Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Thoughts on the season 1 finale of ABC's "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD"

ABC's "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" had its season finale last night, and I took a needed break from grading final exams to watch it. What did I think?


"Agents of SHIELD" got boffo ratings for its premiere, but then it suffered a seriously steep drop due largely (I think) to having repetitive storylines and a bland cast of characters who wandered from one threat to another in a rather workmanlike fashion. The big mystery dangled in front of us viewers who like ongoing arcs was how Agent Phil Coulson managed to come back from the dead, when in The Avengers his heart was run through by the Norse god/villain Loki. For much of the first half of the season, the show teased us with the implication that Coulson's recollection of recovering in "Tahiti" were false memories, implanted to conceal the truth. By the time we got the answer, "alien blood with special regenerative powers" just seemed inadequate.The second big problem with the show at first was that Coulson's team was chasing some semi-mysterious entity known as the Clairvoyant. Of course, this was all misdirection, as was revealed in the episodes that bookended the premiere of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with the revelation that SHIELD had been thoroughly penetrated by the evil organization Hydra.

The finale "The Beginning of the End" picked up where the last episode left off, with the super smart but equally annoying duo known as FitzSimmons trapped in a container that former teammate Ward dropped out of the plane into the ocean. There's been a lively debate about whether Ward was a double agent working for Hydra, or a triple agent working for SHIELD ever backstabbed his teammates. I've thought that Brett Dalton (who plays Ward) has been more interesting on screen as a bad guy than as a good guy, so I've been really hoping that the writers don't redeem him. There were some worrying signs of his possible redemption when Skye passed up an opportunity to let him die....

Anyway, in an action-packed episode, our intrepid team (all that remains of SHIELD?) manage to capture/disable the Hydra forces of their uber-foe, the former Agent Garrett (played deliciously by Bill Paxton). Samuel L. Jackson reprises his movie role of Nick Fury and turns the keys to SHIELD over to Coulson. Oh, and Garrett "escapes" and puts himself into a machine that gives him bionic limbs; I was just waiting for a helmet with raspy breathing noise, a la the end of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Just as we were wondering, "how could they let him get away?," and as Garrett started to declare himself "unstoppable," he gets disintegrated by a blaster fired by Coulson. I have to admit, as ridiculous the scene was, it was pretty funny.

* So Ward is a bad guy after all, yea for writers' having guts!

* Even better, FitzSimmons won't be the same after this season. Their escape from the container, which rested at 90 feet underwater, resulted in a prolonged period of oxygen-deprivation for Fitz (the guy). We never saw him after Nick Fury pulled them out of the water, and all that Gemma Simmons said later was that Fitz "was still alive." Brain-damaged? Augmented? I don't imagine that they're getting rid of the character with that ambiguity, but presumably he's going to be somehow different next season.

* Fury says he's going to disappear for a while. Can we guess for how long? Let's see, The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron is scheduled for general release on May 1, 2015.... So perhaps Fury will make another appearance on "Agents of SHIELD" sometime near the end of season 2.

* What was Coulson scratching on the wall at the end? It sure looked like some kind of electronic diagram. Nice mystery to head into the summer with.

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