The power of a mid-season finale is pretty awe-inspiring; it can completely change the direction of an existing plot, or suddenly make you care about characters that have been waffling around for 10 episodes, or it can even be the final nail in the coffin that convinces you to just give up and walk away from a show that has been disappointing.
THE GAME-CHANGER: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It’s not really a secret that people had some pretty lofty expectations for this show and those hopes were not met. But everyone agreed that the mid-season finale felt right. Everything from bringing interesting characters back, revisiting established plots, and lots of flashy action that resembles the Marvel Studios films we all love. Luckily, we live in an age where fans can really communicate with show creators. People were unhappy with the slow-pace of the show and the unbalanced characters so show runners swallowed their pride and took another stab at production.
Out of the 10 episodes that have already aired I can say I’ve only really liked maybe four or five. That’s a shit average. The other episodes haven’t all been awful but it’s definitely playing to ABC’s typical format of a program that you can leave the room to wash dishes after dinner and come back without missing too much. In the last three episodes it certainly seems like they are trying to flesh out the team better instead of everyone having half-personalities and the exact same sense of humor.
For a full review of the mid-season finale you can check out Agent Justin’s write up but I’ll try to sum it up quickly. The team gets a lead on Project Centipede and asks Mike Peterson back for some additional support. Things don’t go well and Coulson gets taken hostage. Now this is a goddamn mid-season finale. It brought back pieces from the pilot and really established this season’s bad guy. It ended on a nail-biting cliffhanger and it definitely made me wanting more. After an underwhelming start this deserved a slow-clap.
MOST IMPROVED: Arrow
Regardless of whether you liked the first season or not, Arrow is obviously not a show that should be taken seriously. It’s the CW’s “darker, grittier and beautifully brooding” answer to the lack of Smallville. They cast half a dozen overly attractive people and then each episode featured a cameo from a DC character. Some were good (Roy Harper is deliciously accurate), some were great (Huntress is damn near perfect), and some were atrocious (that is not and never will be Deadshot.)
However despite being an addictive guilty pleasure this new season has been fantastic. Full of exciting plot twists and crazy reveals it’s been a lot of fun to watch. I’m usually not as invested in the flashbacks to the island but they managed to pull together a storyline that lays out some groundwork for what is happening in present day. Instead of each episode having a stand alone, almost procedural feel there are longer, overlapping story arcs. It helps the audience settle down and really begin enjoying all the characters and relationships.
The mid-season finale was a knock-out. It was the introduction to CW’s version of Barry Allen and wow, I was impressed. Grant Gustin played him like a dream but instead of feeling awkward and forced like most of the first season it flowed nicely. The story centered on the building threat of Brother Blood and Barry Allen fit perfectly. Even the island flashbacks carried weight and connected a few dots that made for the big reveal in the last few minutes so much more jaw-dropping. The whole season has been such a delight. I can’t believe how much better it’s gotten; I might even start telling people to watch it.
MAJOR UPSET: Parenthood
This was at the top of my list for favorite, consistently good shows and here I am shaking my head in disappointment. One of my favorite things about this show was that it felt like you were really growing with the Braverman family. Dax Shepperd plays Crosby, the once ambition-less lothario but is now a patient husband and responsible parent of two. Amber (Mae Whitman) started out as a feisty rebellious daughter but has now settled down and is planning her wedding. For a show that highlights the magic of family bonds it was funny and sweet and heart-wrenching.
My high hopes for this fifth season were immediately crushed. The ongoing three story arcs had serious potential but the family members involved are totally ass-backwards. All the character development and emotional growth from the previous four seasons is thrown out the window to make interesting storylines seem far too dramatic and borderline uncomfortable. Why are they acting like this? But we’ve come so far! I actually couldn’t even make it to the mid-season finale because each episode felt like I was trapped in a middle plane seat between a crying baby and an asshat who insists on making phone calls at every opportunity.
Kristina and Adam’s marriage was always so strong and supportive so why is it that when she decides to run for office he suddenly becomes mean-spirited? He was a curly mustache away from downright sabotaging her campaign. Then there’s young Amber’s quick engagement. Her mother, who has come a long way from the first season, used to be the most unlikable mother. She was overbearing and unrelenting but has since learned to loosen up. However the second Amber announces she is getting married it’s as if all that growth Sarah had underwent disappeared. She backtracked into crazy mom mode. It was so frustrating to watch. But by far the worst story arc is the depreciation of Julia and Joel’s marriage. From petty jealousy to the most cringe-worthy, unnatural infidelity it’s a shame to see two people act so out of character that you move past rooting against them and just stop caring completely.
I’m glad all my stories are finally coming back. Denise without a constant stream of new television is hardly Denise at all.