Joss Whedon is a genius writer; and a personal favourite/idol, who has created entertaining movies, TV shows and comic books over the years. Yes, a couple of his shows have been cancelled, but they have been given longevity as cult shows with loyal fan bases. Whedon has surrounded himself with so many talented people that he’s more than a man of ideas, he’s leader in a house of ideas. Joining with another house, Marvel Comics, and helping to start the newest era for supergroup The X-Men certainly astonished as he it meant to.
Naturally, anticipation and confidence were in abundance when it was announced, post-Avengers, that he would be creating an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. There was so much faith that the show would be almost flaw free, but what wasn’t expected was that it’d be so…so…meh.
It’s hard to understand what about the show isn’t quite working. All the parts are there, we have hints of mystery, love interests, tactical team member choices that allow characters to bounce off each other, but some characters succeed far more than others in gaining our favour.
This is my breakdown of what we’ve got so far:
1. Agent Coulson
Coulson, the big draw for the show, the link to the rest of the Marvel live action universe and a beloved character from the movies, has really made the show possible in the first place. In part, he’s the mystery of the series because he’s supposed to be dead, yet after a nice vacation and a bit of something miscellaneous that only Maria Hill (guest starring in the pilot, Cobie Smulders) has the clearance to know. Votes for clone? And for robot? And votes for forcing us to remember that something has happened to Coulson that makes him not quite himself multiple times per episode? Ah, lots of you. Subtle, this show isn’t, but that comes later.
2. Agent Ward and Skye.
Ignoring the slightly ridiculous names and the obvious link to their roles and personality types, Agent Ward and Skye are the lead archetypes, he’s a straight laced agent and she’s the cocky rebel, forced to work together – do you think they might end up both resenting one another and occasionally making out?! Let’s hope it’s too obvious to go through with. While they pull off some laughs in the pilot, they are both out of their character elements. Ward is supposed to be a one man army but seems more concerned with being the official complaints department for S.H.I.E.L.D. Skye shows promise when she uses hacking and lying skills, convincing us she has something to offer, but when she ends up an Agent-in-training you can’t help but question who is really making her do it. She obviously doesn’t care – so why should we?!
3. Agent May.
Finally, a character that’s interesting and clever, quiet but punchy. She has her own mystery for why she doesn’t want to see combat, but because she’s “not talking about it”, she doesn’t talk about it. She’s a skilled pilot with obvious intellect and leadership skills but also some kick ass fighting moves, no nonsense, she’ll beat you down. She grows over the first four episodes, shining in her scenes while never forcing herself into them.
4. Fitz and Simmons
The Whedonverse knows good geeks when it sees them and FitzSimmons (they come as a pair) are soon to be fan favourites. Despite their non-combat backgrounds they are an integral part of the team. They bicker, banter and get excited about professors while always getting the job done. They are the highlight of the series so far with gadgets (such as scanner-bots named after the Seven Dwarfs), quips and looks to boot. What makes them so successful is that they are characters who are in their element even when they are out of their comfort zones.
5. The Big Problem.
My main quarrel with the show is that it’s so heavy handed in its dealing with plot points. There are double of takes of “THINGS TO NOTICE” and repetitive comments, sometimes using the exact same wording, when characters are discussing the more complicated story lines. It could be that the writers are trying to be careful not to lose the audience with techno-babble but they should give us more credit. I get that they are trying to appeal to the wider market, who won’t know the background of S.H.I.E.L.D., but there is no need to constantly reference the events of the Avengers movie JUST FOR THE SAKE OF IT! Every now and then you’ll get some well delivered, clever dialogue and some great action scenes, but they are too few and far between at the moment. While shows always need time to settle in, we have to hope it doesn’t take much longer.
6. The Little Things
As a short and final point, there are some nice references and little jokes that make you want to stick with it, such as Skye referring to Coulson, in one scene, as A.C. because “A.C. is way cooler”.
Let me know what you think on Twitter @vadamagazine & @nickawgomez or comment below.
Let’s discuss what the hell is going on here, shall we?