Is this the most audacious series of AOS so far? Almost certainly. But this is a show that seems to have been clinging to the edge for a while now, and perhaps that has given it the freedom to do whatever it damn well pleases. Which, by the way, is a wonderful thing! It would be difficult to think of another big budget, mainstream show that could jump from being in a virtual reality world (as it was in the previous series), onto a space station controlled by evil alien over-lords, way into the future, after the earth has been destroyed. Well, AOS can do just that with such dexterity, and a few knowing winks, that viewers won’t be jarred at all – just smile and enjoy the ride.
If Orientation, Part One was about setting up this new world, tantalising us with a few mysteries and a big reveal, then Part Two is all about further developing the new reality that the show has landed us in. Not all of this is particularly original, it must be said. There have been more than a few post-apocalyptic worlds in recent pop culture memory, even ones set in space, but the sight of earth floating in pieces nearby, definitely gives AOS’s post-apocalyptic backdrop an extra level of visual spectacle and drama. Equally familiar is the prophecy foretelling the appearance of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as potential saviours. Of course, well-used genre tropes provide their own pleasure. So, who’s complaining? Not this critic.
Most successfully, we find out more about the metrics – the black discs that people on the space station have embedded in their wrists. These, we now know, provide the Kree, who run the space station, with in-depth knowledge about the identity and activity of the wearer. In what is undoubtedly the most thrilling sequence in the episode, the Kree carry out what is called a ‘Renewal’ and use the metrics to discover the least productive humans on the station. These humans then either have to kill someone, or die themselves. This is a brilliant science-fiction concept that leads to all kinds of brutal inhuman behaviour. Ming-Na Wen once again steals the episode, fly-kicking her way onto the screen to stop a human trying to save his life by taking another. She then spin-kicks, punches, and finally throws him against a wall. Agent May, you’re the best!
This episode was further enlivened by some notable new cast members. Eve Harlow is memorable as Tess, who befriends the S.H.I.E.L.D agents, believing that they have the capacity to make things better, and helps them to integrate. Sci-fi fans will recognise Harlow as Maya from another post-apocalyptic series, The 100, in which her character met a bad end in another post-apocalyptic shelter. What is it with this girl and the end of the world? Whatever, she’s a likeable, sympathetic presence and a fan favourite, or soon will be.
The character that will perhaps stick in the mind above all others in this episode, however, is Sinara, played by Florence Faivre. Sinara is a dangerous, and let’s face it, dangerously sexy Kree woman who spends the episode grinding a pair of Chinese worry balls. Not that she needs to be worried. It’s the humans who displease her, or her even more evil boss, that need to be scared. Those balls are lethal. Faivre, who doesn’t have any lines, manages to convey a kind of cool restrained menace in her every look and gesture. She holds the screen with her body language alone.
We’re only two episodes in and already it’s apparent that AOS is in better shape than ever. It’s a show that at this point seems able to do anything.
4.5 / 5