TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3 (USA, 2016)

It’s hard to know what to make of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the landscape of superhero television. It lacks the allegorical nuance of Jessica Jones, the gritty hyperviolence of Daredevil and the comic-book stylings of The Flash and Arrow. The show has always been a bit of a hybrid with an appeal of its own – though one that’s shifted over time.

The first season of S.H.I.E.L.D. saw the show fight to build confidence in itself. The second saw it leverage that confidence to introduce the superpowered Inhumans to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disappointingly, Season 3 just feels like more of the same. Despite its best efforts to escalate and evolve, the show feels static.

The major plot arcs of the season deal with the growing number of Inhumans and the problems they present for both government agencies and S.H.I.E.L.D. Meanwhile, Ward’s own efforts to rebuild Hydra bring him into contact with the creature who inspired the criminal organization’s iconography with cataclysmic results.

Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge)’s disappearance pushes Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) to desperate measures. We learn the more about May (Ming Na Wen) and Mack’s (Henry Simmons) lives outside S.H.I.E.L.D. while Daisy (Chloe Bennett) steps up to become the leader of her own Secret Warriors.

While a lot of these plotlines feel more developed than last season’s, it feels like everything moves a little too slow – even for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The series used to oscillate between character-heavy and mythology episodes, now spends three or four episodes to set up each big ‘event’ episode that deliver on both fronts. The series’ highs are a lot more consistent but it feels like there’s much more filler in-between.

It doesn’t help that the much-needed and compelling additions to the series’ cast are held back for the latter arcs in the season. Constance Zimmer’s Rosalind Price makes a fun match for Coulson (Clark Gregg) while John Hannah makes a welcome addition to the show’s science types. On the superpowered side of things, Axle Whitehead makes a memorable entrance, his character best described as an Australian mash-up of  Gambit and Ghostrider.

This season of the show further hones its strengths but it lacks a sense of direction. Even at its best, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a show that often repeats itself and without the game-changing connections to the greater MCU that the first two seasons had, Season 3 sees this formula begin to wear. There are a handful of episodes here that are the best the series has ever done but, on the whole, the entire affair is beginning to a little too familiar.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)