"Shadows" is the first episode of the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
Coulson and his team are now wanted fugitives with limited resources--but that's not stopping them from keeping the world safe from powerful and unseen threats everywhere. However, with new members they hardly know, will S.H.I.E.L.D. ever be trusted again?
In 1945, the Strategic Scientific Reserve capture the last remaining HYDRA outpost as it is being evacuated. They take the lead HYDRA agent, Herr Whitehall, into custody, as well as the dangerous items stored there, including the "Obelisk." Before sending them off to Stark for testing, Agent Peggy Carter suggests the creation of a peacetime organization to keep such technology contained and to keep an eye on those who would use them.
In the present day, a team of Skye, May, and Triplett observe a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent selling intelligence on a Level 10 asset to a team of mercenaries working for Coulson. As they're making their deal, they are attacked by a mysterious third party who quickly kills the former agent, steals the intel, and jumps out a window 25 ft. above the ground. The team regroups with the mercenaries, Isabelle Hartley, Lance Blood, and Idaho and report back to Coulson at the Playground. Coulson reviews what they could retrieve, and discovers out that the Level 10 asset the former agent was selling information on was the item the SSR retrieved in 1945, the Obelisk, and the very first 0-8-4.
Meanwhile, the assassin who attacked them earlier gets in touch with his contact at Hydra. His contact rewards him for his efforts, and gives him a reward a diamond mined from Madagascar, which he absorbs into his skin and turns his forearm into a diamond.
Back at the Playground, Fitz and Simmons are studying the metal shards Skye recovered from the assassin. Fitz is clearly struggling with the damage done to his brain from when he almost drowned. The metal it slowly turns back into blood. May is able to match his DNA to Carl Creel, an individual who was crossed off the Gifted Persons Index; however, the supervising agent who was responsible for Creel's supposed termination was none other than John Garrett. Creel has the ability to absorb any substance he touches, and can consciously transform the molecules of his body into that substance. Now knowing Creel was working for HYDRA, Skye tries to get information from Grant Ward, who is currently imprisoned in at the Playground, as to his location. Ward, who now claims he wants to help S.H.I.E.L.D, isn't able to tell her where he is, but does reveal that Hydra would contact its agents through the white noise between S.H.I.E.L.D.'s communications. Koenig is quickly able to find one of HYDRA's communications to Creel.
The team heads to Washington to stop protect the newly-promoted Brigadier General Glenn Talbot and his family from Creel, but they aren't able to get to him in time. Talbot is quickly overpowered, but May is able to intervene just in time to get Creel away from him. Skye incapacitates him with a rifle after Creel turns a chain railing into a flail and absorbs the brass into his body. The army takes Creel into their custody, while S.H.I.E.L.D. are able to take Talbot back to the Playground. Coulson is ultimately unsuccessful in trying to convince Talbot to help them in securing the Obelisk, and drops him off in the middle of the desert. Meanwhile, Creel is able to escape his imprisonment by turning his entire body into the same substance as the cell.
Skye, Trip, May, and Hartley's mercenaries then infiltrate the army base to retrieve the Obelisk by posing as a military convoy. Although they're first held up at the gate, they're able to get through when Coulson calls the gate disguising his voice as Brigadier General Talbot's. Hartley finds the Obelisk, but is soon after attacked by Creel. Hartley attempts to use the Obelisk against him and grabs it, but the device does something to her that cripples her and won't let her let go of it. Creel escapes once the rest of the team comes to Hartley's aid. Under fire from the military, Skye asks Coulson if they should abort the mission. Coulson tells them not to abort, which makes Hunter to leave with Hartley and Idaho.
