Professional television reviewers – like the Washington Post’s Hank Stuever – typically provide their critiques of a show before it has even aired. While I certainly understand why they do this, it’s always seemed a little unfair to me because it can take some time for a show to find its footing or its audience. After all, there is only so much you can cram into a 30- or 60-minute block (though that is considerably less once you factor in commercials).
To me, one of the cases in this point has been Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which wrapped up its first season on ABC last night.
The Mysterious Mr. C and I have been watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since it first aired last September because he is a bit of a Marvel nut and loves the way they have been building out the comic books’ universe. But while I always enjoyed watching Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson (I mean, who doesn’t?!), I was initially skeptical of some of the other actors. Ming-Na Wen, as Agent Melinda May, was too stiff for my taste, and Brett Dalton was supremely arrogant as Agent Grant Ward. While May eventually softens her persona, early attempts to humanize her felt flat. And Ward emerges as a bit of a baddie, so his superiority complex makes sense, but it was still a bit of a struggle to connect with him as a character. (I found myself dying for him to get his comeuppance, which was satisfyingly delivered in last night’s finale.) Chloe Bennett, Iain De Caestecker, and Elizabeth Henstridge were all fine as Skye, Fitz, and Simmons, respectively, but it took some time for everyone to find their footing as a team.
As Jason Lynch notes for the Daily Beast, one of the best things that happened to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the reboot that came with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While the show’s tie-in to Thor: The Dark World felt a little forced to me, the teaser at the end of the Episode 16: “End of the Beginning” – which aired two days before the Captain America premiere – had me hooked, and I finally began to understand what all of the hype was about. It also breathed new life into the show as Coulson and his ragtag team of agents suddenly had a real, concrete threat to fight against. A show that once seemed to be on life support was suddenly trending on social media.
If I have one complaint with the way the show ended, however, it would be that there were several mini-endings built into the episode. Believe me, I get why shows end with cliffhangers, but this seemed to be a bit of an unnecessary over-sell. Yes, there are lots of storylines for us to follow into the new season, but I think a fade to black after the very stylized shot of Coulson and his team arriving at the Playground, yet another secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base, would have been just fine.
Though it may have taken a number of episodes for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to find its rhythm, the creators ended the season on a high note – proving that regardless of what happened at the Triskelion in April, S.H.I.E.L.D. (the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division) will live to fight another day. It may just be under new management.