To say the road for Marvel’s first television series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., has been a bumpy one would be an understatement. From an inflated premiere that resulted in a dramatic drop in ratings that made many wonder if it was going to survive at all, to a divided fan community torn between its love of all things Marvel and the perceived mediocrity (to some) of the show’s freshman season, it seems from day one that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been fighting for its own survival. However, it can be confidently stated that, with the season 2 finale, the show has finally passed the television test that will provide it its license and right to exist for years to come.
What audiences will get with the season 2 finale is not a rehashed version of the “we’re rebooting the world” conclusion we got with the finale of last year. Rather, this time around what we get is, without a doubt, the most beautiful story progression and dramatic weight the show has ever produced. The S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale is emotional, hard-hitting, action packed, suspenseful and, most importantly of all, surprising. The 2-hour finale isn’t so much a set of two episodes that have been thrown together as much as they are a 2-hour film that’s been created to allow the show a chance to finally prove what it’s always been capable of.
By using its new model of half-season runs in the fall and spring, S.H.I.E.L.D. built itself a story it could legitimately pay off in the finale. All the arcs, and all the characters come to satisfying conclusions that don’t feel tacked on or half-measured – even despite that fact there was once talk of a spin-off series that would be kick-off by the events of this week’s episode. Everything that occurs does so with forceful purpose and the clearest vision ever brought to Marvel’s small screen division (in some ways, it even tops the all too perfectly constructed Daredevil on Netflix NFLX -1.05%).
Even more interesting is how no punches are pulled for the sake of network television ideals. Put simply, the S.H.I.E.L.D. finale “goes there,” and does so in ways that justify the aforementioned idea of the show being more surprising than ever. Even if one thinks they know the ways in which a show can be “surprising” in the modern age, they won’t see the events of the finale coming. They come at the audience harder and faster than anything the MCU has produced since the third act of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
That said, however, forget what happened in Age of Ultron, Winter Solder and every Marvel film that’s proceeded Tuesday night because none of it matters. S.H.I.E.L.D. does a most excellent job of standing on its own two feet in a way we’ve never seen it do before. Come the final frame, all anyone – Marvel fan or otherwise – will be asking is when season three begins. The note the show leaves viewers on is one that will make them realize, perhaps for the first time, that the journey of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not only worth it now, but perhaps always has been. With the finale comes a single truth many have hoped would one day reveal itself: S.H.I.E.L.D. is a show that has reached the point it has always wanted to be at since the days Joss Whedon first wrote “Fade In” on the pilot script.