Written by David Quinn
You could have been forgiven for giving up on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (AoS) in its first year of stories, many people did. It felt like a poor man’s take on the Marvel Cinematic Universe and every time someone (or something) from the movies appeared or was mentioned it felt like they were slumming it with the C-team. The characters were under-developed and underwhelming, the plots seemed to be drawing from the most cliche-ridden TV tropes and it seemed destined to get a swift and understandable cancellation.
But then something happened; something that took the entire show and turned it on its head. We, the audience, were suddenly shown that what the show had actually been doing was biding its time. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had played a waiting game for 17 episodes of its first season before being able to tie in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Once that had finally happened, all bets were off! Lead characters were revelaed to be Hydra agents, relationships were destroyed and our bland but reliable show was all-of-a-sudden must-watch TV!
From that point in April 2014 the show has gone through numerous changes, and while other weekly episodic adventure shows may have thought it wise to stick with a formula that had made them popular, AoS has realised that its malleable, chameleonic nature is actually its strength. Seasons 2 and 3 introduced The Inhumans and tried to tie in with The Avengers: Age of Ultron with varying degrees of success. They brought in characters like Mockingbird (Supa-Star alumni guest Adrienne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) who added new energy to the mix, but the show was starting to feel like it was getting into a rut.
Then Season 4 arrived with a fiery blast and immediately we could see that things had changed. In the US the AoS had been moved to a different day and a later timeslot which meant it was able to take on darker themes and more graphic violence. This was demonstrated immediately with the introduction of the flame headed Ghost Rider and a storyline about a mystical book called The Darkhold. However that was not to be the theme of the entire season. In a brilliant piece of creative storytelling season 4 was split into 3 distinct story arcs. Following on from the Ghost Rider arc was a plotline lifted from the comics of the Life Model Decoys (LMDs) robot replications of the core characters who infiltrate the team… which then lead into the third arc called ‘Agents of Hydra’, a “what-if?” style scenario where Hydra rules the world (in a complex simulation) and the S.H.I.E.L.D. team must work out how to escape the nightmare and return to the really real world.
This brings us to Season 5, and the team are not resting on any laurels. This time the focus has shifted away from the mysical and supernatural to hard science fiction! The team is no longer on earth but in a gigantic space station, fighting Kree baddies and generally being as much a space-opera as is possible on a weekly TV budget. Some are calling this a “soft reboot” but that is really ignoring that the show is just doing what it has been doing since its inception: Adapting. AoS’s strength is in its very likeable characters and the fact that they can transfer across to almost any genre with style. The writing is always solid and the relationships between the characters are the glue that will keep viewers hooked no matter what genre the show is playing with.
If you gave up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in season 1 you could well be forgiven. It asked a lot of an audience to wait out 17 episodes of filler before really getting going, but now is a great time to come back! If you like your Marvel Universe a little more along the lines of Guardians of the Galaxy and a little less F.B.I. with superpowers then season 5 is looking to be a whole heap of fun!
Keep an eye out in early 2018 for local airtimes.