The battle for greatness deflates Marvel's 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D'
Published: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2013 22:09
Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” is perhaps the biggest new show this fall. Not only is it part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of the most popular movie franchises currently in existence, it is also Disney’s first attempt to transplant a film-based series to television. Furthermore, the show’s creator Joss Whedon, who directed the hugely successful “The Avengers,” has a substantial cult following from his previous projects like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dollhouse.”
Ever since the announcement of the show’s creation appeared, fans have been in uproar. Everyone from newly inducted Marvel devotees to old Joss Whedon admirers that are still bitter over ‘Firefly’s’ cancellation seemed to have different expectations for the show. When it was revealed that Clark Gregg, who played popular character Phil Coulson in the films, would be part of the main cast, the hubbub only increased as #coulsonlives began trending everywhere on the Internet.
So does the first episode “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” actually live up to its considerable expectations? In many ways, yes. It contains many facets of what has become the Joss Whedon standard: witty dialogue, self-referential humor and a group of well-rounded characters. Whedon seems to have learned from his previous experience with pilots as well; comparatively, this episode was better than the messy premieres of Angel, Dollhouse and maybe even Firefly. Most importantly, the pilot creates an interesting world and introduces plot points that will be important in later episodes, keeping the audience intrigued. In many ways, the series premiere of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” is everything fans wished for.
However, one can’t help but feel like something is missing from this episode. For all its good qualities, it seems like “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” still hasn’t quite figured out what sort of show it wants to be. The pilot reflects this confusion, as it spends a lot of time on the unwieldy superhero case of the week that seems more suited for the superheroes on a movie screen. Also off-putting is how careful the entire episode feels as it ploddingly introduces the background of the story puts the more interesting story arcs (such as how Coulson survived his death-by-demigod experience in “The Avengers”) on the backburner.
This would not be as much of a problem in any other show, but Joss Whedon has a well-earned reputation of being a bit of a narrative maverick. His previous premieres may have been rougher around the edges than this one, but they were more innovative and diverse than the painstakingly crafted pilot of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Despite an entertaining and well-paced plot, it seems the show is buckling under the weight of its own appeal, as too many people—from fans to the ABC executives—need this show to be successful.
Instead of attempting some sort of hyper-polished superhero/secret agent hybrid ill-suited for television to please everyone, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” should focus more on the close personal interactions that Whedon is famous for. The series needs to reflect the struggles of a human agency in a post-Avengers world, not attempt to become superhuman itself.