Friday, September 19, 2014

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The Complete First Season

Continuing the adventures began in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. suffers a bit from having to play with last year's toys and deal with the fallout of the planned Marvel feature film releases rather than make any real strides on its own. Thankfully thee release of Thor: The Dark World and especially Captain America: The Winter Soldier bolstered the season's second-half, giving it new life to end the show's First Season on a string of strong episodes.

Without question Clark Gregg is the show's star. Reprising his role as Agent Phil Coulson, returned from the dead in a mysterious manner (which turns out to be somewhat disappointing once revealed), Coulson puts together his own strike time including two military specialists in Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) and Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), a pair a bickering scientists (Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge) and a computer hacker (Chloe Bennet) they adopt in the first episode. Throw in an old S.H.I.E.L.D. tricked-out cargo jet, and the team is ready for action.

Highlights from the season include the reveal of HYDRA, the season finale, Coulson seeing the organization he's sworn to serve dissolve in front of his eyes, the arrival of two Asgardians on Earth, the guest spot by Patton Oswalt as an odd S.H.I.E.L.D agent offering the team sanctuary, the end of the Clairvoyant storyline (even if the subplot is ultimately disappointing), Fitz-Simmons return to the academy, a nice guest-spot by Peter MacNicol, Maria Hill's return, and the creation of Scorch.

Of course there are missteps as well. Neither the revelation of the true identity of the Clairvoyant or Mike Peterson's (J. August Richards) transformation into very cheap looking Deathlock really payoff, especially given the amount of time devoted to both. And the truth behind Coulson's own mystery, while unexpected, could certainly have used another pass around the writers' room before making it to air.

The cliffhanger ending leaves the agents themselves in a nebulous space as Phil Coulson is tasked with rebuilding in secret the government spy organization which is destroyed during The Winter Soldier. A smaller scaled version of S.H.I.E.L.D. should play into the show's limited budget. The HYDRA arc also leaves several storylines unresolved, most importantly the roles of Ward and Fitz with the team going forward.

Available on both DVD and Blu-ray, the set includes all 22 episodes, cast and crew commentary for a pair of episodes, a look back at Marvel's Cinematic Universe and the show's place within it, behind-the-scenes featurettes on some of the season's action sequences and casting choices (such as Gregg and Amy Acker discussing her guest-role), and collections of montages, bloopers, and deleted scenes.

[ABC Studios, DVD $45.99 / Blu-ray $79.99]

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