Review contains some spoilers.
Continuing in the heavy aftermath of season one, the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. follows Agent Phil Coulson and his team as they try to rebuild their fallen organization and combat the forces of HYDRA. This season introduces a bigger cast of characters on the main team, making up for the loss of forces in season one. The story also delves deeper into what is going on in the background of the MCU, developing plotlines planted previously and providing more information, which we are privy to thanks to Coulson’s new position as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
While the idea of following a powerful, worldwide organization like S.H.I.E.L.D. has its appeal, this series was made much more interesting thanks to the organization’s collapse. They are still resourceful and possess capable agents, but they are also substantially compromised and limited. One wrong move could spell the end of everything once and for all, and this feeling is palpable throughout the season. Where I got a sense of comfort and security before, characters are now more on edge. The stakes are so much higher, and they convey this quite well. Nobody feels like they’re in their comfort zone any longer, which made old characters easier to get invested in, as well as the new ones.
The two that gained the most in this case were Fitz and Simmons, who I warmed to at the end of season one, but felt severely one-note and basic in the beginning. Fitz has suffered brain damage, and this greatly affected both his ability to perform for the team and his relationship with Simmons, whose unrequited feelings make things all the more difficult for him. Simmons is hurt by the damage done to her relationship with Fitz, whom she is seemingly incapable of helping. She also starts to develop more hostile feelings toward powered individuals, which are not completely radical or unjustified, but are still threatening enough to cause concern.
This season also did a great job of giving faces to its villains, rather than the shadowy roles of previous overarching antagonists. Due to the length of this show’s seasons this involved a few, including Doctor Whitehall, a prominent member of HYDRA, and Skye’s father Calvin Johnson (Mr. Hyde). While I understand the reason for the secrecy in season one, I prefer it when the villains have a presence, and each brought something uniquely sinister to the table, with splashes of grey morality for some as well.
Speaking of villains, Grant Ward was still just as significant of an adversary. Contrasted with how he was depicted while undercover for HYDRA he is a phenomenal villainous presence. He wasn’t really the centre of any major plotline, but always managed to be threatening. He has unexpectedly managed to become one of the MCU’s best villains, and the hints dropped during the finale leave me hopeful that he will become a big player again in the series’ future.
I do, however, feel that the transition from the villains of the first half of the season to the second didn’t flow as smoothly as we have seen before. Once again this show feels its length at times, and I think it would benefit from being a little more concise. I understand that there is always a break between each half of the season, and that is perhaps how it ought to be viewed, but watching it continually made it feel like too much going on for one season. I did appreciate, however, that none of the episodes felt like filler.
While other Marvel series have done a great job of telling more self-contained stories, I really like how prominently Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has become the backdrop of the universe. It shows the beginnings of what will eventually change the entire landscape of the world, be it the Index foreshadowing Superhero Registration, or the widespread emergence of more Inhumans in the world. It’s formed itself into a great series that stands well on its own, while also acting as a supplement to the MCU as a whole. If season one left you at all uncertain if you should continue, season two should put that to bed. This season was great and only shows signs of getting better.