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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two…Another Rant…?

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That time of the year is here again…. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season two is about to be let loose on September 23rd, and the hope and anticipation of a good season is about at the same threshold as it was this time last year.  Although the time slot is moving to 9pm Eastern time, giving the impression that later means darker and more dramatic story-telling.  Last year I made a rant about my lack of excitement I was able to garner for the new show.  So now I am back to compare what I thought we might get with what we did get and whether this next season will make me rant some more.  I would really like some comparative opinions to chime in when I am all done.

Last year I said I wanted to be surprised by what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had to offer in a world of Marvel Universe movies and now newly connected television show.  The potential to be something that spanned the gap between comic book level entertainment and theater presentation was so great, that everyone that I knew and read comments from had created the highest of expectations.  Then the premiere came, and had that pilot feel, but at the same time seemed to hit the right marks.  Then the rest of the season happened.  For the most part, people really looked down on it.  Well, at least those who were vocal about it, but the show kept up decent enough ratings to make sure it came back for another season.  But fans did not seem to be digging it as much as the general audience. As someone who watched Arrow from the very beginning and stuck with it, I felt this new show deserved the same persistence.  So I kept with it and, until December, I can not say it was not a bit of a struggle to keep interested.  But I did not hate it like some of the Marvel fans spewing fervor all over the internet.  But I will tell you what I feel was missing.

The first of the season felt like it definitely was trying to find its footing.  However, the aspect that I feel felt the most off from the movies was the character of Phil Coulson.  Perhaps it is just because he is in very little of the Marvel films that none of us got to really know him, but he did not seem like the same character.  In the films, he seemed very likable and natural in an agent sort of way, but on this show, he did not seem as likable because mainly that likabilty felt like it was being forced.  Agent Ward seemed like a talking piece of cardboard and Skye seemed to be in there to trip up the adolescent boys and keep them tuning it.  The entire show seemed programmed, in a very marketed and focus-grouped way.  Some highlights did work for the show, like the Samuel Jackson cameo, and the intrigue of Coulson’s resurrection, as well as the relationship between Skye and Ward and, um, Agent May.  So there were good things, but I do feel the writing was not on par as what we had been getting from Marvel.  Then there were the network breaks.  Started during the first half of the season, the breaks made it seem like the new episodes in January of this year would never get here, but they got even worse in the second half.  Fortunately, for me, that’s when the story really kicked into gear, and everything from the previous part of the season was starting to come together.  Then Captain America, The Winter Soldier happened.

Yes, the newest Marvel movie came in and finished adding life back into Agents in a S.H.I.E.L.D. that, although getting better, seemed to be struggling to do on its own.  Now I haven’t for sure heard definately whether the lead up to the movie had as much influence on the pacing of the show before Cap 2 was released as I have heard rumored, I frankly haven’t had that much time to look into it, but I think the reveal how Coulson came back was extremely anticlimactic. Everything after that is what became the part of the season that won me over.  I had been enjoying it, but I had not felt I wasn’t watching it out of obligation at some points.

Well, let me back up a minute, and say the first thing that happened was Bill Paxton came on board as a partial regular, and just his screen presence and intrigue his character brought gave A.O.S the first difibulator kick to bring it back to life.  Then we get the episodes leading right up to the release of Cap 2, and things change even more.  Coulson and his team become fugitives from the rest of the agency on television, then Captain America brings down S.H.I.E.L.D. in his movie to keep Hydra from taking out millions of citizens, then we come back to A.O.S. on the small screen and it fits in perfectly.  Hydra is out and S.H.I.E.L.D. is down and the “Scooby gang” is dealing with the after effects. Ward reveals he is working for the other team, and has been this cardboard fellow for reasons of infiltration, oh, and “Hail, Hydra.”  I actually thinks he never says that which would be an interesting fact.  Wow, how wonderful was that though?  Skye is not who we thought she was and not what she knows herself to be.  Then the gang goes into hiding and Nick Fury hands over the mantle of director of a new S.H.I.E.L.D to Agent Coulson.  The show had turned a corner and seemed simply incredible.  Simply put, the surprise I had been wishing for had finally come around.

