The first season of the American television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is based on the Marvel Comics organization S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), revolves around the character of Phil Coulson and his team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, who are assigned to several dangerous cases.
Agents of SHIELD is currently in its third season, but I thought I’d attempt to get caught up on my boxset reviews by revisiting older seasons of various shows in the near future.
Back after the release for the Avengers film, hype for the Marvel Cinematic Universe had never been higher. Fans were eagerly anticipating any new project from the company, and they decided to resurrect a fan-favourite character from the films, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), to star in a brand new show on ABC. The show would look into the premiere spy agency of the universe and explore SHIELD’s role within the world at large, dealing with threats too small to call in the Avengers. Instantly a team of characters was assembled – straight and narrow Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), awkward computer experts Leo Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) & Jenna Simmons (Elizabeth Hensridge), and elite superspy, Melinda May, aka “The Calvary” (Ming-Na Wen). The group was an interesting bunch of characters that had their typical Whedon quirks – it’s worth noting of course that Joss Whedon wrote the pilot episode, but the show itself was helmed by his brother, Jed, and Joss didn’t return to the series again, busy with Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The first half of Agents of SHIELD suffered from numerous problems. Mysteries such as how Coulson survived his death were drawn out and underwhelming, and the inclusion of a hacktivist known as Skye (Chloe Bennet) didn’t help matters much as her character wasn’t exactly perfect, and consistently annoying – a trait that got worse as the season progressed. It was only later that Agents of SHIELD would fix this problem, and that’s not the only problem that the show was able to fix before the end of the season.
Due to its tie-in with the Marvel Universe, Agents of SHIELD was unable to get to the HYDRA story until the release of The Winter Soldier which changed the status quo of the series with an incredible twist that proved to be a real gamechanger. SHIELD was left reeling following the events of the film and the show itself managed to make another incredibly boring character suddenly incredibly interesting by revealing that he was HYDRA all along. Cameo appearances by Samuel L Jackson and Cobie Smulders in their roles as Nick Fury and Maria Hill went some way to improve the quality of the series, as well as a fun episode featuring Lady Sif – played by Jaime Alexander, and the episodes that were connected with HYDRA were handled so well that Agents of SHIELD ended its first season on a spectacular high note.
Before then though, the show had plenty of problems. Even though Iron Man couldn’t appear every other episode, the show didn’t stop itself from telling us many times that it was set in the same universe as the Avengers. It served as a constant reminder that there was actually better material out there, and as a result it was offputting. The brief tie-in to Thor: The Dark World felt cheap and unnecessary, and it was actually a miracle that they managed to pull off the whole Winter Soldier twist so well in hindsight. It showed that the writers were being held back from telling interesting stories thanks to the film and had it started around the events of the movie or in the aftermath we might have not had the problem of an underwhelming start.
On the whole then Agents of SHIELD’s first season was a mixed experiment that ultimately led to a great thing but took a while to find its feet. The improvement of the second and third seasons meant that the first season is actually worth sitting through, so for those of you who haven’t yet gone back to it, the series might be worth giving another go. It’s not perfect, but then again, there are few first seasons of Network TV shows that are.