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Recap / Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2 E1 "Shadows"

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The Season Two premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Coulson and his team are now wanted fugitives with limited resources—but that's not stopping them from keeping the world safe from powerful and unseen threats everywhere. However, with new members they hardly know, will S.H.I.E.L.D. ever be trusted again?


Tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Daniel Whitehall is practically cheerful in his introduction while explaining to his subordinate that HYDRA will continue in the wake of Red Skull's death and that the obelisk has immense potential. When he's captured by Agent Carter and the Howling Commandos, he simply says HYDRA's motto in a jaunty manner.
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  • Amputation Stops Spread/Life-or-Limb Decision: Hartley has Hunter cut off her forearm when the Obelisk attaches itself to her hand and starts to kill her.
  • Anachronism Stew: Jim Morita is wearing a 90s Bowman radio headset in 1945.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • The final V-Formation Team Shot of Season 1 showed the new version of Team Coulson comprised of Coulson himself, May, Skye, Triplett, and Simmons, with the implication that Fitz might be Put on a Bus due to his injuries. This is the case except for The Reveal that it's Simmons who ended up leaving due to Fitz's condition.
    • The show pulls a quite cruel double one with Fitz's condition. After it was left vague at the end of Season One, our first look at him makes it appear he's catatonic, before we see he's still functional despite having lost his genius and suffering from aphasia. Then it turns out he's much worse than that.
  • Beard of Evil/Beard of Sorrow:
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    • Ward has grown one in captivity. He's not allowed razors because he uses them to cut himself.
    • Fitz is working on a Beard of Sorrow of his own, at least compared to his perfectly clean-shaven appearance throughout Season One.
  • Bittersweet Ending: S.H.I.E.L.D. now has a cloaking device, but Creel got the Obelisk, Fitz is in bad shape, Simmons has left the team, HYDRA is far better off, and Hartley and Idaho died in the attempt.
  • Boxed Crook: Ward, captured agent of HYDRA is willing to give Team Coulson intelligence regarding HYDRA but only if Skye is the one asking.
  • Break the Cutie: Fitz and heart-rendingly so. A combination of Ward's betrayal, prolonged oxygen deprivation, and Simmons leaving have broken his mind.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Jim Morita and Dum Dum Dugan appear in a flashback.
    • Talbot also makes a reappearance.
  • Call-Back:
    • Simmons wears the same outfit she did in "F.Z.Z.T.", which doubles as Foreshadowing that she's once again left Fitz in the belief that she's protecting him.
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    • Coulson makes a snarky reference to Maria Hill going to work for Stark Industries, something that was previously seen in both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the Season One episode "Nothing Personal". He calls her a private sector sell out.
  • The Cameo: Agent Carter, Jim Morita, and Dum Dum Dugan appear in a flashback at the beginning of the episode.
  • Comicbook Movies Dont Use Codenames: Creel is only referred to as "Absorbing Man" in a passing reference to his abilities, more along the lines of being an absorbing man instead of the Absorbing Man. In addition, his "Crusher" name is never used outside of the context of his past as a boxer.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: Ward is being held at Playground Base so that Coulson, May and Skye can press him for HYDRA intelligence when needed.
  • Continuity Nod: Ward's Forcefield Door is the same technology used to shield Quinn's island home/lab in "The Asset".
  • Dead Star Walking: Lucy Lawless lasts all of one episode.
  • Death Faked for You: Garrett faked Creel's death, striking him off of SHIELD's Gifted list, and enlisted him as a HYDRA agent.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Ward crossed his after Team Coulson dismantled Garrett's operation and killed him in the previous season. He attempted suicide multiple times and had to be forcibly sedated. He says he came through the other side, and that he's found some sort of peace.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Dum Dum Dugan pumps his shotgun while he and Morita discuss the German word for "nuts".
  • Elemental Shapeshifter: Creel can take on the properties of any material he touches. He thinks better of trying this with the Obelisk, instead rubberizing his hand to carry it safely.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: With the reveal that Simmons is just an hallucination of Fitz, you can't watch back the episode without a different view of their semi-romantic interactions.
  • Fakeout Escape: After being imprisoned in a Glassy Prison, Creel turns it to his advantage by mimicking the walls and making himself transparent, fooling the guards into thinking he's somehow escaped.
  • Flashback: One to 1945, featuring Peggy Carter and a few Howling Commandos as SSR agents. They retrieve the original 0-8-4 from a HYDRA compound.
  • Forcefield Door: Ward is contained behind one. Skye lampshades this by making sure there's no button she can hit by accident which will shut it off.
  • Foreshadowing: In the scenes featuring Simmons, astute viewers may notice that no one apart from Fitz ever talks to her, and other character's points-of-view conveniently leave her just behind a door or wall. This foreshadows The Reveal that she isn't really there and Fitz is just having hallucinations. Also, she is wearing the exact same clothes as she was in the episode "F.Z.Z.T.," where she also tried to leave Fitz for his own good. Fitz's fear that he's hallucinating the transformation of the object under the microscope earlier in the episode provides a clue as well. There's also the fact that she does nothing but talk to Fitz and morally support him, instead of doing any actual work herself.
