Over the course of its first season, Agents of SHIELD went from a mediocre monster-of-the-week show to a daring spy drama that played off its links to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe in some really cool and exciting ways. The second season starts in a stronger place and finds some fun methods to improve on the formula, however, it does feel held back by a sense of detachment from its connections to the greater Marvel setting.
The second season picks up a few months after the end of the first with a more-experienced (and expanded) roster of SHIELD agents on the run from various authorities and racing to retrieve an enigmatic alien relic before HYDRA gets to it. The consequences of Ward’s betrayal have shaken up the status quo in a really compelling way here – giving Skye (Chloe Bennett) a new mentor, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) a problem he can’t solve and Ward (Brett Dalton) the chance to really embrace his new role as the show’s psychopathic rogue. There’s plenty of ups, downs, twists and turns along the way with Agent of SHIELD’s second season following up on a lot of the mysteries left unanswered by its first.
As well as refining what worked about the first season, Agents of SHIELD’s second outing also expands the show’s cast in a big way. Nick Blood, Henry Simmons and Adrianne Palicki add a lot of charisma to the team while on the other side of things Kyle Maclachlan, Jamie Harris and Battlestar Galactica’s Edward James Olmos in their respective roles.
The second season also makes some exciting evolutions when it comes to structure and pacing. Episodes no longer feel like loosely connected cases-of-the-week but instead fully-fledged adventures. Like the first season, the show does occasionally veer close to corny in parts but it hits the right notes most of the time.
That said, one of the major selling points attached to Agents of SHIELD is the setting and the potential of the show to flesh out and explore the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and I felt like the second season didn’t always deliver on this front. Despite a convenient tie-in to Avengers: Age of Ultron – there was nothing that really elevated the show in quite the same way as the first season’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) episodes. The series’ overarching plotline is engaging enough at this point that it doesn’t need to be carried by guest spots but there’s no point being attached to Marvel’s shared universe if the show doesn’t make use of it.
Though it lacks some of the highs that came towards the end of that first season, the second is a whole lot more consistent. Season 2 makes a compelling case for a show that can survive on its own merits but if Agents of SHIELD really wants to thrive, its third season needs to leverage the opportunities afforded to it by Marvel’s shared universe.