Review: ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Proves Dramatic Capability in Mid-Season Finale
The last few months have been ones of re-invention for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Originally conceived as an action/adventure series set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, everything the show was supposed to be changed when the creative team learned it wasn’t long before S.H.I.E.L.D. would be no more thanks to the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Since then, the program’s been looking for ways to be its own entity while still paying respect to its big screen cousins, and thanks to Tuesday’s mid-season finale, it seems to have done just that.
What makes the episode truly stand-out as, quite possibly, the best episode of the series to date is its dramatic chops. Often, when S.H.I.E.L.D. has to tackle something serious that could drastically alter the lives of the team, it does so with puns and jokes to deflect from the gravity of the situation. However, nearly all of that’s gone in “What They Become” because the nature of the situation is so serious that jokes would simply feel inappropriate, and it’s that willingness to break from childish norm that allows the series to truly carry some dramatic weight.
In addition, the mid-season finale of Marvel’s grand television experiment also does something it has yet to, play in specific worlds before the films do. Of course it’s impossible to dive to heavily into what that means without venturing into major spoiler territory, but what can be said is where the episode goes in its final act is to a place few ever expected the series would dare. For the first time, it truly feels as if S.H.I.E.L.D.’s acting from a proactive position rather than the reactionary one we saw during all of its freshman season.
However, the dramatic shifting of the series comes from more than just a change in tone, but also status quo. Come the appearance of the final emblem in 2014 before the “post-credit scene,” audiences will be left uneasy and unsure of how to think in the best of ways. Truly, it will be a moment that makes people say, “wow, they actually did it.”
But, the best part of all? The winter finale does exactly what it promised it would with the series’ new model of airing episodes in runs rather than broken up in seemingly randomized blocks between September and May: it ended its story while laying the foundation of a new one. Come the final scene, fans will know the answer to every immediately important question they’ve had since the premiere, as well as get pay-off for a nice chunk of plot that’s remained floating since the series’ return. It’s the best thing S.H.I.E.L.D. could have done before going on hiatus until March, and it did it in the best way possible.
So, as we say farewell to what will soon no longer be the only Marvel produced television series on the small screen, we can take solace in the fact we got everything we could have hoped for. The creative team appears to have learned a lot from the criticism it received during season one and has since utilized it as the best set of network notes ever. Now there’s no reason not to have high hopes for where the series can go upon returning in the spring.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC
Original article can be found at Forbes