Arrow Season 5 Review

Spoilers for the entire series follow:

From 2012 to 2014 The CW’s Arrow was on top of the world.   The first live-action superhero series since the end of Smallville, Arrow (based on DC Comics character Green Arrow) scratched an itch for weekly tales of comic book crime fighting that viewers didn’t seem to know they had.  The show was rightly praised in its first two seasons for its quick pace, genuinely surprising twists, high-quality action sequences, and complex, engaging characters, none more so than lead Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell).  This success kick-started a new wave of small screen superhero series, many of which (such as The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow) are parts of the endlessly entertaining interconnected universe Arrow started and anyone who enjoys any of these series, as well as those series own creators, owe some gratitude to early Arrow.  That being said, after its awesome second season Arrow‘s own magic seemed to have run out, and its quality quickly declined. The third year did some good work with a few of the more interesting supporting characters but was rather directionless about what it was trying to say about Oliver and was further damned by a truly unsatisfying conclusion.  The fourth season was an absolute disaster.  The villainous plot was absolutely absurd and far too fantastical for a series that had always kept one foot planted in reality, almost all action sequences lacked impact, and the creators’ obsession with soap opera-like relationship drama and the series’ weakest characters prevented any interesting narratives from taking off.  Sadly, it seemed as if the time had come to abandon the first of the many superhero series that now fill our TV screens.  However the diminished population that, out of either loyalty or habit, continued watching Arrow as its fifth season began discovered a gem.  The fifth season brings back much of what people loved about those wonderful first two years, from the strength of the action to the emotional complexity.

One of the best things about Season 5 of Arrow is that it remembers that as strong as some of the shows supporting players are, its most interesting character will always be Mister Queen himself.  The renewed focus on Oliver’s psyche and morality as well as Amell’s revitalized performance give a weight and energy to each episode that the series had been missing for some time.  The use of the serialized flashbacks that chronicle Oliver’s five years surviving various hellholes throughout the world before returning home always meant that the fifth season was going to be the end of a chapter for the show.  This lends a sense of immediacy and importance to this season’s flashbacks that makes them the strongest since the second season and this gravity leaks over into the present day storyline.  But as helpful as their place in the chronology is, the fact is that this year’s main storylines both in the past and the present are just plain good regardless of their slightly increased importance to the show’s history.  Oliver’s conflict with serial killer Prometheus in the present day and his time serving as a member of the Russian mob, the Bratva, before returning to the island on which he was originally marooned five years before tie together wonderfully due to the core thematic ideas of exploring Oliver’s relationship with violence and the legitimacy and impact of his vigilante mission to make Star City a better, safer place.

Two noticeable improvements Season 5 makes over the last two years are the action sequences and Oliver’s recently bequeathed position as mayor of Star City.  The fight sequences this year are leaps and bounds above those of Seasons 3 and 4 if not quite as mind blowing as those from Seasons 1 or 2.  The directors and choreographers of season 5 seem more interested in having Oliver face off with singular opponents who can keep up with him a bit more as opposed to having him take on small armies of goons singlehandedly as he often used to.  Holding the camera back allows for some nice long, uninterrupted shots of combat but this costs some of the in-your-face intensity the old closer angles gave.  That being said, even if it can’t quite top itself, Arrow is back to offering some of TV’s best action, with Oliver’s one-on-one bouts against Prometheus and the first escalator-set martial arts fight I’ve ever seen being standouts.  That mayoral position is a wonderful addition to the show.  After taking his family company away from him late in the second season, Arrow has struggled to maintain a balance between Oliver’s vigilante activities and his outside life.  Season 4 had a potential dramatic goldmine in Oliver’s mayoral campaign but really only used it as background noise and it’s a mystery to this day what his employment and living statuses were throughout Season 3.  Putting Ollie in the mayor’s office gives him, his sister Thea (Willa Holland), and quasi-father figure Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) things to do other than hunting down criminals and the three actors have a delightful chemistry (Oliver and Thea have always had one of the show’s strongest on-screen relationships but adding Quentin into the family circle is a masterstroke).  While the political escapades of the show don’t seem particularly realistic (this is a show which once had Thea running a nightclub/bar despite not being old enough to legally drink, after all) they don’t really have to be: they give Amell, Holland, and Blackthorne opportunities to be authoritative and talk down to slimy city politicians and that’s just fun to watch.  Giving Oliver a day job which also focuses on helping the good  people of his city gives him a unity of purpose that past jobs haven’t and Amell’s performance clearly indicates to the viewer that in spite of himself Oliver enjoys the job, which gives added tension when his administration is threatened in the middle of the season.

