REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.: SLINGSHOT

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CAST

Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Los Simuladores)
Clark Gregg (Avengers Assemble)
Chloe Bennett (Nashville)
Yancey Arias (Legion)
Alexander Wraith (Westworld)
Jason O’Mara (Son of Batman)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe)
Iain De Caestecker (Filth)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Wolves at The Door)
Henry Simmons (Noo Good Deed)

agents-of-shield-spinoff-hunter-bobbiThe miniseries was released on December 13th. Released in six episodes ranging from three to six minutes, fans get some insight into some missing time between Season 3’s end and Season 4’s start, which is a great bonus because these scenes are not needed to enjoy the main show but are a fun extra. We watch as Elena signs the Sokovia Accords, becomes a SHIELD agent under Mace’s control, and tracks down a criminal. Plus, the old 0-8-4 from Season 1 is also involved because, as any fan of the show knows, it’s all connected! In fact, Slingshot references a lot of things in Agents Of SHIELD and even the MCU, so it fits in well.16174889_1836004673347908_6687458020023952722_nAnd, if that weren’t enough to convince you, know that Slingshot stars all the other SHIELD characters, too, interacting with Yoyo in interesting ways, which really made the series seem like a bonus AoS episode. While I’m very glad to get this bonus material, I wish it were a bit longer. The whole thing only takes about 20 minutes to watch. Because it was so short, things moved very quickly and felt a bit rushed.So how can you watch Slingshot? If you have the ABC app, they’re all on there for your streaming pleasure, but, if you’re like me and reside outside of America, ABC so nicely put them all on YouTube, so you can watch them there.aiden-romero-300x169I liked Slingshot, overall. Seeing more of Yoyo was awesome, and, despite the time constraint, these episodes had some humor, some romance, some action and some drama. What more could I want? I think it was great of Marvel and Agents Of SHIELD to end the year in such a fun way, and I hope the success of this leads to more miniseries in the future.

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REVIEW: AGENTS OF SHIELD – SEASON 3

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MAIN CAST

Clark Gregg (When A Stranger Calls)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe)
Brett Dalton (Lost In Florence)
Chloe Bennet (Nashville)
Iain De Caestecker (Filfth)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Reach Me)
Nick Blood (Trollied)
Adrianne Palicki (G.I. Joe: Retaliation)
Henry Simmons (NYPD Blue)
Luke Mitchell (The Tomorrow People)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

William Sadler (Iron Man 3)
Constance Zimmer (UnReal)
Andrew Howard (Bates Motel)
Matthew Willig (Year One)
Juan Pablo Raba (The 33)
Spencer Treat Clark (Mystic River)
Blair Underwood (Gattaca)
Daniel Roebuck (The Man In High Castle)
Powers Boothe (Sin City)
Jack Guzman (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Nelson Franklin (New Girl)
Mark Dacascos (Kamen Rider Dragon Knight)
Dillon Casey (Nikita)
Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Los Minondo)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Bethany Joy Lenz (One Tree Hill)
Ravil Isyanov (Bones)
Titus Welliver (Lost)
Reed Diamond (Dollhouse)
Alicia Vela-Bailey (Lights Out)
John Hannah (The Mummy)

