Review: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Pulls a Glenn in Disappointing 2015 Closer ‘Maveth’
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s 2015 Finale “Maveth”:
Well, can’t say we didn’t see that one coming.
Look, TV is, and always has been a numbers game (particularly for broadcast), and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t exactly climbing enough in the ratings for free reign creatively, but it’s always disappointing to see that brand of mathematical decision-making onscreen. Brett Dalton is great; a draw for fans, and obviously no one’s in a rush to put their longtime friend out of a job (if the contract even allows it), but to kill off Ward, and immediately resurrect him as a new big bad smacks of laziness.
Like I said, it makes a TV sort of sense. Expired character the story can no longer sustain + faceless evil in need of fiscally manageable appearance = new character, baby! It’s the same kind of logic that another Whedon production made use of for Amy Acker, though at least in that case the transition came at the cost of the series’ most devastating scene, and would likely have provided fodder for years to come.
Most any Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fan took issue with Ward’s flat characterization in early episodes, and the series really did pull off one of its best tricks in affording Brett Dalton a heel-turn, but understandably struggled to maintain that efficacy through Season 2, let alone Season 3. Keeping the character around with a pretense that Dalton’s body represents a different entity altogether isn’t exactly going to help matters, especially when its inhabitance of Will* proved that the figure maintains the memories of its host. Not to mention, will Coulson, Skye, Fitz, Hunter, Bobbi or May even keep any sense of closure attained by Ward’s “death,” if the same face is still walking around, tormenting them?
*It also doesn’t help that “Maveth” challenged any physical definition of the creature established in “4,722 Hours,” previously a shape-shifting “Death” entity capable of hunting anyone on the surface, and now some kind of ooze bound by the frailty of its physical host. Fitz didn’t have much trouble taking out the Will incarnation with basic Earth weaponry, so how much of a threat can it really pose?
Fortunately, these are all 2016’s problems to address, though it still strikes at least odd that “Maveth” stifled one of Season 3’s other major conflicts in the process, disposing of the love triangle rounded out by Will. Fitz and Simmons’ relationship has been a tricky tightrope to walk, one Season 3 succeeded in with a depth of emotion unparalleled even to some cable series, and it feels such a waste to never even enable Simmons to make the choice for herself. It seemed at least plausible/likely a few weeks ago that the creature could have taken over Will, if not Ward, but “Maveth” weirdly skipped over that tragedy in service of a half-hearted reveal late in the hour, and not even to the character most devastated by it.
I wish I could speak better to the action taking place on the other side of the portal, as “Maveth” also gave us our first stab at a proto-Secret Warriors team in action, and in earnest, some of it worked great! Joey and Lincoln both served well in the efforts to take the castle, and the former didn’t end up a redshirt! Mack continued to be the best, most decisive nu-S.H.I.E.L.D. leader we’ve ever had! Bobbi and Hunter made quips! Simmons even un-damseled herself before any of them could arrive!
What ended up a bit of a letdown however, was the inclusion of Andrew/Lash and other sealed Inhumans to act as “gifts” to the entity upon returning to our world. It seemed like “Maveth” wanted to create a bit of redemption between Andrew and the team by having him Lash out (sorry) to save Simmons, only to turn around have him brutally murder the other Inhumans off-screen. Budget notwithstanding, why even position them as part of the midseason finale conflict, if they were just body parts to give May further regrets about Andrew after the fact?
We’re taking three months off for Agent Carter after tonight, potentially even longer, and it’s at least worth re-stressing how well Season 3 has established itself up to this point. That Said, positioning Ward as an avatar for the true big bad is a tremendous miscalculation of our investment in the character, one that leaves “Maveth” surprisingly lenient on the core cast as well.
Sure, evil made it to Earth in Ward’s body (somehow), and Will was lost to a desert planet in the process, but that isn’t exactly a huge shift from where we started the hour. Hopefully, Agents will use the time off to craft something more compelling of such an ambitious stumble.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- So … Hydra got their symbol from some weird statue on the desert planet? The screener wasn’t particularly bright, so it was hard to make out the intended purpose.
- Are we calling the entity “Maveth”? Can we give it a name?
- I assume said entity played along as Will because only Fitz would lead him to the portal, but why was he hiding in Will’s cave, anyway?
- At the very least, Fitz standing up to Ward never quite gets old.
- Tatooine reference! Synergy!
- Anyone recognize the names on the Inhuman containment cells?
- Were Lash transformation effects really less expensive than returning Matthew Willig for a few shots?
- “I’m bulletproof.” You had to say it, Joey. #RIP
- The moment we saw the ruins of an ancient city, I got my hopes up we were looking at the barren world at the start of Guardians of the Galaxy. My mistake, obviously.
- Who’s gonna give Phil a hand now?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return in March on ABC.
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