During my dreadful high school years, I had a tradition. I gave myself a selfish slot of self-care time in my busy weeks. Beginning in October, I would sit down at 9 p.m. one night a week and watch the CW superhero TV shows. “The Flash,” “Arrow” — all the spandex a nerd could wish for.
When my junior year came around, this tradition changed. I couldn’t stand the quality of the stories anymore. “The Flash” became too boring and cheesy. It was a dramatic shift, but why did I suddenly start to dislike these stories? Because I had began to watch the pinnacle of superhero shows: “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has mastered the sci-fi/superhero genre over the course of seven seasons, pulling off what other superhero romps haven’t truly been able to accomplish. There’s a balance between serious moments and packed one-liners, beautiful fight choreography and VFX, and — most importantly — character development.
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” admittedly had a bumpy start in its earlier seasons. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” began as a way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to expand on its storylines, starting with the revival of Agent Phil Coulson. “Didn’t he die in ‘Avengers?’ Tune in to ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ at 9/10 ET to find out how he’s alive!” The forced connections and limitations “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” had with the MCU had chained “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” to half-baked plots. That is, until the key that was “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” freed “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” from its weekly shoe-horns. There was no more S.H.I.E.L.D.
Where did that leave a show that was about a specialized S.H.I.E.L.D unit? Apparently, the only direction was up.
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” progressed to one of the best iterations of Marvel television before Disney+. Fans were given fleshed-out characters, who evolved as the series gained ground: There’s the science/engineering duo of Fitz-Simmons, a pair that is destined to be together if the universe would just stop pulling them apart, hacker turned spy turned superhero Daisy Johnson (who also goes by Skye, Quake, and Destroyer of Worlds, at one point or another), Melinda May, an emotionless warrior with a tragic past, and more.
Rarely does a show come along that is able to create such a metamorphosis and visceral difference in characters. The heroes we meet in season 1 are unrecognizable in their season 7 counterparts. These radical character changes allow for the emotional punches that the show delivers to really land, and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has a mean left hook.
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” pranced around the MCU and was able to operate with more freedom, but still some boundaries. Fans flocked back to the show after a spotless season 4. After season 4, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” gained even more creative freedom by peeling off from the greater MCU. The cast had become a force to be reckoned with. Elizabeth Henstridge, Iain De Caestecker, Ming-Na Wen, and Chloe Bennet shine. Henstridge’s work is beautifully haunting and unforgettable. Clark Gregg — a character who was supposed to be dead by season five but who the writers won’t kill off — shows why he is the heart of S.H.I.E.L.D, because his love for S.H.I.E.L.D. is unkillable, literally.
Season 7 allows us to hop around the history and legacy of S.H.I.E.L.D. with some time-travel hijinks, which feels right. Especially when those time-travel hijinks are meticulously planned to give a satisfying finish.
This season has some of the best episodes of the series, including an amazing GroundhogDay installment. The Groundhog Day episode is a strong contender for the best episode in the series, challenging “Self Control” and “4,722 Hours.” Between the humor, the drama, the Enochs, and fantastic/excellent/other word? plot, the episode is truly a testament to the writer’s room.
If there’s one word to describe the end of this series, it’s satisfying. The little moments and quips show how comfortable the cast of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is; they are in their element in their last moments. The end feels like a race to the finish line. The most important scenes feel like a whirlwind. The last 30 minutes of the show is the moment you get off the tilt-a-whirl and the adrenaline is winding down. It was a wild ride, and you are left with a feeling of contentedness. All that’s left to do is reach for the bottle of Haig and toast to a spy’s goodbye.
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has been an amazing ride, and from my perspective, one of the strongest television shows in years. If “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” weren’t titled as a sci-fi/superhero series, truth be told, it would have been nominated for an Emmy or two. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is widely discredited because of how the superhero genre is viewed in entertainment, but it has been able to do what many shows cannot. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” blossomed from a rough start into a robust finish.
I am truly going to miss “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and hope that the future of the superhero genre can learn something from the series. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” showed what the superhero genre could be, as it flies off in a sick red Corvette into the sunset.