These are the two words I found myself repeating over and over upon watching the two part premiere of Agents of SHIELD, “Orientation”. The opening scene of a strange figure swimming and then peeling off a human suit to shower, all before showing us the other side of last season’s finale. Those final moments of the Diner and the swarm of Black Ops came off much differently when seen through a different lens. Successfully deflating the tension by the mundane set up of flood lights and one soldier’s musing on how his fantasy football draft excuse makes no sense but his wife pays so little attention he’s not worried.
We see our team frozen and transported to yet another Monolith and zapped away to space! I will say it’s a good thing they showed these two parts back to back because with the amount of “what the!” and how much there is to establish, anything less would have been confusing. Strike that, more confusing.
The space setting struck me on two fronts very quickly. The first being the CG stuff was really well pulled off. Space, the ships, even the cockroach alien pests, all looked great for a television budget. The bad? Well, all the sets felt very much like sets. Plus the monochrome look of the ship and similar layouts made me feel like we were seeing the same three sets redressed over and over. Oh and also the Kree’s quarters? Very much reminded me of Inhumans and while their origins being Kree makes that actually work, that show left a very, very bad taste in my mouth and I want no reminder that it ever happened at all.
The part of the premiere that felt flawless was all the comedy. The jokes were fast and furious and hit their mark every time. Mack is back at the movie references, calling out that they’re basically in a horror movie to start and we all know who dies first. That and him making them stay together instead of the usual split up and then that shot of them huddled and Coulson calling out how they look? Perfection! Then when someone suggests maybe they all are back in the Framework the explosion of groans and gripes from the gang had me literally laughing out loud. It’s obvious this is a series that listens to fans and could hear the theories being written as they wrote the script. A great way to just throw that idea out the window.
Another sign they’re listening / reading the fans’ thoughts was when Mack calls out that space is the last thing they haven’t done yet. Add to that the move to Friday nights and I get the feeling if this isn’t the final season, then the most we’re getting after this is one or two more max. Oh and I felt a little dumb after my running theory last season, that the shadowy group who abducts them is SWORD. Well they made that into a joke about how there isn’t anyone called “Spear” or anything. Oops, my bad. Plus I’ve heard rumblings that the rights to SWORD are tied to the X-men and unavailable to the Disney / Marvel side.
Added to our cast are a few new characters that feel important for down the line: Deke, a Starlord rip off with a cool anti-grav device that gets used in interesting ways more than once; Tess is a native who is acting as our window into this new frightening society. Then there’s Grill, played Pruitt Taylor Vince, most people know him as that guy with the shaky eyes. Always a great actor and with very minimal screen time you got a full picture of who he is and what kind of influence he wields.
So the big mystery throughout was where the team is and for what purpose. Well, I called the time travel element pretty early on. Doesn’t make it bad, just telegraphed a bit too well. My initial thought on seeing the reveal that they’re in the future and Earth is destroyed was this was a tie in. But I’ve been fooled far too many times. Would this be a great possible future for the events of Infinity War? Absolutely! Is there any chance that they are finally laying the groundwork for the television and movie sides to come together? Not a fricking chance!
Then there was the actual return of the Framework, used here as a virtual “Opium Den” as Daisy puts it. Initially I loved this little inclusion … until I thought about it. We’re told the history of mankind has been destroyed, people have no clue what or how anything happened. Yet the Framework here shows a very accurate portrayal of earth and even happens to have an old newscast with Daisy in it! But somehow no record of how earth got destroyed. This led to the “twist” of Deke accusing Daisy / Quake of being the cause. Umm except if she is stuck in the future how can she be responsible? This is a non twist, pure red herring garbage thrown in just for shock value.
So it was a pretty good return for SHIELD, not its best, but still pretty decent. Some other moments that stuck out include the bad ass Kree woman with the most dangerous stress balls ever. The question is will she end up facing off with Daisy or May? Everything with Mack and Yoyo was entertaining, the action and the bickering. The whole cast feels very comfortable, everyone knows just what they’re doing. Oh and the early death at the hands of one of the roaches? That was some of the most violent and shocking stuff I’ve seen on network TV … aside from Hannibal.
I’m optimistic about the season but budgetary constraints and a claustrophobic feeling have me worried it could get very repetitive very quickly. My hope is we get some juxtaposition with Fitz in the present and like last year they adopt a multiple arc cycle to storytelling and not drag this one out for a full twenty plus episodes.
Agents of SHIELD airs Friday at 9:00 PM on ABC.
What did you think of the season premiere? Tell us in the comments section below!