[This post contains major spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the last two episodes of S.H.I.E.L.D. You’ve been warned.]
No, seriously — I’m asking.
But I’m definitely not complaining.
Because until the last two episodes aired, I was ready to quit. I’d given the show a fair shake, but it tested and failed my limits near the end. Case in point, the Thor cross-over episode with Lorelai was so bad I had to turn it off and couldn’t watch it again for two weeks. Jaimie Alexander might be great as Sif, but having a villain we’ve never met before who’s barely explained within the context of the show and then shuffled off back to Asgard by the end was sloppy, poorly-handled, and still possibly the best part of a truly dreadful episode.
My vote for the “worst” part would be the disappointing reveal that Melinda May, ice-cold pilot and ex-field agent, has secret tragic feelings for her friend with benefits, and is jilted when she discovers that her Sterling Archer doll secretly likes cliched Superhacker Skye instead. That shit was lame and a cheap attempt at creating emotional drama at the expense of an already under-developed character (May). And frankly, I do wish the writers would settle on particular couples because at the moment it seems like the crew is five seconds away from a big HR-unapproved orgy at all times.
But romance rant aside, many people argued that the movie cross-overs were hindering S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s ability to be taken seriously as an autonomous project within the MARVEL universe. After the first Thor cross-over with the crew of “The Bus” cleaning up the mess in London, i09’s otherwise brilliant Charlie Jane Anders declared that S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s attempt to pimp its movie connections was a problem:
But by hanging a sign out that says “movie tie-in,” this episode pointed out one of the main pitfalls of having a TV show that has to dart between the ankles of big movies: the worldbuilding. The show couldn’t tell a definitive story about Asgard or Asgardians, or really stretch our understanding of Norse mythology in the Marvel Universe, because it was stuck trying to avoid competing with Thor 2.
I only disagree because I liked the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. being the C-Team; The ordinary Joes who do in fact have to clean up after the superheroes. If anything, I often felt like the show didn’t exploit that enough and felt more than vindicated at just how amazing the Captain America cross-over wound up being.
Now, to be fair, the Captain America tie-in couldn’t not happen. You can’t have S.H.I.E.L.D. destroyed, taken over by a secret HYDRA insurgency and have Nick Fury “die” without that being reflected on a show that is literally about the inner-workings of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In some ways, it seems like The Winter Soldier’s plot helped the show out of a mess it was quickly making for itself. Do I really care about the magical blue alien serum that brought first Coulson, and now Skye, back to life? Not really. Even if that still is the major driving force of the show (or at least its first season), it’s nice now to have the whole thing up-ended and complicated by this development. Coulson storming around demanding answers from different top-level S.H.I.E.L.D. people is less possible now that he’s an outlaw, and it’s hard to imagine exactly how they would justify continuing that investigation when they need to deal with the evil organization running a government agency (save the jokes).
Another smart move was making The Clairvoyant more like Adam Baldwin’s Jayne Cobb. Not that I don’t love Bill Paxton’s work; this part is just an older, meaner version of Baldwin’s opportunistic merc.
Plus Patton Oswalt truly can make anything seem charming. It’s his gift and I hope he sticks around for more than a few episodes.
But I’ll end this on a bummer, because that’s who I am. This turning point really has been great, I think it spells good things for the show as a whole and its direction. But I do have a sticking point, and it’s Ward. He was a double agent all along! That’s cool, I can sort of buy it, although rumor has it that the actor didn’t know until five minutes before his big “reveal” scene, which doesn’t speak too much to the writers’ faith in him, frankly. But while I don’t hate Ward as much as the rest of the internet seems to, I am seriously concerned that they’re going to make a play for his either being a triple agent (which would make less than no sense) or else having him redeemed by the healing power of love (which would just be awful).
The writers haven’t done enough over the past few episodes to really make me believe that his love of Skye is so great that he could icily dismiss and fuck over every other member of that crew, but is incapable of hurting her specifically. You don’t shoot three people in the face and then giggle about Tom Brady with your crush.
Just let him just be bad. It’s more fun that way.
In any event, it’s nice to genuinely like the show now, rather than feel that I have to make excuses for it every week or hope for it to get better.
Have you been watching? Thoughts, concerns, ships?