When AoS first debuted, I remember being very underwhelmed by the show’s pilot episode. The plot was hokey, the characters bland, the dialogue corny. My review at the time questioned whether the ‘M’ in Marvel stood for mediocre.
I’m glad I stuck through the growing pains.
By the end of Season 3, the show has matured well, evolving its blend of geeky comic book lore with well-choreographed action and just the right touches of humor and pathos. While still frustratingly uneven at times, it manages to get through misguided slog (the ‘real SHIELD’, anyone?) with episodes that zip the viewer along with riveting storytelling and character development.
In retrospect, it’s pretty amazing to see the improvements as the show developed. Captain America: The Winter Soldier gave the show the kick in the pants it needed with the introduction of Hydra, and gave birth to Grant Ward as a complex, intense villain. That alone is worth applause, because Ward was the most uninspiring character in the initial team. (followed closely by Skye/Daisy)
The Ward reveal gave the show a new direction and a more tightly focused storyline, but that wasn’t the only thing that improved. I noticed immediately that Season 2’s action scenes were much better choreographed and filmed than Season 1. The show felt more cinematic in scope and vision, which vastly improved the viewing experience. The special effects also improved, starting with the character of Carl Creed and his ability to absorb the properties of anything he touches.
And the cast gets rounded out by the addition of Hunter and Bobbi, who bring much needed charisma and humor to the show, not to mention kick-ass sequences courtesy of Bobbi Morse, whose action scenes feel more authentic than Daisy’s, maybe because she simply appears more physically capable. Along with Mack, they fill a void in the personality department, because the rest of the cast is pretty much stressed out by that point.
The Inhuman storyline introduced in Season 2 wasn’t perfect, mainly because it introduced elements that altered the DNA of the show. Instead of being focused on SHIELD as a spy/response team series, it span off into X-Men territory, examining the effects of super-powered people in a world that hates and fears them. Not bad material, but it took a while to get the show back in balance with the introduction of a slew of new characters. (Although I loved Raina and was a bit disappointed she didn’t get a chance to stick around longer.) And the character of Mr. Hyde/Skye’s dad seemed a major distraction every time he showed up, though that may have been the fault of the actor’s completely over-the-top performance. And the reluctance to give us a real Mr Hyde transformation.
Season 3 cements everything good about the first two seasons and manages to plow through without losing much steam with wasted episodes. Everything is more urgent in this season: the rescue of Simmons, Ward vs everyone but especially Coulson, the race to recruit Inhumans, the introduction of Hive, visions of future team member’s deaths…you name it, SHIELD throws it at you. But that’s not a bad thing at all, because at the same time the show manages to continue fleshing out its characters and adding gravitas to each episode. Season 3 packs the most punch, both in action and emotion, giving us the most dynamic season, the best villain (Hive/Ward) and no reason not to expect more in the future.
- I’ve never been much into Daisy. I know she’s important and all, but her character has never been all that interesting to me, so it’s a bit annoying that she gets so much screen time.
- I never thought I’d say this, but I’ll miss Ward. The evolution of his character and the actor’s portrayal was great for the show, but understandably his arc is over. The next major villain has big shoes to fill.
- Bring back Hunter and Bobbi!
- Love how Mack has the most muscle on the show, but nearly always gets his ass kicked. It’s a great flip on the big guy archetype, especially since he’s best when using his brain and being the heart of the team.
When Bard Constantine isn’t consumed by pop culture, he writes gritty futures and far-flung fantasy. See more at bardwritesbooks.com