Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1 finale review: Beginning Of The End

Review James Hunt
14 May 2014 - 12:52

After a faltering start, Agents Of SHIELD delivered a satisfying season finale that's sure to have viewers coming back for more...

This review contains spoilers.

1.22 Beginning Of The End

A breakneck finale stuffed with plot and character moments that actually make sense. If you'd told me that's how Agents Of SHIELD would be concluding after the series nadir that was the mid-season cliffhanger, The Bridge, I'd scarcely have believed you. But here we are. There was a lot to get through and virtually all of the series' ongoing plots got touched on in some form or another.

Whether he was involved in the writing or not, one could sense Whedon's influence on this script in a way that hasn't been seen since the pilot. The way everyone undercut Garrett's supervillain rants was sublime, and the opening scene introduced Cybertek's headquarters and set up the stakes for the conclusion with low-key brilliance. Even Garrett's final exit was, tonally, more like something from Buffy than Agents Of SHIELD, which is no bad thing.

Not everything worked, of course. It was disappointing to see the backpedalling of Ward start even before the series had ended, although to be fair they've kept his evil somewhat ambiguous. "We were never true believers," he says, as if laying the groundwork for an inevitable return to the SHIELD fold. Because he and Garrett were never proper Nazis, they were just in it for the "symbiosis" of saving ward.

That does beg the question of whether it's better to be ideologically evil or so amoral you'll get into bed with literal Nazis to achieve your goals, but that's beside the point. Let's be clear: the last thing I want to see is a rehabilitated Ward. Of course he'll be back next series, but let it be as a villain, not as a repentant prodigal son.

At least Ward followed through for the remainder of the episode, giving Skye and May the moments they needed to resolve their issues with him. Both had been tricked into caring for him, and both felt the sting of his betrayal, so it's fitting that they got to orchestrate his downfall. As predicted, we got a big moment for Mike Peterson too. It's as happy an ending as we could've hoped for, and there's finally a superhero out there that Agents Of SHIELD can use on their own terms.

Not everyone got a happy ending, though. Fitz and Simmons had their moment, and while his unrequited love didn't quite get requited, at least Fitz got his moment to be a hero. One does wonder what actually happened to Fitz, though. Hopefully it's not one of a genre TV's staples, a coma of convenience, but on the other hand given the show's earlier form I'm not entirely sure I want to see AoS grappling with anything more nuanced.

Even I can't complain about Nick Fury's staggeringly convenient appearance, if only because it finally made Agents Of SHIELD feel like it was taking place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe instead of some offshoot cul-de-sac. His interactions with Coulson were note-perfect, and his appearance was definitely not a gratuitous cameo – only he's got the authority (at least in Coulson's eyes) to hand Coulson his new task and title. And that, at least, will make an interesting arc if they run with it in any serious way.

And there's still so much to think about. The return of Agent Koenig (sort of) was hugely welcome, though I find myself hoping he's not a twin brother so much as a standard-issue Life Model Decoy. In terms of plot threads left dangling, we got a good few: Raina's future, Skye's parentage, and what's inside Coulson's brain. The next series of SHIELD is largely (if not entirely) going to take place between Guardians Of The Galaxy and Avengers: Age Of Ultron, so it'll be a surprise if some or all of these mysteries aren't connected to the big releases. Indeed, there are aliens in the former and Hydra in the latter. It'll be difficult not to tie in.

Anyway, it's fair to say that the series delivered a satisfying conclusion after a faltering start. Once it broke out of the restrictive anomaly-of-the-week formula things took a dramatic uptick, so hopefully season two stays well away from that territory. At the very least, this finale has ensures that when I watch the next season it won't be because I feel obligated as a Marvel fan, but because I'm genuinely interested in what happens next. In that, it's achieved something.

Read James' review of the previous episode, Ragtag, here.

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