The Atlantic, always a good site to find thought-provoking stories and news, has an op-ed that should make fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) happy. Joe Reid writes in How Agents of SHIELD Got Good By Forgetting About Superheroes that, while the first season of AoS was a bit slow and the characters were flat, that the collapse of SHIELD portrayed in Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and the effects from that on AoS gave the show the kick in the Agents it needed.
I won’t reiterate his entire reasoning here, but I mostly agree. My wife, Geekling and I have watched AoS from the beginning and liked it. I admit to a bit of “fanboyism” in overlooking some of the flatness of the characters in my joy at seeing the return of Agent Coulson. (I, like many, was never happy that he got “Whedonned” in Avengers.) And, I was excited to see the tie-ins to the MCU’s movies of which there were some in the first half of the season. But, I do admit I wondered if it was just going to be a bunch of good guys chasing bad guys, grabbing artifacts, stopping super villains and what not. In other words, it felt a bit like a souped up cop show. (Almost Human, anyone?) There was an early plot line, “Centipede,” which also linked to the plot of Ironman 3, and that gave AoS a sort of “plot thread” running through the show. But, while it was full of action, effects, and Coulson’s deadpan humor, I agree the show hadn’t found its legs. I worried ABC would give up on it as weak ratings were reported.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
Then, The Winter Soldier hit theaters. We sat in the theater and watched Hydra finally come into the light and SHIELD get kneecapped. And, I thought, “What the hell does this mean for AoS?” By all accounts, the actors on the show were just as shocked at a super secret screening of Cap 2. In the short video below, Clark Gregg talks about how they were all shocked. The next day they were handed new secret scripts revealing the big turn the show was taking and Agent Ward’s betrayal:
Suddenly, AoS had new juice and it began to find its legs. The guest actors portraying both villains and allies add wonderful spice to the show. Bill Paxton was so good as a treacherous Hydra sleeper agent, the “Clairvoyant,” that I could not wait for him to get whacked. (His demise was hilarious.) And Patton Oswalt as, apparently at least three, Agents Koenig is great.
So, yes, I agree that AoS has finally found its spark, its mojo. New characters like Mack, Hunter and Bobbi Morse (“Mockingbird”) as well as villainous guest characters like Skye’s father, played creepily, and also dorkily, by Kyle MacLachlan, have added new energy to the show. Although, I fear to get too attached to some of the characters. The ABC/Disney/Marvel PR people pumped Lucy Lawless (Xena, Spartacus) up as a new addition playing another SHIELD agent… and killed her off in her first episode. This is a Joss Whedon show so we should know not get attached to everyone. (I’m still pissed about Wash in the movie, Serenity.) The changes in the original cast members and reveals of some of their pasts make the characters less flat. The actors have something to chew on now. The stories are better and so is the dialog.
I do have worries, though, moving forward:
- With so many actors, can the writers feed them all and make sure they have meaningful roles in the show’s stories?
- How do you redeem Ward? He killed dozens of SHIELD agents!
- Will middle of the road ratings do for a costly show? Those effects and the large cast cannot be cheap.
But, I am optimistic. AoS is on an upward trajectory. And, I almost anticipate the show’s winter hiatus this season because then we get the beginnings of SHIELD in Agent Carter!