Marvel's Agents of SHIELD is (are?) returning next week and there's been tons of talk about what viewers could expect and a lot of positive buzz coming off the end of last season. So, who and what survived the first season, and where is the team headed next?
Of course, smart producers will make sure any new season is new viewer friendly, so anyone who skipped the first season, or even most of it, shouldn't be lost, but why not check out some of what you missed? We're not going to touch on the new characters or the intriguing mini-series that will premiere mid-season - there's a time for everything and everything for its time.
The heart and head of SHIELD, Phil Coulson died fighting Loki in The Avengers, but was brought back to life ("The Magical Place") using Kree (EDIT: allegedly) growth hormones called GH.325 ("TAHITI") because - as face of SHIELD Nick Fury said - the world needs heroes, and Phil Coulson is an Avenger. Coincidentally, the stuff that brought him back to life may have expanded his mind, because he has seen (and drawn) flashes of alien hieroglyphics. It's possible he has something like "cosmic awareness," a power that connects certain Marvel characters to the secrets of the universe.
An aggravation for some fans who claimed she was a "Mary Sue" character, we eventually learned that Skye's legal name is Mary Sue Poots ("Only Light in the Darkness"), but that she was found as a baby in the Hunan province of China, declared an 0-8-4 for unrevealed reasons, and has a really creepy looking biological father who may or may not be human ("Beginning of the End"). She was also a "hacktivist" (re: cyber terrorist) with the organization Rising Tide, about whom we know very little.
Melinda "the Cavalry" May is the team's resident butt kicker. She's credited with saving numerous agents at various times ("Repairs"), and is master of the Berserker Staff ("The Well"). Utilized as escrima sticks or a bo, it gives her super strength, agility and speed. Sure, anyone can use the staff, but only May has been able to control it. In her personal life, she hooked up with Ward for a while, was once married and her mother has appeared on the show, apparently an agent for another clandestine department ("Only Light in the Darkness").
Fitz-Simmons, as the pair are called (with a hyphen), are wunderkind biologist Jemma Simmons and technological genius Leo Fitz. They attended the SHIELD Sci-Ops academy together under Agent Weaver ("Seeds") mentored by Professor Vaughn ("Pilot"). The English girl and Scottish laddy have been best friends for years and are not the most experienced in the field, or in love. Jemma had a crush on Leo, but by the time he noticed and reciprocated, she developed a mutual attraction with Trip. By season's end, Fitz was in a coma (having saved Simmons' life) and Weaver was last seen escaping Hydra.
The last addition to the principal cast was Agent Antoine "Trip" Triplett, something of a rival to Ward ("TAHITI"), shares a mutual attraction with Simmons and has the distinction of being the grandson of one of Captain America's World War II Howling Commandos ("Only Light in the Darkness"). Betchya that will be important this season.
For their supporting cast, the team briefly befriended the nicest secret agent ever, Eric Koenig ("Providence") at the Providence base before something really bad happened to him ("Only Light in the Darkness"). Fortunately he has a brother, Billy Koenig ("Beginning of the End"), who is seemingly identical in looks and personality. He's located at their new Playground base, but there may even be another brother Sam Koenig (San Diego Comic Con 2014). So... triplets or LMDs? Life Model Decoys have been mentioned in the MCU before (The Avengers and "The Hub") .
Former Deputy Director Maria Hill has officially quit SHIELD and currently works for Stark Industries (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and "Nothing Personal") but she keeps tabs on Coulson's kids. More mysterious though, is Dr. Streiten ("Pilot"). He was one of the doctors who rebuilt Coulson from the brain up, but he eventually left SHIELD and is now off-grid ("The Magical Place").
There's also former SHIELD agent (and unwitting Hydra pawn) Akela Amador ("Eye-Spy"). The eye-patch wearing ex-spy was last seen being taken away by SHIELD for crimes she was forced to commit. Coulson said he would ensure she receives a lenient punishment, but whatever the case, many arrests made by SHIELD have been overturned in the wake of the Hydra incident. Then, of course, there's the other eye-patch-wearing former SHIELD agent, but I imagine you know who Nick Fury is.
Mike Peterson is expected to return this season, and likely with his son Ace ("Pilot"). Mike joined SHIELD ("The Bridge") but was captured and forced into Hydra service as the cyborg Deathlok ("TRACKS").
Raina ("The Girl in the Flower Dress") was Coulson's most persistent and personal foe last season. She was obsessed with anyone who had powers and definitely acted... let's say not human... and it turns out she has a secret. Whatever Skye is, Raina is apparently the same thing, and she knows Skye's real father ("Beginning of the End").
The big returning villain everyone is waiting for is Dr. Franklin Hall, who merged with the mysterious element Gravitonium ("The Asset"). In the comics he becomes the egomaniac Graviton, but on the show he is currently in one of tech billionaire Ian Quinn's labs ("Beginning of the End"), although Quinn has no idea Hall is in the Gravitonium soup. Quinn was arrested by Coulson's group, but after SHIELD's downfall he was able to get his record expunged.
The most underwhelming villain of last season might be Vanchat. He was Ward's high-level target ("Pilot"), he had his own gulags and was the reason Coulson's previous team died ("Eye-Spy") but he turned out to be a pushover when Coulson's current team took him out ("The Magical Place").
