I caught the season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last night after spending the past week catching up on the six episodes I'd avoided watching before seeing Captain America: Winter Soldier. Which wasn't hard because the show had gotten so bad it was getting to be a chore watching it anyway. I'd heard the events in Winter Soldier affected the storyline of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but managed to keep myself ignorant as to how--and I won't spoil it for you.
The first couple episodes from during and after Winter Soldier were massive improvements over the few episodes immediately preceding the movie. Unfortunately, that momentum could only count for so much when Jeph Loeb's been made an executive producer of the show and Joss Whedon's brother and sister-in-law are still the head writers. But things were helped tremendously by appearances from Patton Oswalt and Samuel L. Jackson. Particularly Jackson, of course, who not only plays the character who really ought to be the star of any S.H.I.E.L.D. series but is also easily four times the actor anyone else on the show is with the possible exception of Ming-Na Wen. You can say what you want about Jackson being a character actor but I for one will never take him for granted again. Put alongside Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet and, yes, Clark Gregg, watching Jackson is like seeing Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire for the first time.
I guess it's weird I watch the show at all considering I still don't get the appeal of Agent Coulson. Even after all this time, he still seems like a guy in a cell phone commercial to me. He has a couple of really dumb one-liner moments in the finale including one in that episode's multiple codas that completely ruins a moment that was starting to be kind of cool.
Coulson is at the centre of the best post-Winter Soldier moment though--written by Brent Fletcher, the best writer on the series so far after Joss Whedon--where he brings his team to a remote base and starts to have a meltdown about what it means to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. It was a moment that perfectly played out the kind of idealism and faith crucial in Coulson's part in The Avengers after the events in Winter Soldier made betrayal and deception an issue.
Which goes back to the problem with the acting--one easy way to tell if someone's a bad actor is if, after he or she has been revealed to the audience as secretly evil, his or her performance alters when he or she is dealing with people who don't know the secret, playing the character with a new bitter edge to the voice or a barely repressed sinister chuckle. Of course, what an actor ought to do in such a situation is simply to figure the character he or she is playing is at least as good an actor as he or she is. Believing the character must exhibit their hidden motives is reflective of a naivete quite counterproductive to helping create such a story.
Anyway, I still love the idea of this one big shared universe occupied by both movies and television series. I only hope Brent Fletcher is put in charge of the next season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. if Joss Whedon's too busy uploading things to Vimeo.