Welcome back to our two part Agents of SHIELD retrospective. If you missed part 1 (and why would you read the second part before the first), I went over some of the things I loved about the series. As you probably figured out, I’ll be talking about the worst aspects of the series in this part, which will likely earn a lot of nasty comments. But hey, the internet was invented for complaining and porn, and since this isn’t a porn site, let’s get into the complaining.
Dull Sets and Costumes
Sets and costume designs are not something I usually notice but when I do, it’s either because they are really great or really bad. This show was usually pretty bad in regards to design. In the picture above, some of the main characters are in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse but it’s actually one of their headquarters called The Lighthouse, which was an underground bunker under, well, a lighthouse. The one before that was also an underground bunker called The Playground and looked like an abandoned warehouse as well. When the bad guys are shown in their headquarters or in some other spot to do bad guy stuff, more often than not, it also looks like an abandoned warehouse. Later seasons even have the team on alien space stations or ships that sometimes, but not always, looked like abandoned warehouses against all odds. Sensing a pattern? Oh, and on any given set, there are dark hallways. Lots and lots of dark hallways. The show looked very drab at times and to add to this, almost everyone constantly wears black or brown, so they end up sinking into the mostly black or brown backgrounds. I would say this was a budget issue but they sometimes had really good effects, so I’m not sure why it looked the way it did. The exception to this rule was the final season, however, which had period-accurate costumes and sets which looked amazing.
Obviously, Hydra is SHIELD’s main enemy and one should expect to see them. They were the main bad guys in the first few seasons, weaving in and out until eventually, the organization was seemingly destroyed once Gideon Malick died. It would have been a fitting end and opened the door for other villains. Instead, Hydra came back in simulated form in the Framework, which was fine as it wasn’t the real deal and we had the added twist of the heroes being members of the group. Then Hydra came back again for season five with a storyline similar to the John Garrett/Agent Ward storyline as we got to see yet another surrogate parent raising a psychopath assassin for Hydra. Hydra was destroyed yet again and, to the show’s credit, they didn’t have any version of Hydra show up in the sixth season. Buuuuut, they showed up again in the seventh season as the team traveled through time and faced Hydra in different eras. It wouldn’t be so bad if they did something new, but generally, it’s still the same “Hydra has connections in the government and now they are teaming up with aliens to probably steal a MacGuffin” plot. Speaking of aliens, they showed up a lot in the series as the other group of villains the team typically fought. One might think aliens would help give the show something fresh and exciting, right?
Aliens Didn’t Help
Alien tech made frequent appearances in early episodes and the Inhumans were major players on the show, so one might expect aliens to show up as bad guys from time to time. Remember above when I said the sets and costumes were dull. The episodes featuring aliens were usually big reminders of why these guys didn’t work on the show very often. Like everyone else, they were often decked out in blacks and brown costumes that never really seemed all that different from what the human characters wore. Their ships were often endless corridors and warehouse floors as mentioned above and when they weren’t, we were treated to all white walls or all metal walls. When that wasn’t happening, the show somehow found new ways to look boring.
In season six, the characters kept finding themselves at a casino on another planet. I think they were trying to go for some sort of Star Wars Mos Eisley Cantina feel, but the place looked like a normal Earth bar that had a few too many neon lights. And while some CGI and prosthetics were used from time to time, more often than not, the aliens looked entirely human. Sometimes they would have a little face paint or colorful hair to show they were aliens but other times, you were looking at a normal dude in a brown jacket. Aside from the look and feel of the aliens being very plain, they were often emotionless. The Kree repressed their emotions and the Chronicons were basically robots, so they had no emotions to speak of, so those were understandable. That said, almost all other alien bad guys were just as bland as the guys who weren’t supposed to feel anything. In season six, there was an alien confederation of different people from different races and they all had the same sort of monotone voice and rarely emoted. It doesn’t help that, like Hydra, they were often after the MacGuffin of the season and the plots all had a similar vibe. With the final seasons turning into a low-rent Star Trek show, it made getting through them a bit of a chore for me.
It’s All connected, Except That It Isn’t
Back when the show premiered, we were promised the movies and the show were connected with the implication being that there would be some grand crossover in the future. As the years went on, it was more and more apparent that this series’ placement in the MCU canon was non-existent at worst and entirely ignored at best. This wouldn’t be so bad if the show was allowed to stand on its own and be in a universe by itself, but it wasn’t. The show’s hands were tied by the movies even if the movies had nothing to do with the series. While the show could use the Kree, they weren’t allowed to use major characters like Mar-Vell or Ronan since there were plans for them in the movies, which resulted in no-name Kree showing up and getting killed off. They used the Inhumans but weren’t allowed to use the Inhuman Royal Family for similar reasons, which resulted in a lot of original characters popping up on the show who really had more in common with the X-Men than the Inhumans. Almost all the big name characters and ideas from the comics were off limits so the series got left overs.
Mockingbird was allowed to be a major character but she couldn’t be with Hawkeye so they brought in Lance Hunter who was a c-list SHIELD agent in the comics. They made a nice couple but Clint Barton being a recurring character on the show could have opened up a lot of story potential (there’s a reason why Barton is a beloved character and Hunter isn’t). Here’s another example: they couldn’t use the Infinity Stones on the show, so they ended up going with big slabs that looked similar to the 2001 Monolith and they more or less functioned the same way with one representing space, another time, and another reality. They managed to use the Darkhold but the recent Wandavision series ended up doing its own thing with it, which more or less was the final nail in the coffin as to whether or not Kevin Feige ever cared about this show. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar being done to the Inhumans once the Ms. Marvel show airs on Disney+. Besides the Kree, the alien races mentioned above were usually either obscure characters who made a few appearances in the comics or they were created entirely for the series, which is probably partially why they were never very exciting or fleshed-out. By the end of the series, they stopped making references to what was happening in the movies and just started focusing on their own mythos which I think they should have done from the beginning. I know this isn’t the show’s fault entirely but I feel it restricted the show creatively.
So is the show good? For all the things working against it, it was decent. Could it have been better? Certainly. Should you watch it? I dunno, make up your own mind. Even if you disagreed with what I said, I hope you enjoyed something. Until next time.