In April of 2013, the then fledgling Marvel Entertainment group took a risk by pivoting from the big screen of movies to launch into television for the first time. The show was Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Sidenote: they really demanded that you put it that way in print for a good while!).
Using the dead corpse of SHIELD agent Phil Coulson from the movies, they built a team around him and thus, the series was birthed. So, why the history lesson? Because tonight, the seventh and final season of the show closes and it deserves some nerd love for all the things it accomplished.
Accomplishment #1: SHIELD proved you could have a semi-viable property on television based on the superhero world. It seems almost like a no brainer now, with the world of television overrun with everything from Marvel and DC properties to Netflix original shows based on superheroes to something like the show The Boys on Amazon Prime.
But, it was a risk to launch Agents of SHIELD back in the day. And while it never exactly was a runaway hit, it did succeed enough to give us some other great things. The spectacular though short lived Agent Carter comes directly out of the success of this show. The posse of Netflix Marvel shows around the Defenders characters likely doesn’t come into existence without this show.
Agents of SHIELD deserves celebrating what it was but also what it helped launch!
Accomplishment #2: Pick a random season 1 episode of Agents of SHIELD and fast forward to a fight. Uh, it is/was rough to be generous. I mean, it was, in some ways, brutally bad. But…they kept working at it. The end of season 1 was better than the beginning.
Season 2 was much better and kept getting better. The teams involved had to learn how to do film spectacular fights in a way that works for television. So by the time they get something like Daredevil greenlit, as a fan, I trusted it would be great.
The Hall Fights of the Defenders shows don’t exist without Agents of SHIELD plowing the way.
Accomplishment #3: SHIELD had to learn how to tell a tale that was tangential to the Marvel Cinematic Universe but not entirely wrapped up in it. Think about this: you are the showrunners for this new Marvel television property. And while you aren’t crushing it, you are doing pretty well.
Now imagine the Russo Brothers call you up and tell you that the main agency of your show is going to be proven to be infiltrated by their opposing evil organization at the end of your first season with the release of Captain America: Winter Soldier. But, you know, good luck!
They had to roll with the punches and did so without ever having a major Marvel character show up. Sure, Lady Sif from Thor showed up and Maria Hill was there, but those were in the earlier seasons.
Accomplishment #4: They made some amazing television. Seriously. The 5th episode of season 3 of the series is one of the best episodes of television in the last 10 years, in any show or any genre.
The bottle episode centers on Jemma Simmons, who has been trapped on an alien world and has to survive and what happens to her. If you have never checked out 4,722 Hours, you definitely should!
Accomplishment #5: When they felt like their backs were up against the wall, the show was willing to take some major league swings. Seasons 5 forward just gave the showrunners the chance to go all out. Under the threat of cancellation every year, it would have been easy to try safe stories.
Instead, SHIELD did a major space travel arc that melded with a time travel arc. Agent Coulson was wiped out at the end of season 5, dramatically sort of re-appears in season 6 and a different “version” of him shows in season 7. Does it all work? No. But some of it does and it is a really wild ride!
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D deserves our affection and love as it comes to a close. We saw whole arcs rise and fail and we saw whole stories. The arc of Coulson is an amazing and challenging one, even from his resurrection from dying in the Avengers movie.
There should be whole volumes written about the nerd love of Fitz and Simmons as they start as raw agents but become friends, then partners then lovers. (Fitz is my favorite. After seeing “4,722 Hours” I tweet that I hope that I can be half as good a man as he was in the show.)
So, maybe you drifted off or there are some gaps of episodes you need to see to close it out. Do so. And give Agents of SHIELD the love it deserves.