[SPOILER - ish.] So…the plots have tightened up. And the team member who betrays the others - well, we saw it coming, but it still made sense, and it had a nice "real world" ambiguity. The team's reactions to the traitor in their midst was also nicely low-key.
But the things that have bugged me since the beginning - the choice of team members, the lack of depth in their characters, the lack of intra-team interaction between characters like Ward, Fitz and Simmons - none of these have really been addressed.
Now let's do something really, really unfair: Let's compare Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As in Buffy, you have a team of young pretties, accompanied by a middle-aged "mommy" and "daddy": May and Coulson in AoS, Giles and Joyce in BtVS. In AoS it's more about tech than magic; and the regulars are less likely to have special powers. There are a lot of other differences - Coulson's team has a much-more nuanced mission than Buffy and the Scoobies (hide the secrets vs. kill the evil); the contrast between the mundane and the horrible that formed such a huge part of BtVS isn't there; AoS is not a show about teen-agers growing up (what it IS about I'm not sure yet, and I suspect the Whedonites aren't either); and so on.
But there's a huge technical difference between the two, something overlooked that - considering how sharp Whedon usually is about these things - really surprised me. It's this:
The AoS regulars don't have real relationships with one another. BtVS started off with a double love triangle: Xander loved Buffy; Willow loved Xander; Buffy loved Angel; Angel couldn't love Buffy. Giles struggled to assert his authority over Buffy; Buffy rebelled. Buffy struggled to keep her second life secret from Joyce; Joyce used obliviousness to deal with a truth that was too much to handle. Each main character had a unique relationship with every other main character. Does AoS have anything remotely comparable?
Characters are defined by relationships; without constant relationships, the characters are flat at best. What kind of relationships do Fitz and Simmons have with the others? For that matter, what are they to each other? (And no looking at the online bios; that's cheating.) Besides teaching Skye, what kind of relationship does Ward have with her? Or what does May think of Fitz/Simmons? Big blanks to all of those questions. Maybe, after the last episode, you could sort of make a point about Skye looking for a home, and finding it in the heart of the organization that took her parents away…maybe. But that's a pretty late reveal, and nothing else has really dealt with character at all.