Year after year, millions of moviegoers around the world stand in line to check out the newest installment in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Admit it, even if you’re not one of those folks who’s there at the midnight showings on opening day, you still look forward to finding out what’s going on with Cap and Tony Stark (at least on DVD). If you’re like most of us and you’re increasingly irritated with the long wait between super-powered adventures, and the DC Universe doesn’t quite scratch that itch (and why would it?), then you might find a little something to love in Marvel’s Agent’s of SHIELD, a fun spy series that takes a human approach to the larger Marvel Universe.
1. Phil Coulson’s Second Life
If you’re not familiar with ABC’s ode to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then here’s a quick rundown: The series follows Phil Coulson (who definitely didn’t die in The Avengers — surprise!) as he reassembles the covert government organization: the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. Backed by his motley team of exemplary people, Coulson operates in the shadows of a world that’s dominated by Iron Man, Thor, and all those other guys.
2. There’s a Tie-In With the Larger MCU
Thanks to the series’ very famous older brother, SHIELD is always influenced by whatever is going on in the larger Universe. Sometimes the connection is subtle, as in season four when SHIELD turned to a paranormal guest star, Ghost Rider, just in time to coincide with the premier of Dr. Strange. In previous seasons, the link has been far more pronounced. For example, when Nick Fury shows up with a fleet of air ships at the end of Age of Ultron, SHIELD had spent several episodes setting up the preparation and release of those ships. It’s a neat bit of fan service that flows very naturally throughout the series.
3. The Fight Scenes are Top Notch
If you were transfixed by the down and dirty opening brawl in Captain America: Civil War, when the team is rushing through the markets of Lagos, then you’re going to freaking love the ass-kicking in Agents of SHIELD. When the time comes to throw down, the series delivers a knock-down, drag out fight scene with aplomb. With no exaggeration, the technical talent arrayed in front of and behind the camera, rival the team that throw together Marvel’s best fist fights.
4. Don’t Judge it By It’s Opening Season Character Development
If you were initially excited about Agents of SHIELD when it began its run in 2013, but you were turned off by the series’ initial “monster of the week” feel, then it might be a good idea to stick with it. The series spends its first dozen episodes or so building the characters and having the team chase down seemingly random monsters and meta-humans, while they try to gel as a working unit. At that point, it’s easy to see the show as largely episodic. Then, just in time for the theatrical release of Captain America: Winter Soldier, a plot revelation plunges SHIELD into serial territory, as large, sweeping plots begin to take over the series. There are still a lot of monsters and meta-humans, but they’re all in service of a larger story.
5. Melinda May Could Kick the Crap Out Of the Black Widow
If you need someone to root for as a certified butt-kicker, then may we present Ming-Na Wen’s Agent Melinda May, aka the Cavalry. May is the team’s muscle, an agent who’s so thoroughly badass, that she could easily give Scarlett Johansson a run for her money. Not only is she nearly unbeatable in the field, but Wen herself is a veteran actress who lends the role a nuance that works incredibly well, whether she’s arching a wry eyebrow, or going toe to toe with a superhuman.
6. Fitz and Simmons Are in the Relationship We All Want
Because absolutely every cop show needs to have some lab geeks, SHIELD has Fitz and Simmons, a pair of scientists who generally cover the scope of known science between them. The two are so interlinked that — when the series opens — they’re actually referred to as one thing: Fitzsimmons. Over the course of the series, the characters have grown remarkably, finding ways to branch out from the lab to become fully fleshed out characters with an irresistibly charming, budding romantic relationship.
7. Missing Out on the ‘Inhumans’ Movie?
If you were a comic fan who was waiting for the 2019 release of The Inhumans only to have your hopes dashed when the title was taken off the release slate, then you might find that a lot of the plot threads from a solid Inhumans film, have been adeptly incorporated into the series as a whole. In fact, one season of SHIELD focused heavily on the budding group of people who are special, like the Avengers, but who prefer to live anonymous lives (hey, not everybody is cut out for hero work). These people share remarkable similarity with the comic-inspired Inhumans . . . if none of that made sense to you, then just know that the whole thing makes for one hell of a good story.
8. The Storytelling is Glorious Serial Pulp
Okay, for just one click, let’s forget about all the larger Universe. If you’re just in the market for a fast-paced, tightly-written series that glorifies in a little bit of cheese from time to time, then SHIELD is pulp perfection. The series is happy to go over-the-top to keep its audience interested, and yet the delicate balancing act done at the writers’ table insures that nothing happening on the series seems out of place or gimmicky. Everything works. It’s just also batshi-t insane.
9. Like the MCU, Every Genre is Present
Have you noticed how the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe tend to borrow their plot threads from the various genres of Hollywood history? Ant-Man was a heist film, Winter Soldier was an conspiracy thriller, etc. Agents of SHIELD has the same kind of fun mixing up the genres through which our trusty heroes are traipsing. One episode will call to mind Indiana Jones at his finest, while another will make you think of the best of James Bond. The genre-mashing does a lot to keep the show visually and narratively entertaining.
10. You Can Stream the First Three Seasons on Netflix
Just letting you know. They’re currently airing season 4, but the first three seasons are available on Netflix right now. Oh, and they’re long too. This isn’t some BS cable drama where ten episodes count as a season. These are twenty-plus episode network seasons that all manage to walk the tightrope of advancing a larger serial plot, while providing a satisfying payoff week after week. If you haven’t let yourself get swept away watching Coulson, May, and Mack put the boot to some bad guys, then you’re missing out on one of TV’s best series.
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