Agents of SHIELD has been known to waste no time kicking things into gear. Last episode quickly threw us into the mix in a world where our key agents have scattered taking diverging paths. The second episode builds solidly over last week’s cliffhanger-ish ending as we follow “Sarge” and his gang of marauders / scavengers as they scour the planet in pursuit of some strange, obscure crystals, all while the lead S.H.I.E.L.D. team investigates the mess they leave behind. Meanwhile, Fitz mysterious post-credit stinger makes sense as we learn about his capture by the alien vessel and follow his storyline to a logical conclusion as well.
The new Coulson, going by “Sarge” (most likely short for Seargent) initially comes across as someone who’s the antithesis of what Coulson was. There are remnants here and there, and an interesting revelation is made toward the end when at his core, Sarge’s DNA matches Coulson’s. That his name rings a bell with Sarge suggests there’s a stronger connection here as opposed to him simply being a cybernetic Life Model Decoy of the former S.H.I.E.L.D. director. Agents of SHIELD quickly dispensed some of my theories in that direction and it appears his entire gang, comprising of Jaco, Pax and Snowflake are misplaced humans of some form.
Their motivations are still unclear though and the show would rather have it that way. Right now, Agents of SHIELD is feeding us morsels of information that are just enough to pique our curiosity while ensuring we have a hard time piecing the plot together. In that sense, it plays out like a sci-fi mystery. In their pursuit of the strange crystals then, the rampagers attract the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. who’re quickly on to them as they zero in on a jewelery store and break into a vault. The final heist revolves around technology similar to the one used in Valve’s Portals video game as they connect their gigantic truck to the store and ferry the package out. S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives just in time giving May her first big fight of the season (though still not as big as the ones she’s had before).
I did feel though that Fitz’s plot was somewhere misplaced. It was the odd one out in an episode heavily centred around Sarge-Coulson but I guess they had to pull his story forward to avoid abruptly merging it in with the other storylines. Narratively, his plot didn’t excite me as much but it did suggest that Fitz has largely gotten rid of his HYDRA brainwashing that he suffered when he was trapped in the alternate reality in Season 4 and is back to the life-saving, noble person that he was. He’s still on his journey to catch up with Jemma and others in the future and it’ll be interesting to see what happens when he actually does meet Jemma, who has already been to the future and back. The timelines are really getting muddled here.
The episode was thin on tender moments but they did try to infuse some posthumous development to the agent who fell last episode at the hands of Sarge-Coulson. Fox was suggested as a potential recruit by Benson himself who grieves and feels the responsibility and the loss for a moment, sharing it with YoYo. And it’s neat how Mack is really aware of what’s going on between Benson and YoYo but chooses to sidestep it for the larger picture at hand here. It would’ve helped Fox’s loss a lot more were this development somehow came before his untimely demise; in Episode 1, he merely came across as a little more than a red shirt.
There’s also some friction between the team and Marcus who feels he’s not really being let in on everything the way Fitz-Simmons were. Which makes sense in a way; the guy was just hired like yesterday. His contributions should help the team trust him a lot more and his discovery of Sarge and Coulson’s DNA match as well as the video feed showing Sarge’s team escaping a destructing planet are both going to be pivotal in the episodes going forward. Is that what Sarge-Coulson was trying to do when he pointed the gun at the sky before he got distracted? I love the feeling of how there’s more than meets the eye and it’ll all be pieced together eventually; as viewers, it keeps you guessing right until the end in a good way.
There were fewer action beats to the episode, May’s fight being one I already mentioned. In that sense, it was more about moving the pieces ahead than leading to a big-setpiece; the show has to preserve its budget somewhere after all. There were still heavy homages to Terminator 2: Judgment Day with the truck, the glasses and the beat and theme of the opening sequences in general resembling action flicks of the 90s. Sarge-Coulson’s gang really has the vibe of time-travellers who’ve arrived from a future (or an alternate future in this case) to wreak havoc on earth.
On the whole, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivered an enjoyable episode that pushed the pieces forward, gave some insight into the new Coulson and his team, and brough Melinda May face to face with her worst nightmare. At the other end of space, Fitz fought his capture by the alien species and as it turns out, he was merely pretending to be one of them. While his storyline lacked the punch of the earth narrative, it end on a heartbreaking surprise and was necessary to push all plots forward. A fun outing overall.