And that is when we have to back up even further and see how everything has transpired.  Yes, maybe the network breaks created too much space between some episodes, and perhaps that was all tuned, with outstanding affect, to coincide with the reveals in Cap 2, but all roads from each episode led to this path.  Perhaps some of the mysteries were demystified in some weak ways, and we really did not have emotions for the characters until their world came down around them, but that seems to be common in a Whedon-esque world.  I know Josh Whedon did not write these episodes themselves, and probably did not oversee any of the story lines, and was not even involved in Winter Soldier, but if Buffy can be a witness, we have been here before during a first season.  And I think a good thing is, if they are not just dropped and forgotten, that there are several items and threads from season one that can be successfully fleshed out in this upcoming season.  Every episode of the season brought some aspect which had a part in the revelations near the end, like layers of goodness all wrapped around a sweet center that you finally get to, and that’s not bad at all.

Season 2 is rumored to take on a darker and more serious tone, and part of the reason it was moved to a later time slot.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 is rumored to take on a darker and more serious tone, and part of the reason it was moved to a later time slot.

Which does bring us to season two.  Now I am excited for it, I am totally excited, but, unfortunately, still trepidatious.  The end of season one left the show in a high note of redemption, and now the show has to follow through on that new energized potential.  I want that to continue and get even better.  I do not want the first half of the season to be a slow build up to a few great episodes near the end.  I do not want that monster-of-the-week feel that hung over every one of the single digit episodes.  I want the level of gravity brought from the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D. to continue to affect all aspects of the next season as well as the character development.  I see some of this in the trailer, as Skye is sporting a darker look, albeit it may just be the bangs.  But Ward is still there and I do not want his reveal from the last season to be cheapened in any way.  If there is any evidence that the show will continue to be great is if his character is greatest correctly and the follow through with his story arc, not only makes sense, but adds to the over all events during the season.  Some good news is that the show does not seem to be held down by having to straddle a movie release.  Even if there is some cross-over effect from Age of Ultron in May 2015, that is basically the end of season two or can be, so any repercussions from it will not need to be felt until season three.

Agent Carter characters are scheduled to be in the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2.  Many new characters are reported as being a part of the new season.

Agent Carter show characters are scheduled to be in the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2. Many other new characters are reported as being involved in the new season.

Before it began, I was never one to think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was going to be the Marvel superhero films shrunk for television.  I did feel they would pepper the episodes with a few more cameos than they did, but I took what I got and I know those cameos are expensive and not always a great sell to the actors.  But I do hope for more of that this season.  Knowing the season will include new regulars and the state of those from last season are questionable.  Even names that have been tossed around like Mockingbird and appearances by Lucy Lawless and Hayley Atwell, all do keep the show smoldering on the fringes of the larger superhero world.  And with other shows like Agents Carter have connections with, Marvel is trying to pull its universe in full form down to the level of television, but I hope that means they do not forget their more exposed cousins.  To keep reminding the audience that this show is part of a larger whole is when the show works the best and keeps the audience invested the most no matter how good the show without that bigger picture.  The MARVEL logo comes up every episode and is a part of the name of the show (although I saw somewhere that may actually be dropped), so that reminder is what keeps fans wanting as much pay off as the movies under the same brand keep delivering.  But I also know, as I keep watching Arrow, that a show can also be great enough to come out from under the shadow of the larger films and be its own entity.  I just do not know what Marvel’s plans are.  But for now I wait for anticipation of what the show is about to reveal and can not wait to, hopefully, be surprised again.  I hope some other Marvel fans, who were not pleased with all of season one, recognize how it ended, its potential, drop the fantasy that it can be a show with the budge for a lot of super powered heroes, enjoy it for what it is, and give it another chance.  And I hope we all get surprised together this time as Director Coulson takes us on new adventures with the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season Two airs its first episode on Tuesday, September 23 at 9pm Eastern Time.

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