Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD goes into it’s third season in a state of rude good health, story-wise, though it’s audiences still aren’t necessarily what the network were hoping for. The show that sold itself as the Marvel Universe without the super-powers promptly put off that chunk of its audience that tuned in expecting to see Avengers every other week, but now it’s gearing itself up to embrace its own superpowers, of which there was a generous helping of that in the season premiere.
It hasn’t always been easy watching SHIELD, at least up to the last half dozen episodes of Season 1 when it suddenly kicked off and has been soaring ever since, but the show itself is full of confidence.
My policy of avoiding all but the most unmissable of spoilers means that I’m aware that this season will see the arrival of the Secret Warriors, which sounds uncomfortably like the unholy mess that has just descended upon Gotham, but I have hopes for better. It isn’t hard to project what that’s going to turn out to be, but Agents of SHIELD has a lot more hinterland behind it, so I expectany transition to be much more smoothly handled.
Even so, I’d forgotten several of the developments at the end of Season 2, like Coulson losing his lower left arm and Simmons being swallowed up by the Monolith, but the show soon brought me up to speed.
Just as Marvel Comics are busy pretending the X-Men have nothing to do with them, just because Fox holds the film licence, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is busy promoting Inhumans as the substitute. For the tv series, that means a whole heap of people are going to start discovering superpowers (resulting from the contamination of fish oil with Terrigen, a sort of ironic steal from Popeye and his can of Spinach).
Such as Joe, not long out of the closet and facing the fact of a lifelong return, just because he can now liquefy metals. There are two organisations after the Joes of this rapidly evolving world, the good guys being SHIELD, who want to help them understand and control their abilities, the other being ATCU, headed by the mysterious Rosalind Price (Constance Zimmer is a disturbingly fetching black page-boy bob).
What ATCU wants is as yet unclear (it wasn’t actually them burning holes through Inhumans’ hearts) but the already xenophobic attitude they display does nothing to dispel the idea that they’re going to be the bad guys.
This set-up of the main season conflict was nicely judged, with SHIELD starting off with the edghe but ATCU clearly are going to have the facilities.
Elsewhere, Fitz is still racing around trying to recover Simmons (Ian de Caestecker whomping the acting ball out of the metaphorical stadium in heartbreaking fashion), though he wasn’t privy to the audience’s revelation in the pay-off that saw a running Gemma high-tailing it across a different planet.
Skye has accepted her true heritage and is now going by her birth-name of Daisy. Bobbi’s still recuperating, filling in time filling in for Simmons in the lab, whilst the ever sardonic Hunter is intent on going after Grant Ward, and not to deliver him milk and cookies either. These last two came as a relief: I’d been reading rumours about their being spun-off to a series of their own so I was glad to see them still in situ.
Henry Simmons, as Mack, has been elevated to Cast for Season 3, as has Luke Simmons as Lincoln, the Inhuman who can fire off electric bolts. At this stage, Lincoln doesn’t want anything to do with SHIELD, though we know that that’s not going to be tenable, don’t we?
Which leaves only Agent May and the aforementioned Ward, neither of whom put in an appearance in this episode, presumably so as not to make things too crowded (the regular cast now numbers ten).
What we got was a very good season opener, in touch with the continuity of previous seasons but setting in motion the new phases to occupy our weeks for the next twenty-one episodes. And hopefully pulling back some of that ‘where’s the superpowers’ audience in the process. Solid ratings will secure a Season 4 in due course, and Agents of SHIELD has been operating at the level that deserves that security for long enough already.