Aside from Thea and Quentin, and two others who I’ll get to later, the supporting characters are average at best this year and missteps in their use are evidence that Arrow still has more than a few problems.  Oliver takes on a crop of trainee vigilantes early on to fill out the ranks of his dwindling crime-fighting team but the only one given significant development over the year is Rick Gonzalez’s Rene Ramirez/Wild Dog.  Joe Dinicol’s Rory Regan/Ragman is entertaining but isn’t given enough focus and leaves unceremoniously in the middle of the season, making his appearances feel somewhat pointless.  David Ramsey is still strong as Oliver’s right-hand man, John Diggle, but the downward spiral of writing for the character that started last season continues.  The writers need to realize that Diggle’s character works best when acting as Team Arrow’s voice of reason or in romantic scenes with Audrey Marie Anderson’s Lyla and bromantic scenes with Oliver.  Instead they continue to have the character, who was introduced as the most righteous and understanding on the show, continue to act immorally or hypocritically object to questionable decisions made by others, when he’s not acting as a cheerleader for the narratively toxic romance that nearly destroyed the show.  Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity is no stronger a character than she was the last two years (in which she received an overabundance of screen time) and shows the same hypocrisy as Diggle.  Now, Oliver is often a hypocrite as well, but the important distinction between his characterization and that of his two confidants is that for Oliver, hypocrisy is an established character flaw, one that was consciously included and is openly recognized as a problem he works on.  John and Felicity’s hypocrisies, on the other hand, are simply exemplary of inconsistent writing and the fact that the rest of the characters continue deferring to them as if they’re always right despite their spotty track records is infuriating.  Finally, comic-relief tech expert Curtis (Echo Kellum) has lost all his appeal and is simply unfunny this year.

That last paragraph may seem contradictory to my praise for this season but that’s because the weakness of those supporting characters is more than made up for by the core narrative of the season, which is an intimate, powerful, character study of Oliver.  There are only three pairs of characters and actors that really needed to work for this season to succeed: Oliver and Amell, Josh Segarra as Oliver’s tormentor, Adrian Chase, and David Nykl as Oliver’s friend and Bratva ally, Anatoli Kynazev.  Thankfully, these pairs do work, with the actors giving spectacular interpretations of strong material.  Nykl was a consistent and entertaining presence in the second season’s flashbacks but played second fiddle to the tragic downfall of Manu Bennet’s terrific Slade Wilson.  With Slade’s part in Oliver’s “five years in hell” long since finished and Past Oliver and Anatoly reunited due to the former’s dealings with the Bratva, the flashback sequences put the spotlight firmly on Anatoly, and Nykl really shines.  Oliver and Anatoly had already developed a strong bond but their time together in Russia really solidifies how important they are to each other as well as how suprisingly similar they are.  Anatoly isn’t an average gangster.  Like Oliver he seeks to protect those who can’t protect themselves.   Oliver puts on a hood and puts arrows into the criminals and corrupt who exploit the weaknesses in the Star City and larger American systems.  In Anatoly’s homeland the system itself is what’s exploitative so he puts his faith in the Bratva, because of its (perceived) loyalty and dedication to helping the little guy.  In the flashbacks Anatoly is witness to Oliver at his worst and is horrified by his dear friend’s increasingly violent, often murderous tendenices, while present day scenes have Oliver, picking himself up from possibly his darkest hour yet realizing that five years as a Bratva leader have caused Anatoly to lose most of the idealism that separated him from the rest of their criminal fraternity as Arrow finally deals with the intriguing contradiction of depicting a super hero with ties to organized crime.  The shifting nature of Oliver and Anatoly’s relationship is enthralling to watch and Nykl shifts between past and present sequences exceptionally, offering humor and warmth in the former, and a quiet, tired hurt in the latter.  But if there is one element of Season 5 that will cause it to stand out most among the rest of Arrow it is Josh Segarra’s performance.  Introduced as Star City’s new district attorney, whose brutal tactics mesh well with Oliver’s, Adrian is revealed to be the masked serial killer Prometheus.  After losing a loved one to Oliver’s lethal vigilante crusade in Season 1 Adrian has become obsessed with revenge, and has created a meticulously plotted plan to tear the other man’s life apart.  Segarra is electrifying in the role, bringing a wonderfully psychotic energy to every scene he’s in. Adrian’s plan may be similar in general concept to Slade Wilson’s in season 2 but the execution is different enough to feel fresh.  Slade moved with all the subtlety of a wrecking ball, destroying every aspect of Oliver’s life that he possibly could, while Adrian is much more specific.  As Adrian once says he’s always “ten steps ahead” of Oliver and this allows Segarra to go for a unique portrayal of villainy.  Adrian doesn’t show his anger openly that often and Segarra is more often than not wonderfully smug, rubbing Oliver’s face in the fact that he can’t keep up, all while making it clear there is a truly terrifying monster hiding under Adrian’s cocky grin.  Both Nykl and Segarra bring out the absolute best of Amell, whose passion for Oliver’s character seems reinvigorated by the much stronger material he receives this year.  As flawed as he is, Oliver is someone the viewer cares about deeply and Amell makes it absolutely heart wrenching to see him fight for his very soul, displaying both rare vulnerability and the constant will to survive that makes the character one to root for in the first place.