After its rocky start, Agents of SHIELD had turned into a much more entertaining, involving series by its second season. Season 3 of the Marvel series found the show operating on as strong a level as the year before, There was a lot to enjoy. The show used the mid-season split to essentially divide between two villains – both played by Brett Dalton. In the fall, Dalton was still playing Ward and in the spring, he was Hive (walking around in Ward’s dead body). Overall, the fall run was very Strong and cohesive. The rising threats, including Gideon Malick and Lash, were intriguing, the storyline about Simmons’ time on another planet really compelling and the tragically short love story between Coulson and Ros (a very strong Constance Zimmer) played well – even if his quest for revenge after Ward shockingly killed her was a bit heightened, given how quick their relationship was.That aforementioned Simmons storyline was a standout, with Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker both doing excellent work, as Fitz did all he could to rescue Simmons, only to find she had changed while she was gone. It all led up to the phenomenal episode “4,722 Hours,” which is the best hour of Agents of SHIELD to date. A very offbeat, ambitious episode, “4,722 Hours” took place almost entirely on the alien planet Simmons was trapped on, with only her and the Earthling astronaut she discovered there, Will (Dillon Casey), anchoring the story. The reveals in this episode set up a love triangle that felt earned (something that often isn’t the case on TV shows), as we could understand the pain this situation was causing both Fitz and Simmons, and feel sympathetic towards both of them. Once more, I have to note that these two characters have come a long way since the show began, backed by two great performances.You really can’t go wrong with Powers Boothe as a villain and it was very fun to see the veteran actor greatly expand upon his shadowy role in the Avengers as Hydra leader Gideon Malick. The way they used Malick to connect some dots on Hydra history from the MCU was cool and in his final episodes, he did a great job showing the loving father beneath the scary façade – who realized too late he was messing with the wrong Inhuman alien-god creature.We also had Lincoln and the Secret Warriors. The idea of the Secret Warriors was cool, as Agents of SHIELD amped up its superhero side and we met characters like Joey (Juan Pablo Raba) and Elena/Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), There was a lot of teasing and set up here with some payoff. When this team within the team finally went on their first mission, in “The Team,” it was immediately followed by them turning on one another, with no time to really see what their dynamic might be like.Lincoln’s character got an expanded role, His best material was early in the season, when he was on the run and refusing to join SHIELD. But once he was part of the team (officially or not). Daisy herself however, fared better. Now fully aware of and embracing her Inhuman heritage and superpowers, she was re-introduced as a kick ass, capable superhero. The early days of Agents of SHIELD pushed “Skye” too much as being special when she hadn’t earned it, but now, it was much easier to buy into her transformation and Chloe Bennet flourished showing off Daisy’s dangerous physicality, which allowed her to blend martial arts with those increasingly powerful earthquake powers.Among the rest of the cast, Mack (Henry Simmons) was a very likable, easy too root for part of the team in Season 3, and making him and Daisy field partners turned out to be a clever pairing. May’s storyline was mostly cantered around Lash and the reveal he was truly Andrew, which initially was very compelling. Hunter and Bobbi continued to be a cool couple, and getting Bobbi back in the field after the early episodes was easy too root for. The two got a big, sad  send off for a spinoff that now isn’t happening. As for Coulson, his aforementioned romance with Ros worked well, and him killing Ward was a suitably big moment. Some of his angst and guilt over that murder felt a bit unfocused in the spring run, but there was some good material here as well – including the show retroactively accounting for Coulson being so damn adoring and protective of Daisy since the beginning.Brett Dalton had done great work on SHIELD since we learned Ward was a Hydra agent, taking the bland boy scout he appeared to be and subverting it in a big way. And I was glad that SHIELD’s creators never tried to redeem Ward or put him back on the team somehow – we understood what shaped him, but also never forgot he was a broken, bad person. However, it was time for Ward to go and the Hive storyline allowed them to put him to rest for good.Season 3 was a great season to a continuing great addition to the MCU.

REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. – SEASON 2

CAST

Clark Gregg (When A Stranger Calls)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe)
Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln)
Chloe Bennet (Nashville)
Ian De Caestecker (Filth)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Reach Me)
Nick Blood (Identicals)
Adrianna Palicki (G.J. Joe: Retaliation)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Hayley Atwell (Cinderella)
B.J. Britt (Veronica Mars)
Neal McDonough (Arrow)
Reed Diamond (Dollhouse)
Henry Simons (No Good Deed)
Patton Oswalt (Blade: trinity)
Lucy Lawless (Ash Vs Evil Dead)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Kenneth Choi (Street Kings)
Simon Kassianides (Quantum of Solace)
Brian Patrick Wade (The Big Bang Theory)
Ruth Negga (World War Z)
Maya Stojan (Castle)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Kyle MacLachlan (Dune)
Brian Tee (Jurassic World)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (The Dark Knight)
Joel Gretsch (V)
Tim DeKay (Swordfish)
Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse)
Lou Ferrigno Jr. (The Young and The Restless)
Jamie Harris (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Blair Underwood (Gattaca)
Christine Adams (Batman Begins)
Edward James Olmos (Green Hornet)
Luke Mitchell (Home and Away)
J. August Richards (Angel)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Jaimie Alexander (The Last Stand)

