Marvel’s Agents of Shield is one of those rare shows that gets better with every season. What began as an enjoyable if lackluster spin-off of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become easily the best superhero show airing right now. It has amazing action sequences (both hand-to-hand combat and superpowered battles), the best special effects I’ve ever seen come out of a television show, and character arcs so well-written, viewers become deeply invested with each character. Agents of Shield returns for its sixth season, and it starts with a bang. Literally.
Warning: some spoilers ahead
The season 6 premiere, titled ‘Missing Pieces’, opens in space, with Enoch watching over the cryogenically-suspended Fitz when they’re attacked, and their ship is torn in half. We then fast-forward one year to find that Shield has changed quite a bit. Daisy and Simmons, with sidekicks Piper and Davis, are traveling through deep space in search of Fitz, kicking ass and taking names along the way. Their search leads them to Fitz’s cryopod, only to find it empty. Devasted, Simmons wants to travel even deeper into space to find Fitz, but the rest of the crew believe it’s best to return to Earth and regroup.
Back on Earth, Mack is still having self-doubts about being the new director of Shield following Coulson’s death last season. The team on Earth are tracking strange energy surges that are acting as interdimensional portals for raiders that look straight out of Mad Max. Mack and May seek to recruit Dr. Marcus Benson as the head of their new science division, as well as wanting him to help examine the energy surges. We also make the heartbreaking discovery that Mack and Yo-yo have split-up during the one-year gap. Yo-yo has been secretly seeing Agent Keller, a newcomer to the Shield team.
In space, Simmons argues that they need to go into deep space to search for Fitz, but Daisy, Piper, and Davis are wholly against it, arguing that they should first head back to Earth to regroup and resupply. Their argument is interrupted when the Kree Confederacy find them and attack. Daisy orders Simmons to enter Earth’s coordinates so they can make the jump to safety, but Simmons has already initiated the jump, having enter the coordinates for the planet she believes Fitz to be on.
On Earth, the Shield team get the location of the next energy surge with the help of Dr. Benson. They’re lead to a museum to stop the raiders from starting the next energy surge. Unfortunately, the Shield team fail, and the raiders open a portal to allow their leader through. Their leader, aka Sarge, appears from thin air driving a reinforced truck, barreling straight toward the Shield team. When Sarge exits the truck, Shield (and especially May), are shocked to find that Sarge looks exactly like Coulson. In the stinger for the episode, we find Fitz working in an alien workshop, barking an alien language to someone offscreen before injecting himself with something, causing his eyes to become bright.
From the beginning, the heart of the series is in its characters, and ‘Missing Pieces’ continues the trend. With the core team separated, the agents have become very different people from last season. Simmons has become dark and obsessed in her search for Fitz, Mack is doubting himself as the new director of Shield, and May is surprisingly well-adjusted following Coulson’s death. These characters have been put through the ringer and it shows. Just about each of these characters are going in a new direction emotionally, and it’s sure to make for compelling television. With Coulson gone and Fitz missing, themes of loss are at the center of this premiere episode, highlighting how loss changes people and the difficulty of moving forward while still lingering on a loss.
Agents of Shield proves once again why it is the best superhero show currently airing. With strong performances from the cast and the beginnings of deeply personal stories for both halves of the core Shield team, ‘Missing Pieces’ kicks off season 6 right. The premiere episode does a great job at setting up this season’s conflict and raising the stakes. The Shield team must deal with a new status quo and tensions are likely to rise. With the arrival of a dimension hopping raider that looks exactly like Coulson is not only a great way to keep Clark Gregg in the cast, but it’s sure to throw a wrench in the works. It will be interesting to see how the team deal with the loss of Coulson while fighting a villain with his face.
Agents of Shield airs Fridays at 8:00 p.m. (EST) on ABC.
(Photos: Marvel Entertainment)