10/31/2013

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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23 comments:

derpygurl said...

Hi! Um...I'm new around here. Great post! I am a fan of the show but I haz commentz...

- The flying car thing was a tribute to this flying car that Nick Fury had back in the day with S.H.I.LE.L.D. (But yes, it was cheesy). http://geekmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/shield_flying_car-625x351-c.jpg

- I for one WANT something horrible to happen to Skye. Sh'e making the rest of us geek girls look bad!

- There is a backstory behind why she doesn't like field work. You get the feeling that an op went really wrong a while back and she took desk duty on purpose (Think Jeremy Renner' s character in MI4).

- They actually have referenced EXTREMIS in the last two episodes, the "Centipede" org seems to be trying to fuse it with another form of bio tech, possibly alien from the Chitauri attack. They talked about that in the pilot as well, but I think Fitz Simmons was talking about it so fast that unless you watched the episode like 4 times, (like I did) you'd miss it.

- My biggest problem with the show (and I do support it), is that they had a built in audience with all of us #CoulsonLives believers that basically revived Clark Gregg and his career (see:"New Adventures of Old Christine). But they're not utilizing him as much s they should. He's a supporting character on his own show! He should be owning each episode! Instead we have to wait for Skye to fall into a pool and run around without a bra for half an episode before he gets to do anything cool. (Like accidentally make create Gravtion).


- I do enjoy them using characters from other parts of Whedon-verse in the show though. (Like "Book" from Firefly in the pilot as Coulson's doctor, and the guy that locks up Graviton in the safe is the same guy that wasn't going to let Cap, Hawk and Widow on the plane in the Avengers).

- I am also getting a little tired of all of the Black folks having some kind of head trauma. They shot August in the head, (I know he's still alive somewhere but come on), and made Coulson's ol' trainee look like Fury's daughter.


I.am.not.impressed.

- I can only hope that since they got picked for the back nine, they will start paying some real writers and bring some champions of the verse into the show.

- I WANT MY WHEDON BACK!

rant.over.
*runsaway*

derpygurlny said...

ok

Pat Dilloway said...

Good discussion. A lot of good points there. I'm curious to see what they have planned for Sweeps in November. Maybe they'll break out some big guns. Since they called it MARVEL's Agents of SHIELD I think it's reasonable to expect more superhero action. It might help if we had a better idea of any overriding story arc. It seems like there's going to be something about Rising Tide and Extremis-powered super soldiers but at this point it's really vague.


I'm not really fond of any characters except Coulson, but I don't know if he can really carry a whole series. The scientists are too cutesy and the will they-or-won't they love thing is so hackneyed. I think I've said before it'd be nice if they let May emote once in a while; that's the difference between her and characters in Firefly. But we're what 5 episodes in? There's still time for it to come together.

DAVID WALSTON said...

I felt like I was in the room just listening to you two talk. Awesome deliberation!

Before the show even had aired, it seemed from the talk about the web that it was to be a X-Files/spyshow. I went in not expecting and was pleasantly surprised. Gravitron was a cool easter egg, but I feel he could be a big enough bad to have to bring in the big guns. Maybe he shows up in an Avenger or stand alone super movie. He could go head to head with the Hulk.

Nigel Mitchell said...

glad you were able to comment, and welcome aboard. all great points. they definitely are setting up a big bad with centipede. I just wish they would go a little quicker. As for Lola, I know why they did it. I just thought the special effect in the pilot when it flew was badly done. You're right about Skye, too, they have been more focused on her cleavage than her character. Your knowledge of comics and geekdom is most welcome!

msmariah.com said...

I have to say that I'm really bored with this show. It always sits on my dvr and is the last thing I watch. I understand that they can't bring in the 'Avenger' super heroes, but could they get some half-way decent writers? Joss Whedon needs help with this one. The show is definitely Whedon-esque, but it could some freshening up in my opinion. I'm surprised it got a season 2. Wow that sounds much meaner when I write it down.

derpygurl said...

Thanks! Oh and you're right. They don't have the budget to do Avenger's every week and I have seen some low-budget stuff on Youtube with better graphics than that flying car.

MedeiaSharif said...

