Monday, October 14, 2013

Hurdles of S.H.I.E.L.D.

So, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (AoS) has had three episodes. I'm liking it, even if it's the reason I'm dreading Tuesdays now. AoS has a lot of hurdles to overcome. It's the bastard  child of a popular king. It exists to make a bit more revenue and add value to the Marvel film franchise. When Thor 2 and Captain America 2 come out, you sure as heck better bet AoS is gonna spend an episode for each one reminding the audience that THIS THING MIGHT BE ADDRESSED BY THOR/CAPTAIN AMERICA IN SOME OTHER NARRATIVE. PERHAPS ONE HAPPENING AT THE NEARBY THEATER ON NOVEMBER 8/APRIL 4.

I'm cool with that, but it's a one-way street; AoS can't have Dr Doom or Power Man or Iron Man because "Fox Studios," "you never know," and "LOL, nope!" The Fury cameo from the second week was nice, but Fury, like Hill, doesn't have an arc or history; he's untethered. If AoS is going to plug into the Marve movie universe or channel the power of the Marvel Comics Universe, it'll have to receive a box of good Marvel stuff, no matter how small. That risks making AoS look tiny next to superheroes/villains but it's got upsides: 1) the point is superheroes 2) it might distract from the premise.

Y'see, S.H.I.E.L.D. is jerks that lie and manipulate the public "for its own good." Fucking Ward kills folks and operates in France from scene fucking one. They've got supercool tech and broad authority, which should translate into the uncomplicated exertion of will that literally-literally defines "cool," but it just comes across as condescending, unaccountable, paternalistic government at its worst.

Coulson (perhaps ironically) has real heart that lets him get past the cool exterior of S.H.I.E.L.D. and into the part where he does the right thing in contravention to bureaucratic procedures. Look, I hate it when an experienced hero does the soft, emotional thing instead of the rational thing that their training and experience tells them. When Coulson basically scores a crit because he apparently has a weapon proficiency with gravity, I'm down. However, a monolithic, omniscient organization like S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't a protagonist you root for because it's implied that the challenge of the heroes is to succeed so their boss doesn't have to alter the annual budget for rolling in overwhelming force.

And S.H.I.E.L.D. should have overwhelming force on tap. I want to remind you they have a helicarrier. A helicarrier. With nukes. Just lyin' around, mother fuckers. Waiting for sky vortexes. Six assholes on a plane doesn't exactly scream "last line of defense" in that context. I know no one wants to be Torchwood, what with their immortal leader you recognize from that other thing, square jawed quasi-asshole, two-man science department, and the character who gives an outsider's point of view as well as being the second likable person on the cast, but Torchwood cleared hurdles that AoS is hitting throat-first.

Sure, only two scientists to protect all of Britain from weird space shit, but it's only twice the effort you need to make good coffee.

It's strange that a team that hasn't become likable yet isn't being written in contrast to their monolithic, condescending, unaccountable, paternalistic, etc. organization. It's strange that interfacing with a few recurring extras to show how they really are more talented than standard S.H.I.E.L.D. members would put them right over the kind of stuff that they're currently tripping over.

I'm not here to talk about what I think AOS should do, but AOS should focus on character instead of a transparent international crew of mystery in faux shitty action sequences. Make these guys handle the non-routine stuff; the things that even S.H.I.E.L.D. proper with its seventy years or so of history doesn't know how to handle.

AOS won't do that. It's trying it's best to be a movie on a network TV budget with an ROI like Genius Playboy Billionaire Philanthropist 3. The best it'll be able to do after Skye's strawman "people need to know" storyline is to introduce someone named Baron Something-German, buy a practical mini of the goddamned plane, and start spending their budget on some lightning hands.

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