Spoilers Ahead on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 Review
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. began as a much hyped spin-off show which quickly lost many viewers after a sluggish start to the first half of Season 1. Fans who stuck with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (AOS) were rewarded with a revamped and revitalized sophomore season. The most recent Season 3 is consistently good but doesn’t surpass Season 2’s benchmark. Keeping viewers engaged over a 22 episode long story arc is an accomplishment in itself considering Arrow dropped the ball in its 3rd Season.
Season 3’s highly serialized storytelling is a strength because there’s a continuous forward momentum. Like Season 2, many episodes incorporate the villain/threat of the week into the overarching story line. If there’s a drawback to episodes blending nicely into the next it’s that it’s harder to remember the highlight moments in each episode. The big exception is when the episode takes place on the blue alien planet. Episode 5 titled ‘4,722 hours’ is a finely written showcase for Agent Simmons’ resourcefulness and brilliance. The strong writing developed the bond between Simmons and Fitz without Fitz actually being on the alien planet with her and set up the rest of the season by introducing the evil entity known as Hive.
The weakest section of Season 3 are the episodes after the mid-season finale “Maveth” which slowly built up Hive as a major threat. Hive at full strength is a decent big bad in that he ties directly into the Inhumans story line and because he has Ward’s memories & body it made things personal for the Agents. Ward’s presence on the show was coming to an end point and it’s a good time to move on without him. It’s a wise decision not to redeem Ward, it also meant that there was nowhere else to take his character. His final farewell scene fittingly saw him accept his fate in a calm and contemplative demeanor. Actor Brett Dalton’s performance evolved as his character did, he’s pretty good as both villainous Ward and as Hive.
The formation of the Secret Warriors is underdeveloped but leaves the door open to be explored further down the line. The Secret Warriors are an indicator of how the show had to evolve from a show centered on non-super powered humans to revolving around gifted InHumans. Of course, the show runners did plan out from the beginning that Skye would become Daisy Johnson/Quake. AOS needed to create its own line up of super powered heroes and villains since it’s become mostly independent of the MCU.
Naturally, certain elements from the MCU (eg. Civil War) will have a trickle down effect like the meta-human registration act requiring InHumans to identify themselves. What’s interesting is that the InHumans movie is pushed back to Phase 4. If it had been outright cancelled, would that have permitted AOS to explore InHumans story lines and characters which otherwise might have been off-limits? Put it this way, Secret Warriors in its current incarnation wouldn’t make for an exciting spin-off show though it has potential as a part of AOS.
MARVEL’S MOST WANTED
Speaking of spin-offs, Mockingbird and Hunter exited AOS in Episode 13 “Parting Shots” to start their own series Marvel’s Most Wanted which is not going forward after all. Their farewell scene in the bar is an earned touching moment. As strong as Bobbi and Lance’s chemistry is, it would be a challenge for them to carry their own show considering AOS itself isn’t making a huge dent in the ratings. The smart move would be to bring the duo back to AOS. Besides, the team dynamic could always use another kick-ass and wise-cracking agents. If brought back, the writers would need to utilize them better than Hunter’s need for revenge on Ward which shaped his story line early in the season.
Much of the characterization of the Agents were explored through relationships. Let’s start off with the weakest pairing. The chemistry between Lincoln and Daisy is more suited for a platonic friendship than a passionate romance. They never really clicked and the writers didn’t set up their relationship in a way that viewers could invest in. As a result, their goodbye scene in the finale didn’t emotionally resonate. If it had been Fitz or Simmons sacrificing themselves it would have been a real gut punch and a play out of the Joss Whedon writer’s handbook by tearing apart a new happy couple. Thankfully the writers didn’t go that route. Fitz and Simmons romantic entanglements offered some lighter moments which balanced out the more serious drama in the second half of the season.
It’s a little harder to pinpoint why May’s relationship with Andrew was serviceable but not compelling. Perhaps while we got to see slightly different sides to May, this story didn’t go far enough to show a brand new facet to her. We know that in the end she will always make the hard decisions like shooting Lash. Lash was literally kept in a box until the writers needed a way to un-brainwash Daisy. However, it was a great reveal to have the hulking beast walk out of the Quinjet and give Hive a beat down, one of the season’s more memorable moment.
The writers did a good job of evolving Skye into Agent Daisy Johnson, so it was a pretty risky move to have her “swayed” by Hive. When a character is mind-controlled it’s takes away from their agency and puts them at risk for being less likable to certain viewers. But it worked story-wise and set up the opportunity for Brett Dalton and Chloe Bennet to work closely again for the last time without their characters constantly fighting each other. Mostly it landed on the idea that Daisy has a strong need to belong and feel connected which is true to her character. While Daisy’s connection with Lincoln didn’t translate on-screen, her partnership with Mack felt genuine. Mack’s family life was explored in the mediocre episode “Watchdogs” but it’s really his fascination with his shotgun axe that we care about!
SON OF COUL
One of the best scenes of the season had nothing to do with super powers. The dinnertime conversation between Coulson and Rosalind Price radiated charm and dialogue to die for. If AOS would take its foot off the acceleration pedal once in a while, it could benefit from more of these moments. Even though the ACTU arc wasn’t all that exciting, the relationship with Rosalind made for fun viewing on guessing if she could be trusted or not. As hard as it is to see Rosalind shockingly killed, it’s needed to push Coulson further down a darker path to where he would believably snuff out Ward in cold-blooded revenge, a line which he regrettably crossed. Sure, Coulson still drops the occasional geeky Star Wars reference which we love him for. But hopefully we’ll see more of that side to him after stepping down from the Director position to be a field agent again, without the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Season 3’s ending wasn’t a game changer compared to the brilliant Season 2 finale when the Terrigen mist infected the human food supply and the alien monolith swallowed up Simmons. Heading into Season 4 the core group of Agents is still intact and wisely the writers closed the chapter on Ward and Lincoln. There’s a fresh slate for which ever direction the writers want to go. The new Director could change up the team dynamic and the spy organization itself. Getting back to the root of what makes Coulson a fan favorite could be a promising development. And in the post-Civil War world, Quake delivering her own brand of news headline heroics might be an intriguing counterpoint to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s mission in the shadows.
Are you interested in watching Season 3? If you watched it what are the most memorable moments and what do you want to see happen in Season 4?