And it does seem like the writers responded to feedback going into this season and did their best to keep the main story interesting without giving the impression of waiting too long before something actually interesting happens as it waits for other movies to be released.
To be fair, the revelations at the end of the last season did a lot to help provide a lot more different avenues to explore this time around. And I felt the show has a pretty good start this time around, but still the weight of movie-related obligations certainly exerted some pressure on the direction of the writing, especially towards the end.
Synopsis: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a US superhero TV show created by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen. The show has also reached a point where characters created for the TV series are now appearing in the comics, which is a cool thing indeed.
After the events of the first season,. Hydra is out in the open and S.H.I.E.L.D. remains in shambles. Coulson (Clark Gregg) is pretty much Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. by default and he has to figure out how to do justice by his former boss Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) and yet also carry out the spirit of his way of managing the organization. Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) is a wreck after the damage to his brain last season and the loss of Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) on the team. What he doesn't know is that Simmons is working undercover with Hydra in order to feed information back to Coulson and his team.
The second half of the season really brings to focus on Skye (Chloe Bennet) and her whole secret past. As much as there was a lot of references to it throughout the first half of the season, especially with the mysterious "Doctor" (Kyle MacLachlan) going around the show with his own agenda. And of course the second half of the show has to serve the large purpose of developing the story of the Inhumans as they play a role in the future movies.
What was most intriguing to me going into this season was how Coulson was falling back into the old S.H.I.E.L.D. pattern of keeping secrets from the rest of the team. He already did this to some extent in the first season, but this time around he really took things a new level. And to balance him being all cool and aloof to the team, we also have him leaning on May (Ming-Na Wen) for support more than ever before. His strange compulsion to carve those archaic symbols being a secret shared only with May really did something for their dynamic on the show. They had always been generally closer to one another than the rest of the team, but here that familiarity became critical without falling into the temptation of turning romantic, as is popular among shows these days.
That said, I'm both happy and sad that they decided to dispel a lot of the mystery behind Skye's character this season. She was a little annoying in the first season and to have her sort of the focus of a lot of this season practically grated on me. But at the same time, her character has been quite fulfilling and I'm glad that they didn't stretch things out for another season. Now we're in a better position to tell other stories and to be fair, Skye is a much better character now that her silly orphan angle has been put aside. Plus she has powers!
The first half of the season felt distinctly apart from the second half of the season, and that felt a little weird. The first half felt like a strong follow-up to the prior season and had a strong affinity for the core tone of the show. The second half felt like it was rushing forward with a rather large plot that had been entrusted to the show to develop. It wasn't entirely bad, but it didn't feel quite as smooth and on point as the first half had.
Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) probably suffered the most this season in terms of character development. He was a rather interesting character in the first season and the twist at the end was appropriately shocking and wonderful for his character. Again he seemed to be on an interesting path in the first half of the season and then got shoved way into the back in the second half. And he's a good character with a lot more to off the show than to be a 1-dimensional villain.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a show that continues to break new ground given how it ties to a larger movie universe but is also trapped by it. The writers still need to figure out how they want to navigate their way through the various pressures that affect the pull the show into different directions. Thus the season still gets a 4 pieces of stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. equipment out of a possible 5.