Friday, March 18, 2016

Top Ten Episodes/Moments from MCU TV's First Hundred Episodes

Oh, how far we've come!
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Sorry about the late update.  I wanted this ready to go up early in the day, but I kind of got sidetracked by Daredevil season 2!

Let’s do some quick math here:


You know what that means?  56 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (22 episodes * 2 seasons + 12 of season 3) + 18 episodes of Agent Carter + 13 episodes of Daredevil+ 13 episodes of Jessica Jones = 100 episodes of MCU TV.  Wow!

Yes, Tuesday’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the hundredth episode of MCU TV, all since the fall of 2013.  I remember when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. kicked off and we started this adventure with such high expectations.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1 didn’t exactly get off to a fast start, but around the midseason premiere things really started to pick up.  And when Captain America: The Winter Soldier shook things up and S.H.I.E.L.D. crashed and burned, AoS really started going strong.  Since then they have added 3 additional series to the MCU (Agent Carter, followed by Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix), with another dozen or so in various stages of development!

And now they’ve got a full hundred episodes of TV under their belts.

So to celebrate that accomplishment, here is my Top-Ten List of the Best Moments/Episodes of MCU TV.  Note that this is my opinion only, so it may be different from yours.  If I missed any moments or episodes that you think should be on the list, let me know in the comments!

Note that there will the spoilers.

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Honorable Mention 1:  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 18 “Providence”—“S.H.I.E.L.D. has to mean something”

This episode only aired 2 weeks after Captain America: The Winter Soldier called this series’ entire existence into question.  Simply put, S.H.I.E.L.D. was no more as far as the movies were concerned.  Now Coulson was left on the run from a repurposed Hulkbuster (then-Colonel Talbot) and the full force of the U.S. military while Hydra ran rampant trying to consolidate its power.  What was going to happen next with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

The answer comes as Coulson is leading his team on a wild goose chase following the instructions that he received from his S.H.I.E.L.D. badge.  Coulson finally breaks down and screams that “S.H.I.E.L.D. has to mean something” after he gave his life literally as well as any hope for a normal life in service of the organization.  This is a very moving and powerful moment.

Honorable Mention 2:  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 22 “Beginning of the End”—all the scenes with Fury

The second honorable mention also comes from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1.  Coulson and his team are outmanned and outgunned against Garrett, Ward, and the full force of Hydra—a force which included a number of super-soldiers and Mike Peterson, a.k.a. Deathlok.  And on top of that, two of the remaining members of his team are stuck on the ocean floor with little hope for survival.  Fitz and Simmons manage to escape from the pod on the ocean floor and are left floating in the ocean, and who shows up to rescue them?  None other than Nick Fury in all his badass glory, fresh off his role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  He saves the scientists, and then he goes off to help Coulson take down his old student, Garrett.  Coulson and Fury’s chemistry is absolutely amazing, and it is a ton of fun to see the interaction between them.

#10:  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 15 “Yes Men”—the first quality crossover between Marvel TV and the Marvel movies

Okay, I promise that this is the last episode of AoS season 1 to make the list.  This one is here because it shows the crossover potential inherent in a shared cinematic universe with both movies and TV shows involved.  The first crossover between the two came in episode 8, “The Well,” in which the S.H.I.E.L.D. team was relegated to picking up Thor’s trash.  The banter was amusing, but the concept would have made 1000x more sense as the backdoor pilot to Damage Control.

And so when Sif appeared in episode 15 looking for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s help in tracking down one of the Asgardian criminals who escaped during Thor: The Dark World, it was really exciting!  Add to that the fact that they’d even brought in a character from the movie and set up something which could pay off in Thor: Ragnarok, and you’ve got all the makings of an amazing TV/movie crossover.  Sif and May have the opportunity to interact and discover common ground as the “warrior women” of their respective franchises, Sif and Coulson have some banter about what happened to him, and Sif sets events into motion that lead into season 2’s exploration of Inhumans.  Oh, and Sif brings Lorelei back to Asgard because Odin wants her returned alive—and we all know from Thor: The Dark World that “Odin” is actually Loki.  Does this mean that Loki has plans to use Lorelei to consolidate his power in Asgard?

#9:  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 5 “4,722 Hours”—Simmons alone

The AoS Season 2 finale shot Simmons off into parts unknown, leaving her mostly out of the picture for the first several episodes of season 3.  However, episode 5 put the spotlight squarely on Simmons.  In a major deviation from this series’ typical writing style, there was only one plot for this entire episode—and considering how jam-packed the first few episodes were with extra subplots, this was a very necessary change of pace!  Elizabeth Henstridge really shines when she’s left alone with just 2 other characters to play off of and a smartphone with incredible battery life.

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#8:  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 22 “S.O.S. Part Two”—Inhumans vs. S.H.I.E.L.D.

Aos finished off season 2 with a major bang as the S.H.I.E.L.D. team finds itself in a battle against a force that they really can’t match:  the Inhumans, led by Jiaying.  Coulson seems to have lost Skye/Daisy to her parents, and he’s been attacked inside his base by the newly-transformed Mr. Hyde.  However, Coulson brings what forces he can muster to retake the Iliad from the Inhumans.

The two best moments in this episode come near the end.  First, Mack, Fitz, and Coulson fight the Inhuman teleporter Gordon in a desperate attempt to prevent him from releasing tainted Terrigen mist into the ship’s ventilation system and killing every non-Inhuman present.  That is a really cool action scene and shows just what S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ingenuity can accomplish.

