If the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a high school and the end of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s first season was graduation, the franchise’s first foray into television would easily have gotten the senior superlative for “Most Improved.” Co-creators Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tanchareon (and Joss Whedon, but since Age of Ultron broke him, his fingerprints on the series lessen by the hour) have kept the spy-versus-spy shenanigans on the up-and-up since season two, culminating in a third season premiere that acts as both a cap-off to last year’s turmoil and a deliriously fun introduction to a whole new issue: actual superheroes.
Thanks to the events of the season two finale, a whole new crises has arisen for the down-but-never-out gang to tackle – now led by a one-handed Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) – centering on a group of fish oil vitamins that became infused with the dreaded Terrigen Crystals after Skye (ahem, Daisy, played by Chloe Bennet) knocked a few containers into the ocean. Now, able-body minded individuals around the world are taking their daily vitamin dose and either becoming a superhero (I’ll take one!) or a statue of ash that crumbles to the the ground (nevermind!), depending on whether or not you have a dormant alien gene asleep in your DNA.
It’s a darkly nifty concept, and its all-encompassing reach gives season three nearly a pilot vibe; thanks as well to the introduction of Joey Gutierrez (Juan Pablo Raba), one of the new so-called “Inhumans” who discovers that thanks to his little fish oil supplement he now has the power to alter the state of different metals within a three meter radius.
He’s the show’s first out gay character, and the serenely cool scene in which the topic is breached (“I know that your ex-boyfriend was a health nut and wanted you to take better care of yourself,” Bobbi notes) is endearingly nonchalant. And for a character relegated to frustrating tirades on not wanting to hold a secret ever again in his life, Raba infuses him with some gruff likability that hopefully grows into a fully-functioning member of the group sometime in the future.