For many, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD in its first season  became a forgotten and/or overlooked series, which was too bad, and yet understandable. This was Marvel’s first TV series, coming off of an amazing run of movies and it just didn’t deliver when it debuted. The initial episodes felt unfocused and badly paced,but many people people felt the show improved when SHIELD notably improving in the wake of Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s events.In season 2 the pacing was hugely improved, with storylines no longer taking forever to bubble up again and secrets no longer being kept both from the audience and the characters that no one on screen seemed in a hurry to deal with. Instead, there was payoff to big plot threads happening consistently, as both lingering questions from Season 1 and newly introduced plotlines were deftly dealt with and tied up, while paving the way for new mysteries. On the villain front, there was some nicely done twisting and turning regarding who the Big Bad would be in Season 2. We began with a focus on Hydra leader Whitehall and while Reed Diamond had fun in the role, Whitehall rarely had moments that made him feel like a truly credible threat. When he was killed in the midseason finale, it seemed Kyle MacLachlan’s Cal would take center stage as SHIELD’s main foe… but there was yet another swerve in store.The fact that Skye’s mother, Jiaying (Dichen Lachman), was alive at all was a surprise and we soon saw that she was the leader of the Inhumans and could be pretty strict and cold when it came to doing what she felt was right to protect her people… but that was all hiding just what a zealot she had become, convinced war with humanity was inevitable and willing to begin it herself (via a staged attack) to get all her people on her side. The fact that Jiaying was the true main villain of the season was a subtle, slow reveal and much appreciated for how it was pulled off. We understood the tragic events that had changed her, even as we came to see she, and not Cal, who was the most dangerous.Oh, and did I say Inhumans? This was also a huge part of the season, which was especially notable because it indicated that behind the scenes, Marvel had decided Agents of SHIELD could lead the way in a much more notable way than before, rather than being simply reactive to the events of the films. We know an Inhumans film is coming in a few years, but now this series has already introduced the concept into the MCU. Presumably the film will focus on the Royal Family and a very different group of Inhumans than the ones we met here, but this show was still allowed to be the first part of the MCU to give us Terrigen Mist, the Kree origins and all the major background elements of the Inhumans.
In general, SHIELD felt less restrained this season. The first couple of episodes utilized the notable Marvel villain Absorbing Man, while the reveals that Cal and Skye were, respectively, Mr. Hyde and Daisy Johnson/Quake, rooted this show much more into its Marvel Comics roots.While it began in the latter half of Season 1, SHIELD: Season 2 also benefited from much stronger characterization. While there were so many characters they all didn’t get as much time as might have been ideal, they still all felt much more distinct and specific than the show’s early days, and the fact that several members came and went and shifted allegiances kept things interesting. Ming-Na Wen was always a great presence on the show, but Melinda May was given a lot more depth, as we met her ex-husband, Andrew (Blair Underwood) and finally got the dark details of that incident in Bahrain that we kept hearing about in Season 1. The rift between Fitz and Simmons added a lot more textures to both of them, and was beautifully played by Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, while Coulson, now the director of SHIELD, had to reevaluate his approach, making much harsher decisions that pained him, but felt more involving and believable than the overly sappy, often naive approach that he began the series with.As for