The team will likely be on the run from Col. Glenn Talbot ("Providence"). In the comics, Talbot relentlessly chased the Hulk for years, and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe he relentlessly chases ex-SHIELD agents. I wonder if he knows another Hulk character, the Abomination, was last seen in SHIELD cryo-freeze in Barrow, Alaska ("TRACKS")?
Elliot Randolph ("The Well") could be a super-powered ally, but he's been pretty enigmatic so far. He's an average Asgardian (so he's a god to humans, but a normal shlub to Thor) and masquerades as a college professor on Earth to avoid getting into conflicts. He was last seen going into hiding in the Portland.
Then there's the big dog. Grant Ward was one of SHIELD's top agents, often compared favorably to Black Widow, but he had a dark past ("The Well") in which he tortured his younger brother ("Only Light in the Darkness") and was trained to be heartless by now-deceased Hydra agent John Garrett. He may or may not have killed his dog Buddy ("Ragtag"), but he did kill Eric Koenig, so redemption is a long way away.
Agents recognized as being part of the new - unofficial - SHIELD are given lanyards ("Only Light in the Darkness"), but SHIELD often brings on unofficial agents called consultants (Marvel One-Shot "Consultant" on the Thor Blu-Ray). SHIELD maintains a policy of keeping secrets even from itself, so each agent is only given the information they need to know, based on their level of clearance. For example, Simmons is Level 5, Trip is Level 6, Ward was Level 7, May is Level 8 and as of this season, Coulson is the only Level 10.
Any mysterious person with powers is referred to as unregistered gifted (not mutants) until they've been contacted and identified by SHIELD through the Index Asset Evaluation and Intake ("Repairs") procedures. Rightly realizing that IAEaI is a horrible acronym, Skye calls this the "Welcome Wagon" instead. Of course, something that hasn't been identified at all is called an 0-8-4 ("0-8-4"). Think of that as the Marvel equivalent of an unidentified flying object. Anything fully analyzed is registered gifted and goes on the official Index ("The Girl in the Flower Dress").
The team will be based out of the Playground ("Beginning of the End"), a secret safe house established by Nick Fury at an undisclosed location after their previous bases Providence ("Providence") and the Hub ("The Hub") were taken over by Col. Talbot.
However, some SHIELD facilities that might still be controlled by agents friendly to Coulson's new order include the Sandbox ("FZZT") safehouse in the West African Sahara, as well as bases in Saudi Arabia and the Himalayas ("Turn, Turn, Turn"). There's also the Cube ("Providence"), which is a major location in the Marvel (comic) universe.
There is also the known unknown of Project PEGASUS that has worked closely with SHIELD (The Avengers) and handles above top secret superscience projects ("Pilot"). They are a pretty big deal in the comics, so we'll see if they show up this season.
On the flip-side, Hydra took over or destroyed other SHIELD facilities and may or may not still hold them. Most dangerously, that means the Fridge ("The Asset") - including the Icebox and Toy Store ("Providence") - was in enemy hands along with all of the captured supervillains ("Only Light in the Darkness") and all-powerful McGuffins ("0-8-4") that were stored there. Hydra also took over something called the Treehouse ("Turn, Turn, Turn") which is just the coolest name ever for a top secret spy base, so the team better visit it this season.
Hydra is, of course, the big bad to look out for as they have been secretly embedded in SHIELD for decades (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and "Turn, Turn, Turn") . They have their tentacles in various private businesses like oil corporation Roxxon, research companies StatiCorp and Accutech ("Repairs") and Cybertek ("TRACKS"). They were also behind Centipede, the super-soldier program that was the first season's big bad.
The team's main set in season 1 is still around for season 2: The Bus. Also answering to its call sign SHIELD-616, this fully armed and operational jumbo jet has vertical take-off and landing capabilities ("The Hub") and Star Wars-worthy guns ("Turn, Turn, Turn"). On board they have a ton of sci fi spy tech like the Holocom (named in "The Hub") used to visualize things Tony Stark-style, the Echo-Chamber (named in "TAHITI") which does the same thing but utilizes the entire storage bay, and specialized rooms like the Cage (the interrogation room named in "Yes Man") and Fitz-Simmons lab which are both lined with Vibranium and protected from numerous threats.
Fitz-Simmons created all kinds of unique tech used by the team, most notably the ICERs (named in "Yes Man") also called the Night-Night guns. The acronym stands for Incapacitating Cartridge Emitting rsomethingorother, and the guns come in very handy for a primetime series as they are visually cool (leaving blue marks on their targets) and non-lethal. The guns come in both rifle ("Pilot") and pistol ("Eye-Spy") form, although grenades, watches and other ICER weapons are out there. Fitz also developed tracking rounds ("End of the Beginning") and there's some kind of Firefly-inspired bouncy energy thing ("0-8-4" and "Turn, Turn, Turn"), not to mention the Hydra/Nazi-designed plasma laser ("0-8-4") that Coulson likes using. Then there's the weapony-seeming Mouse Hole ("Turn, Turn, Turn" and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) laser device for creating emergency exits anywhere.
Fitz, techie that he is, also developed various drones including the seven DWARFs ("Pilot") named for the Disney versions that can go into any area and record any kind of data, and the Golden RTVRs ("Repairs") which can track just about anything anywhere.
Well, there ya go, just about anything there is to know about MAoS Season 1 that might show up in Season 2. Anything I missed?
More connections between the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Earth-199999) and the Marvel Comics Universe (Earth-616) can be read episode-by-episode through the Secrets of SHIELD tag.