I haven't seen this yet, but the discussion was enjoyable.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think Hall will be back.
I like what they've done so far. No, not a superhero show. I think it's still finding its legs. They have a strong lead on Coulson and just need to build up those around him. The Avengers tie-in won't carry it - they have to establish their own niche.
That said, I'm still enjoying it. Still one of the better shows on television right now.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The X-Men trailer is amazing. Gave me chills the first time I watched it.
Hope that doesn't hurt the next Star Wars that they won't give the producer more time.
Sorry, still not interested in the next Hunger Games. One movie was enough. Of course, I've never read the books.

Pat Dilloway said...

When they first announced a new Star Wars in 2015 I was skeptical. I mean at the time they had no script, no director, no cast, and yet they were going to put it together in less than 3 years? Yeah, right. They ought to take as much time as they need. This is Star Wars; people will see it if you release it in 2015, 2016, or 2525 (if man is still alive). And really Disney already is going to have The Avengers 2 in 2015 so why cannibalize their own revenues by putting them out within weeks of each other? Duh.



"No one is safe, not even the team" Yeah because I'm sure they'll kill off the cast of the show in like the sixth episode, lol. Not buying it.



The first Hunger Games movie was fine. I read the first book and enjoyed it but had no interest in sequels. It seems like The Matrix and other series the author didn't really know what to do next so she thought, "Um, how about Katniss gets into another Hunger Games! Only, like, this one is harder and stuff." Meh.

Craig Edwards said...

...'cause, you know, young actresses NEED $10 million paydays - because it makes them MUCH more pleasant people to deal with - and I am speaking from experience...

Craig Edwards said...

Great discussion, guys! I am totally loving the show - knowing from the get-go it would be a "television smaller" spy show. And you know, with all the digital stuff it's still better than back in the day when they would bring an action filled movie to TV as a series and have no ability to do pretty much anything but talk and sometimes have a fight scene. It may be smaller than the Marvel Movies, but there's still some scope and scale to this show. I love the 60's Nick Fury SHIELD comics - and these guys obviously do too.

MPax said...

They'll probably budge eventually, but Mickey probably doesn't want them thinking he's a pushover. Casting is really important.

TV... I'm looking forward to Dracula #2 tonight. :D I finished binge watching season 1 of Arrow on Netflix yesterday. Excellent. One of the few super hero shows that didn't bore me. All the man candy didn't hurt either. Now I want to know how to get caught up on season 2 before watching it like a regular person.

I like Reign a lot, but it's probably too girly for you :)

Maurice Mitchell said...

It's a really tight timeline Pat, so it was made by the marketing guys. Im guessing the studio hopes to double dip with two big movies.

The Hunger Games book was good, but I still haven't read the second one. I like the idea of expanding on the world though.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I dunno Mary. 2015 is becoming a very important year. On the other hand if they put out a crappy movie then it would be worse. We'll see. I'm glad you caught up on season one! I know you can watch a few episodes on cwtv.com,  but I don't know how far back they go. I haven't seen Reign yet, but I might!

Maurice Mitchell said...

Yeah Craig sometimes it goes to their head...not from personal experience. :)

Maurice Mitchell said...

It is chilling Alex. There's so much in the trailer!

Tony Laplume said...

I don't really get why Thanos isn't the villain in the next one. They're going to have to be extremely clever to keep his presence alive without actually...using him.

Tony Laplume said...

Brilliant new feature!


I haven't been able to watch the show since the first episode, so I'm not really qualified to talk too much about it, but my impression was similar to what you're saying here. The real game-changer would be if they get a superhero on the team at some point. They would be wise to incorporate this character the same way River Tam was featured in Firefly, rather than, say, Buffy. (It would also give me the opportunity to see exactly where Whedon would have gone with River given a real chance, unless he still has the itch to do more Browncoat action, because at this point he would absolutely have the opportunity.)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I love Johnny Depp, but Doctor Sparrow would be odd.


I was so bored watching the Hunger Games. No amount of budget could entice me to watch another one.

MPax said...

Thank you for the link, Maurice. Husband Unit and I binge watched the first 4 episodes of season 2 there. Can't wait for Wednesday now. :) Excellent writing in that show. I can't help but admire the pacing and the way they've been unpacking the story.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Great Mary! I wasn't sure if they had all four of them.  Ready for Wednesday!

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