Review: 'Marvel's Agents of SHIELD' - 'A Fractured House': Brother against brother
A review of tonight's "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" coming up just as soon as I accuse you of peacocking...
Today was a big day for all things Marvel, as Kevin Feige made announcement after announcement about upcoming films: An official title for the third Captain America! A "Thor 3" title and release date! Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther! "Avengers 3" being split into 2 movies! An Inhumans movie! A Captain Marvel movie! A schedule (including the "Guardians of the Galaxy" sequel) that will keep Marvel superheroes in front of our eyeballs until our children are ready to go to college! It was an easy day for the average fanboy or fangirl to get excited(*), even as the size and scope of the announcements made "Agents of SHIELD" feel like a very small, half-forgotten part of the mighty Marvel empire.
(*) I even got enthusiastic enough to help write a Black Panther primer, and to stump for some of my favorite Captain Marvel casting options.
Tonight was supposed to be a big night for "SHIELD," since Marvel was going to debut the "Avengers: Age of Ultron" trailer during "A Fractured House," in the hopes of bringing back the many viewers who drifted away over the course of that frustrating first season — or even the ones who have been vanishing over the last few weeks because the since-canceled "Manhattan Love Story" was sucking their will to live. Instead, the trailer leaked a week ago — Marvel's PR department at least had the sense of humor to blame Hydra for it — and while "SHIELD" got a new clip to show (an amusing one where Tony Stark and the other Avengers test out the business about who can lift Thor's hammer), I doubt the bump is as big as it otherwise might have been.
But if people tuned in for the clip, or simply because the day's announcement flooded them with affection for all things Marvel, they saw a good example of the show "SHIELD" has become in this second season. We got a full dose of Adrianne Palicki as Mockingbird, and if the hour had just been Bobbi and Hunter bickering(**), occasionally pausing so the two of them and May could kick some ass, I'd have had no complaints. The show's fight choreography (and photography) has gotten much better this year — May's fight with Mark Scarlotti (Whiplash from the Iron Man comics) was nearly as impressive as the May vs. May fight from a few weeks ago — and Palicki's just a star in this role, so confident and magnetic and physical that I can easily imagine Joss Whedon or the Russo brothers or whomever winds up shepherding later films asking if Mockingbird can be a part of them. At a minimum, I hope the people running the show are seeing what I'm seeing and are doing whatever they can to make her a permanent part of the operation.
(**) It's basically the Mockingbird/Hawkeye dynamic, minus the guy who's not going to appear on this show unless Jeremy Renner's quote goes waaaaay down.
The rest of the hour hummed along nicely, with Fitz struggling to adjust to Simmons' return (and the Mac/Simmons scene that ensued) and the script nicely keeping us on our toes as to which Ward brother — if either — was being honest with our heroes. Tim DeKay is yet another good addition to the larger ensemble — as with the action and the characterization, the guest casting has improved dramatically — and I appreciate that no one on the team has in any way forgotten or forgiven what Grant Ward did to them. Coulson rattling off a list of his crimes was very satisfying to hear. I'm not sure I'm ever going to entirely let go of the fear that a Ward redemption arc is coming, if only because I know how most TV shows work, but at least I can feel confident that if it comes, the show won't be trying to ignore all the things he did in the past.
Six episodes in, and the creative team doesn't seem eager to let any status quo remain for too long. Simmons is back from her undercover job, Ward is out of the basement (and a fugitive), and Talbot has stopped trying to arrest SHIELD agents at every opportunity. (His acknowledgment of SHIELD's loss to May was a nice touch.) There's no complacency here the way there was last season, and now when the show is trying to be fun — like Bobbi and Hunter simultaneously shooting Toshiro before returning to their argument — it genuinely is.
A fine end to a big Marvel day. Here's hoping more people noticed.
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org