Agents of SHIELD or Agents of “Meh”?

e1db8-abc-agents-of-shield-season-2I’ve had some issues with Marvel’s tv show Agents of SHIELD.  Between my own blog and other blogs, it pissed me off so badly, I’ve blown about eight blog posts, and God only knows how many words on it.

In the beginning, I really thought that there was room for improvement. Plenty of room, lots of improvement.

By mid-season, I was starting to wonder what the bloody blue Hell is going on on this frigging show!

Meanwhile, over at The American Journal, I had a conversation about the ten reasons why Arrow beat the ever-loving crap out of AoS.

When Forbes chimed on on the situation, they dismissed “those nitpicking nerds crying over wanting a tie-in show.” That’s when I took Forbes out to the woodshed and I beat them over the head with their idiocy.

Then I discussed how the show got better after Winter Soldier came out. Because they were allowed to actually have a plot.

Then it ended with Samuel L. Jackson as the deus ex muthaf*&ka himself, Nick Fury.

By season 2, I declared Agents of SHIELD no longer sucked.  Yay! We’re doing spy crap on a spy show! And having comic book characters on a comic book show!  Wow, who would have thought?

Later, I tried to tie Agents of SHIELD in with the rest of the MCU, or at least see where it was going.

If you’ve never seen my opinion on Agents of SHIELD … well, the first season felt like bad fan fiction.

As for season 2?  Spoilers ahead, if you care.


 

Agent Coulson starts rebuilding SHIELD after the events of The Winter Soldier, using parts of the old SHIELD, but rebuilding the personnel.  How we can have anything left over from the old SHIELD if Winter Soldier spilled those secrets all over the internet?

No idea.  Presume that Nick Fury had secrets he never put in computer files, and that only he knew about — secrets that include Coulson’s continued, postmortem existence.

Granted, for this to work, it must include every old, Peggy Carter-era facility, as well as several helicarriers that Coulson has in store for Avengers: Age of Ultron. But that came later.

So, those are the plot holes for EPISODE 1.

Raina, as not-a-mutant

Now, from the first episode, Coulson’s SHIELD is chasing a magical alien rock that creates X-Men style mutants.  Yup. Can’t use the actual X-Men mutants, so we’re just going to relabel all of them as “Inhumans,” even though they were a different branch of the comic book franchise. The people looking for this rock include Hydra, Kyle MacLachlan (playing a heavily modified Hyde from the comic books), and “The Girl in the Flower Dress,” Raina, from season two.  A character so annoying I CHEERED when they finally offed the pretentious, traitorous, obvious little freak (and this was my description of her BEFORE she grew spikes).

Now, let’s see if you can follow this season.

Hydra wants the magic rock, because we have a LITERAL 100 year old Nazi (a Dr. Whitehall, played by Reed Diamond) who gained longevity by taking the blood and organs and marrow of a woman who doesn’t seem to age — we learn that she lives that long by sucking the life out of others, but the Hydra agent doesn’t do that, so how does that work?

The midseason finale is full-on Indiana Jones.  The 100 year old Nazi is trying to activate the magic rock at a special archaeological site that doesn’t look anything like like something out of Raiders, honest. We kill the 100 year old Nazi, but the magic rock is activated, mutating Raina and “changing” Skye (you know, the OTHER person we care nothing about). The next episode involves clearing out the rest of the Hydra hierarchy, Godfather style.

After several episodes meandering around with Skye’s father, Mister Hyde, who had more mood swings than …. most of Joss Whedon’s bad guys … we get a full explanation of what the magic rock was.  It was a Kree invention to make weapons out of humans — a project that worked so well, the Kree ran away screaming in terror.

If you’re thinking this is a way to link Guardians of the Galaxy with the rest of the Marvel media universe, I suspect you’re right.

Also, why was Mr. Twin Peaks himself the most interesting character this season? Seriously, why?

