Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 1 Wrap-Up

Entertainment Television
OK, everyone! Look earnest!
OK, everyone! Look earnest!

Back in January, I made a fairly dour mid-season denouncement of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on my personal blog (you can guess by the title, Agents of Meh, that I wasn’t enamored). In it, I declared that, with the Coulson reveal done, that the season-to-date amounted to a lot of sound, a little Fury, and ultimately signified not a whole hell of a lot (other than establishing that Coulson was the only interesting character on the show).

Well a funny thing happened after that episode, Skye got herself shanked and Bill Paxton showed up as old-school operative John Garrett to help save her. We got a look at how this team worked together to save their own, and how they were willing to step outside of the S.H.I.E.L.D. confines to do so. Also, with the addition of outside influences, we started to see where the stress points were in the core group (one of the most obvious, that had one of the best payoffs, was Fitz’s undeclared love for Jemma). Characters started to grow beyond their proscribed tics.

Then Captain America: The Winter Soldier hit and (this is a spoiler for anyone who has been under a rock for the past month or so) all Hydra let loose. Those outlier thoughts of  Coulson’s? Suddenly they were necessary survival tactics; but at least he had his team…right?

(Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t seen the post-Winter Solider episodes. They’re on Hulu now, so you should do yourself a favor and check them out…I’ll wait.)

Then Whedon did what he does best, take a carefully established universe and turn it on its head. Ward betrayed the team, Garrett turned out to be the Clairvoyant, May seemingly betrayed Coulson…hell, even Fitz got in on the action with his seething jealousy of Trip.

The characters became much more interesting once all the stable parts of their world were stripped away. My favorites actually ended up being those I had originally found most annoying. May started showing more than just one emotion and her struggle to let people see something other than neutrality or anger was, at times, captivating. Fitz blanched in the face of the tsunami of change, unable to accept it even when the evidence is staring him in the face (literally). What started out as an annoying character flaw became a tragic coping mechanism; to the point where Fitz is so afraid of any change that it takes death to finally shake him into confessing his love.

And then there’s Grant Ward, Mr. Perfect Double-Agent. His betrayal was a beautifully shocking moment and made all of the annoying hospital-sheet crispness of his character in the first half of the season worth watching. Especially as you could see him struggle again and again with wanting to be that guy – despite the fact that he knew it was just a facade. I like that the show-runners took the time to flashback and establish the deep roots of his character so that his conflict in the last few episodes wasn’t just “Ward likes Skye. Ward is confused.”

Speaking of Skye…I like her more; but I’m still not convinced she’s central-focus worthy. Sure, we get a glimpse at her gore-soaked parent at the end of the finale; but will that be enough? She’s just so damn earnest (though I’m sure there will be a stripping away of that as well once Whedon gets his claws into her next season).

In addition to the character development, I was excited about how the final half of the season made the unified TV/Movie Marvel-verse really shine. The S.H.I.E.L.D. eps after Winter Soldier complete that movie’s story without having to use any of the characters from the movie. New plot elements are introduced (say hello to your new Director!), foundations are established for the new series (you can bet Trip’s granddad is part of Agent Carter), and new Marvel lore is established (Vigilante Deathlok? Life Model Decoys? Yes, please!). And all of it was done without making the audience wait another two years for the next Captain America sequel to roll around. By the time we catch back up with Cap, it’ll be a very different universe from where we last left him.

By the finale, it finally felt like a Whedon show. From the ultimate takedown of Garrett/Deathlok 1.0 (“Found it!”) to Fury and Coulson bantering in the middle of a gunfight (“Is this whole thing because you misunderstood my ‘One Man’ speech?”) that patent dark humor I was missing all season was in effect. Things started happening for the team (and their villains) in ways that meant something. If you dropped out mid-season, you owe it yourself to go back and catch up. That “holding pattern” feeling is gone. This finally feels like a show that’s hit its stride. Hopefully it will able to keep up the pace when it comes back in the Fall.

On a dad note, that mid-season Coulson brain-surgery scene was what convinced me that I should wait a bit before having my son watch it. I figure, if it’s disturbing enough to keep me awake, it’s probably going to be even more intense for him. However, the way things came together, I might have to relax the restrictions a bit – after all, he’s my compatriot for all of the Marvel movies, I can’t have him fall behind!

