The Fall Season 2016: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4

And the next one out of the blocks is Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D. for it’s fourth and, probably, last season. And it’s a brand-new dynamic, at least to begin with, because the old gang’s broken up, and nobody gets to see each other any more, and nobody quite trusts each other any more, although that’s probably got a lot to do with the new Director, who’s being made out to be something of an artificial mystery, because nobody refers to him as anything other than The Director. I think we can safely say it’s not Samuel L. Jackson.

Anyway, The Director has split the gang up, made them into Heads of things, not because they’re experts but because they had to be split up. Coulson and Mac are in the field, flying around on the Zephyr for six weeks and more at a time. Daisy’s gone rogue, as we knew from last season’s teaser. She’s publicly known as Quake, she’s knocking over banks, warmongers, financiers, The Director’s not only taken Coulson and Mac off the case, they’re positively forbidden to pursue her and the military have been ordered to shoot to kill.

May is head of a Strike Force, Fitz and Simmons have been split up professionally, he still in the Lab and she as Assistant to The Director, which means nobody trusts her before she angrily turns on a rather bitchy May and points out that she’s gone for such power in order to have some control over the gang of them and keep all their balls in the air.

Brett Dalton’s moved on, of course, having run out of roles to be reincarnated in, and his place in the cast is taken by none other than John Hannah, continuing as Dr Radcliffe, pardoned on condition he does no experimental or unapproved work. Naturally, he’s followed that stricture to the letter, except for creating a beautiful naked woman artificial being (a S.H.I.E.L.D. Life Model Decoy, from the comics, oh so very long ago) to disturb Fitz whilst he’s watching Aberdeen versus Inverness Caley Thistle in the Cup Final. Unfortunately for future harmonious relationships, Fitz decides they have to keep schtum, and that includes Simmons. For her own good, naturally.

So everyone’s running around in their own circles to begin with, which makes the episode a bit disjointed. But the early evidence seems to be that we’re going for a more superhero-tinged approach this year, with the introduction of the Ghost Rider, albeit one who drives a car, not a bicycle: the FX on his transformation into a burning skull are bloody good.

And a weapon has been unleashed, something released from a box, something that affects people, turns them paranoid and mad and lethal, makes their eye-sockets go crazy dark and cracked. It looks like a ghost, a woman ghost. And it’s in Coulson…

So here we go. Obviously, we need to get the comradeship back, and pretty damned soon because, refreshment or not, this split up bunch aren’t going to work that well at loggerheads. We need to see The Director and give him a name. Oh, and Robbie, the Ghost Rider, has this little tic or schtick about snapping his key ring round into his hand, which is already bloody irritating.

But that, I suppose, we’re stuck with.

The Fall Season: Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD

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.