“Agents of SHIELD” Season 1: The Skip It/Watch It Guide
Oh, Agents of SHIELD — a big thing done… well, not so great. At some point, I may tell Frank in full what happened during the first season of Marvel’s efforts to bring its superhero mega-franchise into prime-time broadcast television. But I started receiving requests for a Skip It/Watch It Guide for this show back in November. Clearly, the people have demands.
Here’s the most important thing about SHIELD — if you don’t have fondness in your heart for Joss Whedon and/or the Marvel Movieverse, you should probably just skip the whole damn thing. This show has potential, and definitely improves as it progresses, but it is an investment that you’d be totally justified in not wanting to make. Even though ABC did agree to continue the show, we’ll all look back on this season as a groundbreaking, but at best troubled, 22 episodes.
In a perfect world, this show would have been 13 episodes long, there would be a lot more make-outs and the hacker chick would have been shot in the head halfway through. This is not a perfect world. But for Whedon fans, superhero fans and those intrigued by what SHIELD might mean for the general media landscape, it will spark some interest. So, here you go. Watch in good health. This guide, I admit, came out as much more generous than anticipated. But that’s life in the NFL.
AGENTS OF SHIELD: SEASON 1
1. “Pilot”: Must see. You always have to watch the pilot, it sets up what we’re dealing with here, and it’s the first and last real evidence that Joss Whedon actually was on-the-ground involved with the series. Plus, J. August Richards and Ron Glass and Cobie Smulders show up!
2. “0-8-4”: Watch it. Consider this basically a standard example of SHIELD in stand-alone action — it’s got vague sprinklings of mythology and plot, CGI attempts to replicate exotic locations, and Ming-Na Wen punching and kicking bad guys. But it’s early days, so it’s not nearly as frustrating as episodes to come. Plus, Samuel L. Jackson shows up!
3. “The Asset”: Skip it. Technically introduces one of the big bads of the season, but he’ll be mentioned over and over again so you’re not missing anything, and there is so much Skye in it and she bores me.
4. “Eye Spy”: Watch it. Establishes some important tech for future episodes, and includes at least one or two solid action set pieces. Actually enjoyable to watch, to the best of my memory!
5. “Girl in the Flower Dress”: Maybe watch it. Moves the story forward a bit, I don’t actually hate the Skye subplot, and introduces another important character.
6. “F.Z.Z.T.”: Skip it. I mean, it’s a good episode for Agents Fitz and Simmons, who I actually like (not a universal opinion, for the record, so take that as you will). But we have now entered the part of the season where SHIELD stalls like a motherfucker. Limit your exposure, as Don Draper would say.
7. “The Hub”: Maybe watch it. An episode that digs into the inner workings of SHIELD and sets up a bunch of characters in the context of the show. But it’s also pretty forgettable and DID I MENTION THAT WE LIVE IN STALL-TOWN NOW, POPULATION STALLING?
Movie alert! Thor: The Dark World technically takes place after episode 7 and before episode 8. Does it matter? Not really! But there’s good stuff in this movie. Like Christopher Eccleston!
8. “The Well”: Maybe skip it. Ostensibly, SHIELD‘s first real attempt to integrate itself into the Marvel movieverse since its premiere. It doesn’t really, though! Also, this is the episode with the plotline that inspired my friend (and awesome cover artist) Asa to say this on Facebook: “As much as I love that show, you really don’t want ‘Supernatural did it better’ leveled at you all that often.”
9. “Repairs”: Skip it. “Hilarious” pranks! Ghosty presences! Absolutely no relevance to the narrative whatsoever! BOOOOOOOO.
10. “The Bridge”: Watch it. We get dangerously close to actually solving one of the season’s big mysteries and big plot stuff happens (well, for SHIELD, anyway). Plus, J. August Richards is back! (Man, remember how Angel was a good show a whole lot of the time? Happy memories.)
11. “The Magical Place”: Must see. Important guest stars! Follow-ups on literally explosive cliffhangers! And it only took ELEVEN EPISODES, but we have answers about Coulson! (Huh. It actually felt like this first half of the season lasted much, much longer.)
12. “Seeds”: Watch it. So this episode is ostensibly a stand-alone, but it has some real plot and a flying car. Plus, the stand-alone stuff is actually entertaining! It was enjoyable viewing!
13. “T.R.A.C.K.S.”: Watch it. Actually, this episode was also not bad! A few big plot developments, and a first real effort at experimenting with narrative form. I dug it.
14. “T.A.H.I.T.I.”: Watch it. Oh, god, we’ve barely skipped anything recently, have we? Way to go, SHIELD! New important characters, and necessary plot stuff occur. Just ignore the last scene, because…
15. “Yes Men”: Skip it. Another big tie-in to the Marvel film-verse, in the form of guest star Jaimie Alexander, but really, it’s another sad example of stalling.
16. “End of the Beginning”: Maybe watch it. Technically moves the football forward a little bit, but not necessarily as essential as what’s about to happen. And also, you need to make some time for…
Movie alert! Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes place between these two episodes! Does this matter? Actually, HOLY SHIT yes it does.
17. “Turn, Turn, Turn”: Must see. Not only does this episode deal with the major game-changing events of Winter Soldier, but it contains a plot twist that ACTUALLY MAKES ONE OF THE CHARACTERS INTERESTING. By at least a small margin, anyway.
18. “Providence”: Watch it. Brings together a lot of stuff from this season (some of which matters, some of which doesn’t), continues developing the ongoing storyline
19. “The Only Light in the Darkness”: Maybe watch it. This is probably the least-essential episode of this last portion of the season, but it’s got good qualities! Like Patton Oswalt and Amy Acker and a Doctor Who reference and make-outs and a little real plot. You probably should watch.
20/21. “Nothing Personal”/”Ragtag”: Watch it. Things are really, properly serialized now. If you’ve come this far, you might as well see things out.
22. “Beginning of the End”: Must see. I mean, come on. It resolves major plotlines for this season, has a real sweet moment for Coulson, and then A SPECIAL GUEST STAR and a whole bunch of cliffhangers! What else could a girl ask for?
Well, an awful lot. But Thor-speed, Agents of SHIELD. We’ll see you next season. All of us (hopefully) having learned a lot.
Want more guides to great television? Liz Tells Frank: The Skip It/Watch It Guides is available on Amazon!