Friday, November 29, 2013

Looking to Asgard for more help: Second look at Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Since Agents of SHIELD tied into Thor: The Dark World last week it felt like the perfect time to go back and have a look how the small screen part of Marvel's Cinematic Universe is going on. However, since the Thor tie-in was not so much a Thor tie-in but a passing mention to London and then onto Asgardian stuff totally unrelated to The Dark World, plus I was in the depths of Doctor Who last week, I put it off for one more episode.

Now I clearly liked the pilot, but after that things went a little south. Then we got F.Z.Z.T. which was just amazing. Fitz contracting an alien disease was easily the best episode S.H.I.E.L.D. had ever produced, and no matter how long it runs for will always be up there. It was just good tele. It hadn't popped up out of nowhere either , as the two previous episodes had shown a bit of an improvement. But what about what followed?

Obviously they didn't live up to F.Z.Z.T.'s stellar heights but the momentum was at least kept going. The Hub mixed up the cast pairings a bit which allowed a fresh perspective at a lot of the characters, and took a good look inside the big world of S.H.I.E.L.D. Though I do wonder just how many people know that Coulson's alive, it seems quite a lot, and at this rate it can't be kept from the Avengers for long. Especially considering how S.H.I.E.L.D. centric Cap 2 is looking. The Well went all Asgardian. Then there was this week's Repairs which seemingly dropped the show back down to the levels of post-Pilot blues. Hopefully it was a one off because things were really starting to look up.

But what of the characters? So much of a TV show hangs on the main cast, and this seems something S.H.I.E.L.D. forgot for the first few episodes, concentrating more on the spectacle of super hero spies then anything, but they turned that around. Now we've got a good look at them and Ward is a waste of space. He came across in the pilot as a loner who will do anything to get the job done. Since then he's been a by-the-book bore who moans every time someone goes off mission.

Meanwhile May, the agent haunted by something she did in her past and didn't want to go back into the field, finds it hard to stay out of things when her team is in trouble and quickly becomes everything Ward was promised to be. Her taciturn demeanour and relationship with Coulson just makes it all the better.

And that's something that's really come to the fore in the good episodes, relationships, with Ward once again landing bottom of the pile, and Skye not too far behind. We're starting to see a bit more of a dynamic between the cast, relationships are being explored, and it's all starting to form a very watchable whole. Except Ward, who's relationship to everyone but Coulson is “I'm here to protect you but don't really respect you” while Coulson it's “Yes sir, though I'm not sure if I respect you.” Which could work as a rebellious character, only that's the opposite. In The Hub things improved a little as Fitz stands up to him and stays with him to complete the mission, but only by a fraction, and it did far more for Fitz's character than Ward. Then in The Well Brett Dalton proves its not all his fault as the Asgardian rage inducer actually gives him an excuse to act, and the plot with May might turn into something.

I think that's it, ABC/Marvel clearly expected Ward and Skye to be the driving force of the show alongside Coulson. Instead Fitz and Simmons quickly rose to the top the minute the spotlight swung their way. Despite they're incredible intellect levels both far more viewer entry level characters then Skye, who took to international espionage a bit too quickly for a liberal hacker. They at at least can't quite cope with the situations they find themselves in.

Skye's reveal as a traitor was awesome, yet the further reveal that she's only in to try and discover what happened to her parents is a bit tired, I hope to god that's a double bluff, or at the very least one goal that helps mask a second one. At least Coulson's keeping what he found out a secret.

This being a Whedon show, and it needing a show of change to re-engage viewers, I'm expecting a dramatic death to rear its head – also to explore Coulson's own death – and I really want it to be Ward, since his role just isn't working. Instead I think it's going to be May, just so Ward can step up. Also we all know Whedon likes to kill Pilots. #stilltoosoon
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