Agents of SHIELD Season 5 Episodes 1 and 2 Review: Orientation

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD boldly goes where admittedly a few other Marvel properties have gone: SPAAAACEEEEEE

Last year on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD., the show hopped genres from hi-tech super hero espionage to supernatural thrill fest to Matrix-like action. And now, here in season of 5 of Marvel’s first modern TV series, we have hopped genres again into the realm of apocalyptic sci-fi survival as this new season of Agents of SHIELD starts off with a huge bang.

And boy, did we need it. After six weeks of watching Marvel’s Inhumans endlessly wander around Hawaii aggressively not using their powers, it sure feels good to have some proper Marvel action on ABC. So where to begin? Last season, things ended with Phil Coulson waking up in space. This season, things kick off with a flashback to some weird alien dude leading a strike force to abduct our agents. This two-part premiere really hits hard and gives the characters and the viewers a sense of displacement with tons of world building and new characters being introduced at a breakneck pace. Let’s introduce some of them.

There’s Virgil, a hapless human who seems to know everything about Coulson and his agents who gets killed by an alien insect monster before he can tell the agents what the heck is going on. There’s Deke, a very Peter Quill-like loner who reluctantly helps the agents, and there’s Tess, a hardworking woman who had an attachment to Virgil. By the time the episode is half way done, Deke and Tess seem like they’ve been around forever as Agents of SHIELD seamlessly adds some new faces to the mix.

During the opening hour of the premiere, the question of “Where are we?” keeps getting asked. But really, the question should be “When are we?” because yes MCU fans, time travel has now been introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It turns out that our agents were shunted into the future; years after Earth had been eradicated.

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The Kree have picked up what few humans remain and essentially have enslaved the human race. Everyone must where a Metric, an embedded device that allows the Kree to control the surviving humans. Humans work for credits, and as long as the Metrics show that a person is in the black, that person gets to survive. But if the Metric shows that a person owes some credits, it’s time to die. How Black Mirror! This is the world the agents find themselves in and the episode does an awesome job in world building without hitting the viewer over the brain pan with constant, clunky exposition.

Coulson falls right into leading his team and finding ways to survive. May fights even though she arrives in the future with a severe leg injury (I’m sure this was done because Ming Na Wen was recovering from knee surgery when this premiere was filmed), Simmons starts to try and solve the problem with science, Mack punches stuff, Daisy kicks ass, and Yo Yo thinks and runs fast to keep one step ahead from the Kree.

This whole genre switch has really allowed the series to reinvent itself here in the fifth season because really, who wanted another season of fighting HYDRA or evil Inhumans while navigating bureaucracy?  We don’t get none of that! Instead, we get an unexpected, claustrophobic, two-hour sci-fi trip and a whole new lease on life for the series.

There are some connections to the previous seasons, however. Did you like the Framework from last season? Of course you did. Well, Deke has rebuilt the Framework tech and is running a black market Framework den so the survivors of Earth can experience the past. Daisy finds herself in this makeshift Framework and learns that (brace yourself, kids) that it was Daisy “Quake” Johnson her ownself that destroyed the Earth.

She quaked the shit out of her home planet, and poof, no more Earth! That’s a heavy load to place on Daisy’s shoulders as I guess this season is going really, really big! I mean, last season Daisy was running around with dark eye make-up and being all angst-y, this season, she kicks things off by finding out that she is the destroyer of worlds. There ain’t enough eye shadow in the universe.

Simmons has some rough roads ahead as well as she tries to help a human held in thrall to the Kree ruler. You see, the Kree take perfect examples of humanity and make them into priest like servants. When Simmons helps the priest, she brings herself to the attention of the Kree ruler. Now, Simmons must take the place of the injured human chattel. The Kree leader deafens SImmons and paints her up into his new servant. And yikes, we’ve seen Simmons start a season trapped alone in another galaxy, but this somehow feels worse.

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Where is Fitz, you ask? Fitz does not jump into the future and seems to be back in the past working on a way to get his friends home. The agents do find a message from Fitz that simply reads, “Working on it,” so you know that the good guys could have a back door out of this hellish future.

And, oh, there is so much more. There’s some badass Kree chick who kills people using weaponized balls (not like that you sick freak, like Phantasm), and you just know that leg injury or no, May and the ball chick are going to have a throw down. There’s so many questions to be answered as it seems like the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have jumped into time and space and into their darkest hour, and boy, is it going to be fun to watch them fight to save the future.

“Orientation” is a great opening episode that beats the shit out of bald Inhumans listlessly wandering around Hawaii. Good show Marvel, this was a daring start that no one could have predicted. Daisy Johnson, destroyer of worlds, that’s just some mind-blowing shiznit right there.  

Marvel Moments

– There was a great deal of speculation between seasons that Coulson and company’s adventures in space would lead into the MCU introduction of S.W.O.R.D.. S.W.O.R.D. is SHIELD’s space division and basically exists in order to protect the Earth from alien incursions. With a huge alien invasion coming in Avengers: Infinity War, now could have been the perfect time to introduce SHIELD’s space aces. But with this week’s S.P.E.A.R. joke, I guess S.W.O.R.D. is just not a direction we’ll be going anytime soon.

– The creative minds behind Agents of SHIELD really did a deep dive for our bug aliens du jour. The insectoid Vrellnexians first appeared in Thor #212 (1973) and were created by Gerry Conway and John Buscema. The Vrellnexians appeared in exactly one modern Marvel tale when a race of lizard like aliens ended up on Asgard after the Vrellnexians attacked the lizards’ home world. Thor and has pals helped the lizards against the Vrellnexians until the lizards also turned on the Asgardians. The Vrellnexians popped up in a minor tale in the 2099 Universe (2099: Manifest Destiny #1, 1998), but are really just a minor footnote in the Marvel cosmos. But hey, now the Vrellnexians have made a live action debut before the Skrulls so they got that going for them. The comic book Vrellnexians were all sorts of fuzzy wuzzy and kinda cute. But holy Ridley Scott, the TV Vrellnexians were not.

– It’s interesting that Agents of SHIELD has become a bridge between the Marvel Earth and the Marvel Cosmos. Even Iron Man and Captain America haven’t really interacted with aliens yet. That’s all coming in Avengers: Infinity War, but Coulson and company made it to space first. And what about the idea that even if the Avengers defeat Thanos, Daisy will just destroy the world? That’s the kind of stuff that causes heads to explode, I tells ya.

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4 out of 5