Fans and followers of Agents of SHIELD have been beating the “it’s better, really!” drum since Season 2, but because evolution is a gradual process, it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint the all-important “why.”
Tuesday night’s “Chaos Theory” is a case of why this show has hit new creative heights by making a transitional episode compelling. It resolved a few current plotlines, while simultaneously pushing the story and characters forward.
It’s a classic tool of comic book style story telling (the best example of this is that the first appearance of Galactus was resolved in the middle of Fantastic Four No. 50, the rest of the issue was devoted to the next story) and has become an important part of the show’s evolution.
SHIELD has a flow and rhythm that it has never had in previous seasons. When stories ended (sometimes abruptly, sometimes mercifully), the whole show came to a dead stop and picked up from scratch the following week. Not so much anymore. The episodes are flowing one into the other with ease and that is just one of the ways the show has changed for the better.
In this third season, showrunners Jed Whedon and Marissa Tancharoen seemingly have written down the show’s previous flaws and taken great strides trying to correct them.
Case in point, compare Coulson’s TAHITI storyline, which took what seemed an eternity to finally get resolved, to this season’s Lash plot.
Lash was introduced, his shocking secret discovered and resolved (until he’s needed to cause further mayhem) in the tight span of seven episodes. SHIELD could have milked this out until at least the midseason finale with continued missed connections and cat-and-mouse games, but the creative team got what it needed from the character, shelved it for later use before it wore out its welcome.
Unlike other series out there, SHIELD has shown a knack for giving the fans what they want in a timely manner. There’s no better example of that than the way the show handled Jemma’s time on the alien planet.
The viewers were only given hints and teases about what she was going through both while she was there and during her readjustment after her rescue. At about the point the clamor for “what the hell happened to Jemma?,” reached its loudest, SHIELD rolled out the character study “4,722 Hours” and answered that question to great satisfaction.
Just a week later over on AMC, The Walking Dead created a brilliant character study of Morgan’s trip back from the throes of insanity. The two episodes are structured in similar ways. Unfortunately no one cared why Morgan became a bo stick carrying Zen master because the fandom’s attention is focused squarely on what happened to Glen at the Dumpster.
“Chaos Theory” didn’t pack the punch or the flash of previous episodes, but even the greatest action shows don’t have the budget or production schedule to keep the gas mashed to the floor. This week, SHIELD found other ways to maintain the momentum.
Thanks to the launch of the HMS FitzSimmons, Rosalind’s coming betrayal of Coulson and May picking up the broken shard of her life again, there’s more than enough reason to draw viewers back for more next week.
For discussion of other comic book TV shows please join Craig Wack and Pajiba commenter Tatiana Torres for the Agents of GEEK podcast updated every Friday.