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MAY
14
5 MOS

Jim Steranko on 'Agents of SHIELD': 'Ends on a Whimper'

The comics veteran writes that with "The Beginning of the End," Marvel's "Avengers" spinoff ended its first season with "another disappointing layer of warmed-over potholes, carrots, and hooks."

Agents of Shield Episodic The Beginning of the End - H 2014
ABC/Kelsey McNeal
"The Beginning of the End"

Jim Steranko, one of the creators of the Nick Fury character, recaps Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for THR's Heat Vision every week. Read more about the Marvel Comics artist in a Q&A here.

Did it surprise anyone that "The Beginning of the End" was, in fact, the end of the beginning? Or, more precisely, the beginning of the end of the beginning?

After 22 episodes of “sanctified” plot and character crumbs being salted with terminally-sluggish velocity (into anemic “standalone” stories) and the promise of paying off the Whedonesque tangle of intrapersonal detritus, the season wrapped instead with another disappointing layer of warmed-over potholes, carrots, and hooks.

Not my idea of an adrenaline fix!

I suppose there are viewers who prefer an interminable, repetitious, soap-opera storyline where almost nothing significant ever really happens week after week, and when it does, it’s discussed rather than displayed. But does it work for a comicbook-inspired, super-spy organization predicated on action and fantasy? The show is called SHIELD for a reason -- doesn’t expectation count? Still, we get a square peg in a round hole!

STORY: Jim Steranko Offers 7 Ways to Fix 'Agents of SHIELD'

Remember all the screen time and character effort spent agonizing about the peril of Rising Tide? Or the ubiquitous Centipide? All red herrings for Cybertek, which is really another way to spell Hydra! Click and drag takes on a new meaning -- one I don’t find synonymous with two-fisted entertainment!

And Agents of SHIELD’s charisma-light characters -- Coulson, Ward, Fitz, Simmons, Skye -- just don’t have the dramatic gravitas to maintain audience attention, the latter four neophytes at the spy-kill-spy game. Maybe I’m spoiled by decades of 007s (from Barry Nelson to Daniel Craig), spoiled by muscular scriptwriters, believable actors, and powerhouse directors -- but they are the personnel who set the bar for the genre. AOS must either fish or cut bait!

It’s no secret that big-company comicbook titles essentially exist as potential fodder for film and TV licenses -- and it appears that the formula extends to TV series as well. I’m all for the concept, but it needs to hit the bull’s-eye or -- like so many AOS viewers -- I’m out!

Not that I didn’t like anything in the final ep (May’s takedown of Ward was the best action sequence of the series, and Fury’s extended-hand entrance neatly caught viewers off guard), but the obvious and predictable (the Fitz/Simmons philosophical underwater rant slowed the pace to zero, and the script had some of the worst dialogue of the season) overshadowed what should have been the most irresistible entry in the show’s history.

Didn’t those of us who hung in, kept our fingers crossed, and hoped for at least a modicum of closure deserve something more than a preview of next season’s shellgame antics? And OMG -- another year of Who-Is-Skye? teasers! Frankly, she is not compelling enough to shoulder the series, no matter what Coulson scratches on the wall.

Instead of going out with a bang, AOS ended with a whimper.