The first season might’ve been a mixed bag of good ideas and less-than-good execution, but the white-knuckle season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actually gave us some hope. So, what’s in store for season two?
This being Marvel, they obviously play this stuff fairly close to the vest, but some casting info and crew interviews have offered up some details about where they’ll take the series this fall. Plus, there are also some things we can glean from the end of year one.
Though the ratings took a big hit from the series premiere, S.H.I.E.L.D. was still one of the better freshman performers on the schedule for ABC, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that it’d get a reprieve for a second season. But we’re hoping the cast and crew see this next season as a chance to right the ship for what should be Marvel’s flagship television property.
The first season foundered under the weight of it all and spent months spinning its wheels trying to make us like characters who were largely one-note for the first half of the season. But the Captain America: Winter Soldier tie-in following the HYDRA infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. gave the show the spark it’d been missing, and it became obvious why they’d been spinning their wheels — they had to wait for all hell to break loose in Winter Soldier to finally introduce a compelling story arc.
Now that S.H.I.E.L.D. has fallen and Coulson’s team is pretty much all that’s left standing, tasked with a secret mandate from Nick Fury himself, season two could really be the run that puts this show on the map. Here’s hoping, at least.
Season two of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres Sept. 23 on ABC.
How’d we get to this point: A lot of groundwork and the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Looking back from the floundering of midseason, it’s easy to forget S.H.I.E.L.D. started out with a bang and a positively stellar pilot episode that brought Skye into the mix and would eventually pay off with Deathlok’s introduction. The pilot was excellent, and really did a good job of reminding us of all the great things we love about Marvel movies and bringing all that excitement to a new medium.
But things went a little haywire from there. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) was mysteriously brought back to life after his death in The Avengers to lead a new task force, and the gang spent much of the season chasing threads to figure out exactly how Coulson escaped the Grim Reaper. Turns out he was brought back thanks to an experimental project he’d actually tried to have shut down, which was created to bring an Avenger back to life in case one was killed in the line of duty.
GH-325: The resurrection centers on a mysterious liquid dubbed GH-325, which apparently came from the corpse of a large, blue alien (possibly a Kree). For Coulson, the resurrection is having some strange effects, and the season ended with him carving mysterious (alien?) markings into the wall. They eventually steal some of this alien liquid to revive Skye (Chloe Bennet) after she takes a bullet to the gut. Speaking of Skye, she’s actually an “0-8-4,” aka an object of unknown origin. It’s been loosely hinted that she might have super powers, but we don’t know much more than that at this point. The identity of her parents is also a big mystery.
Season one also introduced a smattering of comic-based characters and villains, many of whom were set loose when HYDRA took S.H.I.E.L.D. down. The secret Big Bad pulling most of the strings in season one turned out to be S.H.I.E.L.D. agent John Garrett (Bill Paxton), aka the Clairvoyant, who is taken down in the finale (and again at the very end by Coulson in hilarious fashion).
Hydra, Grant and Deathlok: Among the characters we definitely expect to return for season two is Deathlok (J. August Richards), who broke free from enemy control and went his own way at the end of season one. We’d think he’ll start his transition into becoming a legit hero at some point in year two. There’s also Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), a founding member of Coulson’s team. He was a HYDRA sleeper agent working for Garret, though his loyalty to HYDRA was tenuous. He ended the season locked up, though he’s included in the first season-two cast photo (sporting a beard), so we’d think there’s still a story left to tell with Ward.
But, easily the biggest thing that happened in season one of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the fall of the organization itself. As we saw play out in Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. was infested with HYDRA cells, so the whole thing was brought down by Captain America and the good agents (i.e. Coulson) who survived HYDRA’s initial attack. Of course, with a show called Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., that’s not the end of the story.
Fury passes the reins: The season ended with former S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) passing the mantle to Coulson, tasking Coulson and his rag-tag team with rebuilding the organization from the ground up (apparently outside government jurisdiction, since the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. are still tainted by the HYRDA debacle). That was the set-up for year two, with Coulson running the organization with limited resources, his back up against the wall and (most notably) without the weight of the government behind him.
One quick note on returning characters: Agent Ward, played by Brett Dalton, is included in the main cast photo — so he’s coming back in some capacity. Agent Triplett (B.J. Britt), who joined up with the team late in season one, is also represented. Triplett is a great character, with a nice connection to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s past as a legacy agent, so we’re glad he’s sticking around. Team scientist Fitz was also left in a coma at the end of last season, but he looks okay in the cast photo, so we'd think that'll eventually play out in a positive way.
Which brings us to…
Coulson’s in charge, and things are about to be very different (hopefully)
A lot of things are changing in season two, and the writers claim they’ve learned a lot in year one that'll pay off this fall. Producer Jed Whedon told Collider one of the biggest things fans will notice is that they’ll dive right into the stories this time around. Since the characters have had a season to grow, Whedon said they can cut straight to the fun stuff now:
“One of the things that any first year show has to do is introduce characters. We were one of the first, if not the first Marvel property to be introducing characters that hadn’t been established in the comics for decades. That proved to be a struggle, in terms of here are all these new people, and it takes time to get to know them. Now, we don’t have to do any of that groundwork. We can hit the ground running, with characters that you know, and change things up and be on the move, as we go. That does make it easier. We get to just drop back in the world. It’s more of a sequel. You know these people. So, when they’re doing something unfamiliar, as opposed to going, ‘Who is this person?,’ you’re going, ‘Why is she doing that?!’ It is easier on that, in the storytelling way.”
