6 Thoughts on the First Season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been over for a few weeks now, and I would have done this list sooner, but Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past had to be addressed (and both were entertaining movies). I’ve come to the general conclusion that I don’t think I would be a very good TV reviewer. I don’t have the time or energy to really tackle each episode when it airs, and I’m pretty subjective when it comes to TV. So in order to tackle these popular shows, I like to wrap up my thoughts in a List of Six.
Expect my thoughts on the second season for Arrow next week. And today, let’s talk about the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.!
First things first, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t live up to the hype. There’s no way around it. This was billed as a TV tie-in to the amazing Marvel Cinematic Universe, produced by Joss Whedon himself, and the hype was through the roof last Summer. But I think we can all agree that the show just didn’t measure up. But I stuck with it every week and saw every episode, and I’m going to be tuning in next season. So you better believe I have some thoughts.
Join me after the jump! Also, expect FULL SPOILERS for the entire first season.
6. I like the show, but…
Simply put, I enjoyed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It wasn’t the second coming of Firefly and it didn’t live up to all the hype and potential, but it wasn’t that bad of a show. The characters were generally likable, the Marvel references were usually fun, and it had some nice action from time to time. The show followed the premise that I thought it would, with the team of agents going on weekly adventures to deal with crazy, sci-fi and superheroic stuff. And, of course, we can all agree that the show got much better following the tie-in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when they were able to inject some real stakes and tension into the proceedings.
So I don’t regret watching the entire season. I was generally entertained throughout, especially at the end.
But man, did this show misfire on a lot of cylinders. I’ll get to a few more specific ones on this list, but right off the bat, Skye was pretty terrible. She was supposed to be the main point-of-entry character, but she never served much of a purpose, at least not from the whole ‘outsider hacker becomes proper agent over time’ angle. She just never felt like that crucial or interesting of a character. Likewise, almost none of the characters really evolved beyond skin deep. None of them really made a connection with the audience no matter how much the show tried. Even the characters I wanted to like, Fitz and Simmons, never amounted to much.
I could go on and on. As generally entertaining as the show may have been, there were a lot of missteps and disappointments. The mysteries about Skye’s parents and Coulson’s resurrection were never all that interesting. Neither was the chief mystery of the Clairvoyant and his evil enterprise. The addition of HYDRA in the end made for a more interesting resolution, but just overall, none of it was all that gripping or interesting.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just coasted for too long on the hype and never once became the show we all hoped it would be.
5. Coulson isn’t much of a leading man
As much fun as actor Clark Gregg was in the Marvel movies, I just don’t think he made that great of a leading man in the show. He’s good with a quip, and definitely works as a secret agent, but I just don’t think he had the acting range or the emotional depth to play the lead character on a show like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. There were times, especially towards the end, when S.H.I.E.L.D. was falling apart, where Gregg was called upon to really push himself to the extreme…but I just never felt it. He tried, don’t get me wrong. Gregg gave it his all for the show. But he never clicked for me.
There were also some groan-worthy one-liners that he tried to play off as coy and clever that also never worked for me. I dunno. It was like the writers just couldn’t tap into that same magic that Gregg brought to most of his movie roles. He’s good as a supporting character, but I don’t think he really carried his own on the show.
4. It needs to be tighter
There were times when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. felt like a much cheaper production than it should have been, and I’m not just talking about the special effects. There were sets, scenes and moments that just felt really fake. Like in one of the later episodes, where the agents are traipsing through the wintery woods of Canada in search of Fury’s secret base, it all just felt so fake. I didn’t particularly buy into Clark Gregg’s big speech, but the fact that it felt like he was performing for high school theater didn’t help either. The whole scene just felt and looked so cheap and fake. Then that horribly CGI’d gun turret showed up and sank the scene even further.
There is no reason why Marvel, Disney and ABC shouldn’t pack more money and quality into this show. People wanted Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be good. People still want it to be good. But the whole production just feels overly shoddy. Like how Deathlok’s costume was just a set of paintball body armor.
I don’t know what goes into the production of a TV show, but I know that I never felt this way with Arrow. Maybe it’s because everything in Arrow takes place at night, but the production quality is just so much better. And considering Arrow is on The CW and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is on ABC, how is that possible? Disney has deep enough pockets to make Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a spectacular looking show. And it needs to happen.
3. The romances are disappointing
I like a good romance as much as the next person, and there are TV shows out there that live or die based on the quality of their central or even side romances. But Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. stumbled almost every single time when it came to romance. I don’t particularly care for any of the directions they’re heading, for the most part.
Ward and Skye, arguably the chief romance, was boring from minute one. I never wanted them to get together or even hint at getting together – so believe me, I’m grateful the show twisted the way it did with Ward. They would have been the most boring couple on television, so watching the first half of the season with the two of them building closer and closer was excruciating.
Ward and May was better, though not much of a romance. I liked that the show twisted Ward away from Skye early on. That helped a great deal. And May could definitely use more unexpected subplots like that.
Fitz, Simmons and Trip is a relationship that I actually kind of like, though Fitz’s desperation is getting annoying. It makes total sense that Fitz would be in love with Simmons, and it makes even more sense that she wouldn’t return those feelings – that makes for good drama. And it’s even better drama when she starts falling for someone completely different while oblivious to the nerdy Fitz’s feelings. I liked all of that. But then Fitz had to go and try to get all romantic and admit his feelings in the end. So who knows where this is going.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to keep twisting away from the obvious romantic couples. I can’t be the only one who wants to ‘ship Fitz and Skye, can I?
2. Ward’s betrayal was amazing
Best twist of the season, by far. I never would have seen it coming if I hadn’t been spoiled just a little bit the day after the episode aired, before I had a chance to actually see it. But man, that was some great work by the writing team! I can only hope that Agent Ward’s betrayal was planned from the very beginning. They knew about HYDRA and Captain America: The Winter Soldier well in advance, so to actually go to the trouble of planting a HYDRA agent in the cast, just waiting for the movie and the big reveal, was pretty badass television.
My hat goes off to the people who made this twist happen!
If only Ward wasn’t such a boring and terrible character at the start of the show, so that his betrayal would actually be emotionally meaningful. They didn’t exactly manage to pull that part off, did they?
1. It could still be good
Very few shows in the history of television are at their absolute best in their first season. Arrow season 2 was far, far superior to season 1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets really good starting with season 2 and beyond. The Office‘s best years were two and three. The only show I can really think of that had its best season first was Heroes. Unless we count Firefly, but man, can you imagine what seasons 2-4 of Firefly would have been like?
What I’m saying is that it’s a pretty solid bet that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. absolutely can and probably will get better in season 2. It’s written into the very fabric of television. The writers now have time to read and absorb all of the criticisms and come back with a stronger, better show in the Fall, the same way that the second half of season 1 was better than the first because the writers had time to react and start changing things. I don’t have any recommendations or ideas to suggest to the writers, but the show’s potential is even stronger now, going into season 2.
I am confident that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is only going to get better from here. And it helps that season 2 is going to tie into Avengers: Age of Ultron. That’s got to count for something!
What did you think of the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Did you like it? Did you hate it? Did you give up after the first few episodes and haven’t been back since? Let us know in the comments!