Tonight's episode of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." was enjoyable, because for the first time in a while (or so the show history goes) Phil Coulson stepped out from behind the desk of Director and went back into the field, playing a little game of reconnaissance and acquisition with Agent May.
Now of course normally Coulson would leave this kind of work to his agents, but this time, the mission requires a direct touch. The target, a painting that survived a parish fire that is being auctioned off. Now the painting itself is not what is important, but it is what is carved into the back of the painting. Alien symbols, like the ones from the obelisk and the ones that Coulson was carving into the walls. Lines and circles all joined together in various patterns that mean something, but as of now, not even we (the audience) can ascertain to what the symbols mean.
It was highly enjoyable to watch Coulson and May work together, their romantic banter when they were in character as a wealthy couple, their serious moments when they were all business scanning the room for HYDRA Agents or keeping an eye on out Glenn Talbot to make sure he doesn't spot them and blow the whistle on the entire operation.
This stood out, because as I said, it put Coulson out in the field, away from the tasks and work that come with heading a very fledgling S.H.I.E.L.D. It was fun and refreshing to see him out in the world, doing the whole secret agent thing again. It made me think back to the old 'Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.' comics from Marvel's halcyon days of the 1960s, back when the spy genre was a big deal in American culture, in movies and TV shows and also in comics. That was a new and exciting time for Fury, he was thrust from the world of being a war character into the dangerous and thrilling world of being a secret agent, going up against powerful and dangerous foes, armed with the latest high tech gizmos and gadgets in a new war against evil.
That's part of what is making this second season so enjoyable for me as a fan and as a reviewer. Its a "brand new" S.H.I.E.L.D. in so much as they are having to start out from scratch in a lot of ways. They may know their enemy, but they are not in the fighting trim they were before the events of "The Winter Soldier". Its a whole new ballgame, or as Baron Strucker stated at the end of the "Winter Soldier" film, "It's not a world of spies anymore. Not even a world of heroes. This is the age of miracles...and there is nothing more horrifying." And Strucker is not wrong.
This new world, this new game that S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA are now playing, it is not just to gain ground in weapons or even political power, it is now about gaining a hold on people and machines that could tip the scales to either side, upset the balance in ways that the fictional Marvel movie/TV-verse could not even begin to imagine. How those scales are tipped, well, we shall just have to see as the season progresses.