Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 4 reviews.

tl;dr: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D proved that the MCU could be bigger than film and continues to reinvent itself season after season whilst keeping its core as solid as ever. It had a rocky start, but once it hit pace it has continued to go from strength-to-strength.


Marvel Cinematic UniverseMarvel

Season Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I may have my doubts about the method of purchase, but as the final episode closed I can categorically say I have zero regrets having bought Agents of Shield. The second season hit the ground running and never looked back. The story kept pounding forward, never losing pace, yet the characters remained consistently human, allowing for slower, more impactful/emotional moments. Fitz was exceptional.

Final minute aside, the ending was exceedingly well-executed, with a huge variety of sub-plots given closure. Genuinely one of the best seasons of TV I've watched for a while; I'm seriously excited for the next chapter!

Note: Originally posted as a standalone article and part of the 100 Words challenge on 29/07/15.

Season Three

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D continues to be a seriously solid piece of must-watch television for us. Season 3 definitely felt a little less impactful to the wider MCU, but with the Inhumans movie #cancellednotcancelled and the total lack of overlap with Civil War I feel that is less the fault of the TV-verse than those involved with the big screen. Hopefully some more tie-ins can be conjured in the future, even if it's just with the Netflix shows!

Still, season 3 had a bucket load of new plotlines whilst nicely tying together the open threads from season 2 and setting up some interesting new avenues for future seasons to explore. Ward is finally in the ground for good, which feels right; he may have become one of the best TV villains in a long time, but at some point they had to let him go. Hydra, too, finally seems to have been dealt with, hopefully allowing us to move along with the Inhumans plots a little more. Lincoln's fate was a shame, as he had become a useful foil to the occasional insanity of military thinking, but it's also refreshing to see some real, permanent implications for the cast (Bobby and Hunter, I'm looking at you as well).

Overall though, I remain impressed by Agents ability to maintain a breakneck pace whilst juggling a large cast and keeping everything pretty grounded. There were definitely a few instances towards the end of this season that felt a little rushed, but as a transition away from Hydra and towards more Inhumans I felt the storyline worked very nicely. I'm intrigued to see what will happen now with a much-reduced cast, seemingly heavily demoted, going forward into Season 4.

Season Four

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Since last dipping into the Agents storyline, we've avidly binge-watched our way through the rest of the TV arm of the MCU. As a result, I had thought I'd become used to the rapidity with which Netflix powered through plot lines and ideas, but boy was I wrong. Perhaps the crew behind Agents simply liked what Netflix was doing, but season four is one of the fasted paced TV shows I think I've ever seen. The first story arc could easily have been stretched to a whole season, and I would have still considered it fast-paced if it had lasted until a mid-season break, but having now watched the whole arc it almost seems inconsequential.

It is completely to the credit of the writers, then, that I never felt lost or hurried along; the pacing is noticeably quick but still feels organic. Indeed, taken as a whole the story of season four is wonderfully interwoven within itself and neatly ties together at the close. I never felt like elements were being brushed to one side and most big setups had internally consistent payoffs. Ultimately, there's so much to unpack here it seems almost foolish to try. In one season Agents takes a better stab at Ghostrider than most long-term comics writers do, completely eclipsing all previous visual media attempts, whilst also covering the Darkhold, Elias Morrow, LMDs (Life Model Decoys), A.I. in the wake of Ultron, and the Framework virtual reality. The show also positively advanced the Inhumans plotline in a post-Sokovia Accord world, actively developed all the major characters, introduced several more and, wonderfully, brought back several from the show's past, both for fan service and to shine a more mature light on previous plot lines. Frankly, Fitz's self-realisation of the similarities between his own actions within the Framework and those of the real world Grant Ward is justification enough for the season, walking a much deeper philosophical path than a show ostensibly about super spies has any need to (but that's what makes it so great).

