Agents of SHIELD, Season 4, Episode 2: “Meet the New Boss”
With its second venture in a later time slot, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dialed back the butts and the blood, but kept up the breakneck pacing and showered viewers with a cascade of new information to sort through.
“Bullet point” isn’t exactly a storytelling style, but this episode, named after S.H.I.E.L.D.’s autocratic new skipper, who has a need to “unclench” and a secret of his own, had an apt description. The first two episodes moved a lot more concepts and plot points than we’ve seen from this genre of TV shows. Normally, with 20-plus episodes to fill and limited budgets, slow play is the name of the game.
It’s not clear if this break from the norm is a function of a desire to quickly reset the table after the time jump at the end of last season, or a feeling that the more “mature” audience at the later hour can handle a larger informational load. Either way, it’s a welcome change, because the characters are taking action rather than sipping lattes and holding roundtable discussions.
A show told in bullet point fashion is worthy of a few bullet points itself:
- Gabriel Luna’s Ghost Rider continues to be a strong addition. The bulk of his action this week was designed to get him and Daisy on the same side. Luna and Chloe Bennett have good chemistry on screen and their characters’ personalities play well off one another.
- Much in the same way it introduced us to Inhumans, S.H.I.E.L.D. is helping fans get their feet wet in the mystical side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is coming to a theater near you in November with Doctor Strange. The ghost villains were talking about the Darkhold, which, in the comics, is the collected works of an evil god that has been known to cause lycanthropy and is connected to Strange.
- Not sure if it was a sly nod to the fans’ devotion to Agent Carter or a not-so-sly dig at the network for canceling it, but the references to all the many untold stories of Peggy Carter (and the promos for Hayley Atwell’s new show Conviction) gave fans a tug of the heartstrings.
- After three seasons of stern glances and few words, the direction the show is taking Agent May seems full of possibility and is allowing Ming Na-Wen an opportunity stretch some acting muscles.
- Oh, yeah, we did actually meet new S.H.I.E.L.D. Director, Jeffrey Mace, played by Jason O’Mara. He looked and played like the goofy political animal he was sold to be in the premiere. However, there are more layers to that onion. Coulson hand-picked Mace, and for good reason. He’s a good face for a reconfigured S.H.I.E.L.D. that will be under international oversight, and he’s got a few surprises for when things get rough.
- Despite the cast still being pretty large, the writers have done a pretty good job of giving everyone something meaningful to do in the first two episodes. Jemma has been underused the most, but that’s also the point of the role she’s playing in the new S.H.I.E.L.D., so it’s hard to complain too much. Plus we got the return of Mack’s shotgun-axe.
- The visual effects, once considered a liability on this show, have been top-notch this season:
Much has happened in the first two episodes of this new season, but it feels like the show has solid momentum moving forward. For a series that previously had all the nimbleness of a dump truck, this sportier model of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is an exciting prospect.