’t match is herself as she no longer knows who that is!  She does however transform herself into Skye to “thank” Ward for all of his help, but Ward manages to resist the temptation and guides her to information on Bakshi (the HYDRA leader that helped brainwash her).  Bakshi is being held captive at a US Air Force base, but using the mask, Ward and Agent 33 manage to infiltrate the facility and extract him.  By the end of the episode we see Bakshi tied up in a chair while a brainwashing program is running on the TV … Agent 33 has at least been given back her name although the question remains what else will Bakshi tell them!

What about Skye?

Last but not least is our favorite damaged SHIELD agent (there are actually quite a few to be honest so this list could get rather long!) – Skye.  While we learned last week that she was simply internalizing her powers (causing the bone fractures), Coulson had given Simmons an assignment to find a way to “deal” with it and it seems she’s created some gloves that can help Skye “limit” her powers.  The question of course is that with Simmons’ acknowledged prejudice, will the cure end up causing more damage than good, or even, is she being totally honest with regards to what the gloves can do?

  • Also as more of a question than anything else, since when is Simmons the inventor of the physical stuff … isn’t that more Fitz’ bailiwick than anything else while she’s concentrated on the biological?  I wonder if this is just a red herring or another clue?

Anyways, Coulson takes Skye to a cabin the woods where she can learn to get a handle on what’s happened to her.  Supposedly this safe have is a place that Fury built for powered individuals and its where Captain America spent some time post Popsicle.

  • Coulson: Earlier today, with Skye… just didn’t feel right.
  • May: You made the right call. There’s just too many things in play right now for her to be here.
  • Coulson: Yeah, maybe. But you ever get that feeling… like you mishandled something important?

Now that’s foreshadowing if I’ve ever seen it!

Review

Overall much better than the previous two episodes in my opinion.  While I’m not in love with the whole SHIELD on SHIELD civil war that’s about to erupt, the casting of Edward James Olmos can’t be beat and I’m glad to see that they’re moving (slowly) forward on Skye’s powers.  I realize that they can’t establish her identity/power/ability too soon as the Inhumans movie is still many years away, but at the same time I really don’t want them to drag it out forever either.  Ward’s return is very welcome and I’m curious to see if in some ways the possible resurgence of HYDRA is due to his influence or if his intentions are completely different.

This one was a bit of a mixed bag for me to be honest.  While I was watching the episode and immediately afterwards I was extremely happy and almost jumping up and down on my seat in excitement, but after sober reflection – well I’m a bit sadder to be honest.  I’m sure if you’ve stuck with SHIELD as I have you’ve probably gone through the same range of emotions – especially since Season 1 and then the huge reveal during Captain America : The Winter Soldier which flowed into SHIELD and to some extent completely changed the direction of the show – that I have?  While I was willing to stick with the show, I was also getting bored at the lack of direction prior to this grand reveal and it very much revitalized my flagging interest into Season 2.  It was a move that probably saved the show as it suffered from a disjointed plotline and steadily lowering ratings. I personally agreed with some of the criticism but upon viewing the early episodes again I also think expectations were too high.

HYDRA
HYDRA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Season 2 started out extremely strongly with the continuing HYDRA storyline and ended on the cliffhanger of Skye’s transformation with HYDRA still very much in the picture, however in the latter half of Season 2 things have somewhat changed.  While Skye’s story is (very) slowly progressing, HYDRA it seems is no longer in the picture or at the least, no longer such a significant threat and they have somewhat gone back (it seems to me) to the villain of the week formula that they utilized in the early part of Season 1.  In the past three episodes we’ve had Skye’s dad leading a team of evil villains, Grant Ward breaking into a high tech Airforce facility to “rescue” a former HYDRA chief and most recently Edward James Olmos as Rober Gonzales attacking Coulson’s team as the “real” SHIELD.  It gets confusing and it’s hard to maintain a sense of interest if the story keeps on changing as while there are some underlying elements of continuity – Skye’s transformation for example – these are subsumed into what else is happening at the same time and they lose their impact.  I hope that Gonzales SHIELD and the threat they pose is dealt with soon – but at the same time, I also hope that they do not dispose of them too quickly as I want to invest myself in their story and motivations before they are conveniently disposed off!

RECAP

American actor Edward James Olmos.
American actor Edward James Olmos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you recall from last week’s episode (read it here) Hunter had managed to escape from the Aircraft carrier where Gonzales and the other members of the REAL SHIELD had propositioned him (they really need to come up with a different name for this group as it is not really distinctive enough and will get awfully confusing if they stay around for awhile!).  While expectations were for a glorious battle between differing groups of SHIELD agents (I’m sure you were thinking the same thing as I was – namely this would be a great strategy for HYDRA to use to soften up their opposition by having them attack each other and wouldn’t it be a great way to reintroduce HYDRA as the leaders of the REAL SHIELD) this didn’t happen at all.

