Looking Back: Seven Years with the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Please be advised that this article may contain spoilers for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, including the final season and recent series finale.

The Beginning

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.Seven years ago, in late September, I was told about this new TV series that Marvel was releasing that starred Agent Coulson. To be honest, he was one of my favorite characters from the movies, but I didn’t see how they could have a show set after The Avengers that included him because, well, he was dead! I just couldn’t see how they could bring him back for a show without getting too far fetched and losing the base for a good story. My skepticism in Phil’s resurrection alone almost kept me from the series premiere on September 24, 2013. However, my brother Mr. DAPs, or Robert I as I know him, reminded me of the show and so I gave it a shot.

Like so many other good shows, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (often referred to as AoS, or Shield) had a shaky start and that took its time becoming a must-watch show for me. After that first episode with Phil Coulson, Skye as she was still called at that time, some fresh Academy graduates Leopold Fitz and Jemma Simmons, and seasoned field agents like Melinda May and Grant Ward, to name a few, I had no idea how much I would grow to care about these characters and their fates in the Marvel multiverse.

However, I was still intrigued with the idea of “It’s All Connected” and liked the initial premise of this show: let’s see what the regular people behind the scenes are doing inside this agency that pops in and out of the big superhero movies. What kind of secret and mysterious objects of an unknown origin (0-8-4 anyone?) would they discover and what amazing technology and resources would they show us to get them through without having their superhero friends around to save the day? Was there a chance to see some of my favorite superheroes like Thor and Captain America in cameos? How would the movies affect the TV show and vice versa?

Not having read the comics, I really enjoyed most of the movies Marvel had put up with, including Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. When The Avengers came out and brought all these characters together on screen, it completely changed comic book movies because Marvel had now created very distinct feeling movies and characters that very successfully were united to make these movies that could stand alone become part of something bigger that we now called the MCU, or Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. opened up the possibilities to satisfy some of my curiosity about these movies and so many of those questions I had. So, with the promise of future tie-ins and payoffs, and knowing how shaky shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation started and became one of my favorite series of all time, I was willing to invest my time into giving this show a chance. So I faithfully watched the show as it started to develop and had just enough to keep me interested, such as the episode titled FZZT, which brought some good character development for Fitz and Simmons that we can now look back and see how much it foreshadowed their relationship through the rest of the seven season run: always willing to do whatever it takes to be there for each other yet with so many seemingly insurmountable obstacles to keep them apart.

Then came episode 13, T.R.A.C.K.S., which was a game changer for me! In less than an hour of screen time, Shield gave me something I had wanted: a very interesting and engaging story that kept me on my toes and brought the team together in a way I just had not expected. From that point on, I was sold! Whatever struggles the show might have going forward, I knew they were capable of something that could draw me in to a point where I forgot reality. Say what you want about production quality, story, effects, characters, or what not, but any show that can truly draw me into the world of the story and out of my own is one that I will enjoy!

The Middle

I wonder if anyone else had as much fun as I did seeing The Bus, as they called their command center plane (and later Zephyr One), or the simple yet effective Icers that could stun someone with essentially a normal gun, or the Dwarves that Fitz used so much early on. My scientific, nerdy side always lit up with all those pieces of technology that were just advanced enough that they seemed believable in the world Marvel was creating, a world that also brought us Deathlok, the Clairvoyant, Hive, Inhumans, Ghost Rider, LMDs, Chronicoms, and so much more!

I will never forget the feeling I had when that first episode after Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released, watching these characters that had become my TV friends scramble in the wake of the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and wondering what the future of the show could be? For me, it was just pure excitement and made me feel like a kid again, totally absorbed with the plot and not caring if the dishes needed washing, homework needed to be completed, or the dog needed walking. For that hour, I was in another world with its highs and lows, feeling crushed when Ward betrayed his team and feeling the rush of excitement with the possibilities of Daisy’s newfound Quake powers!

