Series Briefing and Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

“I know the pieces fit…” – TOOL

 

Since I don’t like to judge shows based purely on the Pilot episodes, this review for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was written after the second episode of the series, ‘0-8-4’ aired. First, a few caveats. I’ve read some Avengers and related comics here and there, but I’m not a hardcore follower of the series or the movies. However, this show was meant to be as accessible to as wide an audience as possible. Since it is about ordinary people who investigate those with superhuman gifts and instances of objects with an out-of-world origin, it manages to work on that level, while still giving some inside gags for comic/Avengers universe devotees.

Lots of Pieces – An Easy Puzzle

So, “they” are here, and are being watched. In the long tradition of special groups dedicated to keeping the truth from people, heroes may also operate in the shadows. This is a time when ordinary people have access to what only mad scientists could concoct… fine German engineering included.

For a show to work for many viewers, it has to have stories that are relevant and relatable. As far as motivations for a good person to go dark, economic frustration is certainly a common one, even in the Marvel universe. Once given great power, how does one who has been kicked down so many times choose to use it? The Pilot set up what appears to be a moral lesson for each episode. This is actually quite fitting for a comic book universe themed show.

Luckily in the fictional universe where Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is set, the shadowy, secret government agency doesn’t have to deal with a governmental shutdown, although the group is no stranger to having been kept on a short leash by politicians before. The first episode set up the basics, and now the team is experiencing its growing pains, as the widely different individual personalities try to find ways to work together. As Skye illustrated, these people are pieces of a puzzle that need to use their gifts to work together to solve problems. Ward may want to walk alone, but bigger issues require more hearts and minds to solve.

 

 

Like many shows that have agents, this one has its civilian consultant—Skye. As a former (?) member of the Rising Tide hackers, she is useful, Coulson argues. Over the past year, it seems women hackers and computer geniuses are in. I’m immediately reminded of Clara, from Doctor Who, and Root, from Person of Interest. At the outset of her first foray with the team, she’s more like a propaganda or psych ops operative, as she was directed by Coulson to create fabrications for the public that obstruct the truth. She did precious little computer wizardry, and lots of yapping.

Another bit of the moral shades of gray is discussed concerning the role of social media in the formation of a Peruvian popular uprising. Skye explains to Ward: “Thousands of suffering people who have never met, united over a common idea? It’s mind-blowing.” I’ve personally seen and directed the power of social media to unite people for a common cause, so that idea struck home for me. Of course, it also relevant on a more international level due to recent events such as the Arab Spring in the Middle East, Occupy Wall Street, the protests in Turkey, etc.

 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Team Performance

Ratings normally drop off the second week of a new series, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be failing to hold the attention of those casual viewers the network had hoped to snag. To be honest, I find it severely lacking. It fails to provide characters that I truly care for. Some slight back story emerges for the characters, particularly that of Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), and it helps to give some understanding to them, but it’s not enough. There is a boatload of action, but I found myself looking at the clock to see how long those scenes went on.

Truly excellent shows don’t do that. I normally look at the time and wonder where it went, as a compelling hour show just seems too short due to the forty minutes or so that are allotted for it. Unfortunately, this plot was totally predictable, as it was obvious the Peruvians would take over the plane. For me, it was just a plain awful premise for a show about investigating things that are… well… crazy. I’m not expecting Fringe here, but a little bit more Torchwood would be nice… A cliché mystery box and South American rebels sounds more like a MacGyver episode, but with more guns.

Fitz and Simmons are the worst cliché of young scientists. Ward is the stereotypical stand-off, know-it-all agent, though thankfully, some cracks were made in his armor. Even this shadow of Agent Coulson is only slightly endearing, but not enough to make up for the lack of interest that I have in his team. After sitting on the edge of my seat during Sleepy Hollow the night before (a show I didn’t want to get my hopes up for), I find  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may just not hold my interest for the long haul. There’s no real sense of mystery; no driving reason to compel me to want to journey with these people. There’s been a lot of cool shinies waved under the noses of viewers, but it’s not enough to distract from the glaring disconnect I have experienced so far with this series.

 

Fury off a Plane

Throwing in Nick Fury as a traditional Marvel after-the-credits scene just made it look like the show was trying too hard. Tossing in cameos for the major movie franchise stars is not enough to keep me, and I think most television viewers, coming back. (Unless it is a shirtless Loki, which please, don’t go there…) Give me a compelling show, that makes me go WTF sometimes, and characters that I want to see succeed together.

Verdict?

I’m going to give it a few more episodes to see if these issues are somewhat alleviated. What did you think about this second episode of  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and how the series is coming along so far? Are you going to give next week’s episode a try?

 

 

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