I have mentioned Agents of Shield many times before, and it remains one of my favorite shows. I had an introductory post, which I am now replacing with this, a proper review, and I follow it weekly on my This Week on TV lineup. So, yes, you may safely assume that this is going to be a pretty positive review. 😉
I remember back during the first two Phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I was very skeptical about what Marvel was doing. I was hesitant about almost all of their first few movies, especially Avengers, and as they began expanding, I feared that they could be making that critical misstep that would suddenly doom the entire enterprise. In the case of Agents, especially, I was worried for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, as a franchise, any franchise, grows larger, it becomes more unwieldy, more difficult for the random consumer to digest. If you join a story partway through, you’ll miss out on vital details and wonderful surprises. If you have to begin at the beginning, the size of what lies before you becomes daunting and discouraging. So, as this was the MCU’s first television show, I was concerned about how well it could stand on its own, apart from the movies.
Secondly, I was uncertain of the premise. I had doubted some of the first few superhero movies which began the MCU, and was proven wrong because Marvel managed to use their superheroes effectively while maintaining their humanity. With all of these superheroes to compete with, I was uncertain how the normal, human agents would measure up. How would they keep us entertained? How human would these agents be? What threats would they face that would keep us coming back for more? Would they be incompetent red shirts, or would they make the Avengers unnecessary?
Both issues have been satisfactorily answered, in my book.
While the show does sometimes rely on and refer to the events of the movies, the show generally stands on its own. Outside the necessity of seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier at a precise moment between two episodes in the first season, which I did, Agents of Shield largely tells its own story, independent of the movies.
Some people have disliked this, but I lean the other way. For comparison: the Arrowverse on WB has far too much connectivity between all four of its shows, you can’t watch one with complete understanding and enjoyment without watching all of them as they broadcast. That’s not a good thing for someone binging an entire season on DVD or whatever.
As for keeping us entertained, and the characters, and the threats, well, I’d say they do a pretty good job! The show has action, adventure, intrigue, mysteries, science fiction, cool toys, clever schemes, emotional weight, believable, compelling drama, and more! They face the shadowy threat of Hydra, the fall of SHIELD, fractured factions within their own group, the rise and ramifications of people with superpowers across the world, alien threats, ancient evils, terrorist organizations, supernatural powers, and the creations of science run amok. And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head. The Avengers can’t be everywhere, fighting every battle that determines the fate of the world, and often it is these normal, human agents who contain crisis after crisis before the Avengers could possibly respond.
The Avengers are a small, elite army (and one which is now largely defunct after the events of Civil War), best suited for meeting cataclysms after such are unleashed, no so much for preventing them.
The best part of the show, however, is the characters. Not only are they endearing and entertaining, they also evolve. They’re not just three-dimensional, they’re four-dimensional, beginning as one thing, becoming something else through what happens to them and how they respond, then becoming something else again. They keep living, learning, growing, doing.
The breakaway star is absolutely Chloe Bennet in the role of Daisy “Skye” Johnson, as the series, above all, has been the story of her life within SHIELD thus far, but she is far from alone. I am hard-pressed to think of one character that does not have some sort of impact and is not performed beautifully by their actors. It’s a long list of cast members, with the “central” team of leads changing faces over the course of the story.
Not to make it sound as though the show has always gotten everything perfect. They’ve had their share of missteps and mistakes. The importance of Bennet’s character, for instance, sometimes feels a little overdone and repetitive. When the characters of Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter were written out of the series, it was heartbreaking, and I was seriously looking forward to their leading roles on Marvel’s Most Wanted, but then ABC nixed the series before it could begin. And the last two seasons have both ended with mysterious, “what’s happened” scenes, which is a cheap trick and pales in comparison to proper cliffhangers. Sometimes the story has felt cobbled together, even rushed, like the end of their second season.
Still, I have a particular fondness for the first season, I very much enjoyed the second and third, and last season, the fourth, was their best yet. They need to learn and apply the lessons of that season for the rest of the series, especially with the balancing of threats and characters, the evolution of the plot, and the three-act structure, all very well done.
All in all, I am looking forward to next season, and hope to follow the show all the way down to the end of its run, which will hopefully not be for awhile! 🙂
Rating: 9 stars out of 10.
Grade: Solid A.