Category Archives: Agents of SHIELD

The case of the midseason finale

arrow left behind

When did winter finales and midseason finales begin? And what did we ever do before they existed?

I ponder this question after having watched the last episodes of “Arrow” and “The Flash” and “Agents of SHIELD” and “The Walking Dead” until January or February – some of them a couple of times now – and thinking about when this trend began.

If you’re not sure what trend I’m talking about: Sometime in the past few years, TV shows, which normally do not air fresh episodes in much of December or January, began calling their last episode before taking a break for a few weeks a “winter finale” or “midseason finale.”

Shows take breaks from new episodes for a few reasons. There’s apparently an ingrained belief that viewers aren’t watching during several weeks before and after Christmas, so there’s no point in burning off new episodes. I question this thinking and point to “Doctor Who,” which gets a new episode on Christmas Day itself each season. But those Brits are different all the way around.

So rather than just limping off our screens for a few weeks, after a Christmas-themed episode that aired just after Thanksgiving, series began airing a climactic episode – well, as climactic as an ongoing TV series ever is, given the need for an ongoing storyline that can run for several seasons – with a dramatic cliffhanger. (Almost literally, in the recent case of “Arrow.”)

And they began calling it a winter finale or midseason finale. So it feels important, you know.

I believe AMC and the producers of “The Walking Dead” might have started this trend. But “Arrow” and a lot of other shows have embraced it whole-heartedly.

So that’s why we see characters die or “die,” why villains are sometimes dispatched, why secrets are exposed.

And why we’re left wondering not only what happens next but how they’re going to top this in the spring, when their regular old season finale airs.

“SHIELD” left us hanging in its mid-season finale but promises something fun in the interim, at least, with episodes of the new prequel series “Agent Carter” beginning in January.

For the rest of these shows, we’ll wait and wonder. And marvel (no pun intended) at how networks and production companies have trained us to expect the middle of the season to end with a bang.

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‘Agents of SHIELD’ season finale poster, and ‘Agent Carter’ news

agents of SHIELD season finale poster

It’s been a big coupla days for “Agents of SHIELD.” ABC has renewed the show – which has found its creative path, finally – for a second season.

And ABC also picked up the “Agent Carter” series starring Hayley Atwell of the “Captain America” movies as founding SHIELD operative Sharon Carter. Her adventures begin in 1946. We’re hoping for lots of Howard Stark appearances, too.

And Marvel has been releasing comic-book-inspired posers for recent “Agents of SHIELD” episodes.

The latest is for “Beginning of the End,” the season finale, airing Tuesday.

Nice shattered SHIELD logo with the HYDRA logo beneath.

‘Arrow,’ ‘Agents of SHIELD’ set the stage

Agents of SHIELD - beginning of the end

I’m not sure anybody could have guessed just a couple of years ago that Marvel and DC would be represented on our TV screens weekly by two top-notch dramas.

Yet here we are.

“Arrow” and “Agents of SHIELD” had strong next-to-last episodes this week and look to have some high-stakes finales next week.

What we know and what we can guess about each, including who might die:

Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury – now sporting shades, as we saw at the end of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – appears in some manner on “SHIELD” next Tuesday in the finale, “The Beginning of the End.” There’s a quick shot of new-look Fury in the promos.

What else might happen? We’ll see some sort of showdown between Coulson’s ex-SHIELD team and Hydra operatives Garrett and Ward.

And I bet we’ll find out at least something about the true nature of Skye, particularly after the comments about how here parents were – literally – monsters in this week’s episode.

Who will die? Garrett I think, although I hate to see Bill Paxton go.

arrow-season finale unthinkable

On “Arrow,” the second-season finale, titled “Unthinkable,” will feature Team Arrow against Slade Wilson’s little army of Deathstroke clones. The League of Assassins (League of Shadows) returns to help Black Canary.

Who will die? I hate the thought of this, but I think Caity Lotz’ Canary will die. She’s considered herself unredeemable for a few episodes but this week saved a child from a burning building and was hailed as a true hero.

You know what that means.

‘Arrow,’ ‘SHIELD’ look to finish strong

arrow ravager city of blood

I’m not one of those fans that has to declare a victor in the war between Marvel and DC. They’re both doing well – if very differently – in particular areas outside comics, including live-action movies and TV and animation.

Marvel’s big-screen universe is firing on all cylinders through a timetable that, if we’re to believe a recent interview with mastermind Kevin Feige, is loosely planned through 2028. The producers of Marvel movie outliers like the “Spider-Man” and “X-Men” series are trying to build their own universes, although that could be a challenge. I still wish we’d see the universes combined on screen someday.

As for DC, Warner Bros. is flat-out struggling to build a cohesive movie universe. The “Man of Steel” sequel featuring Batman – with Wonder Woman and Cyborg and possibly other characters in supporting roles – could be cool or it could fall as flat as “Green Lantern.” And DC has just announced that director Zach Snyder will follow the “Man of Steel” sequel with a “Justice League” movie.

DC’s plans feel a little rushed, with none of the universe-building that Marvel has engaged in with its “Avengers” lead-ins and follow-ups. But maybe it’ll turn out nifty.

