Three episodes in, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is a disappointment. Setting a show in the aftermath of a a superhero-versus-aliens battle and focusing on the people who have to clean up the mess is a great idea. Looking at the reaction of everyday civilians to aliens and gods fighting in the streets, that’s fantastic. Unfortunately, there’s some rather big problems that’s stopping the show from being as good as it could be.
The biggest problem is the cast of characters. I don’t really care much about any of them. The S.H.I.E.L.D. plane could get smashed up by an angry Hulk* mid-flight, with Agent Coulson being the only survivor, and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Well, maybe I’d miss Fitz a little, I’ve liked him a bit since noticing that he named his little search robots after the seven dwarves from Snow White.
*(OK, slightly redundant -is there any other kind of Hulk?)
But, as a whole, the team isn’t very interesting, and that’s an issue when the first half of the episode is them trading quips and exposition with each other. If we don’t care about them, then half of every episode is just boring, talky build-up to the actual mission, rather than being any fun to watch.
There’s Skye, a ‘hacktivist’ who has a mysterious back-story (that’s one) and might be a double agent, but maybe not really. There’s Fitz and Simmons, two scientists who talk over each other with pseudo-scientific gobbledygook (though, to be fair, this was only a problem in the pilot, since then they haven’t done that as much) and walk a very thin line between annoyingly-quirky and endearingly-quirky. Which side they fall on changes on a scene-by-scene basis.
There’s that guy whose name I can’t remember, a top field agent with a mysterious back-story (that’s two) who acts as a lone wolf who doesn’t like working in a team. So, you would think, forcing him into a team would be interesting and exciting as sparks fly between him and his reluctant teammates. It’s not. Maybe because he doesn’t have any chemistry with any of his team. Or maybe it’s because he seems to have exactly one facial expression, which he used during the ‘big reveal’ of his tragic upbringing (talking about his brother beating him, while looking like he was thinking about what to have for lunch) and during a tense undercover mission (where he looked slightly confused, and like he was wondering what to have for lunch). It’s, well, it’s not great.
There’s also Melinda May, a legendary field agent who decided to stay out of combat after an incident in her mysterious back-story (that’s three). She’s reluctantly returning to field work, but hasn’t been given a lot to do so far.
The one shining light in this fairly bland crew is Agent Coulson, coming back from the dead and generally being as cool and clever as he was in the Marvel movies. He thinks he’s returned after a quick resuscitation and some rest in Tahiti (It’s a magical place, apparently*), but the real circumstances of his return have been hidden from him. So, in other words, he has a mysterious back-story (that’s four!). Coulson’s great, but he alone can’t carry the whole show.
*Incidentally, if Tahiti’s Tourism Board don’t jump on this free publicity and change their slogan to ‘It’s a magical place!’, they’re missing a golden opportunity. An offhand mention on a TV show can do wonders for tourism. Belize was used as shorthand for murder on Breaking Bad but the tourism board still managed to use that to their advantage.
Gosh, this has been really negative so far. And on my first blog post, too. There’s still plenty to like about Agents. Like I said, Coulson is great, Fitz is okay and the other characters…well, there’s plenty of time for them to improve. The show’s been given a full 22-episode order, so by the end of the season finale this could be a great, fun hour of television. The show has clearly had a lot of money spent on it, so the special effects are fantastic and the action scenes are well-done, if a little cheesy. The Marvel universe allows for some really silly/cool stuff, like the scene in the last episode where an element that can control gravity went nuts, forcing Coulson to confront the scientist responsible for it on the floor, then the ceiling, then on the walls. More of that please. The Nick Fury cameo in the second episode was also a treat, a television version of the post-credits stinger used so often in the Marvel movies. Also, as of the end of the last episode, Coulson has accidentally created a supervillain that can mess with gravity, which could be AWESOME in future episodes.
So, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has problems. There’s frequent dull patches and characters who we know so little about it’s difficult to care, especially when one of them can’t act (looking at you, Mr Lone Wolf). But there’s potential. A lot of potential. A few months from now, when the characters have developed more and the writers have noticed the reviews and the feedback and started fixing things, this could be wonderful. At the moment, I give it five more episodes, then I’m done watching.
P.S. Jesus, that’s a lot of text. If you’ve read this far, congratulations! The other posts won’t be this long, I promise. Well, probably. Maybe. Possibly…
2014 EDIT As it turns out, I lied. They will be this long.