In fact Coulson and May immediately realized that Mack was lying and while they didn’t suspect Bobbi, Coulson laid a fairly elaborate trap to capture Mack and get him to confess to who he was working with/for.  Within minutes of this weeks episode he had Mack surrounded by a half dozen guards after he confronted him about the little electronic device Mack implanted in the model of Lola meant to spy on his office. Despite the confrontation Bobbi manages to steal Fury’s cube that supposedly will help rebuild SHIELD.

May again has a fairly spectacular fight sequence (again one that is only trumped by the May vs. May fight from Episode 4 – Face My Enemy) with Bobbi, but she (Bobbi) is able to implement some of the plans that she’d obviously been preparing for just this eventuality and via an EMP pulse knocks out a majority of SHIELDs internal defences.  Fitz’s betrayal – you can really feel the pain that he is going through when he realizes/meets Mack … the caring between both of them is genuine but you can almost see Fitz thinking that once again someone he cared for, someone that he almost thought of as a brother has again become a villain … you can almost see his heart breaking.  When a tranquilizing gas is pumped through the ventilation, our hero’s are captured and while Simmon’s trick to knock out Bobbi is very well executed it is all for naught.

Skye meanwhile has been living in the cabin in the woods which we learn is one that Banner (The Hulk) actually built for himself and while she still doesn’t trust herself she is willing to trust that Coulson has her best interests at heart.  At the cabin she is visited by the Inhuman Gordon (the guy who basically acts like Nightcrawler and who helped to save Raina) who tells her that there are “others” like her and that when she is ready she should join them.  He also informs her that her power is based on vibrations and that everything, everywhere is vibrating and she can actually control this.  When she is contacted by May who has managed to escape the knockout gas, May tells her that she needs to escape as SHIELD is coming for her (I really didn’t like this part … I know they needed to do it to force Skye to go with Gordon and continue that storyline as she wouldn’t otherwise leave Coulson, but seriously couldn’t May have said HYDRA is coming or a bad version of SHIELD or anything like that?  By stating it is SHIELD coming for her she’s just pushing her away and it doesn’t make any sense … its not like she didn’t have enough time as in last weeks episode the cabin was quite a ways away from the main SHIELD base, based on the amount of time it took Skye and Coulson to arrive there).  Skye manages to make her way out of the cabin but she before she breaks out of the protected area she is confronted by Calderon and Bobbi – Skye attempting to protect herself deflects the bullet and simultaneously sends out a huge blast that decimates the trees in front of her, knocking down Bobbi and Calderon in the process.  One of the slivers of wood from a tree actually impales Calderon – which I’m sure is something that will come to haunt Skye in the future!  Skye manages to escape with Gordon to the sanctuary he promises.

The entire episode is interspersed with flashbacks of how Gonzales, Bobbi, Mack and Hartley (Lucy Lawless  – really good to see her back as I always thought she went too quickly) take back their aircraft carrier from HYDRA several months back. I suspect to a large extent this influenced my feelings of euphoria as I was always quite confused at the fact that a supposedly small group of HYDRA cells within SHIELD managed to destroy the organization.  I wondered how this had happened as while I understood that it would have been a confusing time, in numbers alone, SHIELD would have had 10x as many agents as HYDRA prior to the events of Winter Soldier. At first they merely attempt to escape from the fighting after Gonzales determines they are outnumbered. Bobbi reveals she has been sent on a suicide mission by Fury, she has been ordered to sink the carrier. Gonzales agrees it has to be done but tells her he will join her. This leads to opposition form the others who openly disagree with Gonzales and state that any new SHIELD should be more democratic. Gonzales overcomes his strict sense of duty and agrees to take back the carrier from HYDRA.  This is how the REAL SHIELD was born and the other agents that we see came through a similar fight for survival and rebirth.

The episode ends with Coulson escaping from SHIELD with the help of May (not sure why she didn’t go with him as that would have made a lot more sense to me) and he is joined by Hunter who agrees to become a member of SHIELD.  Between them, they need to somehow take back the organization from Gonzales and also get Skye back on side.

REVIEW

Well I’ve already given you some of my thoughts on this episode at the beginning of this post and I think you’ll agree that most of them are valid.  This show has flashes of brilliance but can also be quite confusing and irritating by people not doing/saying the obvious.  Coulson only has Hunter and the new SHIELD is not exactly an evil organization … in fact while they don’t necessarily it seems have all the facts and data and perhaps their approach is incorrect, their underlying motivation is not necessarily wrong.  The flashbacks were really interesting and enjoyable but the story it seems hasn’t really progressed as it seems that we are back to when HYDRA tried to destroy SHIELD just without the HYDRA this time.