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that season four was the best series Agents has produced so far, standing as one of (if not the) best TV series from any of the branches of the MCU. It's consistently clever, never dull and the brilliant dialogue is brought to life by a cast that are finally beginning to flex their characters in new directions. Daisy is perhaps a little left behind in this sense, getting even less character progression than the (currently) dead Ward (which feels a little unfair), but even she is ultimately left in a stronger position than when the season began. There's a part of me that wishes they had brought back more of the characters we have lost in seasons past; the Ward/Lincoln switch-up was fantastic and getting to see Trip again was a lot of fun, but I want to know where the likes of Bobby and Hunter were in this 'alternate' universe?

Season four also made some big strides in diversifying the stories that Agents can tell. The introduction of the Hell dimension didn't just allow Robbie Rayez to appear on the small screen, it also brought magic into the Agents internal canon. Of course, the same old problems exist when a show like Agents introduces a device as powerful as the Darkhold or the Framework: where are the Avengers? Sure, right now they are a bit preoccupied and scattered, but at the very least Doctor Strange should have been hovering around. Considering how close of an eye he was keeping on Odin, the manifestation of dark magic ghost scientists and matter creators should have had him portal straight to Coulson's aid. One can only hope that such a cameo may yet happen in the future, but it's seeming increasingly less likely, which is a great shame.

As a self-contained entity, though, Agents easily stands tall at the end of season four. The initial plot was intriguing, the character work (and effects) done on Ghostrider were impeccable, and the Radcliffe arc was surprisingly nuanced, emotional and well reasoned. Even Aida was a brilliantly clever character, allowing a much more delicate overview of the problems of true Artificial Intelligence than the likes of Age of Ultron could manage in a mere two hours. It will be fascinating to see where the show goes next, though there are certainly some mysteries left up in the air, not least of which is the senator's brother. Hopefully, season five comes sooner rather than later, and hopefully again, Fitz and Simmons get a season off from being the main source of emotional tension!

Season four is a roller-coaster of brilliant storytelling, fantastic characters and surprisingly well thought out science fiction. It's still a Marvel property at the core, but Agents has slowly become one of their better IPs.

Season Five

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I had wondered where Agents would go next. Space, it turns out, was the answer. Also time. I guess if you're doing one, why not both?

Season five had some big boots to fill and it did so comfortably. Not only is it a generally enjoyable romp which flips the show's format on its head and gives our characters an entirely new challenge to overcome, now fully disconnected from (though ultimately still influenced by) their past fighting Hydra and the Inhumans, it's also one of the better explorations of time travel I've seen. Even the big shock ending with Fitz ensures that the timeline remains consistent, yet broken; it's clever and I can't think of any obvious paradoxes that it creates. Although I will admit that I had forgotten about Fitz taking the "long way around" to meet up with them in the future, and so was very confused by the finale's tone.

Otherwise, I thought the introduction of the new Kree warlords, the escalation of Tablot's character arc, the whole Lighthouse situation, and the final conclusion to Coulson's journey (if final turns out to be accurate) were all done really well. As was character development (as is now standard for Agents), with everyone getting natural progression and some excellent closure for both the Fitz-Simmons love story and the May-Coulson tension. Even the breakdown of the relationship between Mack and Yo-Yo felt deserved and earned, not just included for additional drama; not only that, but you empathise with Yo-Yo's slow self-destruction rather than finding it annoying, like in so many TV shows.

Most importantly, the central mysteries were all neatly wrapped up by the season finale, which is no mean fit. The season contained all the information on the future lighthouse society, the Kree cultural stuff, time travel (in several directions), one wedding, one terminal illness, the evolution of a beloved ally into a maniacal villain, plots both on Earth and in outer space involved Hydra branches training deadly assassins, an Inhuman slave trade, a whole Destroyer of Worlds prophecy, the brief cameo of Fitz's alter-ego, The Doctor, and of course Robin, the child prodigy who can draw the future and is befriended by an alien robot. That's a lot to keep track of, but somehow Agents makes it enjoyable, not particularly convoluted, and internally consistent.

Oh, plus we get some new and returning characters. I like that we get Piper and company back with S.H.I.E.L.D and Deke is generally great. It's fun that they left the season without us really knowing what his ultimate fate was, but I hope we see him again. In short, it's great and I don't quite understand how the show keeps coming up with such interesting new ideas.

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