Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I’m going to try to avoid as many spoilers as I possibly can, but when it comes to a show this extensive and interconnected with the MCU, that will be difficult. If you are truly worried about spoilers, avoid this post until you’ve completed the series. Or at least watched enough of it that you won’t mind spoilers. You’ve been warned!

I can’t believe that I haven’t written about this show before, but I’m rewatching it right now, so it’s as good a time as any. I’m an easy sell when it comes to superhero shows, but I definitely feel like this is one of the better ones. Maybe that’s just because Joss Whedon had such a heavy hand in the show and I love most things Whedon. Frankly, this may be the most Whedonesque show that ever existed. But it’s not just Whedon; the cast is phenomenal, the writing is solid and both their choreography and set design are great. Before I gush too much, let me tell you about the show.

I’m going to try to be concise, but, in the world of Marvel Comics, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been around for a long time. Not to mention how the television show ties into the MCU in general, this may be a long post. S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, and was formed to address superpowered threats without having to rely on superheroes all the time. The organization itself first appeared in Strange Tales #135 in 1965, a creation of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, but we’re talking about the television show here. When the series starts, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. is Agent Phil Coulson (played by Gregg Clark of The West Wing and basically so many MCU movies that I’m not going to list them all here). Agent Coulson makes his first appearance in the movie Iron Man and then is seen in a few of the other MCU movies, until he dies in The Avengers, killed by Loki. Yep, you heard me right; he dies. So him actually being the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is kind of weird, which they play into quite a bit early in the series. He makes cryptic references to “Tahiti” being a “magical place” and we don’t find out until later what he means by Tahiti. Then, there are his agents.

The team initially consists of consummate bad ass, Agent Melinda Mae (played by Ming-Na Wen of ER and The Mandelorian), James Bond-like Grant Ward (played by Brett Dalton of , well, not much, really. He’s been a voice actor for Milo Murphy’s Law and then a number of bit parts), the Nerd Herd duo of Leo Fitz (played by Iain De Caestecker of Coronation Street and Overlord) and Jemma Simmons (played by Elizabeth Henstridge of Wolves at the Door and Suspicion), mercenary Lance Hunter (played by Nick Blood of Trollied and Babylon), his ex-wife Bobbi Morse (played by Adrianne Palicki of John Wick and The Orville) and, last but not least, muscley-but-complex guy Alphonso “Mac” Mackenzie (played by Henry Simmons of NYPD Blue and Shark).

Another agent, that is not an agent at the beginning, is Skye (played by Chloe Bennet of Valley Girl and Nashville). The characters of the cast are strong enough that’s it’s hard to call anyone a star, but, if I were pressed to pick one, Skye and Mae would be a tie behind Coulson. Mainly because she is so integral to so many plots of so many seasons. When the series starts, she’s an anarchist hacker, out to fight the system. Then, under Coulson’s tutelage, she becomes a dedicated S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Spoiler Alert! She ultimately is found to be an Inhuman and develops powers. Her superhero name becomes Quake, but she switches names more than a pro golfer switches clubs. It’s unfortunate that her character is tied to so many plot lines, because she is, in my opinion, one of the weakest of the bunch.

I’m not going to write an exhaustive list of cast members; they were surprisingly numerous for a seven season run. But I do want to spend some time on the part-time, side actors that show up from time to time. I don’t know what their budget was, but they must have been spending Marvel dollars, cause, damn, did they have some star power. Kyle MacLachlan (of Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks) is in 2 seasons of the series, and, in my mind, you don’t get much bigger than that. Ruth Negga (of Misfits and Preacher) has a sizable role early in the show. Samuel L. Jackson (of Pulp Fiction and just about every movie in the MCU) shows up once or twice as Nick Fury, just to cement the show’s connection to the movies. Patton Oswald was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in a number of episodes. Bill Paxton, Edward James Olmos, Stan Lee (because, of course), even George Stephanopoulos appears as himself in an episode. And this is with leaving a few names out, because I don’t know how long this would be if I included anyone with name recognition.

