The trajectory of “Lower Decks” in terms of the first season has becomes more psychological as time goes on but the heart is what comes through. Mike McMahan totally understands this world. He may make fun of it but the lore he brings in is exceptionally deep. “No Small Parts” ends the season in an insane way but also structures the element of growing up within the ideal of what friends mean. The aspect at the beginning of the season which needed to grow was stakes and reasoning which only happens with the experiences of character. Boimler (as played by Jack Quaid) thinks he has an idea of what he wants but his life is only made better by Mariner (played by Tawny Newsome) through chance and a bit of strategy on her part.
Without giving too much away, the idea of the finale brings together all the disparate forms while engaging the high action Star Trek is known for. What is interesting again especially with the antagonist here is the aspect of Trek lore. Without even mentioning cameos or harks back (to say nothing about music cues), the animated perspective that comes to bear in the final moments can be as good as any of the live action. The only difference is that because of animation anything is possible. What McMahan has found at the end of the season (especially with this episode and the previous one: “Crisis Point”) is showing reflexivity within genre using different elements whether it is the holodeck, technology and mirror universes but to enhance character (which is when Star Trek is a its best). While the action here sometimes outpaces the story (especially in the opening minutes), it catches up to itself pretty quickly without losing a beat. This bodes well in the context of a second season, though things might change (always do).
The two-part series finale of “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” does exactly what it needs to do in creating a legacy structure while also understanding the undercurrent of family. Sometimes that is lost, especially in the bigger movies, with the texture of stakes. But it comes back down to little moments. There is a couple here, primarily in the 2nd part of the finale, maybe not as powerful as they could have been but still heartfelt. One is between two sisters and the other between a sister and someone close to her. As the progression moves from the first to the 2nd of the two part finale: “The End Is At Hand” to “What We’re Fighting For”, there is still definitely something to be said of that story but who knows if it can come to fruition but it is a good set up. Of course the essence of this last thrust of the series is moving in the texture of who will win and the aspect of different timelines. The last two episodes pull out the stops with effects that s for sure. Most TV series don’t get this level of scope and in many ways, it gives it a good send off in that way. The “Groundog Day” type episode still takes the cake as the best episode of the season but in wrapping up the story it does key into the crucial character dynamics of the central team. The bad guys are a little more softly built, save for one, which is too bad because giving a measure of dimensionality which we did see with one character at the beginning of the season would have been interesting. After all, the context of Thanos in his quiet moments gave much more perspective to his nefarious intent but also a gravitas in his stakes. Giving away any more to the structure of what is happening will anchor and connect to the gist of how it affects the future phase since this was made with the next stories in mind. Textures of influence are seen but never directly correlated except once but the idea becomes how does the nature of the show differentiate and make that development better and richer. Ultimately “S.H.I.E.L.D.” creates a larger universe than when it came into it. This last season pushed both the boundaries of storytelling but also of the nature of motivation while still staying within certain tropes. And that kind of journey is always a good thing,
Working towards a common goal has always been the S.H.I.E.L.D. way but where does survival begin when hope fails. In the Marvel Universe, everything can be faced by a new path. And with some, as “Infinity War” showed, many simply come to an end. Timelines move and fade but it is about making them seem real but at other times unattainable. Cause and effect is what promotes the current Episode 11: “Brand New Day” of the final season of “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Sybil is an interesting construct because it is about a computer built on logic but again in another timeline she doesn’t exist. An interesting element of this episode, while giving nothing away, is the path where it leads. A big texture in multiple storylines between and within the plot has to do with contentment but also safety in an abstract way, not from death but from being alone. That is a truly interesting idea. Even when Tony Stark is drifting in space or even pointing to a big aspect of James Kirk lore, is the idea that everyone is alone. It is an interesting construct for a S.H.I.E.L.D. but one that rings true the deeper one goes. Even looking at Jenna and her connection with the character Fitz speaks back to this metaphor which can be both literal and figurative at the same time. This episode raises the stakes but it almost starts to create a blueprint in an odd way. Nothing is by chance but wild cards always lead the way.
The aspect of consequence but also perception figures heavily into Episode 10: “Stolen” of Season 7 of “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” After the previous episode, which in any series would be hard to top, the follow-up might feel like a let-down, just by the nature of the energy of the previous episode. In its inception, the story of the ep is a little jarring because the location is not automatically assumed. Certain structures are in play and there is a plot angle that needs to be accomplished. Again the Sousa/Daisy interconnection is important. But without giving anything really away, it becomes about truth in the greater sense of the word. How Daisy vs. Sousa sees the world sometimes does not take into account all the variables. The key in this episode is characters and their belief or perception in what they ar seeing. That continues to change which speaks to the new time angle of what is going on. Whether this affects or impacts the next phase is still to be seen but every move is made or conceived for a specific reason, even if it is a minor detail in the construct of the universe. “Stolen” works slow and steady but this more readily set ups the structure of the new twists to come.
Trying to find a new structure inside the idea of The Muppets in an interesting quandary. These are old school puppets who find themselves in a new world and yet they need to be a product of it without seeming antiquated or behind the times. “Muppets Now” is a direct reference to that. It takes into account that some of the most successful elements of The Muppets recently have been their You Tube shorts playing to music video covers and such which plays into vignettes. It is a different beast from the original “Muppet Show” nearly 40 years ago where it was more about what was going off stage as it was on stage. This is inter-played here to be sure but it is not really the same thing. However, it does approach it in a parallel way. Scooter is still doing the tech elements but now with a computer instead of a stage. It incorporates the internet/social media angle and it has the guest stars in many ways in a similar way While it does incorporate some of their personality, pop culture is different now. It would be neat to see how music and comedy plays in but it is not quite there. There is no “Pigs In Space” moment. No Steve Martin plays the banjo. Kermit does on-on-ones that go awry. Miss Piggy has a fashion segment. The Swedish Chef has a cooking show that goes wrong. The show seems to have its ducks in a row but it is not overtly thinking outside the box but it is a tricky line. A lot of the stuff that could be done in the late 70s on a UK produced show perhaps can’t quite be done in close to a similar way on Disney+ in 2020. It will be interesting to see how “Muppets Now” evolves.