We’re halfway through the third season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and, unlike years past, we already know that the show will be coming back for season four.
Knowing that a fourth season is guaranteed gives the writers so much opportunity to stray away from the standard formulas used while the show’s fate was still up in the air. Having the extra wiggle room, and assurance that no matter what happens another season is confirmed, means that the writers can ensure that this year’s finale will leave viewers feeling as though they’ve been sucker punched repeatedly in the gut and/or heart.
How might such a feeling be accomplished?
By having the villains come out on top at the end of the season.
The basic path that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has followed over the years involves pushing our favorite characters to the limit before inevitably having them defeat whatever foe they face – whether it comes in the form of Hydra or an Inhuman mother – and generally walking away damaged, but mostly victorious.
This is certainly a fine formula when you don’t know if an episode will serve as a season finale or a series finale. It’s important to leave fans mostly content should a show get the axe post-finale, but such rules do not apply when another season has already been green-lit! If you already know that an upcoming finale is strictly seasonal, and won’t be the end of the show in its entirety, there’s no obligation to follow the same formula and give viewers a technically happy ending. Which, in the case of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, is something that I genuinely hope the writers don’t do. I don’t want sunshine and rainbows this year (or the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. equivalent which comes in the form of nice promotions and golden retrievers).
While it can be argued that neither season one or two of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. closed with a particularly happy episode (S1 ended with Fitz in a coma, while S2 ended with Simmons being sucked away to an alien planet), both ended with the heroes of S.H.I.E.L.D. winning and mostly defeating the adversaries they’d clashed with over the prior episodes.
Sure, former team-member Grant Ward was ousted as a traitor, Fitz and Simmons were almost killed at the bottom of the ocean, and S.H.I.E.L.D. basically became a terrorist organization in the eyes of the public in Season 1, BUT in the finale John Garrett was turned to dust while newly appointed Director Coulson and his team made themselves at home in their swanky new underground base.
Similarly, the back half of season two gave us Trip’s death, the ramifications of then-Skye-now-Daisy becoming Inhuman, and a ton of familial and internal drama between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Real S.H.I.E.L.D. But again, by the end of the season, Jiaying was taken out (by Cal rather than her daughter), Fitz and Simmons were finally going on a date, the Inhumans were dealt with accordingly, and then-Skye was gearing up to start a new team that is this season’s Secret Warriors.
See what I mean?
So much terrible stuff happens to the characters on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It changes them to their respective cores and often leaves them damaged and broken. Fitz has suffered from a traumatic brain injury, Jemma has showed clear signs of PTSD, Daisy watched her father physically transform into a monster and her mother mentally become one, May is still dealing with what led her to becoming the Cavalry, and Coulson has literally lost a hand.
Despite this, to date, our favorite agents have always been on the winning side when the finales fade to black. I want to see the opposite when Season 3 ends.
I want to be screaming at my TV when the credits start rolling at the close of 3×22. I want to yell, “No!!!! What?! WHY?! HOW?!”
I want to hastily calculate the number of days between the S3 finale and the S4 premiere, figuring out how many months of anguish I’ll suffer through. I want to spend the summer plotting and planning, speculating and musing, and just generally trying to figure out WTF will happen next.
I want to see the villains be victorious.
I especially want this because 3B has given us the most interesting and goose-bump inducing villain to date in the form of Hive.
While Jiaying and Garrett were certainly awful in their own right, and definitely had an impact on our favorite agents, neither was a character that I wanted to see stick around, largely because I didn’t see how it would be feasibly possible.
For me, their respective demises were inevitable because, though somewhat challenging, neither was ever a real threat to Coulson and Co. We all knew that Garrett would lose because he wasn’t anything other than a smarmy man desperate for power. Just like we all knew Jiaying wouldn’t succeed with her plan because, though family by blood, then-Skye wouldn’t ever really choose her over the family that she forged on her own at S.H.I.E.L.D.
Hive on the other hand?
He’s (it’s?) the Inhuman of Inhumans. He’s creepy to watch, uncomfortable to listen to, and is perhaps the first truly menacing character that we’ve seen on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since the show first premiered. PLUS his right-hand man, Gideon Malick, is just as bone chilling. The combination of an ancient Inhuman with literal power beyond belief, and a human with more connections and Earthly power than should ever be in the hands of a Hydra gangster, is a potentially deadly one that could, and should, have serious ramifications on our heroes.
This deadly duo has so far been more intriguing in the few episodes they’ve appeared in than all of S.H.I.E.L.D’s previous villains have been combined. They’re the first foes that seem to pose a genuine threat to Coulson, Daisy, and the rest of Team S.H.I.E.L.D., and the first that I think could reasonably have the upper hand by season’s end.
And why shouldn’t they?
As has already been hammered into your brain, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is guaranteed a fourth season. Meaning there’s no reason to end the third with the good guys once again limping away from a battle that they’ve won.
Perhaps this year they can be crawling away from a fight that they’re sorely losing. Perhaps their enemy will have struck blow after blow, leaving the good guys floundering and desperate to make it out rather than make it out on top. Perhaps this is the year that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. closes with the villains defeating the heroes.
Now, just to clarify, I’m not saying I want all of this drama to occur in the form of multiple deaths. I’d like to see as many of my favorite characters as possible alive at the end of the season (something that’s already worrying considering the flash-forward that opened 3B). So many people assume that death is the only form of loss, but we already know that isn’t entirely true.
I’m not saying the villains should be victorious in the long run.
I’m saying that a temporary victory would make for one helluva season finale.
Isn’t it actually more interesting to see damage done to characters that, though it doesn’t kill them, is enough to make them question anything and everything, themselves included? Isn’t it preferable to see the heroes unite in the face of insurmountable loss and band together to prevent any more from happening? Doesn’t a villainous victory that later transforms into a heroic triumph make for the best stories on television?
I think so. That’s why I want the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. villains to win this year.
What do you think? Do you want Season 3 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to once again end with a win for the heroes? Or would you like to see the villains be victorious and see said victory lead into Season 4? Sound off in the comments below or over on Twitter!