There were some big names behind the camera as well. Roxan Dawson (who played B’Ellana Torres on Star Trek: Voyager) directed a few episodes, as did Jonathan Frakes, for the full Star Trek treatment. Lou Diamond Phillips directed an episode. Even cast members Clark Gregg and Elizabeth Henstridge got their turn at directing. While the Whedons, along with Maurissa Tancharoen (of Whedon vehicles Doll House and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), did most of the heavy lifting writing wise, they definitely had help. Drew Z. Greenberg wrote a number of episodes for the show, but he’s also written for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Warehouse 13, Arrow and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Jeffery Bell has written episodes for The X Files, Angel and Alias. Comic book legend Jeph Loeb is listed as an executive producer, as is Joe Quesada. The people who put this show together have comics and sci-fi in their blood.

If one thing disappointed me about Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it was that only one spin-off came out of it, and that was a short-run internet series based on Yo-Yo, called Slingshot. What makes it tragic is that there were so many great characters that could have carried a series. The first one to come to mind was Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider is not an easy character to get right and I thought that both the writers and Gabriel Luna did a great job. And, that there was so much more that could have been done with him. Another is the duo of Bobbie Morse and Lance Hunter. From what I understand, there was a spin-off (Marvel’s Most Wanted) in the works, I think a pilot was actually filmed, but the network (ABC) decided to pass on it. I haven’t actually seen this pilot and, believe me, I’ve looked. Even beyond these obvious ones, there were so many possibilities. A show following Coulson and Agent Mae, or Fitz and Simmons, even Quake probably could have carried a show. I think someone had figured that Inhumans would be the show to take over the Marvel banner, but no one could have guessed quite how bad it would be.

While I will always miss the show, I feel it had a good run. Seven seasons wasn’t bad and they left on a good note. Always leave them wanting more, right? What I find odd more than anything is how completely Marvel content seems to have left the small screen. There’s nothing outside of Disney+ and even some of those shows are one offs (I certainly don’t see a season 2 for WandaVision). And while I have enjoyed the Disney content, and am looking forward to more, I feel like they’re only focusing on Avengers-level characters and ignoring a wealth of other stories. I think that Agent Carter ended too soon, I was enjoying The Gifted before that was canceled and I LOVED the beautiful mess that was Legion. On the other hand, I am excited for the upcoming Ms. Marvel. I guess I shouldn’t complain. The state of comic book based television shows even just 10 years ago was pretty dismal. Now I’ve got my choice of more shows than I could have imagined. I still contend that out of all those shows, Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of the crown jewels of the MCU.

Person of Interest

For an action/sci-fi, Person of Interest is an exceedingly depressing show. The pandemic has me watching more videos than ever before, as well as grinding the filming and production of new episodes to a halt, so I’ve had to forage far beyond my normal viewing proclivities. Which is fine; I enjoy exploring and realize that with that will come the occasional dud of a show. But I ended up binge watching Person of Interest and its dark tone and grim mood were NOT what I needed right now. It’s good, if a bit uneven, for a network show, but, holy shit, I’m looking for escapist fantasy, not an inevitable dystopia that this program presents. This is a rant and there will be spoilers. You’ve been warned.