Then, we get Edward James Olmos leading another faction of SHIELD.  Yes, another faction. Because SHIELD just left all of it’s toys lying around all over the place, so far off the books that DUMPING ALL OF SHIELD’S DATA ONTO THE INTERNET means that half the tech and facilities are still in one piece. Yes. Really. After both parts of SHIELD do something really radical, and actually, you know, TALK TO EACH OTHER, they agree to rule by committee. Because that always works.

Skye shatters windows. That makes her “Quake,” and thus… Interesting?

So, of course, the Inhumans are more like Magento than Professor Xavier. Raina knows, and is murdered for it. There’s a plot to take over a SHIELD vessel with a MacGuffin device that is never explained.  But wait, there’s more!  Since Skye was changed by the magic rock, she can level a building by vibrating the molecules to death, So, after treating Skye like she’s a mutant in the X-Men universe, she falls in among other “Inhumans.”  Now, after being a general prick, and acting like a politician out of X-Men, Edward James Olmos wants to meet with the Inhuman leader (Skye’s mother).

Skye’s mother is killed, but a collection of magic rock falls into the ocean, and is going to create a legion of mutants, so Agents of SHIELD can build up a Secret Warriors franchise.

If you think “Wait, did they just have three plotlines this year?” The answer is yes.

And really, it was okay.  It was handled well enough that it wasn’t a complete and utter freaking disaster. There was a decided effort this time out, unlike the first season that was nothing but filler until Winter Soldier came out.  It felt like someone said “We had no plot in season 1 until the end — let’s do ALL of the plot we should have had the first time out, and when we finish that, expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe some more.” (Assuming, of course, that the show is allowed to do anything with the cinematic side.)

Absorbing Man, in action

Hydra had Crusher Creel in its arsenal, an Absorbing Man who has been lowered in power levels for this series, because you can’t have him on Hulk-level strength, when all you have are SpecOps people at most.  And, some of the Hydra people include a “Marcus Scarlotti” — a variation on one of the original Iron Man villains, Whiplash. (Though Whiplash already showed up in Iron Man 2.) And overall … it was okay?

I’ll at least give them some props for trying this season.  And there is at least a modicum of effort this time out.

You can see that someone took notes from Arrow and The Flash — if you can’t use big-name villains like the Joker or Lex Luthor, you can use B-grade villains like the Pied Piper and make them threatening.

This include Bobbi Morse, or Mockingbird, from the comics, played by Adrianne Palicki.  If the actress name doesn’t sound familiar, she was in a tv pilot for Wonder Woman that failed terribly.

Apparently, people were so impressed with her at ABC, they’re still going back and forth about giving her her own TV show. I don’t see it, but then again, I think she might have been able to pull off Wonder Woman if her show hadn’t been so terribly, terribly written. And painful.  And seriously what were they thinking and ….

Deep breath.  Okay, I’m better now.

This season, characters actually have back story.

They don’t have a lot of personality yet, but they have back story. After season 2, Fitz survived (damnit) and came back with brain damage, and I can’t tell if it was a good attempt to give him character and make him interesting, or an act of sadism to make someone with BRAIN DAMAGE work on technology.

His scientific cohort and poorly handled love interest, Gemma, develops a strange and sudden anti-mutant (sorry, “anti-Inhuman”) bigotry that comes out virulently and jarringly.  Um, great, they’re giving her a personality, but can they make one that matches with what we’ve seen of the character?

Then there was Coulson. Coulson went from being made slightly crazy by the alien chemicals that resurrected him, to being full-on psychotic, to being immediately cool and confident again the very next episode, through the rest of the season.  Seriously, what? Why? How? Oh screw it, Coulson is the most interesting character in the whole series, no matter how much they try to make it Agents of Skye.

And, seriously, Skye is still not interesting.  They’ve decided to turn her into the comic book character Quake, who was, really, a bit of a badass, and one of the few SHIELD Agents who had clearance on the level of Fury, Black Widow, or Maria Hill.  She was a staggering badass.

And they made her … Skye?

No, seriously, what the hell?

