August 3, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Agents of SHIELD”


AGENTS OF SHIELD has been given one more final season after the sixth that concluded tonight, and that will bring to an end an extended footnote to Marvel’s cultural domination of our moment.  Agents was the project most caught up in the territorial strife between Marvel Television and the increasingly all-powerful Marvel Cinematic Universe, with MCU mastermind Kevin Feige confined to the big screen.  That era is now over, as Feige will be in control of the upcoming Disney+ series that will be built around MCU characters and storylines, but it left Agents in a netherworld, with MCU character Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) at the center of the series, but few meaningful connections to the giant movie franchise.  (Other Marvel TV shows like the Netflix suite, all now canceled, were marginally related to the MCU from the start.)  Agents was also hobbled by ambitions that dwarfed its budget, leading to lots of interior scenes set in dark hallways of spaceships and ancient temples.

Agents of SHIELD has relied on the “not-as-dead-as-you-think” trope a whole lot, and when Season 5–which series showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen thought would be the last–ended with Coulson’s dignified passing, he had to be brought back in some form for Season 6.  That turned out to be “Sarge,” a truly confusing creation who was both the sworn enemy and also the partner of the villainess alien Izel (Karolina Wydra), and who may or may not have had any remaining psychic connection to the old Coulson.  Izel also had an odd assortment of powers, able to step into people’s skins, and also to summon bat-like creatures called Shrikes, who when ingested by humans either killed them or turned them into zombies.  In case that wasn’t complicated enough, at the very same time Izel and Sarge were trying to populate Earth with their fellow aliens, a completely separate group of cyborg-ish aliens called the Chronicoms were attempting to do the same thing.  That’s not even to mention the alternate versions of characters who were active, or the people from the future like Deke (Jeff Ward), the grandson of future Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge).

All that plot, along with a shorter than usual 13-episode order, left a limited amount of room for characterization, which mostly relied on reprises of previous season storylines, including romantic reunions for Fitz and Simmons, and for Mack (Henry Simmons) and Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley).  Daisy (Chloe Bennet) was particularly shortchanged, and Deke was really the only to get a narrative that was new and fun, becoming a modern-day tech tycoon by “inventing” alien technology from the future.  Tonight’s two-episode finale (Hour 1 written by Co-Executive Producers Nora Zuckerman and Lilla Zuckerman and directed by Nina Lopez-Corrado; Hour 2 written by Jed Whedon and Executive Producer Brent Fletcher and directed by Kevin Tancharoen) was heavy on small-scale action, and the final episodes played the not-quite-dead card with abandon, as both good-guy Chronicom Enoch (Joel Stoffer) and May (Ming-Na Wen) returned in one form or another from a seeming end, and the tag scene setting up Season 7 revealed that while Sarge/Coulson might have perished, a new Chronicom version of Coulson was back.

Next season will apparently be taking place, at least at the start, in the 1930s, as our heroes travel in time to foil the evil Chronicoms, conveniently staying out of the way of the MCU.  It will be the last chance for Agents to establish an identity for itself as something other than a decent comic book hang that wasn’t quite part of the big show and also wasn’t, Legion-like, quite its own thing.  Its endgame won’t be massive, but perhaps it can be satisfying on its own terms.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."