Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’s Midseason Finale Got These 3 Things Right

Last month, I expressed my disappointment in Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) /ABC's Marvel's Agents of SHIELD.

In my previous article, I noted that the show had made three big mistakes -- it was built on dated 1990s cliches, it lacked a deeper connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and there was a glaring lack of compelling story arcs or backstories.

Agents of SHIELD's midseason finale, which aired on Dec. 10, showed a continuing decline in ratings, although the story slightly improved.

Source: Abc.com

The finale attracted 6.1 million viewers, giving it a 2.1 rating among the coveted 18-49 demographic, but it also represented the lowest point of the season and a steep drop from the 11.9 million viewers, or rating of 4.7, that it reported from its much-hyped premiere. By comparison, CBS' (NYSE: CBS  ) NCIS, which also airs at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, shattered Marvel's SHIELD with 19.3 million viewers and a rating of 2.9.

Although the ratings don't paint a pretty picture, the show ended the first half of the season on a high note, addressing some of the pressing issues I had previously discussed. Let's take a look at three things that Agents of SHIELD's midseason finale surprisingly got right.

1. Tying together loose ends

While I hoped that Joss Whedon would come back to write and direct this episode, Shalisha Francis and Holly Dale did a fine job respectively writing and directing the midseason finale. Interestingly enough, it was also the first time for both Francis and Dale to write and direct an episode of the show. Francis has been the show's co-producer ever since the second episode.

The finale simultaneously tied together several loose plot ends -- it brought back Mike Peterson, the Extremis-infected villain from the series premiere, as a super-powered ally. It brought back Raina, the "girl in the flower dress," who was last seen recruiting individuals into the Extremis/Centipede super soldier project. It also tied the self-destructing cybernetic eye, last seen in the fourth episode, back to the Centipede project.

Source: Cinemablend.com

Tying together these story elements demonstrates that Agents of SHIELD can succeed as a serialized show, rather than a procedural, "monster of the week" one. In this age of DVRs and streaming media, serializing a show offers much more room for character development and suspense. Going "monster of the week," by comparison, feels more like slamming on the brakes every two minutes while driving.

There are a few shows, such as CBS' Person of Interest and Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) /NBC's The Blacklist, that are able to balance procedural stories with serialized ones, but so far Agents of SHIELD hasn't been able to pull that off.

2. Game-changing developments

Another problem with Agents of SHIELD was that it was always too safe and predictable. When Agent Simmons jumped out of the airplane to sacrifice herself, we knew she would be miraculously saved. When the plane crashed with a dimension-shifting killer on board, we knew that no one could possibly be killed.

Agent Simmons jumps out of the plane. Source: Author's screenshot.

At the end of the midseason finale, several things changed -- Peterson got blown up, Agent Coulson got kidnapped, Agent Ward got shot, and Skye realized that no one would help her solve the mystery of her parents. These developments could change the group dynamic going forward and set a fresh start for the series when it returns in January.

Although I doubt that Peterson or Ward are really dead, Joss Whedon's shows have abruptly killed off main characters before, such as Buffy's mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Agent Paul Ballard in Dollhouse.

In my opinion, killing off Agent Ward and replacing him with Mike Peterson could be a great way to significantly improve the story in the second half of the season.

Promises for more answers and more Marvel-ous stories

In a recent interview at Comic Book Resources, executive producer Jeffrey Bell stated that future episodes of Agents of SHIELD will delve more deeply into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He also noted that there would be more momentum in the future, hinting at a reduction of the procedural elements, which have hindered the show's development.

Although I don't believe that any of the characters from the films will appear for more than brief cameos due to budget constraints, there is still plenty of room to draw older comic book heroes into the show.

In another previous article, I mentioned that Ghost Rider, which was recently reacquired by Disney, could be brought back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe through the show. A reader also noted that the Hulk, who had already been modeled through CGI for the films, could be introduced to the series as well.

Could Ghost Rider join Agents of SHIELD? Source: Fanshare.com

Making the show more "Marvel-ous" would definitely be a promising start, since the show resembles Fox's X-Files or Fringe more than The Avengers.

Agents of SHIELD's midseason finale has a promising setup -- we might finally figure out if Coulson is actually a cloned or bionic version of his former self. There will also inevitably be a big battle between the super-powered Centipede soldiers and SHIELD -- which begs the question, will the team need more superhero muscle to take them down? And last but not least, what about Graviton, the supervillain that Coulson accidentally created in the third episode?

A final thought

In closing, Agent of SHIELD's midseason finale solved several problems with the show, but it still has to get a lot of things right to win back viewers, since a lot of hype from The Avengers has already faded.

