Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. FINAL SEASON 7 (& series as a whole)

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. :

  1. Season 7
  2. Season 5
  3. Season 6
  4. Season 4
  5. Season 3
  6. Season 2
  7. Season 1

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: ABOMINABLE (no spoilers) + mini review of CAMP CINEMARK!!!

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR YETI…..errrr, I mean ABOMINABLE will forever now be lodged in my mind as my son Grayson’s first movie (he just turned two) in the theater. I remember that he was mostly very, very respectful during it, only really ooooing and ahhhhing at the really cool magical moments, the only movement was when he was just wanting to sit in mommy or daddy’s lap from his own seat. He was an excellent movie theater patron, even though he was in a kid friendly theater, and made this movie nerd very proud. A movie nerd that sometimes wants to fucking snap people’s God damn necks if you talk or text during a regular, more adult movie. Or play with those stupid God damn Apple watches (you know who you are). The movie itself? Eh…it was alright. And cute. I am obviously going to recommend this movie to families, because I did find it charming and even laughed during some moments, and my kid basically paid full attention to it the full 95 minutes, but it’s no Toy Story 4. And definitely no How To Train Your Dragon (both Dragon and this was made by Dreamworks Animation). The movie is…acceptable.

The plot is simple. Big abominable snowman escapes from science facility and ends up on the apartment roof of a sad girl named Yi. Yi is a young girl, a violin player that is stuck in the past, not playing anymore because she misses her dad, who died, who she played for and who taught her how to play, and not giving her mother and grandmother the time of day. The big snowman happens to see a giant Everest advertisement from their roof and Yi and two of her younger boy family friends named Peng and Jin decide to go return them to his home. However, the assholes from the science experiment place that imprisoned him are right on their tale and want them back. With everything I just gave you, you can connects the dots from act one, to act two, to act three pretty easily, and can guess what will ultimately happen. This little road trip kid movie does have its charms though throughout the way and is able to entertain even though it brings absolutely nothing new to the kid movie drama. In fact you could say it borrows too much from other films, and felt really close to ripping off How To Train Your Dragon, with the whole being afraid of giant animals but then learning to love and work with them. Also takes a little bit from Kubo and the Two Strings with the whole violin playing thing (you’ll see).

There is a whooping snake gag that works in the movies favor, bringing it back just when you thought the movie forgot about it. There are also some cute little sight gags involving blueberries and an iphone flashlight that had me chuckling. I also liked the little bait and switch with the whole “who is the real bad guy?” little plot line the movie manages to pull off gracefully. And finally, the movie does have a couple of warm fuzzy feeling “Pixar” moments as well, as the whole adventure is just to get Yi to let go of her deceased father and have her give her mother and grandmother more attention. And even though all of it is generic, it all gets a slight recommendation for me, mainly because it kept my toddler’s attention throughout the whole thing and I was able to enjoy it with him. I also enjoyed some of the chance sequences that involved a dandelion and a fun trip though a flower field using the Yeti (who they name Everest btw) magical powers. That right, can’t go through the film without this special creature having magical powers.

The voice acting isn’t one to cry home about except for Chloe Bennett (Quake on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) who plays Yi, and Sarah Paulson, who plays one of the scientists trying to get the Yeti back. Chloe Bennett completely strips away everything about her voice from the Marvel show and brings humanity and Grace to Yi, and it seemed like Sarah Paulson had fun getting a break from all that drama and horror on television she’s so accustomed to play. The writers and directors of these haven’t done too much theatrically, one of them coming up with the story idea for Monster’s Inc. and both of them involved with Open Season. I think if they had time to perfect and screenplay geared toward a child and combined with their already fine direction, they could have a masterpiece on their hands someday. This obviously isn’t it, but it is a solid effort. If I would’ve saw this by myself, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much, so like I said, go with younger ones or with your family, and you’ll at least have a nice experience with a passable film.

CAMP CINEMARK (the one in Allen, Texas) basically consists of taking one of the many screens that Cinemark usually offers patrons and making it kid friendly. The inside consists of different kinds of comfy seats and loungers and the floor has several decently sized puffy mats for those that want to lay back and watch the movie up close. There are twinkly lights at the top (obviously dimmed way down once the movie starts) to imitate stars in the night sky and decorative plastic trees that try and make it feel like you are watching a movie at a mini camp out. Obviously kids can talk and make minor noises during the movie without being shushed or bitched at but phones are still to be on silent and not taken out during the movie. If your child can’t sit still there is a small room right outside the theater for them to get there energy out or to get them to calm down before you bring them back inside. This room is supposed to have an interactive wall but this wall wasn’t working at the time we got to the theater. Didn’t really matter anyway as our son didn’t have to go in that room during the screening.

My family and friends didn’t thing I’d be able to handle a kid friendly screening, where kids could talk and make minor noises while the movie was playing. But anyone that told me that, I scoff at your asses and give you all the middle finger, because the theater was filled up pretty decently and most of the kids acted better than the bullshit I have to put up with with teens and even grown ups in a regular screening. Yeah, one or two kids pointed at the screen and babbled some shit, but it didn’t bother me because I knew where I was at and where my place was. Even with my kid there and me worrying about him a little bit, I was still able to easily pay attention to the entire movie. I would gladly take my kid there to something he would like to see in the future between the ages of now and 6-7.

I would only give Camp Cinemark 4 out of 5 stars. Two reasons why I would take away a star. First off, I really would’ve liked to see that interactive wall work in the calm down room. The fact that it wasn’t working the first showing in the morning was a little bit ridiculous. Whoever manages that Cinemark in Allen, Texas, and if they just so happen to read this, probably needs to get that shit fixed. Now here is something that corporate needs to fix. There are WAY TOO MANY GOD DAMN TRAILERS BEFORE THE MOVIE and THE NOOVIE (spelled correctly) SPONSORED ENTERTAINMENT BEFORE THE TRAILERS CONTENT WASN’T GEARED TOWARDS KIDS.

For kids with severe ADD, unless you bring your kids in right before the movie starts, are going to have some problems staying calm and staying in there seat. Instead of watching and hearing what Maria Menounous introducing regular content and then talking about how she almost died of a brain tumor earlier in life (I shit you not), why not get some licensed cartoons that they kids could watch before the previews and switch them out every couple of months. And the kids and especially the adults don’t need 20 minutes of previews. Cut that shit in half or even 3/4ths and keep the previews kid friendly. They don’t give a shit about a PG-13 sequel to Jumanji. Stick to cartoons. Also there are two Cinemark beginnings, the regular one with the popcorn and the soda that makes you hungry and need to take a piss at the same time, and then the Camp Cinemark opening. CUT OUT THE FIRST ONE. Those are my recommendations to make CAMP CINEMARK nearly perfect. Even without those fixes, I’d still take Grayson there again.