Confusion, concern and questions

So is Skye’s dad (Cal – Kyle MacLachlan) the big bad of the latter half of the season or not?  We’re only two episodes in, but it seems that he’s been sent to the great big dumpster in the sky just like HYDRA was in the last episode. I guess if the main concern from fans about the previous season, was that the show seemed to drag on and nothing really seemed to happen is considered now … well the complaint might be the exact opposite!  Too much is happening and its all happening too fast … it seems like they aren’t closing one issue off before introducing another whole new storyline and its getting (even more) complicated than it normally is!

Skye is out of control, but SHIELD is determined to keep her on the team – somehow – and enlist the help of a psychologist that used to be on their payroll to help assess her and her state of mind.  Coincidentally this psychologist happens to be someone that May and Coulson both trust implicitly – May’s ex-husband – played by Blair Underwood – you might recall that I mentioned in a previous post his appearance on the show?  Well it seems since the last episode that while Skye is still in the cage on the bus, she’s magically managed to gain control of her powers and is able to control the shaking as long as she keeps her cool.

English: Kyle MacLachlan at the Vanity Fair pa...
English: Kyle MacLachlan at the Vanity Fair party celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While this episode is not a filler episode like last week, it seemed much too disjointed and was all over the place.  Cal’s personal vendetta against Coulson for taking away his revenge (for killing Whitehall … by the way, any chance this was a clone or something like that?  He died way too easily in my opinion – just saying!) might have been a bit of stretch right from the beginning, but I was willing to let it slide as it had some great possible conflicts for Skye and her growth as a character with Skye having to choose between her biological family and the SHIELD family that has adopted her.  However if he’s now out of the picture (or at the least on the back burner), it seems like it was all a complete waste of time doesn’t it?  Kyle MacLachlan is too good an actor to just be written off in this manner so I really hope that in some way he returns to the show.  However not as the leader of another band of misfits.

Merry Men (& Ladies) are we

OK while I know AOS is all about a superhero show that doesn’t really have any superhero’s in it (with the possible exception of whatever Skye is becoming), the villains have always been top notch.  They’ve not been at the Galactus or Loki level perhaps, but they’ve been solid and quite respectable – Deathlok for example and the Absorbing Man are both worthy villains that you can get behind the team defeating.  But this motley crew?  They weren’t anywhere close to being worthy and while their purpose might have only been as cannon fodder so that Skye could see how “bad SHIELD is” in Cal’s eyes, with access to the whole list at his fingertips, he could have done a lot better.

Right now this group of messed up people (lets be honest, who grafts razor blades to their fingertips … aside from the stupidity of doing this, blades break, are these supposed to “grow” back?  What about getting dull – that would kind of remove their usefulness as weapons?  Finally why didn’t SHIELD just conduct surgery to remove them?) does nothing more than just take away screentime from the characters we actually know and care about and the other ongoing storylines we’re already invested in.

Skye as mentioned earlier seems to initially have a handle on her powers but as we see during the course of this episode its a bit less than ideal as she continues to shake while in her sleep and ends up literally fracturing the bones in her hands trying not to quake!  Now considering that her “control” came from the school of Agent (shoot first and ask questions later) May its probably not that surprising that its not really addressing the underlying problems but is rather just glossing over them.  It was a quick fix, the equivalent of using duct tape to repair your leaky toilet, but it wasn’t an actual resolution. It also wasn’t healthy. This effect does however have the benefit of (surprise) making her match her comic book character in terms of appearance though which while not a prerequisite, is definitely a nice touch!

One Step Forward

May has a lot to offer—she’s skilled, she’s smart, and she’s strong—but she’s not even close to being qualified to offer advice on how to deal with something like Skye’s powers, which are rooted in her emotional state. May represses everything to a harmful degree, and Skye was doing the same. It’s why her powers came alive while she was dreaming, and it’s why she ended the episode in a cast.

We finally find out the big secret that Mac and Bobbi have been hinting at over the course of the past couple of episodes – namely that they are working for the “real” SHIELD.  While this introduces another major character – Edward James Olmos (of BSG fame) – to the show … which is really cool, as I’ve always liked him and his style, it kind of goes back to my earlier comment that they’re making this show overly complicated as they really didn’t need another plot line.

While it’s cool to see a somewhat lighter side of May (I think she actually smiled), I really want Skye’s character to move forward.  For her to gain some control over her abilities and learn how to use them to the benefit of the team.  I know that it’s a bit simplistic but I’m definitely in the camp where the good guys win and with everything the team has gone through recently (Ward being part of HYDRA, Fitz almost dying, Tripp dying and Skye’s whole transformation) it would be nice if they actually had a win for a change!