Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season Two/Episode One “Shadows”
The Agents are back and the episode starts off with a nice little teaser of Agent Carter and The Howling Commandos in 1945 taking down one of the last known Hydra facilities, capturing high-level Hydra leadership and some extremely dangerous items the Red Skull had planned to use before his demise. In this episode, it centers on item SSR#084, an obelisk of unknown power and origin, but one thing is for sure – touching it with your bare hands is not a good idea. We’re later introduced to new S.H.I.E.L.D. members lead by Isabelle “Izzy” Hartley (Lucy Lawless) and band of mercenary agents Coulson was able to scrounge together after S.H.I.E.L.D. was disbanded and it’s remaining members hunted down after the events of Captain America Winter Soldier and the last half of season 1 of AOS.
What I can say is that the directional/tonal change of the series after S.H.I.E.L.D. was exposed as being infiltrated by Hydra was a good thing. The first half of season one lacked in direction and the tone really made me feel less enthused about the series. However, the tempo of the show picked up dramatically and the “double-agent” aspect of the series really hit some well-played notes. This season tries to keep that pace going and while it still throws in a few zingers here and there, you do get a sense that there were some SERIOUS consequences from last season. For one, Fitz is still trying to recover from the damage done to him last season by Ward and the effects have been nothing less than devastating. In fact, it was the one sub-story that really did put a lump in my throat at the end. Another is that the team really is fighting a war on all sides. The government, lead by Brigadier General Talbot (Adrian Pasdar), the remaining forces of Hydra and even the team within are all fighting to control the destiny of the world.
We’re introduced to a new “special”: Carl “Crusher” Creel aka The Absorbing Man has been enlisted to retrieve the obelisk and hand it over to Hydra. In the comic, The Absorbing Man is a character that’s taken on the likes of Thor and The Hulk. His ability to absorb the properties of any material he touches has been used in some extremely interesting ways over the years, but he was never considered to be a smart man. In this episode, we see an extremely less powerful, but a much more cunning and dangerous Absorbing Man take on the government and S.H.I.E.L.D. in some fairly exciting action scenes.
All in all, this wasn’t a bad episode. There were some scenes where Coulson was narrating over scenes that could have been left out, but in general I felt this was a step up in quality of a show that was hindered early on from weakness in direction and story. Those would left the series may not come back, but for those who have stuck with the series, we’re starting to really get our money’s worth.
Gotham: Season One/Episode One “Pilot”
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t have HIGH hopes for this series. Not because the characters aren’t interesting, but mostly because a Gotham series without Batman and focusing on GCPD seems a bit uninspired (even though the comic was fairly good). This is a series that really focuses on Detective James “Jim” Gordon (Ben McKenzie), Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) and host of other side characters and one-day-soon villains in the Batman rogue’s gallery. Specifically, Penguin, Poison Ivy and Catwoman. We get a peak behind the curtain as to “how they came to be” and the events that will one lead up to the greatest super hero (or anti-hero) the DC Universe has ever known.
The series starts off with the classic scene of the young Master Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) walking with his parents walking down a dark alleyway and [senselessly] being gunned down by a mugger for Martha Wayne’s pearls. We’re left with what I consider to be the strongest scene of the young Bruce hovering over his dead parents and giving off a hair-raising scream of grief that I really, really believed. Kudos to the young actor for really pulling that off. The faded scream over the dramatic music was spot on and was so well directed. We’re also introduced to the young Selina Kyle (Carmen Bicondova) pouncing from rooftop to rooftop and doing what all young little thief’s do, but she also has this really weird and disturbing trend of just lurking around the edges of this episode in this odd stalkerish manner. It’s slightly offputting. I get why she’s directed that way, but – it needs to stop.
This episode sets the stage for the season as Gordon is neck deep in a corrupt police force controlled by organized crime bosses, Fish Mooney (Jada Smith) and Carmine Falcon (John Doman). Bullock, a bull in a china shop type, is Gordon’s partner and it’s an uneasy union. Harry understands that the lay of the land and finds Gordon’s do-gooder attitude to be one card too many in an already full deck. Thus, the story tried to find that uneasy balance in the working relationship between Gordon and Bullock that will ultimately lead to a storied relationship that will define a city.
This wasn’t a perfect episode and I find some of the leaps in character development eye-roll worthy, but it wasn’t bad at all. It was a legitimately solid first episode and I can only hope that the series truly gets better and better over time. As this seems to be a cop procedural, I’m truly intrigued to see what stories they are going to give us and ultimately what overarching story arc will be playing out. Obviously, one of the side stories will be Gordon trying to solve the mystery of Bruce’s parent’s murder while staying under the radar of cartels, the corrupt cops in his department and most especially Harvey Bullock. In the comics, Joe Chill is the sleazebag thief that kills his parents, but it remains to be seen if he will be the one in this series. However, there’s no reason to change the character. Now, his motivations and importance has changed over the years and it will be interesting to see how that is played out, but all in all – the series is mirroring the tone of the comics in many respects. I’m much more excited to see where this season goes now – own the night.