    • There's a more long-term one about Simmons, too: in the first scene where May visits Coulson in his office, she walks in just as he's wrapping up a phone conversation, saying something to the effect of "Only use the dead-drop from now on; there aren't enough payphones left in this country." Judging by the fact that Episodes 3 and 5 both show Simmons using a dead-drop to communicate with Coulson, it's likely that May walks in on his last telephone conversation with her as she establishes her deep cover identity.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Whitehall's Iconic Item is a pair of old-fashioned glasses with small, circular lenses.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When the Howling Commandos are packing up all the confiscated HYDRA equipment, Dum-Dum briefly glances inside one, giving us a glimpse of what appears to be the blue alien stored in the Guest House in "T.A.H.I.T.I."
  • Funny Background Event: Koenig's frantic motioning at Coulson to tone it down (just after encouraging him to take it up a notch) when the latter goes over the top while impersonating Talbot.
  • Glassy Prison: Creel is kept in one by the military. He absorbs the material to render himself see-through, tricking the guards into opening the cell because they think he's gone.
  • G-Rated Drug: Not only can Creel absorb the properties of any material, he's said to enjoy doing so, particularly when they're more complex.
  • Groin Attack: Dum Dum and Jim consider strapping blasting caps to Whitehall's testicles, before pausing to consider the German word for "nuts".note 
    Dum Dum: I don't know, but I'm sure we'll find out if we strap a blasting cap to them.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Zigzagged.
    • There might be some reason that the soldiers tasked with guarding Creel stand outside the door with their backs to him, but if you have a man known for his ability to absorb the characteristics of materials he touches and he's inside a glass box, one should probably stop for a moment to consider that his cell might not really be empty.
    • It's really tough for Team Coulson to get "General Jones" inside. Even with Talbot's access code and a voice modulator for Coulson to impersonate him, the gatekeepers refuse to let them inside until Skye hacks their system and adds "General Jones" to the schedule.
  • Hallucinations: Fitz has been having these of Simmons, and his "cloaking device" is rather more incomplete than he believes it to be.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Coulson and May don't want Skye to talk with the now imprisoned Ward because they're afraid he'll "fill her head with lies". Skye doesn't give him a chance. As soon as he says one word not directly related to her interogation, she cuts him off.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Ward claims he wants nothing more than to help Skye, after a few failed suicide attempts have given him some perspective. Skye, for her part, wants nothing of it. Coulson humors him because at least Ward is giving up HYDRA intel in the process.
  • Holographic Terminal: The Toolbox Fury gave Coulson in last season's finale turns out to be a database of S.H.I.E.L.D. and S.S.R. history that projects a holographic interface around its user and also responds to voice commands. Coulson has become an expert at using the hologram technology after not even being able to find the power switch for FitzSimmons' holotable in Season One.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted. Fitz's brain damage is very much a case of Reality Ensues, there's no fix.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Considering all the bad things that happened to Fitz towards the end of Season One, Season Two doesn't seem to start out too badly for him: he's no longer comatose, he's functioning fairly well in spite of suffering brain damage, and has Simmons there to take care of him. The Reveal at the end of the episode shows that only the first of the three is actually true, and all of his scenes have been presented to the audience Through the Eyes of Madness.
    • A more short-term one occurs when Hartley's team appear to have escaped after their altercation with Creel, albeit with Hartley missing an arm - only to have their car crushed by Creel, who promptly regains control of the artifact they were fighting for, outright killing two of the three members of the team in the process.
  • Imaginary Friend: The Simmons we see throughout the episode is Fitz's hallucination.
  • Improvised Weapon: Ward's suicide attempts include using a button from his pants and a well-folded piece of paper.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Ward reveals to Skye that he's attempted to kill himself several times while imprisoned, only for each of his would-be weapons to be taken away. Then he tried repeatedly running into a wall as hard as he could, only to be forcibly sedated for his own safety.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Talbot's eleven year old son wants to join the Navy when he grows up. Talbot (an Air Force officer) is not amused.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Much of the episode is spent trying to obtain one, which will allow them to use the Bus without it being shot down on sight. Fitz is trying to rig one up but not having much luck, so Coulson has the team hijack a Quinjet which has a working version.
  • Irony: When Fitz is afraid that he's hallucinating, he promptly seeks and receives reassurance that he's not from Simmons, who actually is his hallucination.
  • Large Ham: Coulson seems to be enjoying himself while impersonating Talbot, possibly as a jab at the general. Koenig encourages Coulson to ham it up to stay in character and then cringes when he goes too far.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • During his fight with May, Absorbing Man ends up with an Improvised Weapon that looks a lot like the ball-and-chain he carries in the comics.
    • Triplett's alias is "General Jones", a likely nod to Gabe Jones, one of the Howling Commandos.note 
    • Creel absorbs the essence of a chunk of wood, turning himself into a tree being that looks suspiciously similar to Groot.
