It’s no secret that I am a fan of all things Whedon and Marvel, nor is it a secret that when I saw the pilot ep for S.H.I.E.L.D. at San Diego Comic Con 2013 I may have squee’d like a crazy puppy (ask my brother). But like others, I drifted over the next few episodes after the premiere last fall. I mean… I was still in for the season, but I didn’t feel the energy that I felt with the pilot.
I follow a lot of twitter and facebook pages that have done nothing but complain about the show. Which, honestly, I find annoying; they seem to have given it an episode or two and then bailed. Well, I loved the pilot (see above- we know this) but I thought the second and third episodes were weak (I won’t even get into how the temple shown in episode two was Mayan and not Incan as claimed) but I expect them to be- this is where a show has to find its feet. I expect that until things are sorted around episode four or so, a show will not deliver as we- the audience- think it should. And because I expect that I watch for the pleasure of watching a new show and not judging it. I don’t think a lot of people understand how to do this. It honestly seems like most people believe that every episode has to meet some exacting standards or the show is a complete waste of their time and they give up and complain. That’s fine for them, but I’d rather give something a chance. I mean, seriously- if I was going to give up onAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I would have done it 10 minutes into that second episode where the temples were laughably wrong. (I did message my brother right away and laugh with him and my mother, though)
So I have stuck by the show and still love it. There is no S.H.I.E.L.D. comic for things to be based on, not really. Per my sources (also known as the big brother with the insanely large comic collection), there is no direct comic reference material; there have been comic runs that look at S.H.I.E.L.D., but they mostly focus on Nick Fury or a small group (similar to the group utilized within the show) or on Coulson. The latter books have only been recent following the characters popularity in the films. Thus, the crew behind AoS have a lot of freedom to create their own show, their own crew, within the world created in the film series.
I think that’s something I like- they can use or reference things that fans know but its an original take which allows for the development of fans who aren’t comic book savvy.
Like I said earlier, I accept that the episodes immediately following the pilot were not as strong; and I initially felt very good about the characters and cast- I have admitted to being on the edge of my seat during the pilot- but after further thought, I was unsure of some of the characters/cast. Coulson is obviously amazing- full of charm and wit and going to get the job done. Melinda May, blew me away when she first showed up to drive the Bus- not the same woman we initially met. Together they are clearly the parents of the crew- not just the more experienced members of the team but when they argue, the “kids” don’t know who to follow. Fitz-Simmons were adorable and bungling and brilliant- I know science geeks like them.
The loose threads for me were Skye and Agent Ward. Why? Skye didn’t fit; I know hackers and activists, there was something off about her in comparison (and even when we find out what that is, I still couldn’t connect to her). I’m hoping in the next arc, with a better understanding of the character, that connection will finally happen. And Agent Ward… well he’s the muscle, right? Wait, no, that’s May. Then he’s the operations brains. Nope, that’s Coulson. He’s the brains? No, that would be Fitz-Simmons. So… he’s the pretty face? Seriously? That’s Ward’s job? Apparently so because every other task that could be assigned as his role on the team is done by someone else. Additionally, all of the initial posts I saw commented on Ward’s character being the worst- he was flat, or there was no point (which I kind of also alluded to) to him. Here’s the thing though- I just marathoned the entire series because I was utterly bored by the lack of new shows during the Olympics… during my marathon of episodes (back to back, no commercials) I dug into the series, catching the little things I missed the first time… I flippin’ love Ward!
He may be the pretty face, but he’s got real world brains (which counterbalances Fitz-Simmons and their ability to only see the science), and he is the muscle to spread that duty around and protect more of the team when out in the field. He doesn’t have the responsibilities that Coulson has and thus has a different view on the operations of the team and therefore he is, truthfully, the counterbalance to every other character. Even Skye- as her Supervising Officer he has the job of teaching her the ways of the force, er um… S.H.I.E.L.D., while getting her to use her skills to the best of her ability.
I’m not going to deny the pretty face aspect of his job though… did you see the towel scene? Holy hell. Praise Joss. Incidentally, the actor who portrays Ward, Brett Dalton, has an MFA- I would love to sit down and talk to him about that (I have an MA and am *this close* to my doctorate, so I’m always interested in individuals who pursue further education in any field).
Anyways, during my marathon I realized what Ward’s job is- which I’ve already shared, the counterbalance to everyone else- and I saw the nuances of the performance by Dalton that I had initially missed as I was watching for the overarching episode line. A quirk of the eyebrow here, change in the body language there, little things but each pure communication.
I warned in a twitter post not too long ago that if I wrote this post it might end up at least 80% about Brett Dalton. I am going to try to make it less than that. Probably.
In an attempt to move away from the previous topic, let’s discuss The Bus. I want one. Hello, Bill Paxton’s “Agent Garrett” landed a small plane on top of The Bus. While in flight. That’s cool. Add in how much stuff is actually on The Bus (including a private office for Coulson, lab for Fitz-Simmons, a garage, lounge, sleeping quarters, and an interrogation room) and you could fit probably 4 of my apt (which is pretty good sized, btw) in it. Air Force One isn’t anywhere near as cool as The Bus.
Also, the guest stars on AoS are pretty cool. The previously mentioned Paxton awakened my great love for him and hopes that the character will return. A nice balance of Coulson and Ward. Saffron Burrows as “Agent Hand” has been a delightful, rule following, not quite nemesis to the team. Peter MacNicol as an Asgardian… wait, what? Who cares, it was Peter MacNicol being awesome. The traditional Marvel project appearance of Stan Lee was a delight! Can’t forget
to mention delightful appearances by Samuel L. Jackson as “Nick Fury” (though he should’ve let Coulson have the fishtank…), Cobie Smulders as “Agent Hill”, and Whedon-alum Ron Glass as “Dr Streiten”. And while discussing Whedon-alums, how about the awesome reoccurring role of “Mike Peterson”/ “Deathlok” by J. August Richards? Damn, it is good to have him back on my TV regularly. (I’m keeping myself spoiler-free about Deathlok so I can enjoy the character arc) Really enjoying seeing Richards bring new levels to the character every episode he appears in.
Now back from hiatus, AoS appears to be running a string of excellent episodes. The online chatter following last week’s “T.A.H.I.T.I.” was very positive. Hopefully, those naysayers will give the show another view. I’m quite looking forward to seeing the rest of the arc with “The Clairvoyant”- who the hell is this?? And anxiously awaiting news on a season 2. Fingers crossed.