Season 3 of Agents of SHIELD actually felt like a significant improvement, Looking back on the plots and action that took place. I think it’s due a much less frantic pace and far more coherent set of storylines which actually felt like they were going somewhere, rather than the endless meandering and circling around that previous seasons have had.
From a clinical point of view the writing and stories had a very good mix of big and small, the pacing worked, the interactions between the plots worked and none of them overstayed their welcome. Looking back at the season I don’t think there were any dead ends, each story wound into the overall picture and continued to effect characters. Relationships moved forward, people grew, people fought with each other and things occasionally blew up. What more do you want?
It feels like all the characters, and actors, were playing to their strengths this year. The cast expanded with new ‘inhuman’ superheroes and ‘normal’ agents and they finally seemed to gel into a coherent collection of people. That’s not to say they always agreed or worked well together, but it felt like a fully rounded group that covered off all the various attitudes and emotions. I particularly like the mixture of “grown ups” and “newbies”, each respecting each other, but also occasionally having to exert their authority and experience, or challenge and get creative. As characters rose and fell to prominence, others dropped away; allegiances and attitudes shifted and it felt like an organic whole rather than a forced structure.
There are still some weak points, or rather under-utilised characters, the cast list was very crowded at times and not everyone was well used all the time. Hunter was well used for levity, but his quest for revenge didn’t quite play as well; particularly against Adrianne Palicki’s much more nuanced performance as the recovering Bobbi. Sadly, I still think Clark Gregg’s more melodramatic moments as Coulson don’t quite land right, but his lighter delivery is still flawless and gives the series a wonderful character. Lincoln was something of a non-starter for me and I remained pretty bored of Ward, I didn’t really find his character very interesting when he was a good guy, and his switch to Hydra made him no more interesting and then when [the spoiler for the second half of the season] that was the final nail in the coffin of any interesting character options.
I enjoyed this series. It’s a long way from perfect, but it is firmly settling into the entertaining category, with a few characters and performances I really look forward to. I think it can still be better than it is though, and continue to hope it will find some real magic.