The tone of the show doesn't necessarily have to be darker -- Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) was inferior to Sam Raimi's Spider-Man (2002) due to this belief -- but it needs to be more cohesive, compelling, and more like a show that actually takes place in the same universe as the films.

What do you think, dear readers? Did Agents of SHIELD's midseason finale prove that this show still has a fighting chance, or is it still doomed to fade away before the second season? Let me know in the comments section below!

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Read/Post Comments (31) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 11:53 AM, cruizerdave wrote:

    Finally! Someone gets it! Amazing Spider-Man was vastly inferior to Rami's first and second Spider-Man movies.

    However, it was better than 3.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 11:59 AM, LAB43 wrote:

    "Making the show more "Marvel-ous" would definitely be a promising start, since the show resembles Fox's X-Files or Fringe more than The Avengers."

    That was the perfect summation. I've been watching since the first episode but I have to admit it was starting to try my patience. I think Skye's poutiness set the wrong tone up until this last episode where Chloe's acting kinda impressed me. It's only now feeling like an event I have to watch to see what happens next. This is only mid-season, right? Confusing, but hopefully Joss will be more involved in the writing.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 12:02 PM, MaxReily wrote:

    Here is my Theory which would work perfectly with what they are trying to do.

    Almost everything that has occured in the show thus far has been a Hydra plot. Centipede project is merely a branch of Hydra. I am thinking shortly after Winter Soldier is released it will be revealed that ultimately. Hydra is the main opposing villian to these Shield Agents. It also would bring this show into the Marvel universe and allow the introduction of several lower level villians and heroes to be introduced.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 12:04 PM, Kas004 wrote:

    This show has MUCH room for improvement...firstly it can finally get away from the "acting" as if mutants don't exist. SHIELD operates along side of exists in the SAME world as the rest of Marvels Superheroes, but pretends that they don't. WHY?!?!?!

    Marvel fans follow Marvel shows/movies/books for the Superheroes and Villains, not to watch a bunch of barely out of college age children scour the planet hunting/tracking "unknowns" while believing that their "tech" will always win!

    Bringing in several Marvel Universe mutants (heroes & villains, large names and small names) on a fairly regular basis will keep the viewers interested and wanting to see more. Not to mention show more of the mainstay SHIELD agents (Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Taskmaster, Maria Hill, Mockingbird, etc)...basically start tying in more of the comic book world characters to the show will give this show a better chance to gain "support".

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 12:52 PM, pokpokp wrote:

    Marvel are really missing a great opportunity with this show- they are free to refer to anything in the Marvel Universe, even if it isn't shown on screen or hasn't even been in the movies. DC's comic linked TV series ("Smallville", "Arrow "etc) have to limit themselves, Agents of SHIELD do not have to.

    SHIELD alone is a great source of stories- the LMDs, Agents Cheesecake and Beefcake, Dum Dum Dugan (who appeared in Captain America), its sister organizations S.W.O.R.D, Black Air or Department H (hence Alpha Flight). Even Spider Man's parents were SHIELD Agents.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 12:54 PM, mslauren2930 wrote:

    Mutants can't be part of the universe, because they're owned by Fox. As a result, unless that were ever to change, they can't be a part of this MCU.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 1:20 PM, mthaustin1 wrote:

    "In my opinion, killing off Agent Ward and replacing him with Mike Peterson could be a great way to significantly improve the story in the second half of the season."

    Genius! I've long found Ward a bore & pined for the same swaggering gravitas J. August Richards brought to Whedon's vastly superior "Angel".

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 1:26 PM, chicagorob wrote:

    It seems most of the past successful shows, like x-Files, etc., started out as procedurals. Even Person of Interest was a initially nothing more than a "number of the week" show.

    The problem is, MAS is relying too heavily on petulant Skye and childishly cute Fitz/Simmons. Viewers want to see SHIELD's cool, intelligent, super-agents. We shouldn't have to sit through scene after scene of the kids gleefully exploring crime scenes with their toys or questioning every decision without knowing any facts.

    Ward and May are too robotic and unreadable. Only Coulson harkens back to the SHIELD we know, and want, from the movies.

    What's really missing is the fun of the "One Shot" shorts (Item 47, Agent Carter, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer and The Consultant). Those perfectly captured the Avenger's world and the capabilities of SHIELD, while keeping them grounded in semi-reality.

    We don't need whiny Skye and hyper Fitz/Simmons to be drawn into the show, just give us more "One Shot" style stories. The team's serialized personal stories are too prevelent and need to be more slowly developed. It looks like we'll know everything about Coulson by the end of season 1, then waht?

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 1:40 PM, Ed2day wrote:

    How are these 120lb white women defeating 300lb men? There needs to be more people of color, SHEILD is led by a black man for heaven's sake!

