bestof2014-18

Every day between now and Christmas morning, we’ll share the twenty-five stories that engaged, enchanted, amused and amazed us the most in 2014. If you missed them, now’s your chance to catch up; if you’re looking for a gift for the wonk in your life, then these are our most enthusiastic recommendations!

Today, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..

I’ve always spoken up in support of SHIELD (let’s all just agree to skip that excessive punctuation, shall we?), even during its rocky early days. This was a show with a charismatic cast (mostly), a strong vision of itself, and a ton of potential — it just took a long time to wind up. The first dozen episodes felt like there was no traction to be found; we hit the same emotional beats over and over, and didn’t seem to be building to anything. All the same, I argued that if it just moved, it would be great.

I’ve never been happier to be right about a TV show.

This year, SHIELD doubled down, and completely asserted its ownership of the Marvel cinematic universe. It followed through on the consequences of The Winter Soldier by jettisoning a ton of its baggage and delivering an unforeseeable twist; it delivered on the emotional consequences of those actions by shattering Fitz and Simmons, driving Coulson to the very brink of despair, and redefining our understanding of what SHIELD was for. It even — and please understand, this was truly remarkable feat — humanized both Ward and Skye, the weakest parts of the first half of the first season. We’ve had moments of high drama and tension, and we’ve had moments of the quietest vulnerability.

This is a fast-paced action series with the best possible handle on its characters, and a willingness — an eagerness, even — to follow them into dark places. SHIELD understands the basic building blocks of story as well as anything on the air right now, and even when compared to The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, it delivers. It doesn’t shirk its responsibility, it doesn’t ignore consequence, and it never takes the easy way out; in many ways, SHIELD the show is a lot like SHIELD the organisation.

Get it now: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..