Now, granted, they’ve done a LOT to help her character develop and change.  But look at this outfit from next season.

Hey! She looks like fan favorite material! Now, surely somebody will find her interesting! Right?

Hey, Skye, Black Widow wants her costume back.

And, seriously, aren’t you a little short to be Scarlett Johansson?

Somebody is trying way too hard to make her look interesting without actually being interesting. And it’s not just the costume.

Look at this scene a moment, will you?

Nice dancing, huh?  Very John Wick.  One continuous shot. Not a stunt woman, the actress. Congratulations, the gun fu is strong with this one…

So what?  Seriously, what writer or exec is so in love with this character that she is such a strong focus of this show?

Gah. Rant over.

At the end of the day, you can see improvements.  It felt like somebody watched a DC show on CW and said “Wait? You mean we can use minor comic book characters as regulars? We can have stunt work? We can have superpowers? We can have nice things?” And then management replied “Okay, let’s not get too crazy, let’s just dip our toe in and see what happens.”

Even the plot — in that they had a plot — is “better.” To a degree.  But the only element of the SHIELD “civil war” (a term I’m sure is going to come up a few times in the next year on SHIELD) was the MacGuffin device. It made the Inhumans target something on a SHIELD boat. Which makes me wonder … Coulson has got helicarriers, and facilities, and money, and quinjets and why couldn’t this just be yet another left over toy by Nick Fury? We’ve already got so dang many already, surely, one more couldn’t make a difference.

But then, they would have had to segue better from Hydra to the Inhumans, as opposed to meandering through what amounted to a subplot for a while.

Season 2 is better, but it’s gone from “suck” to “mostly mediocre.” It has established a pattern of how the series will flow.  The midseason break will always have a major shift in the season — I say “shift,” not “change,” because that might get the impression we’re going somewhere.  There will be a new element introduced for the second half of the season that will make the threat look like it’s evolving. In the last six episodes, more or less, the real threat will show itself, at least to the audience, and we will, at long last, have a primary villain.

Which seems like a funny way to run a railroad. Especially when you realize that Buffy usually had the main bad guy thought out from nearly the first episode of each season, and you build up to that bad guy, with little reveals and hints along the way.  With AoS, it seems like things are thrown in at random, and instead of fitting together with that nice little Lego click, it’s like one of those puzzle pieces that kinda fits, and may fit with the image on the surrounding pieces, and then held in place with Scotch tape.

But we now have a season of Agents of SHIELD with Joss Whedon no longer working with or for Marvel.  Joss has never had his name on a single script, and I suspect that Jeph Loeb had been the major effective force on the show — Jeph Loeb of Heroes, and the man who wrote the Ultimate Marvel storyline in which Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were involved in twincest, and only Captain America seemed to have a problem with it.  Hopefully, Loeb will be so involved with Heroes: Reborn that he’ll forget about AoS, leaving the co-creators of Dr. Horrible (Joss’ brother and his wife) to fix the show.

Will I give Agents of SHIELD another go? Sure, as long as it doesn’t screw up my viewing other shows.

About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, nominated for Best Horror in the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, an attempt to take Dan Brown to the woodshed in his own medium -- soon to be republished by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and it's follow-up, "Codename: Winterborn." And "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set To Kill" are murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.
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8 Responses to Agents of SHIELD or Agents of “Meh”?

  1. You know why Hyde was compelling? Because Kyle is a professional who knows how to bring some humanity & soul & passion to a character. It’s ironic they haven’t grasped the rules of contrasts in this show. Coulson worked great because his first appearance was Iron Man, a movie focused on Tony Stark, a man of bombast and overblown… everything (and as a consequence, those around him tended to be more emoting, more passionate, etc). Then here comes Coulson, who is just cool and collected and kind of badass just doing his job. He’s a dot of blue in a sea of orange. Same in Thor (Thor is all about emotion) and Avengers (big people, big feelings). AoS kind of flipped the script because now we’re looking at an entire organization of Coulsons, so the entire cast of the show is cool and collected. Hyde ended up standing out because he was the passionate, bombastic character. The dot of orange in a sea of blue.