Skye, May, and Trip barely make it out by stealing a Quinjet. As they make their escape, Coulson reveals to Koenig and his mechanic, Alphonso "Mack" Mackenzie, that the reason he told them to continue was so they could steal that Quinjet, believing they could use its cloaking technology to gain an advantage over HYDRA. He doesn't believe Fitz can develop the technology on his own, as his mental state has been deteriorating ever since Simmons left, including hallucinations that makes him think she's still with the team. As Idaho drives Hartley and Hunter away from the base, Hunter is left with no option other than cutting off Hartley's hand. Right after he does this, Creel appears in the middle of the road and turns his body into asphalt. The car crashes into him and flips over. Hartley and Idaho are killed intantly, as Hunter watches helplessly as Creel absorbs the rubber in the car's tires into his hand and makes off with the Obelisk.
Back at HYDRA's base, Creel's contact informs his commanding officer, Dr. Whitehall, the same agent that the SSR recovered the Obelisk from in 1945, of Creel's success.
- Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson
- Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May
- Brett Dalton as Grant Ward
- Chloe Bennet as Skye
- Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz
- Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons
- B.J. Britt as Antoine Triplett
- Nick Blood as Lance Hunter
- Adrian Pasdar as Glenn Talbot
- Henry Simmons as Alphonso Mackenzie
- Patton Oswalt as Billy Koenig
- Lucy Lawless as Isabelle Hartley
- Wilmer Calderon as Idaho
- Reed Diamond as Daniel Whitehall
- Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
- Neal McDonough as Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan
- Kenneth Choi as Jim Morita
- Brian Patrick Wade as Carl Creel/Absorbing Man
- Matthew Glave as Roger Browning
- Simon Kassianides as Sunil Bakshi
- George Stephanopoulos as himself
- Raquel Gardner as Carla Talbot
- Ben Turner Dixon as HYDRA Officer
- Franco Vega as Military Leader
- Rich Ceraulo as Soldier
- JB Tadena as Private Tilden
Continuity and References to the Marvel Cinematic Universe
- Peggy Carter, Dum-Dum Dugan and Jim Morita appear in 1940' flashback scene.
- Lance Hunter is introduced.
- Carl Creel is introduced.
- Isabelle Hartley is introduced.
- Alphonso Mackenzie is introduced.
- Idaho is introduced.
- Daniel Whitehall is introduced.
- Sunil Bakshi is introduced.
- Jemma Simmons appears as a hallucination of Fitz.
- Antoine Triplett returns.
- Glenn Talbot returns.
- Billy Koenig returns.
- A Lola miniature toy, propaganda poster with Captain America and a Strategic Scientific Reserve logo are seen in Coulson's office.
- HYDRA soldiers appear in modern times and in a 1940' flashback scene with their appearance being that of how they looked in Captain America: The First Avenger.
- John Garrett is mentioned.
- Rising Tide is mentioned.
- Electronic copy of the mysterious drawing Coulson and Garrett made at the end of Beginning of the End appears.
- Red Skull is mentioned.
- Howard Stark is mentioned.
- Nick Fury is mentioned.
- Dead G.H. appears in 1940' flashback scene.
- I.C.E.R. guns appear.
- Strategic Scientific Reserve is mentioned.
- It is revealed that John Garrett was supervising agent of Carl Creel.
- Eric Koenig is mentioned.
- Skye's father is mentioned.
- Same gun used to incapacitate Deathlok at the beginning of "episode 16" is used to incapacitate Carl Creel.
- Antoine Triplett goes undercover as General Jones. This is a possible hint that his grandfather was Gabriel Jones.
- Quinjets appear.
- The character of Lance Hunter is introduced as a mercenary working with former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Hartley. In the comics, Hunter is the leader of S.T.R.I.K.E., a British intelligence agency similar to S.H.I.E.L.D.
- The location Talbot gives Koenig is "Sierra-Victor-Niner." "Sierra" and "Victor" were characters on Joss Whedon's previous show "Dollhouse."
- Even though he was not seen, Carl "Crusher" Creel was featured in the Netflix series Daredevil as a boxer in a match with Jack Murdock. He was Jack's final opponent as he was supposed to throw the bout, but beats Creel, leading to Jack's death.