Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 Staff Roundtable
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 05.22.2014
How did we like the season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the season as a whole? What were our favorite moments, and who would we like to see make an appearance in season two? The 411 Staff weighs in!
Season One Staff Roundtable Review
Welcome everyone to our look back at the first season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. It's been quite a ride over the past twenty-two episodes, but we've finally arrived at the end of season one, and the best and brightest of 411 will be joining me today to share our thoughts on the first season. I'm your host, Wyatt Beougher, and joining me today will be:
-Michael Weyer, Wrestling Columnist (‘Shining a Spotlight') and Blu-Ray/DVD Reviewer
-Todd Vote, 411 Fact or Fiction Games Host, Video Game Reviewer, and Contributor to multiple columns
-Ben Piper, 411 Fact or Fiction Movies/TV Host and former Lost Reviewer
-Chad Webb, Movie/TV Zone Editor and Columnist (Ask 411 Movies)
-Stephen Randle, Quizmaster (4-Player Co-Op, Games Zone) and Wrestling Columnist (The Wrestling News Experience)
With the introductions out of the way, let's get to the discussion, shall we?
What are your thoughts on the finale?
Michael Weyer: Pretty good overall, the Fury appearance was nice and I liked the humor of him asking if Garrett's entire path was because he misheard Fury's "one man can make a difference" speech. It's typical of Whedon to do the bit of Garrett set up at the end as a powerhouse and then blown to pieces without warning and the appearance of Koenig was a nice turn. The May/Ward battle was fantastic and sets up stuff like Skye's past and more of the mystery of Coulson that should be playing more into next season. Overall, a good way to wrap up the year and having SHIELD rebuild next season makes for a good backdrop to things to improve on.
Todd Vote: I was impressed with the finale. Fury showing up was a nice touch. Fury showing up in more than just a cameo like he had at the beginning of the season? That was awesome! His interaction with Coulson on the show is always fun, and shows a bit of a different dynamic than we saw from the two in the MCU films.
The Ward/May fight was fun to watch, right down to the throat punch, and nail gun. It'll be interesting to see if Ward has a place in the next season, or if he is going to be locked away somewhere with Abomination, and The Leader, only ever mentioned again in passing. I think there is a lot more to explore with the character.
Am I the only one that left the finale thinking that Raina/Flowers and Skye may be sisters? I probably am, and I have nothing to back up my theory other than Raina knowing an awful lot about Skye and her apparently blood soaked father.
Some questions were answered, new questions were raised (what was the design Coulson and Garrett were drawing? Is Koenig an LMD? We still don't know what exactly Skye is). Overall it was a good finale to the season.
Ben Piper: Pretty epic. An undermatched team we've come to know and love fighting to take down HYDRA, Garrett and Ward? And yeah, that final scene between Coulson, May, and Fury made the whole thing worth it. The fact that Fury pretty much implied that he saved Coulson from death since he considered him one of the Avengers was pure awesome sauce. And then handing him the keys before calling him "Director"? Bring on next season, please!
Chad Webb: The season finale had several good moments. The May/Ward fight was entertaining. Samuel L. Jackson making another appearance as Nick Fury was also cool and warranted when you take into account how often he was mentioned and needed to answer questions. The way the whole Garrett storyline wrapped up was nice, and it was neat to see Patton Oswalt again as well. Clark Gregg was terrific throughout and being made Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. should make for some interesting developments in season 2. Overall, it was a solid finale, accomplishing just about everything it needed to, closing certain story arcs and opening up new ones.
Jeremy Thomas: I loved the season finale; it capped off the first season storyline perfectly and had tons of fan-pleasing moments as well. The moment between Fitz and Simmons came across better than I thought it might and the action looked better than it has on the show all season. The appearance of Fury was great--the "PART OF something bigger" line was hilarious, and Coulson and Fury cracking wise to each other seemed perfectly natural. I enjoyed the final finish of Garrett and was glad to see Deathlok go off to become his own hero now; we'll see him again for sure. And I completely loved that they didn't go back on Ward's heel turn, allowing him to be a full-fledged unrepentant black hat that got his ass kicked by May. All in all I thought it delivered everything we could have asked for.