Weird alien symbols: As far as dangling threads that’ll be picked up this season? Producer Maurissa Tancharoen said they definitely plan to play off that WTF twist that found Coulson carving mysterious symbols into a wall, which hints the alien elements of his resurrection might actually be having a much bigger effect on our hero than first believe. Tancharoen said it is something they’ll “be exploring” midseason, with Coulson becoming a “wild card.”
Whedon also touched on the awesome addition of Lucy Lawless in a major recurring role as Agent Isabelle Hartley, who will shake things up with Coulson’s team after she comes out of a lengthy, shady stint working undercover. Turns out Coulson will need those underground connections to get his new-look S.H.I.E.L.D. off the ground. Lawless is a stellar addition to the cast, and is a true genre legend, serving as the perfect follow-up to Bill Paxton’s recurring stint last year:
“We’re big fans. We got to work with her on Spartacus. She’s a pleasure to work with, and a massive talent. So, with the new paradigm of S.H.I.E.L.D. rebuilding, Coulson has to reach into his bag of tricks and out of his comfort zone to find people to fill his ranks, and Hartly is an example of that. She’s someone who is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but she was out in the world and she was undercover, so she’s made some unsavory connections and he’s going to have to use that to his advantage.”
Crossovers?: So what about other connections we might see to the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The first season had some standout crossovers with the film universe, weaving in everyone from Jaimie Alexander’s Sif from Thor, to Cobie Smulder’s Maria Hill, who we know and love from The Avengers and Winter Soldier. Whedon played it close to the vest, but teased it is something they’re always looking at, if it fits the narrative:
“As far as Easter eggs and connections to other properties, it’s not at the forefront of our creative process. It’s very much a nice added bonus to the process. We shape our story first. We’re very aware of the content that they have on the feature end of things, and vice versa. Wherever we can nod and wink to things, we will, but our show is its own thing.”
Honestly, we’re really more excited about season two than we were season one. It took way too long to get this show off the ground, but the final few episodes of season one showed just how great it could be.
Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. will have a ton of new faces
Since we already know Coulson’s season one team pretty well by this point, Marvel plans to in produce a boatload of new characters when the show returns this fall. Like, a lot. Whole bunch.
Among the big guns set to team up with Coulson’s new-look S.H.I.E.L.D.? Genre alum Lucy Lawless (Xena, Spartacus) as Agent Isabelle Hartley. We don’t know a ton about Hartley, but it seems she’ll have a major recurring role with the team. She’s apparently a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was in deep cover when all the HYDRA shenanigans went down, and has now been yanked off that assignment to help Coulson rebuild. Obviously, we love Lawless, and she’s a killer addition to any cast. Excellent move.
Hello, Mockingbird: Another biggie, at least for comic fans? Adrianne Palicki as the hero Mockingbird/Bobbi Morse, a character pulled directly from the comics. She’s admittedly a mid-tier character, but one who has been around since the early 1970s, so she’s well-established in the funny books. She’s also a character who’d also be a good fit in the movie-verse, and brings some nifty spy skills to the mix. Those could come in handy in the rebuilt S.H.I.E.L.D. Producers have teased her role could be substantial, with producer Jed Whedon noting she’s “a good example of someone who we can really lean on as a major character.”
There will also be a boatload of new, recurring team members joining up with Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. They include Simon Kassianides in a major role as Bakshi, described as “a confident right-hand man who’s not afraid to do the dirty work.” There’s also Nick Blood’s Lance Hunter, who is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s British equivalent, S.T.R.I.K.E. (who has been described as a “mercenary”), and Henry Simmons, who will play a S.H.I.E.L.D. mechanic Alphonso "Mac" Mackenzie. Since they’re working with makeshift equipment and a smaller budget, it stands to reason a mechanic might be a good fit for the crew.
A few familiar faces expected to be back, in addition to the main cast: Adrian Pasdar’s Brigadier General Glenn Talbot, who was introduced late in season one hunting down the remnants of Coulson’s team. Plus Patton Oswalt’s Koenig, who was a fantastic addition to the latter part of season one after being introduced as an agent holding down the fort at one of Fury’s secret bases.
Skye's dad says hello: They’ve been dropping hints ever since she was introduced in the pilot, and season two will finally bring our first real meeting with Skye’s father, played by Twin Peaks alum Kyle MacLachlan. We still don’t know much about how he’ll fit into the narrative, but considering Skye is an 0-8-4, you’d think his appearance might at least bring some answers (or possibly new questions, in classic S.H.I.E.L.D. fashion). But, we have recently learned when we’ll meet Skye’s dad — episode two — and he’s listed under the mysterious name “The Doctor” in the guest star rundown.
On the straight-up baddie side of things, we can look forward to Brian Patrick Wade’s adaptation of Carl “Crusher” Creel/Absorbing Man, as well as Reed Diamond’s ruthless HYDRA baddie, Kraken.
Agent Carter is coming: Now, we saved the best for last: We’ve known for a while that Hayley Atwell would be starring in her own period-set spinoff Agent Carter later this season, but Atwell will also be returning for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s season two premiere via flashbacks (apparently), along with the Howling Commandos who helped back up Captain America during his World War II days. This is obviously a great way to build some buzz for the spinoff series, and it also represents yet another Marvel film star coming to the small screen. We’re super-psyched for the Agent Carter spinoff, and adding the character to S.H.I.E.L.D. (in whatever role this represents) should be epic.