Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t exactly had it easy with its first season. By existing in the same universe as the wildly successful Marvel films, not only was there a level of quality and excitement expected from every episode, but with big names like Joss Whedon attached to it, even casual Marvel fans were sure to be interested in the appeal of a show like this.
However, like every new show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took some time to find its footing, and while it ended its first season as a show that I had grown to enjoy far more than I ever expected to, that wasn’t always the case. Even with such great talent behind it, this show had somewhat of a rough start. After its enjoyable pilot episode, which drew in a record-breaking amount of viewers, the show took a substantial dip in quality that surely made a big portion of viewers walk away.
Which is a shame, because even with its missteps, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was an almost always fun adventure that only got better and better as it continued. While Joss Whedon himself wasn’t directly involved in every episode, that particular job fell to his brother and frequent collaborator Jed Whedon and his wife Maurissa Tancharoen, the show took some time to really figure out what it was going to be, but once it did, it became one of the most unique and gripping dramas on network TV.
The biggest problem Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had to overcome was probably its own high ambitions. For a big portion of the first half of Season 1, the show relied on its connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe so much that it became more of a distraction than a benefit.
Instead of focusing on its own group of fresh-faced characters, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. frequently got caught up in trying to replicate what we see in the movies, and the excessive references and tie-ins began to get wearisome. Not only would Clark Gregg’s fan-loved Agent Coulson mention the heroes we know from the movies on an almost weekly basis, but he would bring up his own death from The Avengers so much that it just became annoying.
Even with that said, the show’s budget did warrant the producers to make each and every episode feel like a mini-action flick, with big, exciting setpieces and wonderfully choreographed fight scenes that really helped keep me consistently involved in the show, even when the stories it was telling weren’t quite reaching the heights I wanted them too.
And as the show continued to evolve with each episode, I began to find myself becoming more and more invested in the new characters the show introduced us too. While Chloe Bennet’s character Skye had me immediately intrigued in the first episode, she started to become slightly annoying in the next couple episodes, and relied more on comic relief than actual character depth. But looking back, I see that it was all part of the plan.
You see, the writers of the show may not have known exactly where they were taking their characters when the show started, and it showed, but about five or six episodes in that started to change, and once they found their footing, things got really good, really fast. Characters who had started the season either wooden or stereotypical began to show their true colors and their inner depth and complexity finally started to shine.
Agent Grant Ward is a great example of this, as he spent the majority of his screen-time dropping macho one-liners and shooting stuff. But that all changed with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s tie-in to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where all of a sudden the show took all the little tidbits of backstory they had developed for Ward and blew them up into a character that was suddenly the most complex on the show.
Even the brilliant scientist duo Fitz and Simmons grew out of their cliched starting points, and while their banter might have bordered on the annoying from time-to-time, their evolving relationship with each other and their fellow agents began to feel genuine and real, and by the halfway point, I found myself suddenly very invested in each character’s individual story and backstory.
While I had been enjoying the show before it tied into the events of The Winter Soldier, it underwent a drastic transformation with its brilliant episode Turn, Turn, Turn, which addressed the fallout from Cap’s newest adventure in an intense and clever way, and it nearly redefined the entire show. The tension ramped up, the plots suddenly became smart and exciting, and I began to fear for the characters I had actually grown to enjoy.
I won’t spoil anything, but if you ever gave up on the show before its halfway point, I highly recommend going back and giving it a second chance. Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson alone is worth watching, and even though his character changes into someone very different from the man we knew from the movies, he never ceases to be entertaining and its his character that grounds the rest of the cast.
And yes, in case you were wondering, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does indeed address the events surrounding Coulson’s mysterious revival, and yes, they are not disappointing. Unexpected, perhaps, but far from disappointing. His personal conflict throughout the season steadily amplifies with each subsequent episode, and it only helps the show grow even more interesting and riveting.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might not be a perfect show, and its first half certainly has its missteps, but by the time of its season finale the many characters have grown and evolved so much that I was actually nervous that the characters I had grown so close too wouldn’t make it out alive.
Thanks to great performances from the main cast, with Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, and Elizabeth Henstridge being the obvious stand-outs, and the ever rotating slew of guest stars, which include the likes of Patton Oswalt, Bill Paxton, Jaime Alexander, and even Samuel Jackson himself, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. eventually shed its procedural beginnings and became a serialized thrill ride all about its ever-evolving cast of characters.
I’m absolutely thrilled to know that the show has been renewed for a second season, and I await with baited breath to see where Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will go with its next 22 episodes. The show might not have always been great, but it only made its eventual rise to greatness all the more satisfying. If you’re a fan of the world the Marvel Cinematic Universe has created, then I really can’t recommend giving this show a chance enough.