On the surface, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had everything going for it: seasoned showrunners who knew how to build a cult series, an expansive universe full of rich history, the promise of enticing characters. But it took awhile for the show to find its feet; early episodes seemed more like a CBS procedural than an action-packed spy show. Obviously, we couldn’t expect Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be Iron Man. But those who tuned in hoping for something more fast-paced were initially disappointed.
And then the back half of the season happened. Or rather, Captain America: The Winter Soldier happened — and all of a sudden, the show picked up speed. S.H.I.E.L.D. stopped holding back, instead throwing in unpredictable twists and raising the stakes of both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the television world.
After a season filled with numerous ups and downs, I tried my best to round up (and sum up) the good and the not so good.
High: Ward is Hydra
Most people (myself included) weren’t impressed by Brett Dalton’s character when the series first started. And that’s what made his turn-around as an evil Hydra baddie so awesome. His psychopathic-stalker-boyfriend-ish tendencies? His ruthless disregard for his friends? His cold and calculating stare? Suddenly, it felt like we were watching an entirely new person. Once we could go back and look for the clues that proved Ward had a hidden agenda all along, we were able to appreciate just how talented Dalton was as an actor, and how much he added to the show. For those who had stuck with the series from the start, it was worth the wait.
High: Agent Triplet
I fully did not expect B.J. Britt to make as much of an impression as he did. At first, I had him pegged for an undercover bad guy (good job, show!). Then I had him pegged for Garrett’s puppy (again — good job, show!). Then I figured at some point, he would fade into the background. But when all was said and done, Trip turned out to be a damn good agent who, just like our team, had been betrayed by someone he had put his trust in. Whether it was his chemistry with Simmons or his amusing one-liners, Trip blended in so well that we almost forgot he wasn’t there at the beginning. Plus, learning his grandfather was a Howling Commando? Bell and Loeb, if you don’t follow up on that (or at least make some reference in Agent Carter), we need to have a chat.
High: Those MCU guest stars
As a show that bridged the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the world of primetime TV, S.H.I.E.L.D. was at its strongest when it could incorporate high-profile guest stars who added to the story. It was nice to see Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill make a brief appearance during the pilot to help set the stage, and it was fun to see a pop up cameo from Samuel L. Jackson in the second episode — but it was more fun to see Maria Hill kicking some butt in a bigger, featured role later in the season, along with Jackson’s prominent finale appearance. And let’s not forget the wonderful Jaimie Alexander, who came down to Earth from Asgard to help a capture a seductive God who had evil plans for our team…
Okay. To be fair, this relationship got more interesting once it was revealed that Ward was Hydra. But let’s look at the cast dynamics: with dynamic pairings like May and Coulson, Fitz and Simmons, and even Trip and Simmons, it felt like the show just put Skye and Ward together because their characters seemed to fit — even though in practice, they had zero chemistry.
Low: Scheduling? What scheduling
ABC, you’re to blame on this one. And while it’s typical for network shows to spend a few random weeks on and off the air, the second half of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s first season was plagued by inconsistent blocks of scheduling that annoyed even the most dedicated of fans.
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