Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD delivered its best episode to date with the season finale, “The Beginning of the End.”
Much of Agents of SHIELD’s first season has suffered from a noticeable lack of dramatic stakes or distinct character voices, at least until some of the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier directly affected SHIELD as an entity and more specifically our group of agents. For those who haven’t seen this film and are not spoiler averse: SHIELD was discovered to be infiltrated with HYDRA agents, leading to the disbandment of the organization, the dissemination of all its data, and the supposed death of Director Nick Fury. It’s worth mentioning that if you are spoiler averse, watching Agents of SHIELD these past few weeks is definitely NOT recommended. By turning reality on its head for Coulson and his team, the show managed to inject real danger that proved compelling, although I’d argue that last week found the show meandering a bit pre-Winter Soldier style.
I’m not going to go too much into the plot details of the finale. Needless to say, good guys triumph with victory on a personal scale. Garrett’s eliminated, Ward captured, and Deathlok goes on a redemption tour, walking the Earth to do some good. Fitz sorta confesses his affections for Simmons, but is kept mysteriously out of sight once Nick Fury arrives.
Don’t misunderstand me. I know all this sounds pretty slight, but there were lots of great moments in a firecracker script from Agents’ executive producers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon. Melinda “renovates” Ward’s ass in a spectacularly choreographed fight scene. Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury, disguised as a disheveled mess schools Bill Paxton’s Garrett on both ideologies and how to use restraint with campy acting. All of this is kept at a brisk pace, filled with the snarky quips that are synonymous with the name “Whedon.”
The final sequences of “The Beginning of the End” are meant to compel us to return for the second season. What’s up with Fitz? Why is insomnia suffering Coulson sketching the same weird designs on the wall that Garrett was? Does this have something to do with that blue alien? And who does that drippy hand of Skye’s father really belong to?
But most importantly, Agents Of SHIELD introduces something I’ve been hoping to see for a while now. In a bromantic scene, Fury gives Coulson a glimpse of himself through Fury’s eyes. To his former director, Coulson is an Avenger too. And then Fury hands over the keys to SHIELD, installing Coulson as the new director and charges him with rebuilding the organization from the ground up. Finally, the show has an element that will (or at least should) impact the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. If Coulson’s rebuilding the defunct SHIELD, then he’s out of the shadows as a fallen agent, and now on the trail of snuffing out the HYDRA elements still in play.
You know, I’d say it’s rare that one good hour of a television series can correct the elements that have made its season as a whole lackluster. Perhaps Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD is banking on the credit built up by the Marvel films to help pull us in, but with a down payment like this finale, it looks like next season could really payoff. Focus and direction have returned to a show in need of just that.
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