Okay, for those of you who have never seen the show, it centers around a man and a machine. Not just any machine, mind you, but a near omnipresent artificial intelligence. The man is Harold Finch (played by the amazing Michael Emerson of Lost and Evil to name a few. I’ve praised him before and this show, as depressing as it may be, hasn’t changed my mind about that.), a bookish and altruistic genius who created the Machine, along with his partner, for the U.S. government. An attack on both of them, shortly after creating The Machine, killed the partner, Nathan Ingram (played by Brett Cullen of Narcos and Joker), gives Harold a limp and drives him underground. This inspires him to use The Machine to help others. He programs it to look for potential devastating events and to point him in their direction by spitting out the social security number of a “person of interest”. While Harold is smart, and rich for some reason that is never fully explained, and The Machine is all seeing, they both lacked the ability to get physical. Looking for some muscle, Harold recruits ex-CIA agent, John Reese (Jim Caviezel of The Passion of the Christ and Escape Plan). He in turn coerces a crooked cop, Det. Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman of The Equalizer 2 and Black Dynamite), to assist him in their crusade. Det. Josalyn Carter (Taraji Henson of Hidden Figures and Empire)is the cop tasked with tracking down Reese (referred to the Man in the Suit) who eventually becomes a love interest.

As the show goes on, they build on this little cadre of would be heroes. They inadvertently save the life of, and later imprison, local crime boss, Carl Elias (Enrico Colantoni of Veronica Mars and Galaxy Quest). Their begrudging admiration for each other becomes a full fledged alliance over the course of the show’s 5 seasons. Root (the fabulous Amy Acker of Angel and Alias), a morally dubious hacker who becomes enamored with The Machine, shows up in first season, but doesn’t become a regular until season 3. And lastly, we have Agent Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi of The L Word and Chicago Fire), a CIA agent ordered to track down The Machine, who switches teams to work for it. There’s a handful of other recurring characters, as well, but, for the most part, the show is a monster of the week deal. In the first few seasons anyway.

I’ll admit it, I really enjoyed the first season. The AI was well written, cryptic in its communication and an almost alien presence. The stories were smart and the action fast paced. I mention how much I love the work of Michael Emerson, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked Chapman’s acting. Then, it started going to shit. I’ve watched enough long running television series to recognize the general patterns that they take. Usually, in each season, there is a long running story arc that concludes in the finale. It might be a definitive end or it might be a cliffhanger to carry over into the next season, and either way, the ending usually affects the next season. Sometimes that means that the characters start the next season down and out, one of their group winding up dead or being hunted or losing their powers. But it can go the other way as well, with a new member joining the group or the development of new found powers, becoming better, more powerful than before. The ups and downs that the characters experience can be a great part of the storytelling that keeps viewers guessing (and watching). Unfortunately, the overall arc of the show is a constant downhill slog, each season taking away more and more from the main characters and making their enemies stronger. It was disheartening to be perfectly honest. Out of the six main characters that formed the team, only half of them survive to the end.

There are other things that got to me. Both Reese and Shaw are great when it came to ass-kicking action, but they had the emotional range of a pair of manikins. In Shaw’s case, it worked out, to an extent; she was written as an emotionless sociopath, but as the show wore on, we learn that she went to medical school. While I can believe that maybe there is a sociopath or two that might go into medical school, but then going on to go into the CIA and become a killing machine definitely stretches my ability for sustained disbelief. Even in the case of The Machine itself, it’s portrayed as having superhuman intelligence and sentience. At one point it had itself dismantled and spread in boxes throughout the city to protect itself and in another occasion, it even established a business for itself, displaying a great deal of competence and initiative. With that sort of history, it amazed me that it didn’t do more. Why did it not built itself an army of drones to assist its creator? Why did it not rewrite its own code to improve on itself? I get that the show might be boring if it became an all powerful entity, but the restrictions the writers did put on it were almost nonsensical.

One bright spot was Root in God Mode. When she formed her bond with The Machine, she had microphone implanted in her ear, so The Machine could communicate directly to her. With her blind obedience to The Machine, she would do whatever it transmitted to her without question, which made her the most bad ass thing on the show and it was a thing of beauty. Sure, there were some bright spots. I’m not saying it was all bad. But each season brought them down just a little more and, oof, was that last season tough to sit through. There had to be 20 different ways the writers could have worked a win in for them, but, no, they just kept wracking up the losses. What started as a great show slowly became a steady dose of depression. And, good God, this year doesn’t need any more of that!