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 2:55 PM, sixstixs wrote:

    Agent Coulson is the only interesting character with depth. The other characters seem too cliche-there is no "hook" to want to know the back story of the others. It also bothers me that Fitz & Simmons not only TRY to bring a quirky geek vibe but they look too much like brother & sister--is there a romantic vibe or more a motherly doting?

    The mid-season finale was better--again it's because I want to know what happens to Coulson.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 3:05 PM, DavetheKnave wrote:

    Up until the end there, I agreed with just about everything that you said. But when you suddenly had a massive stroke and declared that Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man was somehow in some way superior to the 2012 version, I knew every word you had written was suspect. There is no quantifiable way, other than through gross nostalgia-tinted glasses, that anyone could consider Webb's true-to-the-character Spider-Man to be inferior to Raimi's "Deliver us FROM EVIL!" Spider-Man.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 4:32 PM, triumphlugo wrote:

    Quote: " On December 17, 2013, at 1:40 PM, Ed2day wrote:

    How are these 120lb white women defeating 300lb men? There needs to be more people of color, SHEILD is led by a black man for heaven's sake!"

    Whoa!!!! hold it there i have no problem with your comment but the original nick fury from the comics was white....please research before writing!!!!

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 6:04 PM, Algiers wrote:

    Petulant Skye and childishly cute Fitz/Simmons

    whiny Skye and hyper Fitz/Simmons

    Two comments from others that I agree with completely. The midseason was better, but any Sky or Fitz/Simmons it just brings it crashing down.

    The actress who plays Skye isn't very good and the Fitz/Simmons interplay is just boring.

    It will never succeed with these three. The best thing would be to reassign them (or kill them off for better effect) and replace them with more actors from Whedon's previous series or higher a better casting agent.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 6:04 PM, Algiers wrote:

    hire a better casting agent

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 6:18 PM, itzjonnyfive wrote:

    killing off both may and ward would be a huge improvement.

    bring in other superheros even if it's not the ones from the movies would help a lot. i feel like all i'm watching is a spy show about big name folks, but all we hear is the names. they hyped up an episode a few weeks ago saying it takes place after the events of the last thor movie and all they did was clean up trash for a few minutes. whoa how exciting. yeah the guy they were chasing was azgardian, but i had never seen him or even heard of him before.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2013, at 7:09 PM, suburbaluna wrote:

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

    I think the series should be renamed.

    How about Agents of S.H.I.T.?

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 12:22 AM, HoosierRube wrote:

    Well, it's not Firefly.....

    And it probably shouldnt be. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and watch to see if they can develop some interesting characters.

    I like the Monster of the Week analogy; very StarTrekish and thats been done to death.

    I'm liking some of the more modern stories where each show is a chapter with a beginning a middle and an end. And each chapter relates and promotes the overall story being told.

    I think Revolution is very good at doing that and keeps me coming back for more.

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 12:26 AM, frellmedead wrote:

    Just another example of how stupid most television viewers, and especially the Nielsen families are. Idiots would rather watch a recycled JAG series than something original and edgy.

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 1:54 AM, WarriorDL wrote:

    Mockingbird. Someone above mentioned her.

    S.H.I.E.L.D. *can* have mutants, and there is one that is Avenger/S.H.I.E.L.D. related.

    When people say mutant, everyone thinks X-Men. Not all mutants are a part of X-Men.

    On another note, Skye is part Asian. No one wants to help her discover who her parents were/are? *Maybe* because her mother is on the same team as her- Melinda May!

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 9:44 AM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    It is true that Fox has the exclusive live-action movie rights to the X-Men and core X-Men related characters (which is, more or less, every Marvel mutant character ever).

    There is an exception with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (Magneto's children), who will appear in "Avengers: Age of Ultron". But Quicksilver's and Scarlet Witch's affiliation with The Avengers dates back to the very early years of the team (the 1960s), so they will likely be the only exception.

    Other live-action X-Men and mutant characters are legally problematic. In addition to Fox having the exclusive live-action movie rights to X-Men, Marvel/Disney also has to get Fox's consent to use X-Men and X-Men related characters for a live-action TV show.

    If anybody remembers back to this, this is why Fox and Marvel got into a big legal battle over "Mutant X". Mutant X was a Marvel live-action TV show about mutants with powers, but not actually X-Men mutants. The lawsuit was settled confidentially, so we the public still do not know exactly how the 'live-action non-X-Men mutant TV rights issue' was resolved though.

    However it was resolved, we can be sure that getting X-Men or other Marvel mutant characters on S.H.I.E.L.D. or any other Marvel Cinematic Universe show/movie would involve a lot of lawyers (with he exception of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch).