Stephen Randle: It was a pretty good finale. We got resolution on Garrett's character, but they also set up some bigger threats and stories with the mystery of Skye's father (?), whatever it was that Coulson was writing on the wall (hint: there's a wall just like it in Guardians of the Galaxy). and rebuilding SHIELD, plus Ward didn't die, so you know he's going to escape somehow and be a threat/redemption story. I do wish we had more information on what happened to Fitz, because I hate not knowing. I just like that they did exactly what they should have, tied up a few loose ends, created a few new ones, and left a few from the season hanging, just like the comics. More importantly, it was a season finale designed to be the end of a season, not the end of a series, and I can't wait to see how the overarching plan continues to play out.
Wyatt Beougher: If I could use only one word to describe the season finale, it would be "satisfying". After an uneven early run of episodes and an awesome stretch run, the finale was the perfect capper to the season. It finished tying a lot of things from the early episodes together, resolved some mysteries, included some sweet action and even sweeter guest stars, and it set up the early stages of season two. Pretty much everything you can ask for from a season finale, with the bonuses of Ward not getting killed OR redeemed, and there not being a cliffhanger in the main plot (I'm looking at you, The Walking Dead and Sleepy Hollow). If you want my full thoughts, go read my review. Oh, and one of my favorite moments of the entire season was Coulson with his "new" team (Simmons, Skye, May, and Trip) standing on the loading ramp of the Bus near the end of the finale.
What are your thoughts on the overall season?
Michael Weyer It's obvious now that the writers were held back by the Hydra reveal from Winter Soldier so cutting them a bit more slack for the rough start of the year. Yes, they could have done a better job building up characters and the push of Skye as someone special just sort of turned us on her a bit more. That first half was pretty rough, not gelling as it should have been, not the awesome series we all expected to delve into the Marvel Universe. But the Hydra reveal turned it all around as we now know they couldn't be as good as they couldn't give the big turn away early (which makes me think it might have been better to hold this for a mid-season premiere instead of wasting so much time). The episodes since have been terrific fun from the Ward turn to how Coulson struggles to make way in a world without SHIELD. It's been elevated wonderfully, the last half dozen episodes so spectacular that we can see the earlier ones in a new light to set things up so have to grade the entire season better as finding their legs and killing time before the big reveal that turned this into a fun show at last.
Todd Vote: I can't express enough how happy I was that I stuck it out for the entire season. The show had an amazing pilot. That was followed with about half a season worth of what seemed like filler episodes. It did get to the point where I almost abandoned the show. It really felt like they were holding back, waiting for something.
Of course, that something ended up being Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Once that film dropped, the show really took off and became what we were all waiting for it to be, a true extension of the MCU. The show has become a fitting companion piece for the films. The final 8 episodes were really really good, and I can't wait to see what season 2 brings us.
Ben Piper: I always thought the haters were far too dismissive of the show when it wasn't the instant monster smash creatively fans were hoping it to be. Don't get me wrong, I understand that the early episodes were mostly plodding ‘cases of the week" that weren't giving people a lot of hope, but I never understood those that said it outright ‘sucked'. It never was THAT bad, by any means, and it only got better as time wore on.
Instead, it proved the old Joss Whedon axiom of introducing the characters and situations and allowing them to grow and gestate slowly over the course of the season. It allowed us to get to know the characters incrementally and learn to like them instead of just being the ciphers they first appeared to be. I personally thought that this first season was slowly starting to hit its stride soon after the T.A.H.I.T.I. reveal and by the time Winter Soldier came out? Holy crap, fit hit the shan big time and the ride towards the epic finale was on!
