Monday, 18 October 2021

Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D

S.H.I.E.L.D Of Dreams

Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D
TV Series Seven Seasons 2013-2020

Warning: Big spoilers throughout.

I’ve been holding off writing about Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D for seven years now*, mainly because when it first started, it was an okay show with not much I felt I could say about it in a seasonal review. So my plan was always to do a small general round up review of the show once it had finally finished and, after a couple of years of resurrections when the show was threatened with cancellation but then managed to stay afloat, which is a hard proposition in today’s television landscape, that point has finally come.

The show’s big pull in the beginning was the ‘return from the dead’ reappearance of Agent Coulson after he was stabbed through the heart by Loki in The Avengers (aka Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, as it’s known over here in the UK). So Clark Gregg was back as Coulson and we got introduced to various members of the S.H.I.E.L.D team as well as an inadvertent newcomer to the group. So we had regulars Ming-Na Wen as ‘tough as nails’ killing machine Melinda May, Chloe Bennet as Daisy ‘Skye’ Johnson (who would become Quake after gaining superpowers a few seasons down the line), Elizabeth Henstridge as super scientist Jemma Simmons, Iain De Caestecker as her co-super scientist Leo Fitz and Brett Dalton as Grant Ward... in the initial line up.

And when it started it was a modest kind of weekly ‘mission impossible’ affair, sometimes linking into cleaning up loose ends from the various Marvel movies and pitting the agents against Hydra and various super powered enemies... sometimes taking The X-Files route to building up the mystery of whoever the villain of the week would be. And there were some intriguing but well telegraphed plot lines and outcomes... and others that you didn’t see coming and kept the programme fresh. Coulson’s seeming immortality and his discovery that he had been brought back to life by Nick Fury through the use of untested alien technology led to its own problems and a long running story arc and then, just as you kind of knew he would, the young heroic, well liked and trusted leading man character of Grant Ward turned out to be a double agent villain working for Hydra at the end of the first season and became, for a few seasons, the teams ultimate arch enemy.

Like the Marvel comics it was inspired by, there are sometimes deaths of characters but Agent Coulson, who dies a few times over the course of the show, was always brought back through one contrivance or another, sometimes with or without the prosthetic, weaponised arm which replaced the one which a fellow team member had to cut off to stop him from being infected by an alien virus (or some such... it was a while ago). That team member was one of a new batch of regulars and semi regulars played by Henry Simmons (as Mack), Natalia Cordova-Buckley as the super-speed powered Yo Yo, Nick Blood as Lance Hunter, Adrianne Palicki as Bobby Morse, Joel Stoffer as mechanical alien being Enoch and Jeff Ward as Deke Shaw, who is the grandson of Simmon’s and Fitz loved up couple from a bleak, future time line. Oh... and in Season 7,  Enver Gjokaj reprising his role as Daniel Sousa from Agent Carter, who hooks up with the gang in the 1950s and stays with them as they try to return to their own time... yeah, give me a minute, and I'll get there.

And there were also some heavy hitting regular guest stars turning up in the show from season to season too, such as Bill Paxton as an enemy double agent, Kyle Machlachlan as Daisy’s super villain father she never knew who rebelled against The Inhumans (if I’m remembering properly) and John Hannah as the scientist who helps Fitz develop the Lifesize Model Decoys (LMDs) who were in the original comics, before the technology gets the better of them and the regular team all spend most of a season imprisoned in a crazy AI universe and embedded into different versions of their characters.

So the thing about Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D is that, every time you think the show was just about played out, it kept reinventing itself. For instance, Brett Dalton reprised his Grant Ward character a couple of times after he got killed, first as a superpowered evil alien God who took the form of Ward and then, later, as a nice guy iteration of him in the AI mirror world that Fitz’ lady robot traps them all in. So interest was held a number of ways such as, in one season, the introduction of Gabriel Luna as that season’s regular character, Ghost Rider. And then, before you knew what hit you, the finale of one season finds the gang all up in space in the far future, trying to stop an alien race from enslaving what’s left of humanity after a future timeline variant of Daisy has destroyed the Earth. All in a days work.

When they get back to their own time, now as fugitives from S.H.I.E.L.D, they are trying to stop the same timeline re-occurring and, frankly, failing at it a lot of times over. And then the next season would be a search through space trying to locate Fitz and then, when Coulson has died and an evil alien using his body clone has also died, he’s back as a mechanical, sentient alien being rebuilt by Enoch and the gang are all time hopping through various points of Earths history, trying to stop an evil alien race from changing time so S.H.I.E.L.D aren’t there to stop them in the future. That last is basically Series 7 of the show and, yeah, it’s a fantastic finale to a series that, as I said, just kept getting better and better. I loved how the seventh season shows’ opening credits emulated the media of the period that they were in from week to week and I double loved that, when Coulson got vapourised in the 1980s, Deke took his downloaded memories and rebuilt him on a TV set as a ‘Max Headroom’ version of Coulson, while they were waiting to rendezvous with the rest of the team who had accidentally jumped into their future, where Coulson’s body is rebuilt again.

The show is fast paced and has all the Marvel stuff you would expect... the budget allowed for some nice special effects and usually at least one or two battles a week. Not to mention a strong series of plot arcs performed by a bunch of actors who, honestly, really are brilliant at these roles. I don’t know if the same is true on the set but certainly they seem to have some good chemistry together on screen. I like how it managed to retain a certain freshness by around season three where the structure and milieu of any given season was never the same as the one before. I also like that they at least tie up the character line of Agent Sousa from Agent Carter and allow for both his death (he has to die because the history books said he did) and his resurrection as the S.H.I.E.L.D agents manage to fake his death so he can reappear in the future as a member of the regular team. It all sounds silly but it’s all quite well written and I did appreciate this show. If Disney deem to release the seventh series on Blu Ray at some point then I’d probably pick up a box set and rewatch all these through one day. Although, the way they’re going with their stupid Disney Plus channel, that’s looking less likely I suspect.

So there you have it. If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe iteration of the Marvel properties (there are a few, rare MCU character guest appearances too, from time to time) then you’ll probably have a good time with Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, especially by the time you hit the fourth season and the changing nature of the programme starts to assert itself. Definitely give this one a go but don’t miss out on Series Seven, which, by the logic of what I’ve been telling you, is the best season yet.

*at time of writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment