If you're looking to jump in to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there's a lot of in-universe mythology to catch up on.
If you follow television coverage, you've probably heard three things about Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
- Its first season was disappointing. Discouraging!
- Season 2 is better. Like, a lot better. Encouraging!
- Season 2 is better largely because it's gone much heavier on mythology and serialized storytelling, which means it's tough to penetrate if you haven't watched the rest of it -- including the supposedly-lackluster first season. Discouraging again!
Indeed. But fret not! With Agents taking a week off before its mid-season winter break (which actually isn't, but we'll come to that) and thus column-space in need of filling this week, I've gone ahead and drafted this quick, conversational catch-up guide -- which should (hopefully) prove helpful to anyone who wants to dip into the series' recent installments without having to commit to watching everything that came before. Enjoy!
(This should go without saying, but SPOILER WARNING is in effect for both seasons and for the Marvel Studios movies)
Alright. First question: What is S.H.I.E.L.D.?
First question-answered-with-a-question-for-reference: Have you seen the Marvel Movies?
Yes! Well, some of them. Most of them. I think? Some, at least.
Okay. Did you see The Avengers?
Dude, everyone's seen The Avengers. I'm pretty sure there are undiscovered tribes deep in the Amazon rainforest who've never seen a White man face to face... but they've seen The Avengers.
Good. So, that jacked-up sci-fi version of the CIA/NSA Samuel L. Jackson was running in The Avengers? That's S.H.I.E.L.D.
Oh! So it's a show about a huge army of badass 007 types with flying aircraft-carriers who hang out with superheroes?
Not exactly. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. focuses on the adventures of a small team of specialists from the Agency, led by Agent Phil Coulson.
That sounds familiar...
He was the Agent in The Avengers who was a huge Captain America fanboy. Clark Gregg played him.
Didn't he die?
Yup. That's part of the main story in season 1. As far as Coulson knows, he was only "dead" for a brief few moments before doctors pulled him back from the brink, but quick-thinking Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) lied to The Avengers and told them he had died so that they'd have something to rally behind re: taking the fight to Loki. For going along with this, Coulson has been given a high-tech private jet ("The Bus") and his own team to run as a covert mini-Agency running down X-Files-type phenomena. But there's a problem.
Over the course of season 1, Coulson discovers that he actually full-on died, stayed that way for days and then got Frankenstein'd back to life by S.H.I.E.L.D. super-science -- specifically, a serum derived from the (apparently) ancient corpse of a blue-skinned alien. Said serum made most exposed to it crazy, so his memory got wiped. He unwiped it, then in season 2 cures himself of crazy by figuring out that the serum-induced visions are leading him to some sort of ancient lost city. But that's getting ahead of ourselves.