The better moment, I think is when Skye and Jiaying face off.  Jiaying’s madness finally reaches its apex as she attempts to drain the life from her own daughter.  And when she’s given an opening, Skye shows that she is still thinking of others before herself as she knocks the quinjet full of tainted Terrigen crystals into the ocean so they can’t be used to slaughter the humans.  And then Cal/Mr. Hyde appears to perform one last selfless act for his daughter:  murder the woman he loves to save the daughter he adores.

It also doesn’t hurt that this moment directly leads to the conflict of season 3, as S.H.I.E.L.D. seeks to contain and help the new Inhumans.

#7:  Jessica Jones Season 1, Episode 7 “A.K.A. Top Shelf Perverts”—The police station scene

This moment makes the list primarily for its intensity as the first interaction between Jessica and Killgrave since the night of Reva’s murder.  Watching Killgrave force the cops to all point guns at each other to force Jessica into listening to him was (for lack of a better word) intense.  And the confrontation between them was also (for lack of a better word) intense.  This was far more intensity and horror than we’ve really gotten from anything so far in the MCU.

#6:  Agent Carter Season 1, Episode 8 “Valediction”—Peggy and Howard

Agent Carter only makes the list once, though the exploration of Zero Matter/Darkforce in season 2 could also have made the list.

What sets this episode apart is exactly what Agent Carter is all about.  This is a very character-driven series, so the moment that makes this list is the most powerful exploration of Peggy and Howard’s characters in the MCU.  The biggest moment in the episode does not actually have any stakes:  Peggy is talking Howard out of bombing Manhattan before Jarvis has to shoot him down—but Jarvis can’t shoot him down because Dominic Cooper still has to turn into John Slattery and father Robert Downey, Jr.!  However, this gives Peggy a chance to talk her way through her grief over Steve’s death.  And it also gives Howard a chance to reflect on the fact that Captain America is the only truly good thing he’s ever created.

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#5:  Jessica Jones Season 1, Episode 13 “A.K.A. Smile”

Two moments in this episode lead to its place on this list.  The first is right at the beginning, when Jessica brings Luke to the hospital and receives help from Claire to save his life.  We already knew that the Netflix series were all going to be interconnected, and we knew that Claire would provide some of the connective tissue, but this felt wholly necessary to show her role in the series.  And watching her work to save Luke’s life was really cool, too.  Considering her role as the first Night Nurse we met in the MCU, this was a good way to show just how well she can handle “unusual” cases.

The second moment comes right at the end when the Jessica/Trish relationship gets its payoff.  I really like how this relationship was built up and explored through this series, from hardly getting along to becoming closer than sisters.  However, their relationship is not one in which Jessica would normally express her feelings verbally; it only happens in the most extreme of circumstances when Jessica is forced to face her greatest threat and overcome him.

#4:  Daredevil Season 1, Episode 2 “Cut Man”—The hallway fight

This was probably one of the best-choreographed fight sequences in these 100 episodes.  Matt takes on over a dozen Russian gangsters while wearing little more than exercise sweats.  The one-take fight sequence is one of the more difficult things to do, and this is one is filmed very well.  This fight is also unique for the way it displays the hero’s limits, something this is drastically lacking from most superheroes’ portrayals.

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#3:  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, Episode 10 “What They Become”—Skye becomes Quake

If you want to talk about huge, universe-expanding moments, you can’t get much bigger than introducing an entire super-powered race on network TV, 3 years before the movie based on that race is scheduled to come out.  That huge, universe-expanding moment is when Skye and Raina go through Terrigenesis in the penultimate scene of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2 midseason finale.  We knew that there was something unusual about Skye from the beginning of the series, but this is when we finally learned just who—and what—she was.

Even if there isn’t any direct tie-in between the AoS Inhumans and the Inhumans movie, it’s still amazing that the Inhumans first appeared on the small-screen.

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#2:  Daredevil Season 1, Episode 13 “Daredevil”—Daredevil vs. the Kingpin

Daredevil season 1 put a huge focus on the interplay between Matt Murdock’s hero career and his legal career.  In the season finale, Matt, Foggy, and Karen have put their considerable legal talents to work in making a case against Wilson Fisk.  Matt did have to go out as Daredevil to secure the final piece, a dirty cop who could implicate Fisk in everything he did, but the resolution to Fisk’s story comes instead from the legal process.

And then Fisk makes his play and attempts to escape.  And Matt has to don his brand-new Daredevil suit to stop Fisk and ensure that he is taken back into custody.  It’s the first time in the series that Matt has worn the Daredevil suit, and it’s the most intense fight scene in the season.

I also really like how Fisk makes his play:  quoting the Parable of the Good Samaritan and talking about how he always saw himself as the Samaritan, who really loved his city.  However, Fisk now recognizes and embraces that “I am the ill intent!”

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#1:  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 3, Episode 11 “Bouncing Back”—The Secret Warriors assembled

The most recent moment is the one that makes it to the top of the list, and it’s one that has been building for about half a season.  This is the first time we really saw the Secret Warriors in action.  Elena Rodriguez, a.k.a. “Yo-Yo,” joined the team, and she, Daisy, and Joey all worked together to take out an entire station full of police officers.  Considering that the Secret Warriors were teased before the season ever started, it was well overdue to see a group of powered people fighting together as a team and working together well.  Yo-Yo especially was a lot of fun with the sheer joy with which she uses her powers.

I really can’t wait to see more of the Secret Warriors, especially now that the latest episode teased the introduction of Eden Fesi, a.k.a. “Manifold,” as well as Carl Creel’s involvement with S.H.I.E.L.D.


So here’s my list of top ten moments/episodes from MCU TV.  What are your favorite moments?  Let me know in the comments!

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