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'Agents of SHIELD' ratings level off, proving writers are figuring it out

For a minute there, this show was going to become another languid, talky procedural. Now it's actually good.


For a minute there, this show was going to become another languid, talky procedural. Now it's actually good.



We're nine episodes into ABC's favored fall child Agents of SHIELD, and the network has some good news: The show's ratings freefall seems to have finally stopped. It looks like having Melinda May hooking up with Grant Ward really did the trick.

The show posted a 2.5 percent rating in the 18 to 49 demo on Tuesday, which means it actually ticked upward from the previous week's 2.4, Entertainment Weekly says. That's saying a lot, since it had been steadily dropping since premiering at an unreal 4.7. This week it even fended off an assault by the annual showing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on CBS, which won the night with a 3.0.

But forget all that technical ratings talk. The show itself really has gotten better. It started out with an A-Team with superheroes vibe, then sort of meandered around in comic book X-Files territory, but has lately really found its footing by creating some intrigue.The writers seem to have figured out your characters need to be more than comic book tropes to be engaging, so everyone has suddenly gotten a lot more complex.

Agent Ward is damaged goods, and Skye is in for some real disappointment while we wait to find out if she's the telekinetic we've heard can't exist -- or something else entirely. The team of Fitz and Simmons features a new air of gleeful infatuation between a pair desperate to prove themselves. Phil Coulson might be a robot of a clone or a super himself, depending on which Internet forum you read. May finally got a limited backstory on Tuesday, and proved she isn't just a scowling, soulless war machine.

Best of all, after deciding to curtail its nonstop Avengers references, the show pulled off its much-hyped crossover plot with Thor: The Dark World, having the gang chase an Asgardian Berserker staff in the aftermath of the movie's climactic London battle. It didn't matter if you didn't see the movie (I didn't), yet the show made sure you were aware it was keeping tabs on the timeline. Let's see how it does with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

In any case, the true test of the show has been trying to make us care about the cast. Coulson is a gimme, and May has been intriguing. But to figure out a way to make people want to know more about why Skye, easily the most disposable character on the show, is desperately seeking information about her past, and why SHIELD keeps her around? That's a turnaround of epic proportions. Nick Fury must be proud.


[Last modified: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 2:47pm]


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