Agents of Shield premiering on ABC is a massive step for branded entertainment. It’s the first time that a successful comic book franchise has taken their exploits to the small screen, kept continuity, and had prominent ‘A-list’ movie stars guest star. It’s a literal miracle that this show has made it to production, let alone be released, and has been proven to be a massive success with over sixteen million viewers on the night it premiered.
Unfortunately, the show isn’t very strong. It’s not terrible. It’s not wonderful. Marvel’s Agents of Shield is just not everything that we’ve been promised. However, you can’t judge a series based on the pilot. Lord knows if that was the criteria ‘The Seinfeld Chronicles’ would never have gone on to become the world famous money making machine known as ‘Seinfeld’. Agents of Shield just feels flat. On almost every level. It doesn’t have the wide open narrative vistas that the Marvel movies have because, obviously, they can’t afford it. Further more, due to the fact that all of these agents are newly created characters envisioned specifically for this television show, there’s no real curiosity to see your favorite hero adapted into live action. It’s just a bunch of poorly defined, vaguely good looking, twenty-somethings running around in suit jackets and Hollister jeans.
The biggest problem with Agents of Shield is that it doesn’t utilize any of the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe iconography to do the heavy lifting. Sure, there’s a guy that has the Extremis serum, and they show clips of the Avengers, and the characters talk about That-Shit-That-Happened-In-New-York but that’s not enough because the characters don’t LOOK like they exist in the MCU. They look like they exist in a Forever 21 ad. The twenty seconds that Maria Hill was on screen wearing her shield standard blue jumpsuit I instantly sat up and took notice. And not even really for Maria Hill. It was for the jump suit. It’s something utilitarian that grounds the characters in a world that is both functional and fantastic. That’s what Agents of Shield is bending over backwards to accomplish when the solution to the problems is right in front of them. When the agents are chilling at the base PUT THEM IN THE JUMPSUITS. No one cares about the knitted wool coat that you picked up for the affordable price of 89.99. We want Shield.
Furthermore, the ‘mystery’ surrounding Agent Coulon’s demise feels really black and white. They’re building towards the reveal that he’s not actually Agent Coulson but a life model decoy. A robot, constructed with Coulson’s memories who doesn’t know he’s a robot. The sequence where they establish the ‘mystery’ was so blatantly screaming out HE’S A LMD that I rolled my eyes. Now this is either one of two things. 1) He is a LMD which is really cool in theory but they’ve seeded it so blatantly that anyone who’s read a comic over the past 50 years will see that twist coming a mile away or 2) they’re using the audiences knowledge of LMDs as a red herring for some other plot device or character development. Either of this things feel really forced and not finessed at all.
The characters in Agents of Shield are almost as wooden as the narrative structure. Again, it’s only the pilot so maybe that will change as the show progresses but none of the characters that are presented in the first hour of the show are at all engaging, save for the Not-James Bond character. But that probably has more to do with my avuncular feelings towards James Bond than the strength of the writing. As proof of how poorly the show was executed, I could not tell you one character’s name other than the scientist duo of Fitz and Simmons, because there was a joke made at their names expense. Not-James Bond? Super Cute Hobo Van Hacker? Older Asian Woman? Nothing. I got Nothing.
Agents of Shield, for all its flaws, is a massive step in a really cool direction. The potential of having Iron Fist or Solo or Silver Sable show up on Agents of Shield and then eventually incorporated into the tapestry of the MCU is breathtaking. Which is why I’ll continue to watch a few more episodes. Here’s hoping that the quality of the show improves.