Sunday, September 29, 2013


What a mouthful! At least we can be thankful ABC didn't follow their usual pattern of calling the show "ABC's Fill-in-the-Blank", or we'd be watching ABC's MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. In any event, I'll just be calling it SHIELD from now on.

I had the fortune of attending the SHIELD panel at Comic-Con back in July, where Marvel's Jeph Loeb introduced the cast and, much to the crowd's delight, screened the pilot. I was going to try and write something up based solely on that viewing, but as usual when something is screened at a convention, the acoustics in the room were awful and audience cheered at every little thing, making the whole show very difficult to hear -- so I decided to wait and watch the episode again on ABC first. Which is probably for the best, as even my razor-keen memory did not recall everything I'd seen back in July.

In general, I had the same opinion this time as I did initially: overall, I like the show. I can see it becoming a show I love, given proper treatment. But for now, "like" is about the best I can manage. I definitely appreciate that the show is not ashamed of its heritage. It adopts the trappings of SHIELD and of the Marvel Universe with no reservations, right down to the flying car. Beyond that, the nods to the movies were appreciated, from the mention of Extremis as seen in IRON MAN 3, to the appearance by Cobie Smulders, reprising her AVENGERS role as Maria Hill.

The dialogue is snappy, as one expects from Joss Whedon, though the plot for the pilot is a bit pedestrian. Based on the group's mission -- to save potential superhumans before they can fall into the wrong hands -- I could see this show devolving into a "freak of the week" formula, and on top of that, I see some unpleasant parallels between this series and HEROES -- a show I enjoyed initially, but which quickly became unbearable. I guess I need to have some faith in Marvel and the Whedons, though, to make sure that doesn't happen.

All story concerns aside, I have to admit that I have a couple issues with the casting as well. Clark Gregg is perfect as Phil Coulson, of course -- and I look forward to learning more about how he survived his death in THE AVENGERS. I really like Brett Dalton as Agent Ward, and Ming-Na Wen is intriguing as Melinda May, as well. Chloe Bennett's Skye is a bit too much of the prototypical quirky/spunky Whedon female, but hopefully she'll grow out of that pigeonhole soon. Besides that, though, I note that she falls into the latter-day STAR TREK trope of having at least one member of the "crew" who isn't part of their organization. On this show called AGENTS OF SHIELD, why can't everyone be... an Agent of SHIELD?

Any quibble I have with Skye, however, is miniscule compared with my feelings on Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge as Agents Fitz and Simmons (or, as they're just ever so preciously known, "FitzSimmons"). I don't think I'll be able to take too much of them. They're way too over-the-top quirky for me. It's possible they could grow on me, but from what I've seen so far, I seriously doubt that will be the case. Their performances and characterizations would need to be toned down considerably for me to warm up to them.

Chloe Bennett as Skye, Elizabeth Henstridge as Agent Simmons, Iain de Caestecker as Agent Fitz, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, Ming-Na Wen as Agent May, Brett Dalton as Agent Ward
And besides that, why is everyone on Coulson's team so young? Doesn't SHIELD have any seasoned agents for him to work with? I realize network television wants everybody to be young and sexy, but this is borderline ridiculous. We're watching the adventures of Coulson, a couple twenty-somethings, and three teenagers. I realize they're all somewhat older than that, but that's what it looks like, and it's kind of silly to buy this group as the special ops group they're supposed to represent.

Lastly on the casting/character front, I have to wonder why, with the exception of Maria Hill, no one in this series is based on a SHIELD agent from the comics. Back when casting calls for the pilot were first announced and names were shown, I assumed they were "code names" which would later be revaled as actual SHIELD agents. For example, Ward could easily have been Clay Quartermain instead. He basically is Clay in all but name. I could see May's role being filled by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, and so on. It seems odd to me that when the show's creators have access to an enormous catalogue of characters, they would make up their own instead. Perhaps they're saving the "real" SHIELD agents for that Nick Fury movie Marvel likes to mention occasionally, but in that case, there are a lot of "named" SHIELD agents out there besides the core cast, if that's what they're worried about. Though my personal opinion is, why not use a bunch of established agents for this series, then transition them to the silver screen? Seems like a good way to pre-establish a film's fan base and maybe get the cast in place for a little less cash, too.

At any rate, besides Hill, I hope perhaps we'll at least see Sharon Carter show up in the future. I believe it's confirmed that she's to be portrayed in CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 by Emily VanCamp, and VanCamp stars on another ABC show, REVENGE. I would expect in that case that we might see some crossover for her character. Perhaps other agents will follow from the movies. I can't help feeling Jeremy Renner is just one or two mediocre box offices away from pursuing TV work, after all.

Since I'm running long, I'll just wrap it up by complimenting the direction, cinematography, and music in this first episode. Joss Whedon is an accomplished television director, and it shows here. Even after the big screen spectacle of AVENGERS, Whedon is able to slide comfortably back into the television chair, and I'm impressed with the results. This looks like a TV show, and I mean that as the utmost compliment. I don't want my movies to look like TV, and I don't want my TV to look like movies. They're different, albeit similar, mediums and that should be reflected in how they're written and filmed.

And the music is terrific, too. Composer Bear McCreary is no stranger to genre TV, having provided scores for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and THE WALKING DEAD, among others. But my favorite McCreary work to date was for Fox's short-lived HUMAN TARGET, another comic-based series (which I really enjoyed as a sort of throwback to the adventure shows of my childhood, such as MACGYVER), and SHIELD's music has a very strong HUMAN TARGET vibe to it. Here's hoping for a score release when the season ends.

In the end, any show that features Phil Coulson driving a flying car is okay by me.
Final Opinion: I like it, and I'm on board to watch every week (as if there was ever a doubt). I just need some of the characters to become less irritating, and I need to see more of the real Marvel Universe involved. Toss in guest appearances by some of the lesser Marvel characters who are unlikely to receive their own movies or TV shows, and have this series react to and interact with the upcoming Marvel movies (why not use SHIELD to set up some backstory for CAPTAIN AMERICA 2, for example), and I'll be along for the ride until it ends.


  1. I can't help feeling Jeremy Renner is just one or two mediocre box offices away from pursuing TV work, after all.

    I'd amend the word "more" in between "two" and "mediocre". :)

    Also, keep in mind Renner got his start in TV. Which either means it'd be easy for him to slip back into that rhythm, or that he's convinced himself he's "graduated" and won't ever consider it.

  2. Huh, I actually didn't know Renner started in TV. I just Googled him and sure enough, he was all over the tube in the 90s and early 00s. Also, I learned that he's from Modesto, which is only about an hour's drive from where I live!