Skye, the writers and producers certainly still were determined to make her the most important and revered character on the show, but this season, it actually felt like they were earning her that position. Sure, we had to accept that she’d apparently gotten one hell of a crash course in being a badass fighter from May between seasons, but it felt good to see her actually be such a formidable presence in the action scenes – and Chloe Bennet really rose to the challenge of her characters new dynamic. And by making Skye both an Inhuman and Daisy/Quake, we at least had tangible reasons she would be important to us as viewers, beyond Coulson simply saying she was awesome over and over again. Bennet and Kyle MacLachlan also were able to build a strong rapport together as the estranged father/daughter duo. Speaking of MacLachlan, what a job he did. While Dichen Lachman brought the perfect pained righteousness to Jiaying, who truly believed what she was doing was right, MacLachlan had the freedom to go absolutely crazy as the absolutely crazy Cal and wow, was he fun. He expertly conveyed his character’s wish to be a happy, doting husband and father intermixed with his violent rage and gave the season some of its best moments – goofy Mr. Hyde makeup/visuals in the season finale aside.The new additions to the SHIELD crew were also appreciated, with Nick Blood’s Lance Hunter, Henry Simmons’ Mack and Adrianne Palicki ‘s Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird all fitting in very well. With such a big group of agents, someone was bound to be overlooked, and unfortunately, that was Trip (B.J. Britt), who never really got a storyline of his own – except to be the big midseason death. Which wasn’t as impactful as it could have been because he felt like a character with potential that was never fully utilized in any capacity (Remember when he and Simmons were flirting?).The “Other SHIELD” storyline was an interesting inclusion, with Edward James Olmos bringing exactly the gravity you’d expect him to as Gonzales. I liked the idea of he and Coulson being so opposed and yet very respectful of one another, in their own ways. I just wish we’d gotten a bigger payoff to that, as Gonzales was killed by Jiaying before he and Coulson really came to any sort of conclusion in their own conflict except on the “very begrudging/wary allies” level.I went into Season 2 very concerned about Grant Ward’s continuing presence on the series. His betrayal was a shot of Adrenalin the bland SHIELD crew needed and his actions had been too extreme and lethal to be forgiven or excused – but this is TV, where it seems any character can be redeemed. And I really didn’t want to see Ward redeemed, especially since Brett Dalton really found the character when he was allowed to play him as a villain. Thankfully, Season 2 didn’t try to bring Ward back onto the SHIELD team – in fact, by the end, he was more delightfully despicable than ever, torturing Bobbi and setting a trap to kill any SHIELD agent that attempted to rescue her and shooting and killing May, point blank, the first chance he had.SHIELD: Season 2 benefited from a show now unafraid to shake up the dynamic. Perhaps having to completely change everything about the series two thirds into the first season served as an inspiration, but from Simmons’ double agent status, to Gonzales’ crew taking over, the show rarely felt stagnant. The show’s always been in a difficult scenario – people love the interconnectivity of the MCU, but because the movie’s have the big superheroics covered, SHIELD felt hindered by not being able to deal with a lot of the bigger name heroes, in a way a series like The Flash (which isn’t connected to DC’s movies at all) doesn’t have to deal with. The decision to have Coulson and Skye begin to form a team of superpowered members seems to indicate those involved have decided its time to bring some more ongoing flash  to the series, even if it won’t be with the biggest name characters. Things will no doubt change in a big way again as a result, but right now, it’s exciting to ponder what’s coming next.

