Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. often seems like the forgotten child of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite being the highest rated of the MCU television shows on Rotten Tomatoes, plenty of fans dismiss it because it doesn’t have the costumed heroes of the Avengers stopping by for a visit. To be fair, the show had a bit of a rocky start until Captain America: The Winter Soldier landed in theaters and took the MCU in a whole new direction. Then, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was off and running, each season of the series building on itself and reaching higher critical acclaim than the last.
Now, beyond the landmark 100 episode mark, we’re taking a look back at some of its past adventures with the help of the Internet Movie Database with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The 15 Worst Episodes According to IMDB (And The 10 Best).
IMDB allows users and critics to rate episodes on a scale of one (the worst) to ten (the best), and averages the submissions to create a score for the episode. The best of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ranks at 9.5, while the worst sits at 7.3.
25 Worst: A Wanted Inhu(man) S3E03 (8.2)
For better or worse, season two of the series introduced the Inhumans to the MCU. Inhumans were those beings descended from the ancient humans the Kree experimented on. While main character Skye (Chloe Bennet) discovered her heritage as Daisy Johnson, the series also introduced Lincoln Campbell (Luke Mitchell) as her love interest. He was the primary subject of season three’s “A Wanted Inhu(man).”
Perhaps the reason fans and critics disliked the episode was due to that focus. Long time fan favorites like Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) had the B and C storylines of the episode. Fans were more curious about what happened to Jemma on an alien planet and how well Hunter could work with Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) than they were interested in watching Lincoln on the run from the government.
24 Best: What If… S4E16 (9.2)
The first of the top ten episodes turned the show on its head. Season four introduced the concept of the Framework, a virtual reality that human beings could plug into and live out an entirely new life. With the episode “What If…” so many fan favorite characters were approached in completely new ways as a result.
The episode got to really showcase the talents of the performers. Fans got a chance to see the actors stretch, particularly Iain de Caestecker as Fitz, who surprised everyone as a villain. In this virtual world, Hydra ruled supreme as mild mannered Fitz became the psychotic Doctor, perennial good guy Coulson (Clark Gregg) became a conspiracy theorist teacher, and Jemma and Daisy were the only self aware characters on a rescue mission.
23 Worst: BOOM S4E13 (8.2)
Just a few episodes prior to “What If…” marked one of the lowest rated episodes of the series. In the episode “BOOM,” S.H.I.E.L.D. nearly met their match when an Inhuman whose ability to literally become a bomb was part of a dastardly plan. The B storyline saw agents meet the woman who inspired the creation of AIDA (Mallory Jansen), the season’s life model decoy villain.
While this episode had a lot going for it, it didn’t land with fans. It was very much a connective episode, providing a bridge from the events before to the introduction of LMDs infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. As a result, it wasn’t as meaty as the ones surrounding it.
22 Worst: One Of Us S2E13 (8.1)
The season two episode “One Of Us” should have been great. It featured a team up of villains with superpowers, the introduction of a separate faction of S.H.I.E.L.D. that survived Hydra’s influence, and Skye learning about her abilities. It, however, did not live up to its potential.
Skye spent a lot of the episode afraid of what would happen if she used her power. Meanwhile, her father spent a lot of time trying to take on S.H.I.E.L.D. While Kyle MacLachlan was fun in the role of her father, the rest of the villains just didn’t pop in the same way, leaving the audience underwhelmed.
21 Best: Rewind S5E05 (9.2)
The first batch of season five episodes sent most of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team the audience knew into a post-apocalyptic future. While the fish out of water element to the story was fascinating, there was something lacking for the audience. Iain de Caestecker’s Fitz was nowhere to be found.
In reality, the actor was filming another project when the season started, and needed a few weeks off. In universe, he was stuck in the past. “Rewind” offered the audience a comedic break from a bleak future as it reunited Fitz with Lance Hunter for a jailbreak. Their team-up involved ferrets, a mobile home, and meeting a new alien, all with a much welcomed lighter tone.
20 Worst: The Bridge S1E10 (8.1)
The mid-season finale of the first season gave fans a real cliffhanger to hold onto for the month hiatus. Fans were not pleased, and perhaps that’s why “The Bridge” has a place among the worst of the series.
