In a lot of ways I feel sorry for those who jumped ship during the first season of Agents of SHIELD. In fairness, I don't think anyone was really happy with the superhero-lite crime procedural that Agents of SHIELD was when it started, but those that stuck with it have since been rewarded with a rich and interesting show that isn't afraid to change based on fan feedback. Are things too episodic and self-contained for you? Well here's a Captain America: The Winter Soldier related twist and a move to a more long-form type of story telling. Not enough super-powers? Well here's the introduction of the Inhumans. Things still moving a little slow for you? Here's a vastly quicker pace and a much more eventful show.
My point is that in doing this, Agents of SHIELD has gone from being an OK show to a good show to a great show, and the mid-season finale "Maveth" only further confirms that Agents of SHIELD knows what people want to see from it. Picking up from where we left off in "Closure", "Maveth" follows Coulson, Ward and Fitz on the alien planet as they search for revenge and the ancient Inhuman respectively, while the rest of SHIELD prepare to assault the Hydra-fortified castle where the portal is located - one half of the team trying to gain control over the portal room, the other on a mission to find and rescue Simmons.
As is now standard for Agents of SHIELD, the action is split fairly evenly between these three parts of the episode, but I have to make mention of how well "Maveth" balances them against each other - each one feels as important as the others to the overall story (something that Agents of SHIELD hasn't always been great at ensuring), and the way that "Maveth" cuts between them builds tension in each part incredibly well. It's textbook good TV, a combination of smart direction and writing that Agents of SHIELD is showcasing week on week now.
Everyone gets their moment to shine, from long time Agents of SHIELD cast members like Fitz to newcomers like Joey, and thanks to some good writing and understandable character motivation each and every single action taken feel totally natural - with one notable and somewhat frustrating exception. Ward starts acting strange at a certain point on the alien planet, and I can't quite reconcile his reaction with the character that we've known for two and half seasons now - but it's a fairly trivial issue in an area of "Maveth" that is otherwise incredibly strong.
Between some real edge-of-your-seat moments and pay off that proves the flaws of last weeks "Closure" were worth it, "Maveth" is at once not just another great episode of Agents of SHIELD but also one of the strongest mid-season finales that I have ever seen, large in scope and personal enough to have acted as a season finale if need be - and I haven't even talked about the developments and reveals found within "Maveth" for fear of spoiling a couple of really great twists. Needless to say though, as far as the way that "Maveth" leaves its audience? I can't see anyone following the show left feeling disappointed or unfulfilled - "Maveth" does a lot with its running time, and it does it almost entirely right.
To put this all another way: if this is just the mid-season finale, I can't wait to see how season three ends up coming to a close. The first half of Agents of SHIELD's third season has been an entertaining whirlwind of events, and I'm already excited to see what it will be doing in its second half.
This article was originally published on OutLoudCulture.