    And also because his role is a very simple, human one: He just wants to be a family man, and be with his loved ones. Almost anyone in the audience can understand and grasp that motivation so he becomes the best reason to watch. You can’t tell me you didn’t tear up a little when, at season’s close, he talks briefly about the best day ever.

    Not sure about the Lego, bit though. True the show’s plot isn’t as tight as Once Upon a Time (aka Lost 2.0 aka Lost DONE WELL) but AoS is still pretty clicked. But then, I don’t watch it while airing but binge on it on Netflix all at once so maybe some plot details were forgotten between the weeks?

    Like

    • Declan Finn says:

      True. MacLaclain does know what he’s doing. Everyone else … seems to be trying too hard — okay, by “everyone” I mean “mostly the writers.”

      You might be right about binge watching vs. weekly episodes, because that season felt all over the place.

      And notice — both of us managed to get through a long post and a long comment without ONCE mentioning Ward. Because, yeah, I’m still trying to figure out why he’s on the show. Perhaps because he occasionally has more personality than half the cast.

      Like

      • I think they want to set Ward up as some kind of nega-Coulson. But then it’s hard to take claims of him as a bad-ass or threat seriously when we’re talking about a world of superheroes.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Declan Finn says:

          True. Not to mention that Ward is just so …. annoying. I feel like he should be brooding on a soap opera.

          Like

        • Yeah, it’s one of those “acceptable breaks from reality” that fiction has to go with. While in reality a person who struggled through everything that Ward might have plenty of reason to be depressed or broken, nobody really wants to volunteer time with them. Heck Ward has far more chances and opportunities to redeem himself than any normal person could hope for. That he chooses not to is what makes his arc boring. (compared to say… Alpha from Dollhouse)

          Liked by 1 person

  2. “Then it ended with Samuel L. Jackson as the deus ex muthaf*&ka himself, Nick Fury.”

    I arrived at your site today for the very first time and being a Catholic Geek I was happy to be here.

    Then I saw the entry above and was, shall we say, kinda shocked that you would use the expression shown above.

    A little thought about what that term is really saying is in order I think. It’s horrendous to put it mildly.

    I’d like to think I’ll feel at home here and I haven’t “written you off” just yet (!) But I was disturbed that I saw that on my very first browse through your articles.

    Please advise!

    Like

    • Hi, Ron. Welcome to the site!

      The word you’re referring to was not just a casual exclamation, though I can see why you would think it might be. Declan was referring to Samuel Jackson, who is well-known for two faults: a notoriously foul mouth, and an inability to play any character other than Samuel Jackson. I’ve never heard nor read Declan using the full word you object to in any other context.

      Most of the members here at The Catholic Geeks are not entirely . . . pristine, shall we say. In my case, I am literally the son of a sailor; once, after an argument, my father objected to the words I was using, and I responded that he shouldn’t have taught them to me if he didn’t expect me to use them. Even so, I don’t believe that I’ve used any of those words in articles, as typing gives me plenty of time to go back and edit myself, and I don’t recall ever using Samuel Jackson’s favorite compound word even in anger. (Contrast that with a common blasphemy which once escaped my lips unbidden, shocking everyone who heard it, including myself.)

      The result of all of this is that I can’t absolutely promise that you’ll never find more mild, common terms used in an essay in the heat of the moment, but I do believe you have gained the wrong impression. However, if you find yourself too uncomfortable with that on a Catholic site, I’ll understand, and I promise I won’t hold it against you.

      Like

  3. John W. Otte says:

    I agree with you. Up until the events of “Winter Soldier,” this show could have disappeared and no one would have mourned it. But now, I think they have the chance to do something interesting, even if it is paving the way for the Inhumans movie in 2019.

    When I started watching the show, I was hoping for more movie tie-ins and a lot more superpowers. Hopefully they’re heading in that direction, but we’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

    Like

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