Comics / Cult Favorite

Agents of SHIELD Mid-season Review

By Philip Schweier
Nov 17, 2013 - 19:11

Coulson (center) and his agents: Skye, Simmons, Fitz, May and Ward
I had high hopes for Joss Whedon’s Agents of SHIELD series, but I regret to say I’m very close to abandoning the series altogether. It has committed the cardinal of a Joss Whedon program: it’s dull.

I don’t blame Joss, so much as I blame show runners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. I expected Joss Whedon to not be particularly hands-on, but I still expected a show with all the colorful Joss Whedon touches. Clearly, I was wrong.

Let’s examine the Nov. 12 episode, “The Hub.” Agent Coulson and his team arrive at SHIELD’s central location, known as the Hub, where a near-legendary Level 8 agent hands them a two-man assignment. It requires someone with the expertise to deactivate a high-tech weapon. So Field Agent Ward (Brett Dalton) is partnered with Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), who is normally confined to the engineering lab. Though they are both bonafide agents, their skill sets are considerably different.

Chloe Bennet plays Skye
As Ward and Fitz head off on their assignment, new recruit/former hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet) is put out by the fact that no one will share information with her. Well, let’s face it, kid: you’ve given your team reason to doubt your intentions, and you’re not even a full-fledged SHIELD agent yet, so you don’t have the security clearance.

Despite everyone telling her to “trust the system,” she is compelled to hack into the computer servers in search of mission details. I predicted this would result in one of two scenarios:

1. She would end up compromising the mission, whereas if she’d left well enough alone, she wouldn’t be directly responsible for endangering the lives of her teammates.

2. She would learn some hidden component to the mission ops, the revelation of which would turn her into a short-term saviour.

And I was right. I won’t spoil it for those that haven’t watched this episode.

Skye’s whole reason for joining SHIELD is the hope of learning about the parents she never knew. She’s passionate about that, enough so to convince Coulson to help. But not enough to interest the audience. I fail to understand her motivation in learning about her parents; it’s not as if it will change her current situation. Yet she HAS to know.

It reminds me of a teenager (usually female) who is way too interested in the petty details of other people’s lives. If such a quest for knowledge could be applied academically, it would lead to a four-year scholarship to the university of her choice. Instead it leads to juvenile gossip.

Fitz and Simmons, and their on again/off again sexual tension
Two other characters I fail to grasp is the science and tech team, Fitz and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). Clearly they have a long-standing partnership bordering on romance. But I fail to understand how it hasn’t crossed that line yet, when the intimacy level has endured for so long.

Rounding out the team are Ward, the resident ass-kicker and Melinda May (Ming-na Wen), who is clearly capable of kicking just as much ass. Ward’s action heroics usually take a back seat to Coulson’s management skills. May is the strong, silent type, and perhaps the show’s most interesting character. But she has yet to get her chance to shine; instead she pilots the team’s jet. She’s had a few action sequences, but has usually come in behind Ward.

Agent Melinda May in one her infrequent action scenes
Like many people with busy schedules, I sometimes have to rely on the DVR or go online to watch my favorite programs. Agents of SHIELD has dropped to the bottom of the list. Arrow has evolved into a much more enjoyable comic book TV show. It doesn’t come with the baggage of Whedonesque expectations, but it is steeped in the lore of the DC Universe, presented in a very natural manner, rather than a nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

Agents of SHIELD also must live up to its ties to the Marvel Movie Universe. In addition to blurry background footage of the Avengers, the show has also featured Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in one episode and a Chitauri helmet as the McGuffin in another. I would hate to see Agents of SHIELD resort to further name-dropping in the interest of boosting its ratings.

My prescription for the show is to enlist Whedon collaborators Tim Minear, Ben Edlund and Jane Espenson. They were in tune with Joss Whedon on other projects such as  Buddy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.

But that raises a question: How critical is a Whedon to a Joss Whedon show? Perhaps the true credit lies with someone else.

Last Updated: Jun 26, 2018 - 9:28

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