Agents Of shield

Mar­vel’s last bas­tion of net­work TV

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What a shame that as Mar­vel’s Agents Of SHIELD con­cludes its best sea­son yet, its fu­ture has never looked shakier. While Mar­vel’s big screen of­fer­ings go from strength to strength, on net­work TV the com­pany’s pocket uni­verse is on the verge of im­plod­ing. Agent Carter has been can­celled. Mar­vel’s Most Wanted stum­bled at the pi­lot stage. Agents Of SHIELD it­self will move from a 9pm to a 10pm slot on ABC for sea­son four. It’s not look­ing good.

It’s mys­ti­fy­ing why Agents Of SHIELD is strug­gling, es­pe­cially with the likes of Civil War pro­vid­ing free pub­lic­ity. Ad­mit­tedly, three years back, the series got off to a un­promis­ing start, dis­ap­point­ing those ex­pect­ing a weekly Avengers, de­liv­er­ing in­stead a high-tech Scooby-Doo com­plete with Mys­tery Ma­chine. Since then the show has im­proved ex­po­nen­tially, with the In­hu­man-fu­elled sea­son three de­liv­er­ing, if not the Avengers ev­ery week, then per­haps the X-Men.

This is also the most con­sis­tent, in­no­va­tive and sur­pris­ing sea­son so far, with a hell of a mid­sea­son gamechanger in which Grant Ward is rein­car­nated as Hy­dra’s god, Hive. Along the way Sim­mons be­comes stranded on a near-de­serted alien planet in the show’s bravest episode yet; Bobbi and Hunter leave SHIELD in a twisty-turny Cold War thriller that proves you don’t need to kill char­ac­ters to give them an emo­tional exit; Hive kills peo­ple very un­pleas­antly; there are many ex­cel­lently scripted moral ar­gu­ments about how to deal with the In­hu­man threat; and Fitz and Sim­mons whis­per sweet quan­tum physics to each other in the most adorable geek ro­mance ever.

Sadly, at times SHIELD still feels a lit­tle old school in an era of Net­flix su­per­hero shows. Vis­ually, de­spite ex­cel­lent ef­fects, the show can be drab, with work­man­like de­sign and di­rec­tion. The con­stant quip­ping, while of­ten very funny, oc­ca­sion­ally feels like an ex­cuse to avoid proper di­a­logue. But if you like im­pres­sive comic book ac­tion with lots of jaw­drop­ping twists, the oc­ca­sional emo­tional kick in the guts and en­gag­ing cen­tral char­ac­ters, SHIELD re­mains a sat­is­fy­ing watch. Dave Golder

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