‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ (Season 4): The Show’s Terrigenesis

The great shame of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is that it remains as haunted as ever by its first season. Despite how much the show has improved over the course of its four-year run – with season fur arguably the best overall year the show has done yet – there’s a large number of potential viewers that refuse to give it a second chance after its admittedly weak first run of episodes.

I don’t expect this article to persuade anyone to give the show a new chance – I doubt anyone not interested in the show already will even read it – but I still want to take a chance to appreciate how much Coulson’s team and their creators have grown up until this point, even as it stands at the precipice of yet another major shift to its status quo.

And that shifting status quo is easily one of the show’s greatest strength. By following a group of characters with no previous connection to the comics – or characters so minor as to basically have no history at all – the writers have been able to take their stories in surprising, unexpected directions. The developing relationship between Fitz and Simmons, the show’s take on Yo-Yo, and the integration of Talbot as a reliable source of comic relief are all unexpected pleasures, the signs of a show creatively using what toys its allocated.

As the show’s gone on, it’s only gotten more impressive exactly which toys the show has gotten to play with. Just last year, it was crazy to think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be the place where the MCU version of Ghost Rider would debut, but the show proved it was capable of providing an intense, accurate interpretation of the character. Similarly, the show has introduced ancient Inhumans, sentient LMDs, and even classic Avengers to the mix with little problem.

Even better is that this season made it clear that the showrunners realize the need to speed up their storytelling. Twenty-two episodes is a lot of real estate, so instead of trying to tell one or even two stories, the show went with three distinct “pods” this season, allowing for a single overarching narrative to be present while also delivering much quicker storytelling over seven-to-eight episode spans.

Basically, though it’s had plenty of growing pains over the years, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has finally completed its own terrigenesis, coming through with a stronger grasp of its own strengths and shedding off a lot of the problematic elements that have weighed it down in the past. As the characters face what seems to be a fairly lengthy stay in space, it’s good to know that wherever the show is headed next, the cast crew know how best to deliver the thrills fans have come to expect.