Bringing in Bill Paxton as John Garrett was a masterstroke of great casting. As a fellow Agent of Shield, from his first appearance you couldn't help but to want to see more of him on the show and it just got better and better until the shocker of a twist that not only he but Ward as well were team HYDRA with Garrett himself being revealed as the season's big bad The Clairvoyant.
Chad Webb: Honestly the season as a whole was mediocre. Yes, it improved wonderfully towards the end, but it is far from perfect and can still get better. The first half was forgettable junk, barely a series set within a comic book universe. Take any police procedural or sci-fi procedural from any other network and it was basically the same thing. Eventually they stopped that doomed routine and began to incorporate intriguing story arcs & characters that made sense with the universe, connections with the feature films, and transformed Agent Ward into someone worth watching. Ming-Na Wen, who portrays Agent May, once said in an interview that fans need to be patient and can't expect everything they want right away. I understand what she's saying, but first impressions are everything and since this series got off to a bad start it faced (and still faces to an extent) an uphill climb. I kept watching the show mainly out of habit and finally it began to get compelling enough that I wanted to see what happened. They need to ride this wave of momentum as long as possible, not retreat into the flaws which plagued them early.
Jeremy Thomas: I was telling people from the get go that SHIELD's biggest obstacle was going to be high expectations. Whedon shows, as it has been oft pointed out, begin slow and take time to get into. And while there were issues with this series' first half of the first season which had nothing to do with that, that's sort of what happened here, especially since they were constrained in terms of timeline. There were other problems, of course--the leap directly into procedurals that didn't develop the characters was a poor choice, and Skye was far too Special Snowflaked well before she began to earn people's esteem. But I think it started getting good sooner than that. I really enjoyed the Sif/Lorelei episode and "Repairs," which involved the "haunted" StatiCorp safety inspector, had some great moments as well. "T.R.A.C.K.S." had a great story structure and things quickly ramped up from those middle episodes, finally living up to its potential after Winter Soldier. I think this show's gonna get a nice long run and when we look back at season one we'll remember it as the season where it just took a while to get going, as opposed to a failure.
Stephen Randle: It was everything I wanted out of the show. I didn't get how people were upset that Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans weren't making guest shots two episodes into the season, because they were clear from the beginning that this isn't a superhero show, it's a spy show set in a universe where there happened to be superheroes. Yeah, the season really picks up after the Winter Soldier tie-in happens, but I enjoyed the journey full of world-building and character-building that got us to that point just as much. Plus, they knew that this show was getting renewed (oh, they knew), and when combined with the fact that they had to wait for Winter Soldier, they took the time to stretch their legs in the world and do a really good slow build. It's a Whedon show, they're not going to reveal everything after ten episodes, you know? Was every episode gold? No, far from it. But for my money, it delivered exactly what it promised, and I enjoyed every part of the experience.
Wyatt Beougher: As I touched on already, the first half of the season was slow to develop, with a lot of episodes falling into the "near-miss" category - they weren't awful, but they really weren't anything to write home about, either. Fortunately, in the second half of the season, they dropped the "one shots" for an actual story arc, the characters' personalities were finally able to develop, and the big reveal from Captain America: The Winter Soldier really kicked things into high gear. I spent an entire season highlighting dialogue that was "Whedon-esque", and this show was actually pretty much par for that course - slow start with some uninteresting characters, but enough development in the back half of the season that you actually cared about the big finish. I know a lot of people think the show started to get good for the last seven episodes, but I'd go all the way back to ‘T.R.A.C.K.S.' to pinpoint where it finally started to all click. And all it took was a non-linear narrative and Skye getting shot.
Any favorite moments from Season One?
Michael Weyer: As a Jaimie Alexander fan, loved the Sif appearance and how well she elevated the series. Of course, the entire Hydra reveal was a huge moment as suddenly, the show felt alive and wrestling with real stakes at last. The touches like how Raina was truly hurt to realize Garrett had no psychic gifts were good and the scene of Skye ripping into Ward on how he's following a group who are literally Nazis was far more emotional than it should have been. It took a while but the show did finally give us moments, especially Melinda May finally the bad-ass we all wanted with her beat-down of Ward.