After making it through everything with AIDA and the Framework and Iain De Caestecker’s dark portrayal of Leopold, it was clear that we had broken from the “It’s All Connected” mentality of the show but I didn’t care anymore because I now had an emotionally vested interest in these characters and the stories now had so much interest and intrigue of where they would go. When we had lost major characters like Ward and Lincoln, I did not have a sense of security for any of our main case and even Coulson could not escape the clutches of death, even if he always had some way to come back.

However, there was a definite shift with the beginning of season 5, when we now were in space in the debris of a destroyed earth, ruled by the ruthless Kree. This was such a departure from so much of what I had come to expect of the show that I was not sure if I wanted to continue. But Shield was not a show to take the safe road and Marvel’s risk ended up paying off for those who persevered through the season and General Talbot’s near destruction of earth with his Gravitonium, a nod to season 1.

I must admit I was worried when the title of the last episode of season 5 was “The End”. My time with Coulson’s team might be over and I didn’t know what was going to fill that void in my schedule (a struggle that is now reality for many of us now). The ending of this series seemed to be certain, as there were those references back to the beginning and the series ended with that bobbling hula doll that hearkened back to nearly the very start of the show.

Luckily, this show that become one of my favorites was not done, and we saw Sarge and his crew emerge, while Fitz and Enoch become friends and end up in space (to name just a couple). Again, we were taken on this roller coaster ride that culminated in Simmons appearing in an upgraded Zephyr, escaping the Chronicoms (at least for now), and that they had traveled back in time with an LMD/Chronicom version of Coulson to aid them!

The End?

Life, self-quarantining from COVID-19, and the uncertainty of where the world would end up, made the release of season 7 that much more exciting for me. Once again, our small crew of agents were back to provide an escape from reality and draw us into their world for a time! We knew it was the final season and somehow that just made it even more special and worth cherishing.

All I can say is, season 7 did not disappoint! Nearly every episode took place in a different decade of history. One of my favorite storytelling techniques that were used this season was that each of these episodes also was told in the style of that decade, not just in the clothing and places that were explored. The stories were told in the style of notable stories of the period, such as Coulson’s inner monologuing through what felt like an old spy movie and all the music and even title screens for each episode that was unique to its time.

I have to mention that one of my favorite parts of the entire series came in this season as Elizabeth Henstridge, who plays Jemma Simmons, directed her first episode of any TV show. I’ve seen many variations of time loops before, but the sense of urgency that came with the idea that they were getting closer to their doom with every repeat and that only certain characters could remember previous loops (but only if they didn’t die in that loop first) added something extra that made it intriguing and fresh. It was not all happiness and sunshine, though, as there was a very powerful performance by a non-human character, Enoch, whose death could not have been more powerfully portrayed by Joel Stoffer.

In the end, the end had to come and so we are now at the end of an era that has taken us from the first Avengers movie past Endgame and through multiple planets, realities, timelines, and more! Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the glue that tied the past to the present and has set the stage for so many future possibilities for Marvel storytelling. With so much riding on its shoulders and outlasting so many other Marvel TV shows, Shield really did take us on a journey that can never be replicated and has expanded Marvel’s possibilities in ways I could never have imagined those seven years ago when I reluctantly began this journey.

I will be forever grateful that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D not only took me on this seven year journey, tied into so many other things, such as Agent Carter’s Sousa being featured so prominently in the final season, and brought it to a satisfying conclusion with the message of friendship and family. Shield also took the time to give a proper goodbye to our heroes, seeing where they all ended up a year later and yet they still have that bond that can never be broken.

I will be forever grateful for the journey I have been able to be a part of, and while I will miss the series, I am sure I will go back and watch through it all again sometime, or maybe many times! Despite their flaws our characters always came out on top in the end, even if it meant sacrifices and tough choices. In the end, they were victorious because they were fighting for each other. I will always enjoy a positive underlying message in a story, and this is no exception.

As I will miss this series, I am also excited for the possibilities of the future and who knows what Marvel may come out with next to capture my imagination and once again bring me into another reality! This may be the end of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, but it is also the beginning of whatever Marvel has planned next. So, let’s move forward with hopeful anticipation, and as Mr. DAPs would say, “make it a great day!”

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