I've been hearing that the reception for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn't been as great as when it was premiered at the San Diego Comic Con back in July, but since its regular run on ABC started in September, I haven't had the chance to actually see for myself. There have been ten episodes aired so far, so I thought I'd be set until the series comes back from break on January 7, 2014. Today I decided to give it a chance despite all the stuff I've been hearing. Here's what I found out:
This show is boring as shit.
Ok, before you go off on me, I am a long time comic book reader who grew up on the Marvel books. I've watched all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and most of the ones made by other studios (yes, even the Lundgren Punisher and Man-Thing) and thought that Avengers was the most entertaining movie that I've ever seen. I also love all things Joss Whedon (from this point on referred to as He Who is Mighty) and have missed having a Whedon show to tune into since Dollhouse went off the air.
Considering those things, I should have been over the moon for this show. The regular cast of the show looks great on paper and includes returning fan favorite, Clark Gregg, as Agent Phil Coulson and Ming-Na Wen (of Mulan) as Melinda May. Add to that the guest cast that Whedon assembled for the pilot (including Ron Glass of Firefly, J. August Richards of Angel, and Cobie Smulders from Avengers).
|Above, the cast of the show (from left): Henstridge, De Caestecker, Wen, Gregg, Dalton, Bennet|
It sounds like a home run, but it's really not.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!
Here's the pitch: in the wake of the Chitauri invasion of New York city, the human population of Earth is coming to terms with the fact that there are super-beings living among them. Some suspect that there is an organization trying to cover up what is happening. Skye (Chloe Bennet), a member of the hacktivist group, "The Rising Tide," is one of the people fighting to discover the truth.
She witnesses Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) rescue a woman from the top floor of a burning building and jump to safety from the top floor. She tries to convince Mike that he should watch out for any men in black who come knocking.
Meanwhile, Coulson (Gregg) is at S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) headquarters assembling a team to go after The Rising Tide (I feel silly saying that). The new team includes tech-geek Agents Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), pilot Melinda May (Wen), and wetwork guy Grant Ward (Brett Dalton). After the requisite intros, they get in their mobile command center (Yo, Joe!) and fly off to track down the bad guy.
Too me, the whole thing feels way too convoluted to me. They seem to be squeezing in a lot of exposition, and the pace suffers for it. In the first 40 minutes or so of the series, the writers need to acknowledge the fact that Coulson is alive (he was shot in the chest and killed by Loki in The Avengers), establish that this takes place after the attack on New York, that news about the invasion and about the activities in New Mexico we saw in Thor are leaking out, and that an altered form of the Extremis drug introduced in Iron Man 3 is being tested on unwitting people. All this while still taking the time to introduce their main cast and tell the story of this down on his luck factory worker who got caught up in the intrigue.
|"Where are the Barbies, Dad?"|
As you can imagine, that's a lot of work for a pilot episode, and it doesn't really work out well. As it stands, there's really no tension at all in the story. Richards' performance is nice, but you never really get to feel for the guy because there's so much time spent on the other threads.
I'd liked to have seen this story later in the series, maybe the second or third episode, where we could have concentrated more on the character and the conspiracy. It brings to mind how the pilot of The X-Files or Fringe, or even the newer Almost Human, worked so well for me. There are only two or three character introductions to make and then a case for them to focus on. If they'd only introduced May, Ward, and Coulson in this one it might have worked.
As it was, the whole thing felt like it was two people talking over coffee for all the suspense they conveyed.
|"Dude, I thought you died, man!"|
|Gregg with Cobie Smulders on set|
I also like Ming-Na Wen, but that's mostly because I've had a crush on her since she was on ER, almost twenty years ago! Seriously, the lady is almost fifty and she still looks as hot as ever, kicking even more butt than when she played Chun-Li in the Street Fighter movie (Jean Claude Van Damme!). She's also a great actress. She totally made me hate her in Stargate Universe.
If I continue watching this series it'll mostly be because of Agent May, and I'm told she plays a bigger part in the the other episodes ahead, so crossing my fingers. Not really so keen on the rest of the guys here, and Richards (the other actor who stands out in the pilot) doesn't seem to be a regular.
I think that Marvel has an idea for this series and there is a path that they want to follow; things that they need to set up so that other projects can happen down the road. We know that they've announced the Marvel Knights/Heroes for Hire (whatever the street level Marvel Universe characters are called these days) Netflix shows, so I imagine that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will act as kind of a lead in to that. I'm hoping that we see some of the other non-powered enemies pop-up, too, or organizations like A.I.M. or The Hand. Would be nice if each season focuses on an arc involving them.
Then again, this is the opinion of a nerd who is admittedly several months behind on this show and has only seen the first episode. People have said the last episodes before the mid-season hiatus were better, so I'll keep slogging through this back log.
On the other hand, they also said it was still boring.
Maybe I'll just watch The Legend of Korra season two.