Todd Vote: Skye climbing out of the pool in that tight red dress? The whole will they/won't they between Fitz-Simmons. John Garrett after he went nuts due to the GH325. The May/Ward fight. Agent Triplett and his Bag O' Howling Commando goodies. Coulson and Fury talking to a crazy Garrett.
Ben Piper: Off the top of my head, I agree with Michael that the Sif episode was pretty fantastic. But I can't help going back to specific character-centric moments. Skye discovering she wanted to be a part of SHIELD by looking at the wall of fallen agents, to her finally getting her badge. Everyone fighting to save her life when she was shot. When the HYDRA thing kicked off and Hand took charge, May getting Skye kicked off the bus because she knew she'd work better on her own was nice, in that it showed May valued her as part of the team. Fitz and Simmons and how their relationship evolved over the season. And pretty much everything Coulson.
Chad Webb: I agree with the others that the Jaimie Alexander/Sif episode was excellent, as was Patton Oswalt's episode at the secret base. Bill Paxton added a lot to the series when he was revealed as the major villain. Watching him have a blast with the role was great. I enjoyed all the HYDRA stuff too, but it was a logical progression.
Jeremy Thomas: The nail gun to Ward's foot, and "a PART of something bigger." The reveal of Mike Peterson as Deathlok. Sky getting shot. Sif's interactions with the group. Ward turning heel and killing Victoria Hand. The first Fury cameo, back in episode two. The exchange between Coulson and Simmons on the train where Simmons is pretending to be Coulson's daughter. There are a lot more, but those are the ones that came to mind.
Stephen Randle: Simmons jumping out of the Bus in an attempt to save everyone is an obvious one, as is anything from the post-Winter Soldier eps. But what I really like were the little moments, such as several times where Fitz and Simmons are casually giving orders to other Shield agents and being obeyed, just to underscore that while they may be nerds with little field experience, they're still Agents of SHIELD and have some genuine level of authority. Also, Koenig! I'm so glad he had a twin brother (coughLMDcough) who shares his love of lanyards!
Wyatt Beougher: The big reveal of Ward being a traitorous asshole, his subsequent comeuppance at the hands of his scorned lover, seeing the Kree in the MCU, everything Sam Jackson did in the finale...there was a lot to love in this season, and I think the people who were patient and stuck with this show during its growing pains were the best rewarded for it. Oh yeah, and pretty much anything Coulson-related. He really is the heart of the MCU, not just the Avengers.
What lingering questions do you have coming out of the finale?
Michael Weyer: Obviously, the secrets of Skye and her past with the idea of her parents as some sort of "monsters" is intriguing as is what Coulson is up to. Hopefully, the writers have learned from missteps this year to give us some real pay-off early and not drag it out too much while still giving us a good insight to the cinematic Marvel U.
Todd Vote: I really only have two questions: What will Skye end up being? What were the designs Coulson was etching at the end of the finale?
Ben Piper: Skye's parents. What's with Coulson and the Alien formula scribbling? What is the show going to be like when it returns for season two?
Chad Webb: I'll echo my colleagues and say 1) What were the designs Coulson was drawing? And 2) What is Skye exactly? I feel like they are moving super slow about what Skye is. They've had opportunities to explain that but are dragging their feet. I am a bit pessimistic as to how satisfying that twist will be, but you never know.
Jeremy Thomas: Just the obvious ones: what is Skye exactly, is Coulson going toward Garrett-levels of insanity and what happens to Ward from here? He was set up so perfectly as a villain and he's the one who survived; does he now have to help the group in a Hannibal-like situation as a prisoner, due to his knowledge of Hydra and probably other SHIELD enemies? I kinda hope so, and I hope that he doesn't become a good guy. He's a great villain and he deserves to stay that way.
