Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just shook up the world of television with their mid-season finale.
For those who aren’t familiar, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. follows Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who was resurrected after the battle of New York in The Avengers, and his team of agents as they battle alien threats. While showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen spent the first half of the first season establishing major characters, the plot suffered from a premature storyline that was burdened with too many inconsequential subplots. The second half, however, took shape much more readily (thanks to Captain America: The Winter Soldier for upending the status quo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), and several recurring subplots were brought to the forefront, driving the premise of the show. Fortunately, the finale of season one provided a solid stage for a very promising second season, which took the threads and wove them into a story that Whedon and Tancharoen have been trying to execute since the beginning: the origin of a superhero.
The reveal of Skye as Daisy Johnson, and her transformation into Quake, a superhuman with the ability to produce earthquakes, irrevocably plunged the show into the heart of Marvel territory (instead of dancing in the periphery of the comic book universe with Agent‘s previous “Freak of the Week” format). The midseason finale accomplished the feat of establishing the relevancy of the show within the larger scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Kree corpse discovered in season one and the Kree city found at the end of season two establishes ties with Guardians of the Galaxy. Tie-ins with The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) have also been confirmed. Most importantly, the reveal of Skye and Raina as Inhumans, a group of genetically modified people who were experimented on by the Kree, sets up for the upcoming Inhumans film, which is slated for release in 2018. For the first time, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is delving into a story arc that will have long-term implications on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What has been produced is several interconnected storylines that play out across different mediums, through several cinematic features and smaller television productions. It’s quite impressive, really.
The connections go much deeper than that, though, but I’m only mildly literate in the Marvel Comic’s universe, so I don’t have nearly enough knowledge to comment extensively on the full implications of the midseason finale on the larger scope of the Marvel universe. As a casual viewer, my expectations are considerably different than that of a devoted comic fan. However, I do believe we share similar standards in the execution of a compelling and convincing television show. It’s impressive how much weight is afforded to difficult narrative decisions. It may be a generous praise, but I’ve encountered my fair share of shows whose poignant moments are employed purely for emotional manipulation, with no consequences or impacts on the plot or characters. Fitz’s brain damage from season one puts strains on his relationship with Simmons; however, it is comforting to see little ways in which Simmons adjusts her behaviour to remedy their relationship. The midseason finale saw the death of Agent Antoine “Trip” Triplett—his death will certainly play a substantial role in Skye’s transformation into Quake. As she so eloquently says in season one, “with great power comes a ton of weird crap.”
The season-and-a-half set up of Skye’s origin story has been bumpy—the showrunners make viewers work for it, but the payoff is grand. Now that the narrative has finally arrived at the intended story, it will be interesting seeing how the dynamic of the show will change and how the introduction of Inhumans will impact the larger scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.