    • Creel's past as a boxer is similar to the comics, where a non-powered Creel boxed Battlin' Jack Murdock in Murdock's final fight. This was revealed in the Daredevil: Yellow miniseries.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Simmons leaves in hopes that Fitz will recover better without her there. He instead hallucinates a version of her that helps him work, reminding him of various words. Coulson believes that her absence has only made him worse, though the hallucination seems to at least be helping to some extent.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Obelisk isn't actually in the shape of an obelisk, but more of a three-dimensional bowtie.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Hartley's team fled the army warehouse by SUV, and they had to ram a gate to do it. Creel, shirtless and on foot, somehow managed to get ahead of them without even being seen.
  • Oh, Crap!: Once they backtrace the HYDRA signal, The Team learns that HYDRA is more widespread than Talbot would like to believe, and still much larger than their own ragtag organization.
  • Older Than They Look: Dr. Whitehall, who first appeared in the WWII era, appears in the present day and he hasn't aged one bit.
  • One-Word Title
  • Overranked Soldier: Invoked. Tripp infiltrates a military base by pretending to be a General when he's really only about old enough to be a Major at best.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Creel allows himself to be captured, knowing the prison he'll be kept in is on the same base as the Obelisk. Since they have no idea how to contain him, escape is simple.
  • Put on a Bus: A rare character-only example: though Elizabeth Henstridge still appears, there's no indication in the episode of where the (non-hallucinatory) Simmons has gone or when (if ever) she'll return.
  • Reset Button: A minor example. Despite earning some apparent goodwill from the military in last season's finale, S.H.I.E.L.D. is back to being targets in this episode. More specifically, they are a target of General Talbot; he brags how he shut down S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra.
  • The Reveal: Fitz has been hallucinating Simmons the whole episode.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Hunter pulls this when the Obelisk latches onto Hartley's arm and begins killing her. He helps her up and they abandon the mission, though Creel manages to catch up with them.
  • Ship Tease: Skye and Trip have developed a close friendship following the events of Season 1, and make mildly flirtatious comments to one another when Trip shows her his U.S. Army disguise.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: While other first season agents (Hand, Garrett) appear in the flash-back, Director-emeritus Fury is mentioned, but all shots have him just out of frame, not even shown giving the toolkit to Coulson.
  • Special Guest: Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos appears as himself in an interview with Talbot.
  • The Stinger: Reveals that Creel's employer is Daniel Whitehall, the HYDRA leader seen in the flashback to the 40s, who apparently hasn't aged since.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: Just when it seems like Hartley will live and they've gotten away, Creel shows up and totals the SUV, killing Hartley and Idaho.
  • Take That!: Coulson mentions "the sellouts in the private sector", clearly referring to Maria Hill working for Stark Industries after Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Tempting Fate: Talbot boasts of having pulled up both HYDRA and SHIELD "by the roots". Not only do we know this isn't true of HYDRA based on the stinger in The Winter Soldier, but the team discovers that HYDRA is far more widespread than they thought. Sure enough, Talbot is attacked by HYDRA and then rescued/abducted by New SHIELD.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Over the course of the episode, Fitz doesn't seem too bad. He has trouble remembering words, but he has Simmons to help him and he seems to be doing well enough with a cloaking device he's trying to build. At the end of the episode, however, the rest of the team observes him by camera, revealing that Simmons is a hallucination and his "cloaking device" is actually random junk soldered together. Simmons in fact left because she feared her presence wasn't helping, and Coulson believes the damage to his temporal lobe is too extensive to heal.
  • Tomato Surprise: The Reveal that Fitz has been hallucinating Simmons for the entire episode.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Hartley just grabs an unknown object which she knows must be dangerous but doesn't know how or why, her apparent plan being to club Creel with it. Instead she learns what it does the hard way.
  • Touch of Death: The Obelisk kills whoever touches it, so long as they make skin contact. It takes a while, but it also induces a death grip to make sure the victim doesn't let go. Hartley has her forearm cut off to save herself, and Creel gets around it by rubberizing his hand first.
  • Visible Invisibility:
    • Creel can use his powers to blend in with his surroundings, but he has to stand still to avoid detection. Also, light passes through him differently after he absorbs the properties of his cell walls and stands against them during his escape.
    • The Quinjet Triplett and Skye hijack cloaks itself but, because the technology only projects an image on top of the Quinjet's body, it still casts a shadow.
  • Visual Pun: Early on, Coulson explains how Creel won his fights as a boxer by turning his fists into steel. The other guy would then look like he had a "glass jaw" after going down in one hit. Creel later gives himself a literal glass jaw as part of his Wallpaper Camouflage.
  • Wallpaper Camouflage: Creel pulls this twice. When he's locked up in the army warehouse, he absorbs the glass and stands perfectly still, leading his captors to assume he's somehow escaped. Later on, he absorbs the wall and does the same with Hartley is searching for the 0-8-4, then tries to ambush her once she's located it.
  • Wham Line:
    • When Skye is down in the prison cell dealing with Ward:
      Ward: There's so much more I want to tell you about—[wall goes opaque again and Skye walks out]—...your father.
    • When the agents are questioning why they needed to steal cloaking tech:
      Coulson: Fitz said he could engineer cloaking, but I'm afraid he can't do anything. The damage to his temporal lobe was too extensive. He's not the same and since Simmons left, he's only getting worse.

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