Its impossible to talk about this season of Arrow without giving special praise to its finest episode, “Kapiushon”.  The seventeenth episode of the season finds present-day Oliver a prisoner of Adrian, who is torturing him both mentally and physically, while in the past Oliver and Anatoly finally engage corrupt Russian government official Konstantin Kovar (Dolph Lundgren) in a catastrophic confrontation.  The direct thematic parallels between Oliver’s weekly adventures in present day Star City and those during his aforementioned “five years in hell” have often been criticized but that’s due to problems with execution, not with the idea of these connections in general.  “Kapiushon” proves that when the formula works, it works well.  Arrow‘s darkest ever episode by far, “Kapiushon” is all about a terrible secret about Oliver, one Anatoly discovered five years ago which present-day Adrian is determined to force Oliver to confess.  One of the great strengths of Season 5 is that it is more than anything a psychological thriller and that is never more on display than in “Kapiushon”.  While the flashback story is propelled by a standard espionage plot and has some exciting fight scenes the main focus of both sets of scenes is probing the mind and heart of a character viewers have known for five years and forcing us to wonder whether he is truly the conflicted hero we thought we knew or a dangerous stranger with monstrous desires.  The greatest thing a series as far along as Arrow can do is cause viewers to reconsider all they have seen before, and that is exactly what Season 5 in general, and “Kapiushon” in particular, does.  I imagine re-watching older episodes, especially from season 1, will be a chillingly different experience after seeing this one.

As I hope I’ve made clear, Arrow is still far, far from perfect and not all problems are being addressed.  The return of the romance that ruined the show in the first place is troubling to say the least and the day to day lives of characters other than Oliver still aren’t given enough focus, which leads to a lack of variety in location (this year if a scene isn’t a fight scene or a flashback, chances are it takes place either in the Arrow Cave or at City Hall).  Despite all this, Anatoly, the action sequences, the depth given to Oliver, and a cunning villain make this a worthwhile season.  Hopefully the finale’s explosive cliffhanger is a sign that some of the core ideas that made this season so fun will carry over into next year.  If so, it will be safe to say Arrow‘s back.

 

 

Wonder Woman Review

Few movies have as much pressure on them to be successful as Wonder Woman did.  In addition to being the first standalone cinematic adaptation of the world’s most famous female comic book superhero, it is also the latest film in the struggling DC Extended Universe, the previous films of which have been at best, divisive (Man of Steel) and at worst, critically ostracized (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).  Fortunately, Patty Jenkins’ film answers the prayers of both feminists and DC Comics fans, telling a story that is inspiring, fun, and charmingly heart-felt.