REVIEW: AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. – SEASON 1

CAST

Clark Gregg (When A Stranger Calls)
Ming-Na Wen (Stargate Universe)
Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln)
Chloe Bennet (Nashville)
Ian De Caestecker (Filth)
Elizabeth Henstridge (Reach Me)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

J. August Richards (Angel)
Shannon Lucio (True Blood)
Ron Glass (Firefly)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Leonor Varela (Blade II)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown)
David Conrad (Roswell)
Ian Hart (Finding Neverland)
Ruth Negga (World War Z)
Cullen Douglas (Scandal)
Titus Welliver (Lost)
Saffron Burrows (Troy)
Maximiliano Hernández (Warrior)
Ilia Volok (Power Rangers Wild Force)
Charles Halford (Constantine)
Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters II)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Christine Adams (Pushing Daisies)
Maiara Walsh (The Starving Games)
Carlo Rota (Stargate Universe)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Bill Paxton (Apollo 13)
Elena Satine (Revenge)
B.J. Britt (Veronica Mars)
Jaimie Alexander (The Last Stand)
Dylan Bruno (Carrie 2)
Brad Dourif (Child’s Play)
Patton Oswalt (Two and A Half Men)
Amy Acker (The Cabin In The Woods)
Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl)

When Marvel’s cinematic universe first took off, the next move was to make the leap to television, Marvel turned to Avengers director Joss Whedon’s brother Jed and his wife/collaborator Maurissa Tancharoen, who took the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One character Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), the man who helped gather the heroes who became the Avengers, and made him the star of his own series, focused on his team at S.H.I.E.L.D., the international peacekeeping organization run by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson.) The hour-long drama would build off of the well-known heroics, and tell connected tales of espionage, as Coulson and his squad respond to threats to humanity around the world.Now, in case you haven’t seen The Avengers, you should know that in a climactic battle, Coulson was very badly injured, which became a rallying point for the heroes. Well, he’s back, but how he made it back is a large part of the series’ foundation, which is revealed in piecemeal over the course of the first season. Coulson’s search for the truth is intertwined with the arrival of the newest member of his team, a hacker known as Skye (Chloe Bennett), who has plenty of secrets of her own, in part due to her past as a rogue “hacktivist.” Trust is a massive theme in the series, as no one is sure about anyone else but they have to rely on each other if they are going to complete their missions, which remind one of Fringe in a big way, as the team investigates strange phenomena in order to keep humanity safe.Lorelei, Though certainly not a big-name Marvel character (her sister The Enchantress has a much higher profile) and not the first recognizable super-powered character on the show (that would be the cybernetic assassin Deathlok, whose origin is revealed over the course of the season), Lorelei tips the scales with her appearance because she, as an Asgardian, creates a direct link to the world of Thor, and also because she’s followed to Earth by Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), the Asgardian warrior from the two Thor films. Finally, fans exclaimed, there’s some honest to goodness superhero action to be enjoyed, and that was followed by direct ties into the new Captain America movie, picking up the plot from the theaters and bringing its effects home. This was the crossover dream that comics mastered decades ago, and now Marvel was making happen between movies and TV (and you didn’t really even need to see both sides to enjoy them separately.)After offering this cookie to the fans, the series shifted back to the spy game though, where it would stay for the rest of the season, introducing Bill Paxton and Saffron Burrows in major roles) as Coulson’s organization crumbled around him and the team shifted from saving the world to saving each other. Coulson’s team, which, aside from Skye, includes Ward (Brett Dalton), a perfect soldier; badass pilot May (Ming-Na Wen) and science specialists Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), comes together quickly as a unit on the series, establishing their personalities right off the bat, with Skye serving as the show’s young star, showing the old guard how a new generation does the job (though still requiring saving and offering a hearty cry every now and then) and Fitz and Simmons serving as the audience’s tech-loving stand-ins, the most down-to-earth parts of a fantastical realm. May though, with her economy of words and excess of butt-kicking skill, is the “Wolverine” of the show, and her relationship with Coulson serves as a backbone for the series. Naturally, Gregg’s performance is integral to the show, and he continues to shine in the role of Coulson, giving us a smartass secret agent for the ages.While the show is a serial and does well at telling action-adventure arcs of mystery and intrigue, building the mythology and establishing a larger storyline, it could do one-offs as well, including two of the season’s best episodes, “FZZT” which ties into The Avengers while telling a standalone story that put a spotlight on Fitz and Simmons, and “T.R.A.C.K.S.”, which puts the team on a train and tries out some interesting storytelling structure. The show also has its humorous side, taking its tone from the Marvel films, which blend grits with grins (and though Patton Oswalt gets a featured role in one episode, for once, he’s not responsible for the laughs.) For the most part, this mix works well, as it helps illustrate the growing camaraderie between the teammates and keeps the tone light, but it can get out of hand very quickly. The final episode, where much of what’s been revealed over the course of the previous 21 episodes comes to a head, the lightheartedness (thanks to an appearance by a famous friend of the team) goes over the top.