Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. came back with Agent Coulson and crew with the season premiere Shadows, meaning, obviously, Phil Coulson’s crew’s status now that they are being hunted down by governmental killjoy General Talbot is not out in the open. The start of the show takes the audience back to World War II and the HYDRA portion of Germany’s forces. The purpose of this trip back in time is to show another artifact that may be deadlier than the tesseract, the Obelisk which kills whoever touches it.
As a part of this backstory visit, viewers are treated to a cameo or two of Nick Fury’s and Captain America’s old team the Howling Commandos along with Cap’s short-lived love interest Agent Peggy Carter. Not a bad start to season two featuring such a poignant blast from the past. Hayley Atwell showing up in the first episode seems to bode well for further appearances in this season from the big screen world of Marvel.
Meanwhile back in present time, another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Isabelle Hartley (played by Lucy Lawless) and her crew of “mercenary” good guys attempt to purchase some information from another ex S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Browning, when Carl Creel crashes the party. After killing most of the former agents, Creel leaps from a window and escapes apparently unharmed.
May has a meeting with Phil and she tells him off for not keeping in touch since she is supposed to be keeping an eye on him. Coulson explains that he has been busy trying to get the good guys’ numbers up. May questions the use of the mercenary Hartley and Phil tells her that “these are they are the type of friends they must rely on.”
Creel uploads the information stolen from the earlier transaction he interrupted and is rewarded with a rare diamond, not for its value but for his ability to absorb the gem’s texture and qualities, this is the reason that Carl was bulletproof earlier. It is also why Creel is known as The Absorbing Man. Hartley and her crew are invited in to meet Coulson. Skye tells May that the metal shards found at the attack have been taken to the lab. May then asks about Fitz and she responds that he is as “good as can be expected.”
In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Shadows Coulson’s agents are rushing to keep ahead of Talbot and trying to get their hands on the information that Agent Browning was attempting to sell to Hartley. Fitz is in the lab with Simmons and he is not well. The brain trauma has left him unable to communicate properly and his thinking process is slow. May comes down to check on the metal shard and while she is there, the material turns into a piece of bloody flesh.
Skye discovers who the attacker was at the meeting that ended so badly for the former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Browning and learns that she has to question another former agent Grant Ward. She then meets with Ward to ask about Creel. Grant continues to talks to Skye about other things and after a couple of detours around the information she needs, gets back on track when she threatens to leave, which she does anyway when she learns about The Absorbing Man.
Just as Skye cuts off the conversation, it is revealed that Ward has information about her father. Skye however leaves without finding this out. Coulson and company find out that HYDRA has not been broken, but pushed deeper into the shadows. When the team find out that the Obelisk is in General Talbot’s hands they set out to save him from Creel, kidnapping their biggest adversary in the process.
Coulson talks to Talbot and explains that they have put Creel right where he, and the Kracken, need to be. The general is hostile and does not want to play with S.H.I.E.L.D. which Coulson expected. Fitz watches the interaction between Coulson and Talbot talking to Simmons while doing so. At the end of the general’s Q&A session Phil shoots him, but only after getting his fingerprints and Talbot wakes up later in a parked car.
The decision is made to send in the team to collect the Obelisk and as they are on their way in, Creel escapes his see-through cell in the facility. Once inside Hartley finds the artifact and makes the big mistake of grabbing it. The Obelisk immediately starts killing her. Lance Hunter grabs Hartley and leaves the other half of the team to fight their way out of the compound.
Hartley forces Hunter to cut off her arm and Creel shows up to crash the car they are in. Triplett, Skye and May escape by the skin of their teeth, made easier by their grabbing another cloaking device. Coulson explains what he hoped to achieve by taking Talbot head on and just how bad Fitz’s condition is, the time he was speaking to Simmons has been in his head and not real at all.
Creel grabs the Obelisk after taking precautions and it looks as though Hartley may be dead while Hunter plays dead. At the end of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Shadows the Kracken appears, having not aged a day since the World War II flashback at the beginning of the show. This episode must be the most poignant of either season, one or two. Once it becomes clear just how damaged Fitz is, it becomes a time for tears or a lump in the throat, or both. The vow that Coulson makes at the end feels all the more powerful when he includes his injured colleague as one of the reasons they cannot give up.
By Michael Smith