Welcome Back, True Believers! Wow what a break huh? After a successful fourth season, the heroes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. return once again for their fifth season, this time promising a stark departure from the antics of the hellfire cyclist Ghost Rider and the demented artificial intelligence Aida. In the last season, the team dealt with their own inner demons in the “Matrix-like” program that was the Framework. After returning to the real world, shaken yet triumphant, Coulson and the gang realized they may be in some deep trouble with the US Government, and spent their remaining minutes together before, presumably, being captured by enjoying a meal at an old-timey diner. When Season 4 ended, Coulson found himself waking up in a tiny room with a vantage point of outer space, promising the agents are living in some “extraterrestrial” times. With all that being said, do the first two episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s fifth season manage to hit the heights of Season 4?
“Orientation” begins happily enough with one of the captors of the team going for a swim, taking a shower next to his human suit, and getting dressed. Wait, what was that middle part again? Oh right, the suited man is not all that he seems, as he and a tactical military team capture the agents and place them in front of a brand new obelisk. The original stone structure we saw in previous seasons had teleported Jemma Simmons to another world where she needed to fight for her life against alien threats. This obelisk is now more white than dark, sending the Agents to a location that is still in space, though has an entirely different twist. We get a fantastic shot of a puzzled Coulson walking through a time-frozen spaceship where most of its passengers are being sucked out of an airlock. When time rights itself, Coulson hangs on for dear life, saving himself from an icy intergalactic tomb but uh oh, xenomorph! That’s right, what would a good space odyssey be without a killer alien aboard the ship as well? Coulson looks for answers from a rambling tenant of the ship, Virgil, only for him to be clocked unconscious by an angry Mack.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. made a vast departure during its fourth season from the norm, as its earlier installments tended to mostly focus on Inhumans and Hydra. With Season 5, they have once again decided to take a bold step in a different direction, with the team not only being lost in space, but the added caveat of being…wait for it….trapped in the future! That’s right, as the team tries to figure out exactly what is going on as Kree aliens overrun the space station, and Daisy takes out the stampeding xenomorph, they begin to realize that this may be one of the hairiest situations they’ve ever found themselves in. The setting is certainly a fresh one, with Coulson and company being trapped so far from home, and it’s interesting to think of the possible implications of where they could go with this. Maybe we see descendants of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy come into play? Being able to be outside of the continuity of the current MCU certainly sounds like a positive direction for the series to move in.
The newest and most notable character to the team is the fast-talking, witty Deke, who is clearly modeled on Chris Pratt’s Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy, face mask and all. For now, he — along with the remaining members of humanity — try to create a life for themselves while under the boot of the Kree Empire on the ship. The daily aspects of their lives, which the Agents now find themselves wrapped up in, are laid out quickly, though it is a tad dreary. The environments themselves, along with the characters and the story structure, lean more significantly on something closer to Star Trek than anything we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. While this is all certainly interesting, it doesn’t have the same bite to it that seeing Ghost Rider in the Season 4 premiere did. That could be a matter of personal taste, but the Kree are a race that we’ve explored quite thoroughly in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. landscape, so I’m hoping that we see some more “out there” settings and characters as the season moves forward.
Aside from the setting, the characters we’ve grown to know and love over these past few years still don’t skip a beat. Mack continues to supply more than enough one-liners to give audiences a recurring chuckle, Agent May continues to kick ass even when she is teleported into a pipe on the spaceship (which looked exceptionally painful), and Daisy continues to be the Inhuman secret weapon of the team. It’s also great to see that Yo Yo has been bumped up to the status of series regular, as she’s certainly earned the title. Much like last season, the cast chemistry is firing on all cylinders, and while they may have a bump in the road when it comes to some of the new supporting characters, the core members of the team are still a delight to watch. Daisy also manages to give us a glimpse of tragedy as she realizes that Earth is destroyed in the future by none other than herself! It should make for a pretty fun time seeing how the rest of the characters react to that.
At the end of the day, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. manages to make a welcome and interesting return here, though not one that reaches the heights of its last season yet.