Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally premiered this week–I say finally for many reasons, not the least of which being that Joss Whedon is FINALLY back on TV. Second, of course, is that we’ve been hearing about this show coming out for quite some time now, and it’s no surprise that the pilot set an insanely high new standard for the viewing numbers of television premieres (though to be fair, the show does come equipped with multiple arsenals of built-in fan bases).
A show like “S.H.I.E.L.D.” can’t, and shouldn’t, premiere without expectations, critics, and insta-lovers. As always, I fall somewhere firmly in the middle of the pack, though I have to say that so far my positive thoughts are outweighing the negatives. Perhaps it’s not even fair to call them “negatives” at this point in the game, as we’ve only gotten one episode and there’s no way to know where the show is really going yet.
My biggest problem is that the premise of the show seems…cliche. There are heroes in the world, and everyone knows about them, and they all have to make decisions about revealing themselves or remaining hidden. Didn’t this already happen? Didn’t this already happen IN THIS FORMAT? Is this a show about superheroes at all? No–and maybe that’s where the difference lies. The show isn’t called “New York Post-Avengers”, it’s not the “Real Housewives of Stark Tower”, it’s “Agents of SHIELD”. This will be a show about HUMANITY and how it is affected by superheroes walking among us. So does that mean we’ve come full-circle on super heroes? After all, we’ve seen science fiction do this cake walk already: start out debating and imagining what could be possible, then find out whether or not it should be. That genre took fifty years to get deep and meta…maybe now it’s time for superheroes to do the same within mass media. Of course Whedon has done this before, shifting the focus from hero to villain and questioning the meaning of “right” and “wrong”, now he shifts the lens entirely from the Supers to the Humans and asks if there’s really any difference at all.
If it wasn’t already clear, I’m talking about 2008’s “Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”, which is still among my favorite things ever created. While the two “shows” are wildly different, they also have plenty in common, not the least of which is their quotability. “S.H.I.E.L.D.” had some elements that blended in to the superhero genre, but it is definitely going to be loved for its language. The dialogue at once makes the show self-aware of, (“someone really wanted our initials to spell shield”) and a parody of (“I think there’s a bulb out” and “I think it’s a little poop. With knives sticking out of it.”) the superhero genre, and I hope we get to see more of this blend as the series continues. I don’t know that Whedon could do it any other way.
Or better yet, let your British Wonder twins tell me instead. Yes. This thought pleases me.
My view of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is unfortunately that it didn’t meet my expectations. It wasn’t what I really expected. I’m cautiously optimistic, but I can’t shake the feeling that the show was missing something. Not sure what though, but I’ll name what bothered me.
First of all it annoyed me how much screen time the damsel in distress, quite literally saved from a burning building, got.
I’m sure you all saw this shot in the trailer. It appeals to teenage boys hoping to save a cute damsel in distress, and Whedon made sure to frame it so that just enough leg was there to make sure that “sex sells” angle was there. Then this still shot of him saving her became a clue and no opportunity was missed to plaster this image on the background monitors as other characters spoke. Which brings me to my second complaint.
The dialogue. No, no, no, put down your pitchforks. What I mean is that the writing sounded good. Most of the episodes charming moments came from dialogue. But oh sweet lord, the direction and pacing sucked. I was never on the edge of my seat. The dialogue was the shows only strength. I had to double-check that Whedon directed and sure enough, he does. What happened man? This is the first episode and I expected a bit more dazzle. Instead you gave me something akin to an episode six, where the characters meander aimlessly on some small issue. It tried to be big with a secret evil organization and an explosion in the beginning, but it never felt big. Maybe that’s a financial issue like the fact that the whole thing felt….
Cheap. The CGI was far from convincing, the camera angles did nothing to inspire, and the little action there was consisted of eight camera cuts to hide how poorly choreographed it all was. You even stole the ending to Back to the Future and somehow managed to make the flying car look cheaper than visual effects from thirty years ago. We all know The Avengers made more money than religion so why couldn’t you guys invest a few more dollars in the spin-off? Is it because it is an almost guaranteed success and you don’t have to try? Or was that premiere simply the pilot you pitched to get the show greenlit in the first place?
It may be hard to believe, but I didn’t hate the show. I think it has potential and I’m hoping the following episodes change my perspective. Right now I’m not a fan, but a casual onlooker. Come on Whedon, make me care about these characters.