The episode began to bring threads from the “case of the week” episodes together. It brought back J. August Richards from the series premiere, along with Ruth Negga from an earlier episode. It also had a surprising twist as it wasn’t Richards’ Mike Peterson a mysterious group was after, but instead Phil Coulson himself, bringing back questions of the character surviving The Avengers. All of those plot threads weaving together just weren’t enough to satisfy the audience.
19 Best: The Devil Complex S5E14 (9.2)
When the team returned from their time in the future, they had a new base, and a rift in space-time that led to a fear dimension. That idea led many to believe that the central antagonist at the Lighthouse, making things go haywire, was the rift itself. It turned out it wasn’t, and the twist provided for some of the most intense and heart wrenching character moments on the show, making it one of the best rated episodes.
Instead of fears coming to life, Fitz accessed the part of his brain still inhabited by his Framework personality, the Doctor. The Doctor did what Fitz couldn’t to fix the problem of the rift, drilling into Daisy’s brain to remove an inhibitor blocking her powers, forcing her to use her power to help him fix the problem. It made everyone look at him differently and drove a wedge into the team that lingered.
18 Worst: Love In The Time Of Hydra S2E14 (8.0)
“Love In The Time Of Hydra” had the misfortune of being the next episode in line after “One Of Us.” Both episodes placed the focus on groups of people outside of the main cast, causing some fans to lose interest.
In the case of this particular episode, the focus shifted to Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) and former Agent 33 (Maya Stojan) as their relationship became serious - and seriously messed up. They took Hydra agents to help them with Agent 33’s mask and learn about her past. Unfortunately, Agent 33 AKA Kara, didn’t get much development beyond her relationship with Ward, so the episode became a waste for a lot of the audience.
17 Worst: Seeds S1E12 (8.0)
As a standalone episode, the season one hour “Seeds,” was an interesting one, even if it didn’t satisfy all fans. The episode took the audience to the Academy to see how cadets and scholars ended up S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
In addition to giving an early look at just how rare Fitz and Simmons were, even in a room full of geniuses, the episode gave us a look at how a different branch of the secret organization even worked. It would have provided a great jumping off point to flesh out S.H.I.E.L.D.’s backstory as an organization, but the show never returned to its training grounds, instead destroying it during the Hydra uprising.
16 Best: Turn, Turn, Turn S1E17 (9.3)
Most Marvel fans, including those that have remained loyal to Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. since the beginning, will agree that season one takes a while to really get into the meat of the story. The episode “Turn, Turn, Turn” marked a literal turning point in the series. It’s also the only season one episode to rank among the best hours of the show.
“Turn, Turn, Turn” occurred at the same time in the MCU timeline as the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. As a result, it was a tense hour that featured plenty of twists, betrayals, and action. For the audience, the reveal that Agents Garrett and Ward were Hydra changed everything - and almost nobody saw it coming.
15 Worst: The Well S1E08 (8.0)
While The Winter Soldier tie in is regarded as one of the best of the series, the Thor: The Dark World tie in is definitely not. Airing early in season one as the show was still finding its footing, fans rated it among the worst of the bunch.
The episode only tangentially tied into the movie, which might be why fans were left underwhelmed. Phil Coulson’s team was tasked with cleaning up debris from the events of The Dark World, and the rest of the episode dealt with a different Asgardian artifact that had nothing to do with the movie. While the characters introduced, and the artifact, would come back into play later in the series, fans wanted more from the episode.
14 Best: What They Become S2E10 (9.3)
The mid-season finale cliffhanger for season one might have left much to be desired for fans, but they couldn’t get enough of the mid-season finale for season two. “What They Become,” much like season one’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” gave the series a whole new direction courtesy of amazing visual effects and a major character departure.
Skye finally came face to face with her past as she met her father and discovered what the mysterious “obelisk” really was - a container for Terrigen crystals. Skye met her Inhuman destiny head-on as the Terrigen gave her the ability to quake in a spectacular visual effects sequence. Audience members couldn’t stop talking about the episode’s final moments.
