Howdy ladies and gents of the interweb. Now I know Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is well into its second season at the moment, and as you can see, clearly I’m not doing episode reviews this time around and there’s two reason for that: 1) They are very time-consuming. And 2) While this new season has been airing I have actually been re-watching season one, so I’m currently not up to date, yet. Anyways, I just finished season one and thought I would give my thoughts on it as a whole, so consider this a review of sorts, a LONG one. Okay? Good, let’s do this! SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!
So, AoS season one, well it was a rough season I can tell you that much. The show had so many hurdles to deal with not only before airing but also during its entire run. Not only was it coming off the hype of The Avengers and the other films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it also had to create a compelling setting, with good stories and characters to hold fan interest where none of the main superheroes were involved. Then there’s the early feedback on the show, which wasn’t bad, but it could have been better and those who weren’t fans of the show quickly spread their negative thoughts like wildfire which really affected the show’s viewership. Add on top of that the fragmented air times of episodes, unlike most TV shows, AoS had a terrible habit of pausing and waiting for certain Marvel films to come out, so you’d end up waiting for weeks just to see another episode, it was a major problem especially that really killed the momentum of the show.
However through all of its problems the show persevered and ended up being very fun. Sure it had some problems with early episodes being a bit hit and miss due to a lack of compelling stories, poor character development, heavy reliance on the Marvel films and not fully utilizing the comic book source material. But after Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s story came into play, this show did a total 180 and became more focused, aggressive, dramatic and action-packed. It pretty much became the show that fans had wanted in the first place. But it also helped that the early episodes had a great deal of build up prior to the big story twist as the pay-off felt so good.
So now I’m going to break things down into sections; story, characters and presentation.
When it comes to stories, at first AoS tried to tell its own stories that were separate from those in the Marvel films, but still tie them together through visual and verbal references. The writers did what they could to craft new, small-yet-important adventures for Agent Coulson and his team to tackle, the problem was that these stories weren’t nearly as compelling as the writers thought they were. Now I hate to compare this show to Arrow, because they are two very different shows, born out of different circumstances, however I watched the first season of Arrow after AoS and it was apparent straight away why Arrow was better, the stories were better. The pacing and tone of Arrow was better, the stories were consistent, the drama was real and the overarching storyline throughout. AoS only had a handful of episodes that were good prior to the Hydra storyline, besides episodic tales, there were stories that were started and dropped or dragged out for far too long (Coulson’s revival, the Rising Tide’s origin and the mystery surrounding Skye are just a few examples). However once Hydra came into play things got a lot better and engaging, the show felt like everything was falling into place and got better use of its source material too.
- Eye Spy
- FZZT (personal favourite)
- T.R.A.C.K.S. (personal favourite)
- Yes Men (personal favourite)
- End of the Beginning (personal favourite)
- Turn, Turn, Turn (personal favourite)
- Providence (personal favourite)
- Nothing Personal
- Beginning of the End (personal favourite)
The cast is one of the main aspects that was going to make or break the show and luckily everyone was up for the task. At first a lot of the characters besides and Agent Coulson and Melinda May were just dull and undeveloped, but over time they everyone had their turn in the spotlight and showed why they belonged on the show, and by the end of it this cast of people felt like a well-rounded bunch of individuals. So let’s talk about them individually.
Firstly Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, what can be said that hasn’t been said before? The dude is awesome, he was one of the best parts of the Phase One MCU films and this show gave us more of that. The man is still serious, hardcore and hilarious, but after his death and revival you could see that he was a different person and had some quieter, more emotional moments to uncover. Gregg acts his heart out and while it was weird to see his character not as assertive as he was in the films at first, that eventually got sorted and he was just as awesome as ever by the end of the season. Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May was the first of the new characters we had to adjust to and luckily she was one of the most compelling. A woman with a mysterious past, badass martial arts skills and a ‘silent but deadly’ personality? Sign me up! May brought a lot of the show’s action, style and humour, and it also helped she was played wonderfully by Wen (who I am honestly in love with at this point). Chloe Bennet as Skye is one of my not so favourite people. From the beginning she got drafted into the team, lied to the team and got them in trouble and yet at the same time she was there for them when they needed her and she stuck her life on the line when necessary. I just wasn’t keen on the way her character was handled, her progression felt shoe-horned in rather than being natural. But Bennet did her best and it helped that she pretty too.
Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz and Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons were two characters who had a hard time being developed at the beginning. As FitzSimmons they were two science friends who were quirky, energetic and constantly bickering, it was cute and funny, but sometimes annoying too. They had a while before people warmed to them, but after episode six I think people started to pay attention. Together they have a special kind of relationship akin to that of best friends or a brother and sister, though most people could tell that there was more going there especially for Fitz. I loved both Caestecker and Henstridge’s performances. And then we have Brett Dalton as Grant Ward, this guy was one of the most plain and boring characters in the beginning and fans were vocal about that from the beginning, however once he revealed he was part of Hydra they guy became SO much more interesting. To learn about his backstory, seeing how he planted himself in the team and pretended to be such a dull person just changed so much about him completely and I have to give Dalton props for taking on the role and reaping the rewards.
And then there’s the great supporting cast. B.J. Britt as Antoine Triplett was a great addition to the team, not only was he a capable replacement for Ward, but he because of his heritage he had ties to The Howling Commandos and his soft spot for Simmons created some nice tension between him and Fitz. Britt was great in his role, he had the right amount of charisma, sass and style to make him a good member of Coulson’s crew. Saffron Burrows as Victoria Hand was another great addition to the show, she was a strict, by-the-book kind of person who also didn’t smile a lot, but she was loyal to S.H.I.E.L.D. and created some interesting moments between the main characters. Patton Oswalt as Eric/Billy Koenig is one of my favourite characters to appear in this show as Oswalt is hilarious and brought his personality into his role in such a great way. Adrian Pasdar as Glenn Talbot made for a great antagonist who gave Coulson and his team a bit of trouble and expanded the MCU’s cast of characters just a little more.
Ruth Negga as Raina is one of the strangest, creepiest and mysterious people to come out of this show, but that’s why I’ve liked her. she’s odd, but in a compelling kind of way and when you find out how deeply she’s tied to the bad people of this show, she does become more and more interesting. David Conrad as Ian Quinn, at first seemed like a disposable character, but with his skills, ties to the bad guys and the Gravitonium, you knew he’d be sticking around and I’m glad he did. The guy is confident, stylish and talks big, but he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and I really liked Conrad’s performance. J. August Richards as Michael Peterson/Deathlok really changed his tune, from a potential hero to a full-on villain against his will, that was some cool stuff. I loved his story and transformation and Richards was just great as this cyborg who was forced to kill to ensure the safety of his son. Bill Paxton as John Garrett was probably the best addition the show, Paxton is one of those kind of actors who brings a good time to any project he’s on and that was the same for AoS. Garrett is a chill-out, hilarious kind of guy but is also very dangerous and a bit of a maverick, but he is made even better when revealed to be the big bad guy of the show, The Clairvoyant. As a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent was a cool, but as Hydra leader he was so much better. The guy was evil and Paxton played that role to a tee and with such style, it was amazing.
At least the show was not above using good guest star material having Samuel L. Jackson appear as Nick Fury was awesome, Cobie Smulders was also cool as Maria Hill, even having Titus Welliver and Maximiliano Hernández return as Agents Blake and Sitwell was cool. But my favourite guest character was Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif, she was the best! All of these returning characters gave the show a great sense of continuity been the TV world and the film world.
As for the presentation the show was good for the most part but it had its problems. The visual effects were a bit hit and miss with super-powered beings like Deathlok jumping or when the Bus was flying around, sometimes the CGI was a bit blurry and lacking in detail but for the most part it was decent. The fight sequences were the highlight for me, seeing May, Ward, Deathlok or the Centipede bad guys throwing down was kick ass and choreography for the most part was really well-done. The soundtrack by Bear McNeary is also good, sometimes it can be a little cheesy and overblown, but for the most part it is thrilling, exciting and meaningful, and it works best during the more intimate moments.
In conclusion the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a good time, it takes a while to get going, but once it does it doesn’t stop. While re-watching it, I didn’t like some of the earlier episodes as much as I did the first time round, at the same time, seeing the show again allows you to see so many things you wouldn’t have seen the first time round. Plus this miniature universe AoS has created for TV creates the potential for more comic book source material to be mined and possibly crossover material into the film universe as well. Only time will tell but this is a good start for the show, now let’s see if season two can do better.
So what did you think of the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Were you a fan from the beginning or were you persuaded a little while after or do you just not care? Whatever your thoughts drop them in the comments below and I’ll see ya on the next review, laters! :D