As you may no doubt have noticed on the blog recently, I’ve been picking up the threads of my Black Library reading, first with the Beast Arises series and then with some other stuff the reviews for which will be going up in the coming days. Back in the day, sometime around 2014, I was very much immersed in the publisher’s output, having been a fan for eleven-plus years at that point, but then I dropped off and my reading was rather fragmentary. Now, the ride back has been pretty awesome and intense, and all the upcoming material for the next three months that we’ve been shown has gotten me excited all over again.
Check after the break to see what novels and short stories and audio dramas and more Black Library has coming up in the next few months! This is a curated list of products that I can very well see myself picking up and going through.
Last week’s penultimate episode of Agents of SHIELD proved to be a disappointment. I had had such high expectations of the episode, but it failed to deliver on many of the most important elements and it made me somewhat fearful that the finale this week would similarly fail to deliver. After all, the show had just recently experienced a positive turn-around, and I wanted that to continue. Looking back, having just seen the finale, I suppose that I should have seen the penultimate episode as a sign of what was to come. Because this is the show that is based on a superhero-verse and yet it proceeded along as a standard police procedural.
The finale, “Beginning of the End“, hasAnd part of the problem is that while the show did complete a few lingering storylines, it left things far too open-ended and it was basically a cliche from start to finish. For me, it showcased some of the worst of the source form, and it really did not add positively to the overall experience of this season. I must say that this episode is not at all the kind of finale I was expecting. It was bland and uninspiring, the only good thing being Nick Fury’s cameo, and even that I found problematic.
The last few episodes of Agents of SHIELD have been a cut above almost the entire season thus far. A significant part of is that the show has finally begun to accept the comic-ness of the setting, and has made great strides in furthering along the characters and the meta plot in a way that we didn’t see outside of a very small handful of episodes like TRACKS and YES MEN. As I have said recently, it has finally become the kind of show that I’ve wanted it to be since the start, and although I detest that we had to wait so long for it to get going, I’m just glad that it finally did. But some vestiges of the first half of the season remain.
In this, the penultimate episode of Agents of SHIELD‘s debut season, I expected some really big things. I expected some big clashes, some big reveals, perhaps a movie guest star or two even, but no, none of that happened. Watching this episode, “Ragtag“, you would never get the feeling that next week this season is ending. It is so… normal, so… average that it just beggars belief. The last few shows had the team deal with some of the fallout of HYDRA’s emergence from within SHIELD. This week, it is all about heavy-handed character development, which is kind of weird.
I just got done watching the latest episode of Agents of SHIELD and all I can say is “YES! YES! YES! YES!”. Why couldn’t the show have been like for the whole of season 1? Oh yes, that’s right, because Marvel execs wanted to do the big reveal in Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and they handicapped the show. Which doesn’t really make sense at all. All the fun weirdness of the Marvel comics-verse was put aside to give viewers a tedious procedural that was rarely fun and exciting. But thankfully the recent episodes since the Captain America movie have turned things around and have focused more on the universe itself.
This week’s episode, “Nothing Personal“, is hands-down the best episode of the entire season. Why? Because for starters it has Maria Hill in it. And it has Deathlok. And May is back to being her usual badass self. And Skye finally becomes 100% not irritating. And Ward is a convincing villain. And we find out who was behind the entire TAHITI project that brought Coulson back to life. So there’s a whole lot of awesome going on in this episode and pretty much no downside at all. Which is a huge, huge thing for this show as far as I’m concerned.
So the last two episodes of the show have been something else. In the wake of the revelations made in the recent Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier movie, that HYDRA is still alive and kicking and has even infiltrated SHIELD at its highest levels, the nature and direction of the show has shifted significantly. The current team of heroes, already suffering from trust issues with the establishment, has more cause than ever to trust anyone but themselves, and even that isn’t saying much since there have been several betrayals on that front already. Despite some conflict over whether last week’s episode was good or not, I gave it the benefit of doubt and tuned in this week, only to be disappointed, again.
The new episode basically maintains the status quo. All the fun action and weirdness of the previous episode is pretty much gone and this one is, as a friend put it to me when we discussed the episode, just setting the pieces for the finale, which is going to be very soon. The thing that gets me is that the characters still act as if they can do whatever the hell they want (looking at you, Coulson) without any regard for anything else. And the story doesn’t really move forward any, nor do we have even a hint of any appearance from two of SHIELD’s biggest names: Nick Fury and Maria Hill.
Last week we saw how Marvel’s latest cinematic release, Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, affected the status of the characters on Agents of SHIELD. The movie initiated some very, very big changes and that in turn meant that the show has done a complete about turn. The tensions have ratcheted up significantly and loyalties have really been redefined. It goes without saying that some characters have turned out to be not who we believed they were, and that was kind of like a gut-punch in the last episode. Very surprising.
