Review: ‘Agents of SHIELD’ – ‘Maveth’: Coulson, Ward, and the blue, blue planet

A quick review of the “Agents of SHIELD” mid-season finale coming up just as soon as I compare this place to Tatooine…

This half-season has featured probably the best “SHIELD” episode to date, but on the whole has been the least I've felt engaged with the series since the fumbling early episodes that were marking time until “Winter Soldier.” As I said in that “4,722 Hours” review, the show is at a point where it does a lot of things decently, but few of them very well, and for the most part this season has landed on a bunch of story ideas and character combinations that have never really clicked. There are isolated moments of note (May shooting Andrew, Coulson reacting to Rosalind's murder), but even they fall victim to the show's need to give every story and every mission some kind of This Time It's Personal hook, as if they don't trust the mission of whatever SHIELD is supposed to be this week to be compelling enough on its own. (Even “4,722 Hours” couldn't resist turning itself into a Fitz/Simmons cock block halfway through.) But most of the characters and relationships are so fuzzily-defined (Daisy and Lincoln are now a couple because of reasons) that the emotional component to each mission makes everyone seem like a high school student with a gun. I appreciated Mack acting like a grown-up on this mission who had to keep everyone else in line, but even the big moment where everyone thought he was dead until the containment unit flew out of the castle ruins felt rushed.

That said, I have to give the show some amount of credit for realizing it had kept Ward alive and in play long past the point where it made any sense. Coulson using his robot hand to crush Ward, when he could have just left the guy behind on the planet to suffer Will's former fate, showed a degree of commitment, even if Fitz for some reason seemed upset to see Phil do it, despite his own oft-stated desire to murder Ward. And even the satisfaction of that moment only lasted a few minutes, until he re-appeared on Earth, now controlled by Malick's beloved monster. Brett Dalton's definitely been a more interesting performer as a villain than he was as a hero, but I don't see enough in the guy for the show to keep bending over backwards to keep him around and give him the Fred/Illyria treatment from the final season of “Angel.”  

The best thing about the split season approach ABC has taken of late with “SHIELD” is that we'll get “Agent Carter” back next month. The second best is that it forces the show to build certain stories to a climax and take a bit of a fresh start when it comes back in the spring. Last year, the show's first half was much better than its second. Given the sluggishness of recent episodes, I'm hoping the reverse is true this time around.

What did everybody else think, of both the episode and the season so far?