13 Worst: Watchdogs S3E14 (7.9)
Season three had a looming villain for the team to take on. The original Inhuman Hive was extremely dangerous. He wasn’t the only threat in the season though. Groups like the “Watchdogs,” who also had an episode named after them, were sprinkled throughout the series to provide an example of the hostility powered people faced from the average human being.
While the storyline very much mirrored arcs from Marvel comics, it distracted from the overall story arc of the season. The episode did tie into the Marvel Netflix properties, Agent Carter, and even the cancelled pilot for Damage Control, but the connections weren’t enough to save it.
12 Best: 4,722 Hours S3E05 (9.3)
While fans of the series definitely criticized the introduction of an interplanetary love triangle early in season three, they still loved the episode that sparked it. “4,722 Hours” was named one of the best episodes of the series as soon as it aired, and it’s remained in the top 5 ever since.
The episode marked a huge departure for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Series regular Elizabeth Henstridge was the only member of the main cast to heavily feature in the hour. Henstridge’s Simmons spent the episode trying to survive a hostile planet, and a mysterious entity later revealed as the Inhuman Hive. Henstridge wowed critics and fans alike with her emotional (and mostly solo) tale of survival.
11 Worst: The Hub S1E07 (7.7)
From this point forward in the list, a trend develops among the worst of the worst Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes: they’re all from the first batch of episodes of the series. As we know, the case of the week format wasn’t loved by fans, so the (mostly) standalone episodes failed to stand out in a good way.
For “The Hub,” the story attempted a little world building. The series introduced the titular location as a meeting place for agents. It also paired up Fitz and Ward for a mission, leaving Simmons and Skye to get into a little trouble. Both pairings lent themselves to more comedic storylines. The lighter content followed up the tensely dramatic episode “FZZT,” so the comedy fell a tad bit flat over all, despite a few standout moments, like Iain de Caestecker’s improvisation as Fitz got stuck in an automatic door.
10 Worst: Eye Spy S1E04 (7.7)
Like many of the early episodes, “Eye Spy” featured technology that would return later in the first season as part of Hydra’s work. Looking back, that connective tissue makes the episode important, but hardly one of the best.
One of the best parts of the episode was the introduction of a former protege of Coulson’s in Akela Amador (Pascale Armand). It’s made pretty clear that he trains the best - which is why the ending is unfortunate. He’s willing to testify for her so that she gets her freedom from the mysterious party that took her, and escape trouble from S.H.I.E.L.D. Following the later Hydra reveal, she’s never seen or heard from again, which is an odd writing choice for a small group that needed every ally they could get.
9 Best: The Real Deal S5E12 (9.3)
A more recent addition to the best episodes of the series, “The Real Deal” aired in the middle of season five. It also marked the 100th episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Allowing manifestations from the fear dimension to come through into their world meant the agents went on a bit of a nostalgia trip for the episode, which was fun for a lot of fans. It also brought an emotional climax to the show as Fitz and Simmons married. That moment alone was likely enough to make most fans appreciate the hour as their connection had been the heart of the show since the first season.
8 Worst: Girl In The Flower Dress S1E05 (7.6)
Named for the antagonist introduced in the episode, “Girl In The Flower Dress” has one major redeeming quality. It brought Ruth Negga to the attention of an American audience. In fact, the episode was originally titled “Scorch,” but Negga’s performance so impressed producers that they changed it to honor her character instead.
That being said, the episode had a lot going on. Not only did it introduce Negga’s Raina, but it tipped the audience off that S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t always the good guys, brought back storylines from the pilot episode, and tried to shed some light on Skye’s background. It was a lot to accomplish in a relatively short amount of time, and the pacing of the episode suffered as a result.
7 Best: The End S5E22 (9.3)
This episode could have marked the end of the series. A lot of fans weren’t sure that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. would get picked up for a sixth season, making the episode title “The End” an ominous one for the season five finale. The episode marked the end of the line for two of the characters who had been with the show since the beginning, sparking a lot of fan outrage on social media.
