After the promising first episode of the new series it was interesting to see if it would continue this way or plummet faster than a plane piloted by Matt Murdock. There are if anything more questions now than your average pub quiz. The main questions include the shadowy and ageless Nazi figure who has chased and obtained the Obelisk thanks to Creel, and is known only as Whitehall? Also where is Simmons and what is the nature and origins of Skye’s parents that were referred to in legend and rumour as ‘monsters’? Although the Internet is rife with the musings of the powerful geek hivemind.
Our second episode begins as every happy story should with a car full of dead mercenaries as Agent Hartley and Idaho were killed in the collision with Creel, leaving only their colleague Lance Hunter alive. I mean you kind of have to be a merc with a name like that! Plus the actors name is Nick Blood which is only marginally less dramatic. May tries to free Hunter but he yelps at her to chase Creel which she does and soldiers soon arrive to arrest Hunter and deliver him to Talbot. Talbot agrees instantly to Hunter’s demands for Hartley’s burial and 2 million dollars, probably making Hunter wish he’d asked for more. Talbot also mentions the support of a senator and you may as well have added the foreboding lightning in the background to signify a future foe. Hunter (seriously, they are sticking with that name?) however wants revenge for his team and returns to Coulson.
May follows Creed who accidentally kills some randomer by turning them to stone as he struggles to control the power of the obelisk he touched while stealing. Raina (Ruth Negga) aka the woman in the flower dress from the first series appears again and tries to bargain with him using a ring to strengthen him with a rare and strong material and control his power again. Creel steals the ring and meets his handler with the obelisk. Hunter and the Shield team watch the deal but Hunter disables the team in his quest for revenge and attacks Creel. Just before Creel lays the smackdown upon our lovable, British rogue Coulson leaps in after Fitz and Mack advise him to use a previous ‘Overkill’ device of Fitz’s. This sends Creel’s powers into overdrive and turns him to stone, although with his acting attempts it’s hard to tell the difference. Coulson hands Creel over to Talbot with a warning that Shield are on the up and Hunter joins our lovable team of do-gooders. The obelisk is then shown with Raina and a man who seems to understand it, he then demands to see his daughter. Skye, we would assume. It would seem rapid though as this semi-mystery is a main draw in the series plot.
There a lot of neat touches in this episode again, one of the things I like is that they are using the time between series in their favour. The team has bonded in this time and proves it with small remarks such as Skye saying to Tripplet “Is that another of your Grandma’s sayings” giving the impression of an already developed rapport between them. As Coulson begins to carve the strange alien signs into the wall it gives a real sense of burden and fear as he claims it’s been 18 days since his last “episode”, again this fills the dead time between the series with important activity and as a plot reveal without making the audience feeling they’ve missed too much.
The script is much more assured this season around, at times witty without being too forced or cheesey and not scared to be serious at times. Conflicts still arise as Coulson’s new role and burdens distance him from the team much to Skye’s dismay. Her new fringe practically bristles with rage! Hunter is entertaining enough but feels like a poor mans Spike from Buffy. And I worry with him as the wise cracking gun hand or the new Ward, that Tripplet will be demoted to simply executing more well timed “hell no”‘s. It’s worth mentioning the effects are nice with Coulson’s computer and the absorbing man’s ability looking crisp, but the series thankfully doesn’t lean upon effects too heavily.
Ward is sadly missing but Fitz and his inner Simmons are more than interesting enough. I was very wary that this didn’t turn into a cheap version of Baltar and Six from the modern Battlestar Galactica but the script, acting and frankly lovely established relationship makes it a great watch. Fitz-Simmons were one of the best yet safest parts of the first series and this bold move in the new season constantly is brutal but people can’t wait to see more, like the first rounds of X-factor. One of the best written parts is how Fitz acts as he only thinks clearly when he voices ideas through Simmons showing the knowledge is still there. The scene with Mack shows he struggles to separate the noise explaining his need for solitude and telling others to “shut up”. His violent outbursts are a hard but brave edge too and hopefully built upon as it show the gravity of his struggle and stops it becoming merely quirky.
The real effect however is how others act toward Fitz, speaking cautiously to him and looking to each other helplessly, speaking bitterly of Simmons who abandoned him. Mack begins to develop a relationship and helps Fitz string together his thoughts into ideas. Mack develops slightly in the way I now know he has a ‘K’ in his name and he’s apparently a real boy with a character and everything. Plus he is waaaaay too good at being nice, kindly Uncle Mack. With even Fitz’s subconscious Simmons chirping in like an aggressive Siri program with “I like him” and “he doesn’t speak to you like the others” . Old lovable Mack even chases others scientists away who anger Fitz. Awww Mack, you big old teddy bear, you!
This episode isn’t perfect with a scattered and convenient story, Raina using Shield instead of her own resources is strange and convoluted for example. Plus Raina is the only person blander than the the walking men’s health cover that is Creel. You could actually replace her with a spoonful of mayonnaise and I would be swept away by the improvement in performance. May’s cheesey advice of “hold on!” as a waitress helplessly turns to stone was almost hilariously futile, that’s right lady just stop turning into stone you silly so and so!
Skye also is more of a plot device than a character in her own right with most of her lines being woven from threads of the purest sass and being pretty uncomfortable to witness. This hopefully is strengthened as we find out her origins, as to care about her past you really have to be invested in her present state, currently she is largely restrained to being just trendy references and stylish eye candy. Chloe Bennet seems a perfectly capable actress when given the chance and hopefully more scenes with Ward can show this.
The verdict: The first episode packed the punch of a Haymaker from the Hulk, and the fact this follow up isn’t a drastically declining effort is praise in itself. It may not have the pop and grim ingredients of the previous script but it was far from a filler episode with a welcome story arc sustained. This is smarter writing and a better managed series as we wanted, a quieter instalment but this episode is at worse holding an improved course.