Ah, MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. what an interesting journey, both on screen and off. The real question remains: is it canon or is it not? I mean, the first several seasons, particularly the first and second, connected directly to Captain America The Winter Soldier and Thor The Dark World. Nick Fury and Sif even showed up for an episode or two! But then from each season on, the world outside the television show it took place in, started getting mentioned less and less, and even though Thanos was mentioned near the end of season 5…we never saw the series link to any of the later Marvel Cinematic Universe films, especially Infinity War or Endgame. After those movies went by before the shows’s sixth and seventh seasons premiered, the show runners and producers couldn’t even answer simple questions as to when all their events exactly took place. Is it still canon, or if not…is it now it’s own thing…it’s own timeline? Because with the last 3 seasons, we aren’t given any exact dates or years, any time that passes, it is just casually mentioned with a title card or two ‘one year later’, no big deal. So, that brings us to a new question: in SEASON 7, the final season at the very end, is everything connected? Does it concretely establish itself as MCU canon? My concrete answer: even if it does or doesn’t (it kinda sorta does and doesn’t), it doesn’t really matter. After the first three seasons, the show became its own thing, and without the constructs of having to adhere to the MCU theatrical timeline, its storytelling exploded with rich exposition, imagination, and character development. When it became it’s own thing, it was absolutely riveting. And although season 7 does have a couple of nods to the MCU, ESPECIALLY the last two episodes, at the end of the day, who gives an ultimate shit? Us still loyal viewers, we wanted an ending for the CHARACTERS, and not just placating fan service to Infinity War, Endgame, or even Spider-Man Far From Home. Did we get that character ending? Abso-fucking-lutely we did.
Not only do I feel safe in saying that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a fantastic series finale, but I’m quite confident that it was the best season out of the seven, a truly rare accomplishment indeed. Out of 13 episodes, maybe only one lost my attention a couple of times. The other 12? Some of the best episodes of the entire series, especially one directed by series regular Elizabeth Henstridge, that pays homage to Groundhog Day to absolute perfection. Most of the series maybe had about only half a really great season, and half a so-so season. Let’s do this in order shall we? The first half of the first season is absolutely fucking abysmal. But those last 11 episodes, especially when it ties itself to Captain America The Winter Soldier…solid. Season 2 takes season one’s momentum and ups it a notch, showing how Sky (Chloe Bennett) finds her lineage and her real name (Daisy), along with her superhero identity (Quake). It lagged a bit in the middle though. Season 3 takes the Inhuman story line and steps it up yet a tiny notch further, especially since the references to the MCU become smaller and smaller and smaller. Again, it lagged a bit during the middle though. Season 4 stumbles a bit with the Ghost Rider introduction, but once it gets to Life Model Decoy’s about half way through the season, not to mention almost no other connections to the MCU, the storytelling gets very, very good. Season 5 is the last 22 episode season that was my favorite until this last season. I couldn’t believe that almost each and every episode mattered, considering I think any show that goes over 13 episodes now per season is tiresome. But season 5, dealing with the team going way into the future and facing the ‘Destroyer of Worlds,’ was an excellent, excellent storyline.
And the ending of that season? It honestly could’ve been the end, but I’m glad it wasn’t. Season 6 was just a notch below, but that is mainly because I didn’t like how they made Clark Gregg (usually Agent Coulson) play a different character that also happened to be the villain of those 13 episodes. But the show now being only 13 episodes instead of 22 made it have more of a solid foundation and didn’t become tiresome. And it was still entertaining because the rest of the characters flourish, especially one that was introduced in season 5, Deke, shines here. Season 7 ties everything up, and without giving too much away, Clark Gregg is back as Agent Coulson, everybody gets a fitting ending, and the time travel to the past story line is fun and exciting. Even though the actor that plays Fitz was mostly absent, it made up for it when he finally appeared. Oh…and they pick up a character that was on Agent Carter, and actually give him an arc and an ending story line, which was nice considering that show was (rightly) cancelled abruptly after two seasons. If feels as though season 7 was completely pre-visualized before they even starting writing dialogue or full scripts. This final season has a very nice and tight arc, that while being extremely fun, especially the first 7/8 episodes, makes sure that the final 5/6 don’t rush everything. It plants seeds in the first half of the season that steadily grow into a flower that blooms the last 4 when it’s still fun, but taken more seriously, story line wise. It is hard to talk about without revealing anything, but I can say that the story involves the characters going through several different time periods in the past, and trying not to fuck up the main timeline, especially when the evil Chronicoms (you’ll have to watch the series to get what I’m even talking about), are intent on ending S.H.I.E.L.D. and possibly all of mankind in the process.
