Tomorrow night, the second half of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one kicks off. As a fan of Marvel comics in general and specifically of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), I really hope the show gets out of low gear and starts doing something with all of the potential it has. So far the show has been pretty flat and lifeless, slowly building to…well…nothing so far. We’ve had glimpses at possible things, but nothing has yet happened to really push this show into gear.
This isn’t just a problem I have with the show. So many folks have complained that Clark Gregg, aka Agent Coulson, aka the primary mystery of the show, has come out and said that people who have dropped the show are “losers”. He chose his words poorly, but what he’s saying is that the show is going somewhere. The problem is, so far it’s done very, very little. It’s like a plane taxiing around the runway, and we’re all waiting for takeoff. Twelve episodes is a hell of a long time to wait for any sort of payoff.
However we know we will be getting some payoff. Specifically, we know that Mike Peterson on the show (J. August Richards) is becoming Dethlok! Ok, cool, we have a Marvel character here, maybe not super recognizable, but hey, it’s something. Now the only question is, will they spend ten episodes hemming and hawing before they get to him actually BEING Dethlok? We also know we have Sif and Lorelei appearing. Cool! Or it might be cool, if it doesn’t boil down to Fitz or Simmons or both giving some technobabble explanation of why Asgardian magic isn’t magic.
The point is, the show isn’t doing so hot when it comes to pleasing the actual people it needs to please: the fans. I know they will be happy pulling in the casual viewers, but that’s a recipe for a two season run at best. If you want to get to five to seven season territory, or more, you have to build the fan base. With this show, you have one! But when you slow burn your way to seemingly nothing, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot.
The major problem with the show is it doesn’t feel like it’s part of the Marvel Universe. I get that the MCU is in its infancy…you can’t expect spandex-wearing superheroes everywhere. But the show really should have been getting its ass in gear to at least give us something. We’re getting Dethlok…woo…what about any of the million other C and D list heroes out there? We’ve gotten a few villains sort of showing up, but why aren’t we seeing one or two full scale super villains? They don’t have to be Avengers class threats – you didn’t need to make Blizzard into a teenager, for example, and could have had the S.H.I.E.L.D. team take them down. Why not show more of these facilities where all the crazy tech and such is kept? Why not have Ward or May suit up in MANDROID armor? That’d be cool. You could make Ward into Guardsman or Stingray. Heck, make May into Mockingbird. It’s not like you’re going to be using Bobbi Morse any time soon, and May already is basically doing the same role. And then there’s Skye…
We know now that Skye has some kind of powers. We know that Skye is special. We’re getting the standard Whedon “magic girl” package going here…which I hate to say it, but not only is this becoming so very old and tired, but it’s actually becoming misogynistic in the way that Joss has to have magic girls…they can’t just be awesome on their own right, they can’t have come into their powers through their own efforts (like Tony Stark, the Hulk or even Captain America), they have to have been born special.
But in any case, we know she’s something…but what? I get wanting to have riddles, but come on, folks. You already have the Coulson mystery, which is seriously the only mystery anyone watching the show to start with cared about. You’ve got the Centipede mystery (it’s probably Hydra…I mean, seriously, it’s probably just Hydra). You’ve got the Clairvoyant mystery. And now you have the Skye mystery. Well fuck, guys, that’s a wee bit too much there. The plot lines start tangling way too damn much, and you know that one or more of these “big important mysteries” is going to have to turn out to be ridiculously stupidly solved because they can’t possibly deliver on all of them. The writers have clearly bitten off WAY too much to chew in one season. They could have had the Coulson mystery be the central bit, with standard “emergencies” of the week and the show would be great right now. Save Centipede and Skye and the Clairvoyant and everything else until season two, or do the Coulson thing for the first half, have a big reveal, then have Skye’s stuff take up the rest of the season. But no, you’ve tried to run it all together, and like mixing in too many colors of paint, you’re getting nothing but mud.
And this too contributes to not feeling like the show is in the Marvel Universe. There’s way too much of this mystery bullshit. If you want Centipede to be a real thing, then come out with it. Set them up, show them off, make them the new “not-Hydra”, “not-AIM” you’re pushing for the show. Have uniforms, come up with compelling villains, and make them the bad guy. Stop fucking around with “are they bad or aren’t they?” shit. This is comic books – just as I was saying above we need heroes, we also need villains. Clear cut, defined villains. Reveal the fucking Clairvoyant, and either make it a known Marvel character or make it something new, but stop futzing with it while your audience continues to dwindle from “I-don’t-give-a-shit-itis”. This is writing 101 here.
Also, I’d be ok with the show trying to find its own footing if it was a standalone project that had no framework to lean on. But that isn’t the case here. This show has some of the strongest, most well structured framework to use. It should have been well planned out, with story beats that kept you coming back episode after episode. It should not have stumbled out of the gate because it should have already been half-way to orbit based on the supporting media structure. Instead this feels like a show that has no fucking clue what it wants to be. Is it Marvel CSI? Is it Avengers-lite? Is it…fuck, it doesn’t KNOW what else it could be…
So to Mr. Gregg, who I enjoy so much – I have not given up on this show. I know it can be good. I know it can beat the pants off Arrow or any other superhero show. But you have to deliver. Just because I know you’re capable and you know your capable doesn’t mean you actually DO anything. Get the show out of low gear, get a plot line running that MEANS something, and get moving.