Stephen Randle:Probably the same as everyone else: who was blood-dripping guy who is apparently Skye's parent? Where do they go with Ward from here? What's up with Fitz, and will he ever get a monkey? What's Coulson writing on the wall? Who else escaped from The Fridge? When's that scientist guy going to pop out of the Gravitonium and raise hell? Can Cobie Smulders be on more episodes next season now that How I Met Your Mother has died an ignominious death?
Wyatt Beougher: I think my biggest one is what's going to happen with Quinn, Raina, and the Gravitonium (which contains Franklin Hall). Like everyone else, I'm curious to see what's up with Coulson drawing the same things Garrett was seeing, what kind of monsters Skye's parents turn out to be (that'd be a neat way to introduce the real Mandarin, in my opinion - maybe his hand was bloody from something to do with his rings?), and how Coulson plans on rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh yeah, and what direction they go with Fitz and Ward, because I think that's going to be the most interesting dynamic in season two, after Fitz basically hero worshiped Ward for most of season one, right up until Ward ejected them into the ocean with no means of escape.
Where do you think Season Two will go, storyline-wise?
Michael Weyer: We see more of Coulson rebuilding SHIELD, both in size and reputation, trying to make it a better group, not as much secrets but more in the light to win the people's trust again. Plus, seeing this man used to the background playing politics should be interesting as his view is much different than Fury's and his methods should be good. Also, I hope we get more looks at what it takes to join such a group and some might be wary given what's happened and wouldn't mind Fitz and Simmons playing mentors to new tech geeks who have fresh and bright ideas for things. Also, I hope they build up the FX budget as a 2014 ABC show set in the MU should not have effects on a par with a late '90's syndicated series.
Todd Vote: Fairly obvious, but of course we will see the beginnings of SHIELD being rebuilt. It will be interesting to see Coulson handle the responsibility. In addition, I think we need an answer to the question of just what Skye is. How different will Fitz be in the second season after what happened to him in the finale?
Ben Piper: Well again, obviously, the rebuilding of SHIELD as a trustworthy no longer not so secret agency under Coulson's steadfast direction with his team there to support him. Adding Patton Oswalt into the mix as a full-time Agent and cast member (or life model decoy every time he gets killed off) would obviously also be a good get. And yeah, what's with Skye's 0-8-4 status and her parentage?
Chad Webb: First of all, these characters need to validated on the big screen. They integrate events from Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but we never hear about them in the major films, let alone seem them via cameos. That needs to change or a large group of viewers will continue to not care about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. How many casual fans that only see the movies watch the series? Give them a reason to care about these people. Secondly, they need to stop dragging out story arcs that are not all that fascinating to begin with. Address Skye's origins early in season 2. Get it out of the way. They need to start packing more into each episode, fine-tune the writing, and stop stretching romances. Actually, the showrunners should just watch Arrow and use that as a blueprint. And I know it costs them money, but more cameos featuring peeps from the major films can only help.
Jeremy Thomas: Putting SHIELD back together and hunting down the rest of Hydra, for starters. I think a lot depends on Skye also, and who her parents are. Clearly one of them is alive and evil so that should factor into the storyline. Wherever they go, I'll be excited.
Stephen Randle:I wish I had a clue. Clearly, we're going to see someone coming after Skye, which means that we might learn more about what she is. Plus, there's still the unanswered question of what that alien was in the Guest House, which I assume Coulson might be able to learn about now that he's in charge. And don't forget, Avengers 2 is coming out just as Season Two wraps up, and I suspect there might be some tie-in to that.
Wyatt Beougher: Obviously, we're going to see Coulson doing what he can to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D., hopefully with Patton Oswalt at his side (and Ben's idea of Koenig basically being MAoS' version of Kenny from South Park is probably the most fantastic thing I've heard regarding this show) and frequent appearances from Hill. There's also the matter of Skye's parents, what to do with Ward, what kind of shenanigans Raina and Quinn are up to (if they're even still affiliated with Hydra, which I doubt, since both of them seem to have been drawn in by "the Clairvoyant" and disappointed in the reality of Garrett), and then the continuation of the build to the Masters of Evil (or the Thunderbolts, which would be a tremendous storyline for season three).