Although bookended with scenes set somewhere around the present day and after the events of Batman v Superman, the actual story of Wonder Woman takes place a hundred years previous, towards the end of World War I.  Wonder Woman herself, or just Diana (Gal Gadot) as she is refered to throughout the film, is the princess of the Amazons, a race of mystical warrior women created by Greek god Zeus to aid mankind, particularly against other-worldly threats.  After discovering that she is more powerful even than the average Amazon, Diana rescues American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the first man she has ever seen, from drowning in the waters off the island on which she lives.  Following a spectacularly staged bows and swords vs guns battle between the Amazons and the Germans hunting Steve, the latter describes to his isolated saviors the horrors of the “War to End All Wars”.  Against the wishes of her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Diana frees Steve and the two set out on a thoroughly entertaining cinematic journey.

There are two factors that, above all others really make Wonder Woman the spectacular film that it is.  One is the depiction of its lead character, which really is simply, well, wonderful.  Gadot is perfect for the role, moving back and forth between Diana’s fierce, independent warrior moments and scenes of infectious compassion seamlessly.  Alan Heinberg’s screenplay is equally strong, showing a thoroughly complete understanding of who Diana is and why she is such a compelling hero.  Unlike past DC Extended Universe films, which have wasted strong leading performances from actors like Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill because of their cynical, depressing scripts, Gadot’s version of Wonder Woman shines because she is shown as being genuinely heroic.  A scene in which Diana breaks a No Man’s Land stalemate before freeing a Belgian town from German occupation is instantly iconic.  Doing so doesn’t really benefit Diana in any practical way (there’s no real advantage gained for her specific mission), she simply does so because she can and because it’s the right thing to do.  Aside from being visually stunning with some awesome, kinetic displays of Diana’s combat prowess and super strength, its a great sequence because of the way it encapsulates what a hero is and how they act in a short, simple package.

All this talk of the No Man’s Land scene brings me to the other great strength of Wonder Woman, that being its World War I setting.  Period settings have a history of helping tell great cinematic superhero stories.  Captain America: The First Avenger benefitted from introducing Steve Rogers to movie-going audiences in a World War II adventure that echoed the adventures of Indiana Jones.  X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past were able to revitalize their franchise by  inserting the titular mutant heroes into significant 20th Century events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the end of the Vietnam War.  And Zach Snyder’s vision of the altered version of 1985 in which Watchmen takes place is still one of the most intriguing and disturbing dystopias in recent cinematic history.  Wonder Woman is no exception to this rule, enjoying benefits to its storytelling similar to those the aforementioned Captain America film received.  While the wartime setting allows for a narrative mobility city-based heroes such as Batman and Spider-Man don’t get to enjoy, the most important contributions World War I adds to Diana’s story are thematic.  In the uncertain, frightening times we live in, Diana’s mission to bring peace and love feels especially poignant.  Wonder Woman‘s devotion to being an anti-war film is one of the best things about it and these themes are only further strengthened when the film’s true villain (who I won’t reveal here) proves themself to be little more than a super-powered nihilist, who doesn’t share Diana’s compassion and hope for mankind.

While Gadot is rightfully the main attraction, Wonder Woman‘s cast is strong throughout.  Pine’s role is by far the largest and most important and he brings high amounts of both charm and heart while also ably handling comedic material as Steve must adjust to Diana’s fish-out-of-water idiosyncrasies.  Furthermore, the relationship between the two is a master class in how to bring a complex, touching romance to a massive blockbuster story and is brought to life perfectly by both the impressive chemistry between Gadot and Pine as well as the complex writing.  Steve and Diana are equals and they can disagree, both welcome changes to the shallow depictions of romantic relationships that sometimes plague similar movies, but it is the strong basis for their mutual admiration that makes the relationship work so well.  Their personalities mesh well but, perhaps more importantly, they inspire each other.  Steve gives Diana faith that there is good in mankind and her strength and desire to do good make him want to be an even better man.  Other roles are all considerably smaller, but pretty strong.  Eugene Brave Rock, Saïd Taghmaoui, and Ewen Bremner are the most entertaining supporting players as a band of Steve’s war buddies who help him and Diana, showing an emotional depth not usually given to sidekick-type characters.  Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright make the most out of too-brief roles as Hippolyta and her militant sister Antiope respectively.  Lucy Davis, playing Steve’s secretary, gets a few good laughs out of the audience.  Elena Anaya’s Dr. Poison is the only one of the villains I can discuss without  giving anything away, and while she plays the part in an appropriately demented way, the character is little more than a smart henchwoman and doesn’t make much of an impression outside of her important thematic beat in the finale.