The villains this season are good, and although I could get into who they are, it is best not to give any of the reveals away. So what I can talk about without giving much away is how I felt about the series character and acting wise, focusing on the main cast only. Chloe Bennett turns Sky from an ‘aw shucks, what is happening to me’ kind of one dimensional character, and transforms into ‘Quake,’ a bad ass heroine that rivals any of the female superheroes we have gotten in the MCU theatrical films. Clark Gregg was a side character in those films as Agent Coulson, but he and the showrunners took the several glimmers of personality we got in those films, and turned it into a full and satisfying emotional arc in these seven seasons of television. Ming-Na Wen, who played Melinda May, is yet another heroine, but without any powers, that rivals most if not all of the female superheroes in the MCU. She constantly surprised us every season with how deeper her initial one-dimensional hardened character could go. Ian De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge as Fitz and Simmons were the true emotional heart of the series. Their friendship and maybe more than friendship was the one constant the entire seven seasons had. It never wavered once in its storytelling, even though Ian is mostly nowhere to be seen this final season (for a good reason it turns out). I don’t know whether he didn’t want to be in this final season as much because he got tired of being on the show, or if it was a creative decision. Either way, his arc here worked. And his arcs in the other seasons and acting were fantastic as well. Elizabeth’s really worked. She took a geeky girl scientist nerd and turned her yet into another strong and emotional bad ass heroine. And like I said before, she directs Episode Nine of this season titled, “As I Have Always Been,” that is easily my favorite episode of the series.
Henry Simmons as Mack was always the strong brute that could’ve also been just a two dimensional character, but in later seasons he got his emotional moments and brilliant one-liners enough to branch out on his own. And then finally Brett Dalton, Natalia Cordova- Buckley, and Jeff Ward, who were only in a third to almost half of the series episodes as Grant Ward, Yo-Yo Rodriguez, and Deke, all shined in whatever screen time they did have. Especially Brett after Grant Ward’s big reveal near the end of the first season and when Jeff Ward got to cut loose with Deke in season 6 and made him the comic relief. It was also nice to see that during these whole seven seasons, there was never any showrunner or writer shake up. They stayed put and got to do their vision their way, which is always commendable in the day and age of studio interference. The only thing the studio interfered with here was the uses of any character that the films maybe wanted to use down the line, which actually benefited the show, seeing it didn’t have any chains to weight it down. In summary, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of those very rare shows that just got better and better as time went on. It will be known more for the second half of its life than its first, which is astonishingly unbelievable. Once the connections to the MCU went away, everybody got more creative and more time to play. And it shows. So in the end, who really cares if it is canon or not? I certainly don’t (even though in my mind I can argue and provide proof for both ways). When I just finished the series over lunch, the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t whether or not canon even mattered because of the confusing nature of where exactly this took place in the MCU. No, the first thing that came to my mind was how emotionally satisfying the arc of all the characters ended and how the storytelling really did become its own…Pandora’s Box, if you will. And it was all very…very satisfying and I loved that I got to open Pandora’s Box for seven years. Now if only they would let the two showrunners, Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen…write their own MCU script. Just imagine…
My personal rank of seasons of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. :
- Season 7
- Season 5
- Season 6
- Season 4
- Season 3
- Season 2
- Season 1