Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was one of the most anticipated new shows premiering last fall, a concept that appeared to be full of potential. However, after the first several episodes, many fans seemed to agree the show hadn't quite lived up to the hopes they had for it. The characters weren't quite clicking, the show struggled to find a tone and focus, and it didn't seem to have the same magic spark as the Marvel movies. Ratings have continued to drop, and if the trend continues, a cancellation notice could be in the show's future.
Which would be a shame, because "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has shown real improvement in the second half of its first season. Show runners have been fixing many of the issues fans seemed to have with the series, and it's now closer, I think, to the show fans were actually hoping to see when they tuned in last fall.
The first episode after the holiday break, "The Magical Place," at first appeared to be a bit of a letdown; the truth about how Agent Phil Coulson was brought back from the dead wasn't quite as dramatic as fans had been hoping for. However, with the episode "T.R.A.C.K.S.," the show began to really pick up steam, and we learned the supposed "big reveal" about Coulson was only part of the truth. The run of solid episodes continued through last week's "Turn, Turn, Turn," which provided a nice tie-in with "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
Back in January, I wrote a blog about what I wanted to happen in the second half of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." season one, and I was excited to see that most of the concerns I raised have been addressed. One of the main issues fans seemed to have was that the show lacked a strong, overarching plot. The "monster of the week" format used in the first half of season one resulted in some interesting episodes but caused the show to lack a sense of continuing, high-stakes urgency. That has changed with part two. So far, a major character has been shot, some characters have turned traitor, a member of Coulson's team is given a top secret mission from Director Nick Fury that he or she isn't allowed to share with the rest of the team, and another major character is brought back from the brink of death, similar to Coulson.
The show has focused in on a mysterious villain known as the "Clairvoyant," who appears to have psychic powers, and the Clairvoyant also has been tied into the truth about Coulson's resurrection. The major secret about S.H.I.E.L.D. uncovered in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" spills over into "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," understandably shaking the entire foundation of the show. The increased complexity and heightened sense of mystery and danger has me excited about watching the show again.
I also feel Coulson's team is finally starting to click, and the characters are functioning more as a cohesive unit. We're seeing some deeper character development and learning more about who these characters are and what secrets they're hiding in their past. The addition of some new characters has added energy to the show: Bill Paxton has been great as Agent John Garrett, a friend of Coulson's, and I've enjoyed watching B.J. Britt, who is charming and likable as Agent Antoine Triplett. Jaimie Alexander (Lady Sif from the "Thor" movies) also guest stars on a great "Thor"-crossover episode called "Yes Men" (it's actually a stronger "Thor"-crossover episode than the one marketed last fall, right after the release of "The Dark World").
While Skye still doesn't seem to be a fan favorite, I think the writers have done a better job working her into the show and haven't been trying as hard to force her as the main character. Agent Ward is another character fans have had a tougher time warming up to, but some recent plot twists have added a more interesting side to the character. My favorite character, aside from Coulson, continues to be Agent Fitz. Though he started out as more of a caricature, the show has added depth to his character, and his character is now a nice mix of sweet, funny and quirky. I'd also like to see more of the character Mike Peterson, who has been turned into the villain Deathlok against his will. Peterson is one of the most heartbreaking and emotionally complex characters on the show.
If you started watching "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." but gave up after the first half of season one, I'd encourage you to give it another shot. The show still has some work to do — I'm still not buying the Agent Ward/Skye romantic subplot — but the series has definitely improved and seems to have found the right blend of elements: a mix of the Marvel superhero movies, "James Bond" and "The X-Files." I think the show has earned a second chance — and a second season.
So, what do you think? Are you still watching "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."? Do you think the show has improved since it started?