Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season Two - TV Review

'As the end game approaches though, throughout the second half, S.H.I.E.L.D all of a sudden becomes an accomplished show.'

How this show has changed in the space of two seasons and what a difference a little direction makes. Where Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D: Season One was largely a 'monster of the week' offering, Season Two heads into ensemble territory, with a strong through line you can see matters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In Season One, a guest spot from Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif was a highlight because it broke up the general unfamiliarity and lack of context of everything else. In this season, the same guest spot is a lowlight because it detracts from the near-season-long main story. That's a big change and one the creative team of Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon and Joss Whedon should be proud of.

There is still some distraction and wasted episodes, which is always going to be the case in a twenty-two episode run, something which remains one of S.H.I.E.L.D's main problems. Most are towards the opening of the series. Donnie Gill (Dylan Minnette) returns for Making Friends and Influencing People (E3), before going on to play zero part in the rest of the season. The Writing on the Wall is S.H.I.E.L.D at its worst: a bad X-File, with little to distinguish it from other throwaway shows.

But then, at the mid-season break, What They Become (E10), Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D finally finds the gear it has been looking for. There's a death for a start, what looks like a completely final and irreversible one (still too much of a rarity for Marvel), a solid cliffhanger, a lot of uncertainty - great tentpoles, it turns out, to build a season of this show on.

From here, there's still some evidence of the show's scatter-gun approach to establishing consistency. The Sif episode, Who You Really Are (E12), comes just two episodes after What They Become and hardly advances the main narrative at all. Melinda (E17) is a good idea (finally telling us why May (Ming-Na Wen) is called 'The Cavalry'), executed at exactly the wrong time.

As the end game approaches though, throughout the second half, S.H.I.E.L.D all of a sudden becomes an accomplished show. Everything from excellently-titled Frenemy of My Enemy (E18) is compelling stuff that, watching along on TV every week, made me wish Netflix would put a deal in place to enable an instant binge.

The introduction of Gonzales (Edward James Olmos) and his set of characters seems to come too late to do anything with, yet the show manages to. The genesis of Skye (Chloe Bennet) seems to be heading nowhere, before it is pulled up into something entirely meaningful. Hunter (Nick Blood) starts annoying but becomes indispensable comic relief and de facto square-jawed hero. The late decisions of Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Mack (Henry Simmons) are superbly played out to conclusions. Dichen Lachman as Jiaying doesn't add the strongest turn to the show, but her character's movements are perfect shout-at-you-TV fayre.

The last two episodes, S.O.S. Part 1 (E21) and S.O.S. Part 2 (E22) are more serious Drama than lacklustre soap, The Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D no longer cartoonish enterprises, but genuine warring families. There's enough doubt to make you wonder about the outcomes, enough promise to allow you to look with optimism towards Season 3. It's not the best thing on TV, not by a long way, but it does now matter, both to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for those that care about such things, and on its own terms.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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