Since last week’s episode, I’ve read a fair few reactions to the episode and to the movie of course, and supposedly the showrunners have known from the start that this change would happen and that they constructed the show around that. Well, it certainly never felt like that, but as this episode shows, things have indeed been in development around it. This is an episode that has me really conflicted because I’m not sure whether or not I like it. It had some really good parts, but it also had parts that I’m not a hundred percent about.
Note: Because of the nature of this episode and its tie-in to the new movie, this review contains spoilers about what happens in this episode, the new Captain America movie and last week’s episode as well.
For the previous four episodes, the show has been on a high and low streak, with one episode being good and the other being not-so good. But still, the show kept me engaged on some level and kept me coming back week after week to watch and see what would happen to these characters who often fluctuate between boring and exciting at the same time. Two weeks prior, the latest Marvel Studios movie Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier was released and it changed the status quo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a very big way, something on a level where everything that follows is going to suffer through some big changes, especially Agents of SHIELD.
This week’s episode, “Turn, Turn, Turn” is set concurrent to the movie, in that it starts at the midpoint of the movie’s plot and ends where the movie ends. In that regard, this is the biggest crossover of the show with the MCU, but as a viewer I am left dissatisfied and even a bit disappointed since this was an absolute jumble of plots and subplots with an ending that served to only confuse, much as the last episode did. The show really needs to get better with its endings.
Note: Because of the nature of this episode and its tie-in to the new movie, this review contains spoilers about what happens in this episode, and that consequently includes spoilers about the movie as well.
So the last two episodes of the show were a mixed bunch. Tracks was fairly good but TAHITI not so much. All the same, the overall story was moving forward in an easy way, with lots of breadcrumbs along the way, so that’s a saving grace at least when it comes to the show, because it hasn’t been all that good about it, to date. Whether the show’s creative team is listening or not, they seem to be getting more things right these days than otherwise, so I still remain cautiously optimistic about the show. And if every episode could be like Ep 15 “Yes Men“, then man, this should be really freaking great.
Ep 15 marks the television debut of Lady Sif, played by the ever-wonderful Jaimie Alexander, who has only starred in the two Thor movies to date. And along with her we have the first ever live-action portrayal of Lorelei, one of Thor’s greater Asgardian villains. With Lorelei escaping her cell during the events of Thor: The Dark World and arriving on Earth, Sif is sent to bring her back in what proves to be one of the absolute best episodes of the entire season, probably the best episode. Ep 16 continues the story of Coulson’s team hunting for the Clairvoyant and running into Mike Peterson as well, who has been code-named Deathlok by SHIELD. This episode was confusing on a few levels and also perpetrated some of the worst excesses of the show, combined with an absolutely confusing final five minutes.
Another two months have passed in between me doing reviews of the show. Part of that is because I’m very, very close to giving up on the show. It just doesn’t interest me so much anymore that I’m motivated to write a review. And it doesn’t help that the show keeps taking inexplicable breaks these days after every two episodes or such. The show has recently been dealing with a turnaround in material and is looking promising once again. Episodes 13 “T.R.A.C.K.S.” and 14 “T.A.H.I.T.I.” are proof of it. After the long glut of interesting stories in the show, these two episodes have shown me a glimmer of hope.
In these two episodes, we get to see more of the Clairvoyant’s manipulations with regards to businessman Ian Quinn, who has been one of the bad guys for a good while now, and also one of the most interesting thankfully. We also get to see more character drama with the entire cast of the good guys who have been our protagonists now for 12 episodes, plus these two. When things get personal, and the stakes are higher than they have ever been, that’s when you see whether a show is any good, and I think in that regard these two episodes do their job well.
Its been almost two months since I last did a review for this show. Some of you might have wondered why. I mean, I was covering the show on a weekly basis with every new episode for nine weeks straight and then I didn’t cover the mid-season finale, which was a rather explosive moment for the series, on several different levels. Those of you who follow me on social media knew well how I felt about that episode though. Sadly, my feelings have hardly changed with the show’s return and the recent two episodes. Thing is, for me the mid-season finale was very boring, with the follow-up episode being extremely disappointing and this week’s episode being barely decent.
The mid-season finale brought back Mike Peterson, who we last saw in the series premiere. It was an episode with a personal twist for him and the ending made me really frustrated. The mid-season premiere made me cringe all throughout. And this week’s episode, while it had some good moments and was overall better than the previous two episodes, still did not make a dent in my growing dislike of the show. At this point, I’m just about going through the motions. I went from tuning in for the show weekly to catching up on the two recent episodes this weekend late at night the day before and yesterday. I just can’t get all that excited any more.
Note: This review contains spoilers about the resurrection of Phil Coulson and other important moments, particularly Skye’s mysterious parents.