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!

6 thoughts on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 1 Wrap-Up

  1. My house has become huge fans. The last 13 (1/4?) of the season was fantastic. I let my kids watch, I grimaced at the grosser scenes and the Ward-May relationship, but in the end I was glad I did. My biggest payoff? When asked “What’s in the box?” on her castaway island and Fitz replies “The TARDIS!” My kids laughed so hard. It was then that I knew this was a show they needed to watch AND that I was succeeding as a geekdad.

  2. Is there a super powered villain in at least every 2 or 3 episodes? If not, I’m not interested. I keep reading blogs saying the show is “better” but I don’t know anyone who watches it, and I have not heard anyone say anything about the stuff that drove me away from the show…namely the fact that it’s Marvel in name only. No characters from the Marvel universe do anything but cameo to promote other, more interesting, projects, and the only super villains to speak of have been Dethlok (kind of) and Graviton (kind of). And forget about locations and cameos from bigger names like Spider-man or Fantastic Four (whose TV rights are securely in house), and places like Four Freedoms Plaza, Waconda,Latervia etc.
    And who is paying for this jet and keeping it in the air? This show is still terrible from everything I have seen. Oh, there was a sleeper agent and a couple of Hydra symbols flashed around? Wow. How about Strucker? Zemo? No? Of course not.

    I’m gonna pass until I hear they actually write this show like a classic Marvel series, and not a crappy Joss Whedon tv series.

    1. I actually like that they’re not just relying on big Marvel lore set pieces to bring in eyeballs. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see more characters and more locations; but I was surprised at how much my opinion changed about the core team by the end of the season. They might not be as big as the Avengers or Spider-Man; but to me they feel just as much a part of the universe that Marvel is building.

      Of course, this is coming from someone who owns the complete DVD sets of the Buffy, Angel, and Firefly series, despite them all being on Netflix, and watches them often. I’m a fan of how Whedon puts together his stories. I think that’s kinda requisite for really being able to enjoy the show.

  3. The show definitely got much better as the season went on. I liked the movie tie-in (though they should have waited another week or two to give us time to see it). While we liked the finale, the standing around joking in the late scenes took away from the impact. And as noted elsewhere, it’s clear they didn’t have Jackson on set at the same time as the others.

    On the overall Shield/Captain America story, it was a bit much. Hydra being hidden in Shield for 70 years is hard to swallow. Maybe a couple of key people like Garret, but recruiting large numbers of agents at all levels for generations with no one ever becoming suspicious is kind of unbelievable. And the US military so quickly hopping into bed with Hydra is also unbelievable. Maybe the clandestine branches secretly buying stuff, but generals showing acting like it’s a typical defense contractor.

    Still enjoyable, but I wish the plot details were a bit better. Kudos to them for not redeeming Ward, and for showing hard it was for Fitz to accept, that was well done. Looking forward to next season.

    (BTW I don’t buy Deathlok’s arc. From decent guy with kid to Hydra thug that Skye still thinks is a good guy. Even with a bomb in his head, a decent guy doesn’t help Hydra take over the world. Even if they have your son, you don’t kill others on an indefinite basis. He needed to be less sympathetic and not have Skye fawning on him afterward for that character to work.)

    1. I have to respectfully disagree on Deathlok – someone has my son and tells me they’re going to do something to him if I don’t do exactly what they say, when they say it…well someone’s going to have a very bad day and I’m going to make sure it’s not me or mine. I do wish there had been some contact between them at the end of the show, though – even if Ace had just looked towards the hill. I’ll be curious to see how that plays out.

      I actually thought that Cap 2 handled the Hydra infiltration rather well. Considering how many Nazi scientists the Defense Department employed after World War II, slipping Hydra sleeper agents into the mix would have been a simple thing to do. Or even just accepting “former” Hydra agents into S.H.I.E.L.D. outright – after all, you have coffee with someone for 70 years, you start to think that maybe they aren’t that bad of a guy after all. You have to suspend your disbelief when you start talking about Zola, but if you can accept that they transferred a mad scientist’s mind to a football field of reel-to-reel tape, then why not the idea that they could bump off a few contractors to cover up the dirty deed?

Comments are closed.