All in all Wonder Woman is a delight.  The important themes and spectacular depiction of the titular character prove that the most important things in a good superhero film are optimism and character.  If this is the kind of movie we can expect from DC going forward their cinematic future might finally be looking bright.

 

 

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Season 4 Review

Spoilers for the entirety of the series follow:

How is a comic book show to follow up a season which leaves one of its lead characters a fugitive after her love interest made a messianic sacrifice to  save the world from annihilation at the hands of an alien squid monster while the other lead received a major demotion?  That was the question Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D  faced after the end of its third year.  The exquisite fourth season provides the answers by introducing a mystically powered vigilante with a flaming skull, making thoughtful observations about humanity through the examination of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, strengthening the show’s political and social opinions, and further developing an increasingly complex and layered cast of characters, all while developing an innovative new structure for serialized broadcast dramas and maintaining the show’s clever, often deliciously self-aware, sense of humor.

Thoroughly heartbroken after both the death of her boyfriend and her own villainious actions while in a mind-controlled state, Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennet) has left her surrogate family at S.H.I.E.L.D, fearing that her continued prescence will only lead to tragedy for her friends.  Using increasingly ruthless and reckless tactics, Daisy has been combatting the Watchdogs, a terrorist organization that hunts and kills Inhumans, the race of genetically altered superhumans to which she belongs.  Two of Daisy’s friends, former S.H.I.E.L.D Director Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Alphonso “Mack” MacKenzie (Henry Simmons) have been deployed by new director Jeffrey Mace (Jason O’Hara) to bring Daisy in before her actions cause irreparable damage to S.H.I.E.L.D’s already fragile public relations.  Daisy’s encounters with Robbie Reyes (Gabriel Luna), the latest mortal possessed by the benevolent demon called the Ghost Rider, drag herself and the rest of the titular Agents into darker, magical, corners of the Marvel Universe.

One of the most important factors in S.H.I.E.L.D‘s success this season came from its innovative narrative structure.  A full year series order of more than twenty episodes (twenty-two in S.H.I.E.L.D‘s case) is a lot of content for TV creators to produce (roughly the equivalent runtime of ten or eleven feature films) and sci-fi/fantasy series often struggle with maintaining satisfactory pacing (S.H.I.E.L.D‘s less than perfect first season can attest to this).  While S.H.I.E.L.D had success last year in employing the mid-season winter break to essentially divide the third season in half, marking the split with a shift between two separate, yet related, villains, this time around the creators take it a step further, splitting the fourth season into three distinct “pods” of episodes, subtitled Ghost Rider, L.M.D, and Agents of Hydra respectively.   The pod structure works wonders in keeping a viewer’s attention.  Even in the earliest episodes of Ghost Rider, significant revelations and events are allowed to take place because while certain narrative threads are weaved throughout the entire season, others are concluded by the end of that pod’s short but sweet eight episode run.  While ingeniously connected by certain McGuffins, themes, and character arcs, (most importantly a troublesome dark magic book), the pods each have dinstinct highlights and specialites all their own.

Ghost Rider is the most fun pod thanks to the blockbuster action provided by the titular character and the perfect use of meta humor, but is also given a strongly beating heart by the straightforward, but emotional character beats given to Daisy and Robbie, with Bennet and Luna giving great performances.  Daisy’s arc is particularly affecting, showing both growth that is natural to the character and the series while also containing respectful and inspiring messages about important topics such as post-traumatic stress and suicidal tendencies.