Despite that outrage, the hour was a thrill ride. It had that emotional connection of the loss of both Fitz and Coulson, provided several stellar action sequences, and saw many of the plot threads of the season pulled to their logical conclusions. It was tightly paced and fantastically acted, which meant fans and critics alike still found much to love in the middle of their complaints.
6 Worst: Pilot S1E01 (7.6)
Pilots are almost never considered the best of a series. Often, the writers haven’t quite settled on everything a show will be. The first episode of a series works to introduce the audience to all of the main characters and the rules of the fictional universe. As a result of so many introductions, pilots can often feel like a rush of exposition and not much else.
That’s why it’s no surprise to see the pilot episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. as one of the worst of the series. The first episode showed a lot of potential, but the show continually improved with each season.
5 Best: S.O.S. Part 2 S2E22 (9.4)
In season two, fans were treated to a two-hour season finale. With “S.O.S.” originally airing as a complete set, it’s surprising that only the second hour ranked among the best episodes - and second best at that.
The episode saw all of the conflict throughout the season finally come to a head. Skye’s parents revealed their true colors with Jiaying (Dichen Lachman) trying to destroy humanity, and Cal (MacLachlan) deciding to team up with S.H.I.E.L.D. to save Skye and the world.
As the episode tied up loose ends, it also brought new beginnings for a lot of characters. Mack (Henry Simmons) became the one in charge of all things alien, Skye (now Daisy) began recruiting Inhumans, and Fitz and Simmons finally decided to give romance a shot. Of course, Simmons was then promptly sucked into space by a liquefying rock, giving fans a lot to think about during the hiatus.
4 Worst: Repairs S1E09 (7.5)
After the reveal of different dimensions, and dimensional portals, existing in Thor: The Dark World, some fans thought “Repairs” might have been better suited as a tie-in episode than “The Well.” While the latter dealt with Asgardian artifacts, the former dealt with a dimensional portal. They both ended up as some of the worst of the series though, so maybe the label doesn’t matter.
In the episode, the team protects a woman who believes she’s haunted by demons as the result of an industrial accident. While there’s a spectacular use of effects for the “haunting” by a man stuck between two worlds, the episode failed to balance its darker subject matter with the humor of an attempted prank war by Fitz and Simmons, making it an uneven hour.
3 Worst: The Asset S1E03 (7.5)
The early season one episode “The Asset” gave fans hope for some classic comic book villains. With Dr. Franklin Hall (Ian Hart) and his gravitonium introduced, comic book readers had high hopes for the villain known as Graviton and some fancy special effects.
Unfortunately, fans who wanted to see Graviton in action wouldn’t get that for another four seasons - and even then, not in the way they expected. The substance, and the person inside of it, ended up infused with multiple different people for the final arc of season five. That’s a long wait for payoff.
2 Best: Self Control S4E15 (9.5)
The best ranked episode of the series sits in the middle of the LMD arc of season four. The episode “Self Control” saw Fitz and Simmons discover that four members of their team had been replaced by life model decoys while on missions.
It was a huge showcase for the abilities of the actors. Watching Fitz and Simmons tearfully argue about which of them might be the LMD before Fitz turned coldly robotic, plunging a screwdriver into Simmons as he revealed himself was a surprising moment for the audience. De Caestecker proved himself a master of his craft again. Henstridge and Bennet were no slouches either, carrying some of the most stressful sequences of the episode as Jemma and Daisy worked together to outsmart the enemy that filled the base. Critics across the board called it a “near flawless” episode.
1 Worst: 0-8-4 S1E02 (7.3)
If the pilot episode was one of the worst of the series, it might be surprising that the second episode, which earned relatively favorable reviews from a lot of critics, earned a spot as the absolute worst of the bunch.
“0-8-4” gave the audience a term for an “object of unknown origin” as the team chased an artifact down in Peru. The artifact itself would come into play again at the end of the season, providing some connectivity. Among the most common complaint was that character development was lacking during the second hour, even if the episode about teamwork was a fun ride.
Did your favorite episode of the series rank among the best, or perhaps the worst? Do you think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should have different episodes at the top? Let us know in the comments.