Photo: ABC

Driving To The Finale

Everything comes together for a show that finally feels like it knows where it's going.

Okay, look. I know you've heard this before. But Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has turned into a fun show with lots of fun comic-booky stuff going on in it. Remember how there used to be a boring relationship between Agent Ward and Skye? And how there wasn't any real tension about will-they-or-won't-they because it didn't really matter either way? Well, in the season finale, they talk about their feelings while Ward holds a gun on Skye and she's sort of threatening to blow the building up. And before the conversation can go on too long, Agent May jumps into the screen to start a giant fight with Ward. Then they start busting things up and waving circular saws at each other until May immobilizes Ward by nailing his foot to the floor. Then she punches him the throat, fracturing his larynx, and knocks him out with a sweet spin kick. It's basically the best ending to a relationship discussion ever.

And how about Fitz and Simmons? Through much of the season, they existed as the interchangeable comic-relief science duo, but they had actual stakes in the finale. Trapped in a pod, on the bottom of the ocean. I mean, ninety feet below the surface isn't the Marianas Trench, but it's still inconvenient if there's no way out, right? So they had a really nice scene where they dropped the frantic technobabble and faced their own mortality, then followed that up with a nice scene with all the technobabble you could want. And after Fitz nearly sacrificed himself to save Simmons, they were saved by NICK MOTHERFUCKING FURY, which is the sort of thing that spices up any scene.

In fact, Samuel L. Jackson didn't just show up for a quick Fury ex machina; he actually stuck around for a big action scene. Okay, so he really just stood around and said snarky things with Coulson about how crazy Garrett had gotten, but they were funny snarky things, so it's fine. And Bill Paxton was really digging into the crazy lines like "I am the key to the future of the universe" and "You need me to translate the words of creation!" He provided something else the show had been lacking: an over-the-top, crazy cackling villain. Even Ward made a more interesting villain than the one-off villains from early in the season. And then Garrett got definitively disintegrated, providing the team with an unambiguous win so they could go into the break on a high note.

At the end of the season, Coulson is the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and his immediate team consists of May, Skye, Simmons, and Triplett. If you're interested in diversity, I should point out that Coulson is the only white dude there. Although when they land at their latest secret base, they're welcomed by a new version of Patton Oswalt, so I guess that's two. And this does seem like the right venue for Patton Oswalt, right?

So what's next for the Agents? Well, before the next season starts, there's going to be some of Agent Carter, in which Captain America's old girlfriend fights spies in 1946. Peggy Carter was a lot of fun in the first Captain America movie, and I expect her show to bring at least some of that fun along. I'm also hoping to see Triplett's grandfather running around with some of the goofy gadgets that we've seen. And when the season starts up again, we'll have Skye's mysterious father (or mother, I guess; the silhouette wasn't obviously male or female) to deal with. And Deathlok will be roaming around the countryside, doing good to atone for all the bad stuff he did. It all feels dangerously like a television show version of a comic book.

I know we've been burned before -- but I'm optimistic. I think we're reached a point where I'd actually tell people to watch this show. I'm as surprised as you are!

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