So after a bit of delay, I finally got to watch Beginning of the End – the finale of Season 1 of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. I’ve already written about this, but man, how that show has turned itself around. After a decidedly lackluster first half of the year, it began to show the smarts and wit that made The Avengers so much fun to watch.
The finale lived up to the promise of the last few episodes. There was lots of good stuff but the key thing that made a show a success was the fact that we got to see our heroes pull out a victory by being smart, tough, and brave. The series understands the same thing that the Avengers did – the thing that makes these comic-book stories work is that though the villains are dangerous and tough, the heroes can still win, and not always at the cost of everything that makes winning worthwhile.
It’s one of the big disappointments of lots of projects, like GI Joe, Fantastic Four or the first X-Men movie – in all of those films the heroes are just so ineffective. Sure, they win in the end, but only the skin of their teeth, usually by just doing one smart thing when it all looks bad. Agents of SHIELD, on the other hand, gets the idea that it’s just not very fun to see the good guys lose all the time, and that it’s possible to create real drama and tension and still leave the audiences cheering at the end.
And so we had great moments where Skye sets Deathlok free, where Simmons and Fitz share their emotional goodbyes, where Coulson gets to be indignant and yet relaxed, and best of all, where May gets to nail Ward’s foot to the ground, break his larynx, and generally kick the living tar out of him. The right story elements were closed off (such as Garrett with his hilarious fake-out false ending) and the right elements were left in play (such as Skye’s heritage) for next year. Nick Fury’s appearance was a bit over the top but welcome considering what is going on in the story.
Overall, it was a strong finish to the show’s first year – far stronger than any of us could have hoped for back when it got going at the beginning of the season.