Watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. over the past two-and-a-half seasons has been something of a frustrating experience. After an embarrassingly bad first season, the show course corrected in some pretty significant ways; it shook up the dynamics of existing characters, brought new characters into the fold, and finally made a concerted effort to carve out its own space within the Marvel Cinematic Universe instead of fighting for whatever leftover scraps the film division was willing to toss their way. The show found a way to justify its own existence even as the titular agency had been officially dissolved by the movies, but even for all these improvements, the show at its best rarely rose above the level of ‘pretty good.’ Things got worse in Season Three when an insufferably bad story arc about former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Grant Ward trying to rebuild HYDRA from the ashes consumed other, more interesting plots about distant alien worlds and a government agency trying to deal with the sudden rise of Inhumans throughout the world. For every one thing that works on this show, there’s another that misses the mark in spectacular fashion.
Case in point: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s return after its winter hiatus opens some really exciting story possibilities for the future of this show while also potentially ruining a fan-favorite character. The main objective this week is recruiting a new member of Daisy Johnson’s Secret Warriors, but before we can get to that, Coulson has a meeting with the President of the United States. In his meeting with Coulson, President Ellis says he cannot avow the existence of S.H.I.E.L.D., but he will, in secret, support their operations. The ATCU will continue to be the official face of the U.S. government’s response to the ‘Inhuman problem,’ but unofficially, the ATCU and its new leader will report to S.H.I.E.L.D. This is a troubling development, and I’m curious to see if the troubling nature of it is unintentional or a deliberate thematic point. Here we have a black-ops agency with a less-than-stellar track record operating without any real oversight that now has the power to oversee other, official government agencies. Ethically that’s kind of a huge problem, and it gets even worse when you consider just how compromised the person running the show is these days.