|Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Source: ABC|
We'll be doing a semi-regular series where my brother Maurice and I discuss various geek topics via email. This week, the round-table is on the ABC TV show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Nigel: I admit, so far I've been a little disappointed. In all the excitement, I basically expected a weekly version of The Avengers. That's not Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I realized it couldn't be. There's no way ABC could afford a bunch of superheroes, an army of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents aboard the heli-carrier, and the epic battle scenes from Avengers. I understand they had to keep the cost down, so a lot of it had to be cut out. Still, I would argue the resulting show is so different from S.H.I.E.L.D. in The Avengers that it almost defeats the purpose. How say you?
Maurice: The thing that I realized about this show is it's not about superheroes. The show is a spy show. It's kind of sad that it's been lumped into that category. "Eye Spy" is a perfect example of this. As a superhero show, it sucks, but as an espionage show, it was brilliant. Plus, the gadgets don't get cooler. What about the flying car?
Nigel: I agree, you've hit the nail on the head. This show isn't about superheroes. It's a spy show. As a spy show, it's pretty good. I don't think it's as well-developed as shows like Alias, though. Plus, I wanted a superhero show, not a spy show. Still, with a secret agency like S.H.I.E.L.D., I guess that's the format to be expected. Partly, I have to keep trying to judge S.H.I.E.L.D. for what it is, not for what it's not.
I do like the gadgets. Lola the Flying Car seems a little cheesy, but I like the exotic weapons and equipment. The fingerprint scanning plate, the seven dwarf robots, all good.
What do you think of the characters?
Maurice: I admit I tune in for superheroes and villains. I was glad to see "Girl in the Flower Dress" had a good super-villain!
My favorite character is still Coulson, but Melinda May is my second favorite. She's like "Jayne Cobb" to me since she's no nonsense and quick with a gun. Which is cool because she's a girl! Another strong female character from Whedon. My least favorite is Grant Ward. He's so stereotypical.
Nigel: Coulson and May should pretty much be the whole show. They're the only ones who seem competent and original. The others are kind of lame. I agree, Ward is the worst as the "generic square jawed hero." Fitz and Simmons are a little too "generic wacky scientist" for me. Skye is only slightly better than the "generic anarchist hacker" in that she doesn't have oddly colored hair and pop culture referencing T-shirts. I can't believe these lame characters came out of the same mind as the brilliant characters on Firefly and Buffy.
I thought the pilot had potential in that it showed a superhero origin gone wrong, and S.H.I.E.L.D. had to clean up the mess. That's what I'd like more of. Likewise, I'm hoping they bring back Dr. Hall (the guy who fell in the gravity ball) as a gravity powered supervillain. But that's where the show should be going, James Bond meets the Avengers. While I thought "Eye Spy" was good as a spy episode, I want more super beings.
Maurice: Yeah, the characters are pretty generic for the most part. I hate the "square-jawed" guy, and Skye could be cool if she wasn't just the Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl. Maybe something horrific would happen to her to give her an edge. Not that I want something bad to happen, but it would make her more interesting. Actually, the part about her orphanage background could be good if they play it up.
I can't believe they wouldn't bring back Dr. Hall as Graviton since they set it up perfectly. Pat suggested this would be a good dumping ground for third-tier comic book characters, and I agree. It could tie into the movies without being too obvious.
We definitely need more superpowers, but I can wait a couple more episodes so they can strengthen the characters more.
Nigel: I agree about Skye being the Manic Pixie Girl. And Graviton is definitely where they could go, fingers crossed. There are lots of supervillains and superheroes they could use without getting into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But they insist on trying to make S.H.I.E.L.D. into a character-based ensemble show, but the agents just aren't interesting or engaging enough to support it. Episodes are becoming a series of talking heads with interchangeable dialogue, and arguments that feel shallow and manufactured. Fitz and Simmons argue endlessly about methods when the audience doesn't care either way. May complains about doing field work she’s clearly good at. Ward argues with Coulson about their methods, and Coulson just tells him to do it his way, anyway. And the less said about Skye and Ward, the better. They have these verbal sparring matches that are clearly intended to be that whole sexual tension/love-hate thing, but I think they have zero chemistry together, so it’s just annoying.
So what I would say the big problem with S.H.I.E.L.D. is, it's not really about S.H.I.E.L.D.. They took away the heli-carrier, they took away the superheroes, and they took away the teams of secret S.H.I.E.L.D. agents running around. If it was called Agents of C.O.O.L. and they didn't occasionally reference things like Extremis and the Chitauri from the movies, the show could be about any secret agency. The only time I felt like it was really about S.H.I.E.L.D. was when (spoiler alert).....they brought in Samuel L. Jackson.
Maurice: Well, you got me there. Although Jackson takes it to 11. It was picked up for the season, but if it doesn't improve, it won't make it to season 2. This isn't Wings.
Nigel: Frankly, I thought the show was dead out of the water, and was surprised to discover it's gotten huge ratings. It's nice to know this show has enough popularity to carry it to the next season, unlike (I dunno) every other Whedon show in the last decade. That means they still have time to improve it; flesh out the characters, add more Marvel elements , etc.
I know I've been hard on the show, but I have to say it's pretty entertaining. Like I said earlier, if you forget the S.H.I.E.L.D. connection and take it as it is, it's an okay show. The action sequences are pretty inspired, like the rotating laboratory in "The Asset." I just wish it would make more of an effort to integrate with the Marvel Universe. It just has so much potential, it's hard not to love.
One final thought.
The line in "Eye Spy" where they said there was no hard evidence of psychic powers seems to put the show in an alternate reality to the comics and movies, because the Marvel universe has tons of psychic characters like that little known character, um, Professor Charles Xavier. Are they trying to say S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't know about mutants? Again, the show needs to make more of an effort to connect with the Marvel Universe instead of acting like its own entity.
Your final thought?
Maurice: I think that line is meant to make the show more grounded. Most of the magical stuff has been replaced in the movies, like Thor's hammer. Plus, I'm assuming they'll discover someone with psychic powers, so she can say "told you so."
I'm not surprised they're holding back because Marvel doesn't want to lock in a character to a show that might get canceled. I can wait. Coulson lives!
What do you think of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Would you like more discussions? If so, what topics? Let us know in the comments.
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