    (Apologies if this is a double post. My first reply attempt faded into oblivion when I hit the "Post Your Comment" button, haha.)

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 10:14 AM, methos75 wrote:

    The biggest problem with this show is it is up against the highest rated show on TV. Now I read all the time about demographics blah blah blah. I guarantee there are a lot more 18-24 year olds watching NCIS than the numbers would show. With that being said those are numbers sucked away from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

    I think it would do better on Monday nights or opposite some of the crappy comedy blocks that are out there.

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 2:30 PM, shanemcfarley wrote:

    if Graviton ever breaks out of his prison then the Agents of Shield are completely screwed.

    I remember it took a full Avengers team to defeat Graviton. Agent Colson and his buddies don't even qualify as mop up crew if Graviton get out.

    Graviton is powerful enough where he could have a movie all to himself.

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 3:08 PM, drcrn wrote:

    A loy of missed opportunities with the series for example, when Simmons jumped out of the plane and was about to crash into the ocean, a great chance to have introduced the Sub-Mariner or S.H.E.I.L.D. could have brought in Henry Pym thought some part of the season along with other characters such as Jessica Drew, Paladin or even a nod to "Code Blue".

    Again, a lot of potential for Marvel and Disney to hook us fan boys in early on with different twists.

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 3:16 PM, drcrn wrote:

    Give us a "Jasper Sitwell" or "Dum Dum Dougan" every once in a while to have some fun interactions.

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 4:55 PM, hthrun wrote:

    "A reader also noted that the Hulk, who had already been modeled through CGI for the films, could be introduced to the series as well."

    I don't know too much about using CGI models in shows and movies, but I think it's a lot more complicated than being able to just stick an already existing one into a show. Otherwise you'd have to imagine that it would be done all the time...

    Also, IMO, I though "Amazing Spider-Man" was better than Sam Raimi's original...

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 6:23 PM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    @drcrn

    Not sure if Namor (Sub-Mariner) is okay legally for S.H.I.E.L.D. The movie rights of Sub-Mariner appear to be with Universal Pictures. And if Universal has the movie rights, there could be restrictions on his live-action TV rights as well (like with Fox and X-Men).

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 8:35 PM, WarriorDL wrote:

    hthrun, the deal with the Hulk CGI model is this - It takes quite a while to create the CGI model, then animate it, rendering out each frame at high definition.

    The rendering is actually the easier of the two steps to do. Creating a realistic enough looking CGI model to use is the harder part. My point of using the CGI Hulk (I am the one that suggested that) is that the hardest part is already done- the 3D model creation.

    Now to use the CGI model, lots of green screening has to be done with the live actors and such, with the CGI model inserted, rather, the live action characters inserted into the CGI scenes.

    So no, it's not something that is done all the time, BUT is more cost friendly than having the actual actors appear on the show.

    That was the point of bringing up CGI characters to use.

    Somewhere in Hollywood sits the Ghostrider CGI model as well.

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 8:43 PM, JohnSocrates1 wrote:

    Marvel's Agents of Shield I think is a great new series and every episode has been right-on. It's fun to watch and well-written. Be happy!

    John Socrates

    Creeklife Supporter

    http://www.creeklife.com

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 8:53 PM, RLisbon wrote:

    I would not also rule out throwing elements of SHIELD's greatest adversary...HYDRA into the mix! Give the agents equal counterparts that they would have to face (BRAUN vs. BRAUN BRAINS vs. BRAINS) Let the 2 agencies be after the same thing, like a return to the Cold War.

  • Report this Comment On December 18, 2013, at 9:11 PM, RLisbon wrote:

    If the show adds HYDRA it could; reveal the origins of SHIELD, have stories of infiltration, cause trust issues to arise within the team, and even introduce the story of Jessica Drew-aka.

    (Spider-Woman) seeing as she originally became an agent for HYDRA, and at one time tried to kill Nick Fury)

  • Report this Comment On December 19, 2013, at 8:00 AM, TMFSunLion wrote:

    Thanks for all the comments.

    @DavetheKnave -- Yes, I think Raimi's original Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 were better than the gloomy reboot. Why? Because Raimi's version resembles the original Stan Lee Spider-Man more, whereas Webb's resembles the late 1990s angst-filled story arcs where Peter Parker gets tortured with all sorts of misfortune.

    @WarriorDL -- You are right, most people tend to think X-Men when they think mutants. There are some mutants that could be used from Disney's side of the Marvel Universe, though, as you said. And yes, I also think May is Skye's mom or something like that.

    @itzjonnyfive -- Definitely, I think May and Ward are absolutely redundant.

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