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Here's What We Like & Hate About Agents Of SHIELD.

 Here's what we like and hate about Agents of SHIELD.
By: MattInRC

The Verdict: Three weeks in, and our show's sporting too many cracks in their armor.

There's a lot to love about Marvel Studios right now: one could call them the (Mad) titan of promotion, or the Green Rage Monster in the room. All borrowing of Marvel properties aside, we can't help but be consistently impressed with how this studio has promoted itself and keeps the buzz going week after week. So imagine our surprise when the first episode of their new television series Agents of SHIELD debuted three weeks ago; our verdict was 'cautiously optimistic,' happy to see it on the air but worried about casting and rumors of terrible upcoming scripts. When ABC announced this week that they were ordering a full season, we decided to weigh in on what's been working so far and what needs improvement. Sadly, our attitude towards the series has become decidedly worse.

What Works
From plenty of Marvel comic references - their plane's call-sign is '616,' tipping the hat to the current comic universe while giving various nods to Avengers and Iron Man 3 - to the return of Agent Phil Coulson as the team's leader, there's a lot to like so far. If you're new to the Marvel universe, some of the inside jokes will feel just that, but it's nice to see so many of them appearing in each episode. Speaking of Coulson, there's a clear understanding that his death in Avengers was not imagined, and that perhaps he's a Life Model Decoy (an android), another Marvel Comics reference. There's been cameos and after-credits epilogues that are fun to stick around for, and we hope these continue. Finally, we also like most of the production value, including the nice Extremis CGI in the pilot and the Graviton device from the third episode. We did say 'most of the production,' so look for our concerns about other aspects later in this article.

What Needs Help
These are easily correctable items that will probably get worked out as producers sit down to look at tape in preparation for future shootings. There's some dialogue issues with Fitz and Simmons - mostly in the fact that we can't understand the actors - as well as some concern about the stunts, which look cheap and not at all interesting. Again, these small hiccups will hopefully get cleared up before too long, as Marvel and ABC continue to improve their product.

What Doesn't Work At All
Sadly, the series has a lot of gaping holes, most of which might not have an immediate solution. Here are just a few:

  • Missed and blown opportunities for great storytelling - The pilot had a pretty appealing idea: the downturn in the economy has forced people not endowed with super powers or a bullion-dollar bank account to become desperate, seeking radical and often dangerous experiments which tend to backfire. The idea of superpowers as a new arms race with a shadowy international governance running SHIELD is infinitely appealing, and we suppose that this could be revisited again in future episodes. But this illustrates how Marvel didn't quite consider the possibilities for an elegant arc, which could have been an ongoing plot line for Coulson to deal with.

  • Lack of appealing actors - Several of the cast, including Chloe Bennet, Grant Ward, and Ming-Na Wen, are just not settling in. None of them are delivering their lines with any excitement, with Wen trying to look cool but getting nothing for her efforts. For Bennett, she seems more like a powderpuff than someone living out of her van, with her perfect makeup giving up a supposedly rugged background. In fact, Coulson actor Clark Gregg seems like the only competent actor here, able to turn on the charm one minute, then bust out some badass in the next frame. The only way to correct this is to either replace these actors or give us better characters, neither of which seems like an early possibility. The idea propagated by Battlestar Galatica was that no character or actor was protected, which meant anyone could die at any time. This generated tremendous excitement in every episode and a jaw-dropping moment handled by that excellent cast. Sadly, there's no one of the pedigree of an Edward James Olmos or Mary McDonnell in SHIELD and it shows. Ugh.

  • Poorly-devised story arcs - We're also really concerned with some of the long-term storylines which have been established here. In short, they haven't given us a lot of exciting things to be worried about as the season unfolds. A mole inside SHIELD? Nope. A massive attack against SHIELD while Skye decides her loyalties? Not really on the horizon, although we're sure Bennett hasn't the chops to sell what will be a Dear John to her former hacker friends. Moreover, what happens after Coulson wakes up and realizes he's a robot? These storylines can only survive for so long before they begin to grow mold, but the show's procedural 'alien of the week' format is also going to get stale unless the writers introduce something more compelling and tie these in to future Marvel movies. If you're a fan of Babylon 5 or the current terrific Arrow, you'll know how each of these introduced engrossing arcs that took weeks or even seasons (in B5's case) to unravel. Imagine an arc that brought in actors from the upcoming Thor: The Dark World to mingle with the SHIELD cast on a separate but connected adventure. How cool would that be?

Admittedly, we're only three episodes into this, but we want Agents of SHIELD to be better, to redefine the standards for television as it has with its films and incredible cross-promotional prowess. We see tremendous potential here, with stories that could weave in and out of the slate of films being released through 2016, while delivering powerful standalone episodes and thought-provoking arcs to keep fans happy when a film is not on the immediate horizon. But the clock is ticking: the series has experienced a roller-coaster in the ratings (1st, 3rd, 2nd in three weeks), with each week realizing fewer and fewer viewers (11.9 million, 8.7, 7.9 respectively). SHIELD is still seeking a stable audience, something which can only be achieved with a proper balance of intelligent storytelling and the fun factor of a team accountable to no one. Perhaps with a green light to complete Season 1, the creative team will now start taking more chances, and we'll see more superheros from Avengers showing up to help fight crime - or grab a shawarma. It will need to do something soon, before ABC changes its mind or moves it to another night. Right now, the results are less than promising.

Our thanks to for the Neilsen numbers.

Discuss this article with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


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