Shocking truth keeps well-told ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ viewable
Five years in, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is still a well-written show that gives a better dimension to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But so far, Season Five looks like the show blew its budget on Ghost Rider’s special effects last year.
Using dimly lit, claustrophobia-inducing sets and noticeably minimalistic costumes and props, the current “S.H.I.E.L.D.” is visually toned-down—it doesn’t look cheap, but there’s a considerable simplification that’s apparent in the first couple of episodes.
The story brings most of the agents to space, trapped in what looks like a cramped, post-apocalyptic station. After being captured by unknown forces in the previous season’s cliffhanger, they find themselves in a decrepit-looking base, run by alien Kree masters.
Agents Coulson (Clark Gregg), May (Ming-Na Wen), Daisy (Chloe Bennet), Mac (Henry Simmons) and Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) soon find themselves among a colony of humans who serve the blue humanoid aliens, after evading savage space creatures in their new “prison.”
Not included in the exiled team’s ranks is Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), who was left behind for some reason. Coulson and the gang soon discover shocking truths about their new situation.
The team has been thrust into earth-shaking scenarios before, so this setup for dissent and revolution is expected. Last season proved a great challenge for the agents, whose minds were trapped in the Framework, a virtual dimension ruled by the rogue automaton Aida (Mallory Jansen).
It’s still enjoyable that the show (airing locally on Fox) utilizes the characters’ strengths—and frailties—in the face of new adversity. While his teammates are surviving as best they can using their wits and areas of expertise, Fitz is devising a plan to find them.
Which is why an episode devoted to his whereabouts gives the character a chance to redeem himself, after his turn as a horrific despot in Aida’s virtual reality world. He’s guilt-ridden and remorseful for his recent actions, and his reversion to his default good-guy personality is rewarding for those who had to endure his villainy last season. De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, paired together since the beginning, are standouts in a cast of competent actors.
Despite the grating first few episodes of the team getting used to its “incarceration,” the show is still watchable, especially when the pace picks up. What “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” needs, though, is a bigger budget to tell better stories. This consistently smart sci-fi show deserves nothing less.
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