Which Marvel Universe character(s) would you like to see incorporated into the MCU in Season Two?
Michael Weyer: Long-time SHIELD face Contessa Valentina would be a good addition as aide and clashing with Coulson. Also, with her sitcom done, Cobie Smulders should be made full-time as Hill, great to see her work with Coulson on things and bring in new light to the challenges SHIELD faces. Also, love to see a "Secret Avengers" type unit of guys like Moon Knight, Valkyrie and others. Overall, really do what season 1 didn't as much as we wanted and get to other corners of the MU in a rough but fun way.
Todd Vote: The Punisher! The Punisher could be an interesting addition to the show, and Marvel does have the rights to the character back. It would also be a nice nod to see a bit of crossover with the upcoming Netflix shows.
Ben Piper: With Coulson and co. rebuilding the SHIELD foundation it would be nice to get a cameo from Natasha Romanoff or Steve Rogers or Clint Barton. But seeing as they are played by "movie stars" I wouldn't hold my breath. (Then again two appearances by Sam Jackson as Nick Fury. Who knows?) And yes, again, Skye's dad or mom had better well be a decent enough Villain from Marvel's vast archive of them. Add in the fact we got a Sif appearance, Deathlok, and multiple lesser known baddies? Keep ‘em coming!
Chad Webb: Oh geez, I don't know. It would be great to see characters such as Thor, Iron Man, or Captain America, but how realistic is that? Those actors would demand a lot of money. Keep in mind, I am not as big of a Marvel comic reader as I am a DC comic reader, so I'm sure there are plenty of other characters that would make awesome appearances that I'm not aware of. Todd Vote mentioned The Punisher and Michael mentioned Moon Knight. I am familiar with them and agree that it would be fun to see those characters. Viewers seemed to love Jaimie Alexander's inclusion, so why not bring more supporting characters from the feature films if you can't land the stars? More crossovers back and forth between the big and small screens will boost enthusiasm for the series.
Jeremy Thomas: Mockingbird, Mockingbird, Mockingbird. I actually covered this already in an 8 Ball earlier this year, but I want to see Bobbi Morse show up. She is a SHIELD agent and a legit bad-ass with comic book credibility that would potentially draw viewers back in, and she is one of those characters who could graduate to the films as well. Runner-up spots go to Carol Danvers as a SHIELD agent before she becomes Captain Marvel, Sharon Carter (seriously, Emily VanCamp is already under contract to ABC/Disney; how hard is a guest spot?) and Daredevil to introduce the character before his Netflix series bows.
Stephen Randle: I'm going to go crazy and ask for someone like Taskmaster. Also, more of Sif. Really, my only wish (and I'm probably not going to get it) is that there not be Skrulls. I hate Skrulls. They ruin everything.
Wyatt Beougher: The rest of the guys mentioned a whole slew of great ideas, but the more I think about it, the more I want the rest of the Masters of Evil, in their villainous personas, to be introduced, so that season three can be all about the Thunderbolts. Chad also had a great idea in suggesting supporting characters from the movies. Falcon's "powers" are practical enough that they wouldn't have to break the budget to get him into an episode or two, Hawkeye would be easy enough and Renner has television experience, and I'd like to see Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, even if he doesn't turn into the green guy. Marvel could re-upset a lot of DC fans by casting Gina Carano as She-Hulk, though I wouldn't be totally opposed by Angie Harmon playing her, since Harmon did petition Marvel on an episode of Conan to play the character.
And that's that! Thanks for sticking with me throughout this season, thanks to all of the guys for participating, and feel free to share your thoughts on all things Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the comments!