L.M.D is the least exciting of the three but this is mainly because the viewer misses Luna’s electrifying presence (his triumphant return doesn’t come until the end of Agents of Hydra). That being said, L.M.D has strengths all its own, mainly the thoughtful answers to the question of what separates artificial intelligence from real life.  L.M.D is also unique in that aside from significant screen time for Coulson and Mace, the pod puts its focus more on the antagonists.  The tightening of the connection between anti-Inhuman senator Ellen Nadeer (Pamrinder Nagra), the Watchdogs, and a mysterious Russian named Ivanov (Zach McGowan) not only give our heroes some true evil to fight (with McGowan proving particularly entertaining as essentially a spoof of Bond-style villains) but provides some of the show’s most biting and effective social commentary yet (think about that again; a bigoted, idiotic politician who accepts support from known violent racists all under the manipulation of a former KGB agent. Sound familiar yet?)  But it is the pair of more gray opponents that really shine.  John Hannah is wonderfully deluded as mad scientist Holden Radcliffe.  Starting as a newly gained ally for S.H.I.E.L.D after being rescued from forced service to last season’s villain, Radcliffe proves himself to be more trouble than he’s worth, constantly doing the wrong thing for the right reason and vice versa.  The man’s decision making is seriously flawed (even when his mind isn’t being altered by  the demonic book I mentioned earlier) and L.M.D does a wonderful job of showing how much damage a person like him can cause when given too much power.  Many sci-fi and fantasy series boast of morally ambiguous characters when all they really have are heroes who occasionally make mistakes or villains with a couple soft spots.  Radcliffe is an example of a genuinely unpredictable character, one who always has a fifty-fifty chance of making the right choice.  But in situations as volatile as those the Agents constantly find themselves in, fifty-fifty simply isn’t good enough.  The other complex antagonist S.H.I.E.L.D explores this year is Radcliffe’s android assistant, Aida (Mallory Jansen), and while her real showcase comes in the final pod, Jansen is consistently outstanding throughout the season, entertaining as a stereotypical, emotionless robot, chilling as she starts to exhibit subtle anger at being used like a slave, and both endearingly and frighteningly naïve when overwhelmed by her first full experience with emotions.

Speaking of that third pod, Agents of Hydra is perhaps the most consistently strong batch of episodes Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has ever produced.  The core six agents (and Mace) are thrust into a Matrix-like virtual reality called the Framework, in which America is under the control of Hydra, the secret surviving Nazi branch S.H.I.E.L.D has warred with in the past.  Daisy and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) are the only ones of our heroes in control of themselves, with the others’ memories having been replaced by those of their respective Framework counterparts.  The problem is that in the Framework Leopold Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) are high ranking members of Hydra.  While the creators clearly enjoy the dystopian thrills offered by placing their characters in a 1984-like setting, the real dramatic importance is what this means said characters’ morality and psyches.  The writers come firmly down on one side of the nature vs. nurture debate, arguing that changing formative moments in peoples’ lives can fundamentally alter their identities and this is mainly articulated through the changes to Fitz.  The scary thing about Framework-May is that she is essentially the real May, just in different circumstances, demonstrating how authoritarian that character can be, but Fitz is another story.  By altering his childhood history, the Framework has turned the eternally compassionate Fitz into an absolute monster and watching Caestecker, who has long since proven himself to be the show’s best actor, mix coldly detached sadism with some of the same personality quirks the viewer associates with the sweet, loveable technician he usually plays is darkly enthralling.   But Agents of Hydra isn’t all about existential considerations of human nature.  It’s also the most political the series has ever been, making clever, undisguised comparisons of the dystopia the Agents find themselves in to Trump’s America and all the people behind the series deserve praise for sticking firmly to their ideals and not shying away from expressing their opinions for fear of controversy.  Moments in when Coulson calls out the ridiculousness of ideas like “alternative facts” are priceless.  In these uncertain times we need art to take strong stances or the people poisoning this country will run right over it.  After all, as Jemma says when reminding a Framework child of Hydra’s history, “they’re all Nazis”.  If Agents of Hydra doesn’t have a single mind blowing episode like Ghost Rider’s “The Ghost” or “The Good Samaritan” or L.M.D’s explosive finale “Self-Control”, it makes up for it with the consistent strength of every hour.

There’s so much more to praise about S.H.I.E.L.D this year.  While the characters I’ve already discussed are the real focal points of the season, the entire cast is as strong as ever.  This is also the least predictable group of episodes in the shows run, with expectations subverted at every turn.  But in summary I’ll just say this: with its fourth season Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D elevated itself, truly becoming can’t miss television.  It’s a fun, emotional, and funny series with some really important things to say, and I for one can’t wait for season five.