On TV, there’s no question that “Arrow,” the second-season CW adaptation of Green Arrow, is the best superhero series ever.

And over on ABC, “Agents of SHIELD” – after a first half of this debut season that felt like wheel-spinning or slow burn, depending on how charitable you might be – is building to what might be a genuinely thrilling climax.

Both series have three episodes left this season. Here are some thoughts:

“Arrow”: After setting up Slade (Deathstroke) Wilson as the good-guy-turned-bad-guy this season, the series has let Slade run rampant on Oliver Queen and his city, family and team. Last week’s episode ended with Slade killing Oliver’s mother, Moira, in a cruel mirror to the “choice” Oliver was given by Ivo on the island.

What we want to see: More DC characters – including Ravager, pictured above, who appears in “City of Blood,” the next episode – more twists, more peril, more return visits from past favorites and more triumph for Team Arrow.

What we don’t want to see: An easy way out for anybody.

agents of shield nothing personal

“SHIELD”: Spinning off events in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “SHIELD” finds itself in a world where SHIELD itself is in shambles. The agents are on the run, striking back at enemy organization HYDRA and building alliances. All the while, they’re dealing with the treacherous Agent Ward, who has turned out to be a HYDRA agent and has been killing SHIELD agents right and left.

What we want to see: Well, we already know Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) returns in this week’s episode, “Nothing Personal,” and Samuel L. Jackson is supposed to return as Nick Fury in “Beginning of the End,” the season finale set for May 13. So we’re getting return visits from some favorites. We also want more revelations, including more big-picture tie-ins to the movie universe.

What we don’t want to see: The redemption of Agent Ward. We want him and Agent Garrett (the great Bill Paxton) to continue as our favorite HYDRA turncoats into the second season.

The longterm big picture for both series – if “SHIELD” returns for a second season – could be fantastic. “SHIELD” will be building toward the May 2015 premiere of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

And although it’s unlikely, it’s possible Warners will tie “Arrow” to its big-screen franchise in some way. Warners could do a whole lot worse – and likely will – if it ignores the universe created for the small screen.

 

What I’m watching: Playing catch-up

The Man Under the Hood

It always feels like a new TV season when “Mad Men” starts up again on AMC. It’s not of course; we’re in the awkward part of the calendar when some shows have completed their seasons, others have a few episodes left and some – “Sleepy Hollow,” in particular – are long gone.

Here’s some thoughts on what I’m watching or watched until just recently.

“The Walking Dead.” This season, after staging a battle at the prison that saw Hershel and the Governor die, seemed to build to a climax in the middle of its year. The last half of the season was made up of really-pretty-good character pieces. The finale, with Rick and the gang playing into the hands of the Terminus cannibals, was shocking in that it was not bombastic. Curiously, it made me look forward to next October more than almost anything else.

“Agents of SHIELD.” This small-screen Marvel flagship series struggled early in the season. I wonder if the “slow build” story the showrunners are maintaining now is really the case – if so, they didn’t do it very effectively – or if, like many other series, it just took them a while to hit a stride. With recent episodes, including tie-ins to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “SHIELD” is finally clicking. I hope it doesn’t falter again in the final episodes of the season.

“Dallas.” I miss J.R. I miss Larry Hagman. But the series is good, soapy fun.

“Arrow.” It’s possible I’m not enjoying any series on TV more than this take on the classic DC hero. The cast is really good, the stories are fun and the show is stuffed with comics characters. What’s not to like?

“Justified.” One of my favorite series, “Justified” had an uneven series at best. Lawman Raylan and outlaw Boyd and their supporting players were good, but the messy Crowe family story just didn’t do it for me. Next year is the final season and the last scene of this past season forecast the story: Raylan vs. Boyd. Can’t wait.

“The Mindy Project.” This Mindy Kaling comedy is funnier than I ever expected. I wish it would run for 10 years.

“Community” and “Parks and Recreation.” With only one episode left this season – and its future uncertain – “Community” has bounced back this year with the return of controversial creator Dan Harmon. It’s so odd and inside baseball that it’ll never grow in viewership. I just hope it hangs on. And “Park” has grown from a series full of oddballs to a series with characters I really care about.

I’ve probably forgotten something. With “Mad Men” back tonight and “Orphan Black” returning April 19, we’ve got more weeks of good viewing ahead.

sleepy hollow cast

But you know what? I think I miss “Sleepy Hollow” more than anything.

Hail Hydra! You know the drill

hail hydra steranko

If you saw “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” you know (spoilers) that Marvel’s longtime super-science, super-evil group Hydra plans a big role.

And you know that “Hail Hydra” is the special password members of Hydra have used since the first “Cap” movie.

Of course, “Hail Hydra” has been around in the comics as long as Hydra has been around, and in the movies  it’s never been used more effectively than when Garry Shandling’s corrupt senator whispers it in corrupt SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell’s ear.

So the exchange almost immediately inspired a host of Internet memes.

hail hydra lost in translation

This is the first one I saw.

hail hydra bush cheney

This one is great.

hail hydra godfather

And this one.

hail hydra bert and ernie

Can’t top this one.