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

The Flash CW

This was a big week for the small-screen spandex set. Three separate comic book series (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, The Flash, Arrow) wrapped for a long winter hiatus, and each mid-season finale dropped a bombshell with mass quantities of comic book significance. As well they should. TV superheroes shouldn’t be relegated to the small-fry stuff that characterized Agents in its early episodes (drawing on weighty comic lore like stuff left over from Iron Man 3, stuff left over from The Avengers and a little-known, little-cared for mutant named Scorch). Bigger is better, and comic staples like the Inhumans, The Reverse Flash and the Lazarus Pits are size XXXXXXL. But long are the days when you could make whatever Smallvilles or Blade: The Series and not worry about the larger ramifications. None of what we saw this week exists in a vacuum; even the CW’s output exists in the context of DC having two separate live-action expanded universes coexisting at the same time. So let’s examine how this week’s winter finales might effect the superhero films of tomorrow.

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Adrianne Palicki in Agents of SHIELD

Everyone’s talking about a sudden reason to tune in to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but they’ve all got it wrong. Yes, next week’s episode promises the attachment of the first trailer or Avengers: Age of Ultron, but who cares? It’ll be online immediately after anyway. You should be watching the show anyway, especially if you care that much about the Avengers movies, because Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is totally awesome so far this season. And it’s not just a matter of the trivial procedural format being long gone from what was initially an inconsequential series. It’s not just that it’s found its purpose in the wake of Captain America: The Winter Soldier without being any more or any less significant to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe than any of its big-screen counterparts. Right now it’s because the show is all about kick-ass women. We could have guessed things would be getting good and empowering when the warrior princess herself, Lucy Lawless, showed up at the very start of season 2. But while she was definitely a strong addition, her Isabelle Hartley didn’t even last to the end of the first episode, “Shadows” (of course, this very show, not to mention comic book stories in general, is known for resurrecting dead characters). Actually, the first hero we really saw at the beginning of the episode and season was another female badass: Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Last week’s installment, “Face My Enemy,” ramped things up with not just one but two Ming-Na Wens, as her Agent […]

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Agents of SHIELD Turn Turn Turn

Using an iPhone for the first time required twenty minutes that felt like a full day of setting up, retrieving and resetting passwords in order to order a pizza. Downloading Angry Birds, not to mention calling anyone, meant connecting one device to four others. There are benefits  to that interconnectivity. No doubt. It’s also about stickiness — once someone is plugged into more than one product or service, it makes it a lot harder for them to change horses. That’s why your bank forces you to have a savings account and debit card in order to get a checking account. In the midst of praising Marvel for creating an expansive movie universe that weaves small details into itself and has now injected latex into a weekly television presence, the potential negatives of its interconnectivity have flown under the radar. All the positives are still there — it creates a great sense of community, rewards fans for being invested and is responsible for 1000% more people using the phrase “easter egg” — but the stickiness of it also threatens non-obsessive viewers with gaps in plot understanding. That’s why seeing the headline “How Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is Now Setting Up Avengers: Age of Ultron” gave me flashbacks to screwing up my iPhone registration.

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The Bridge

Mind-numbing tedium, thy name is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The only entertainment I derived from “The Bridge” was to marvel at how bad it was, from the cliche-ridden dialogue to the murky, insipid action scenes to the laughably inept building of suspense. Last night’s hour was the final installment of Coulson and Company before a break of at least four weeks, so what the writers should have done is offer up a reason to care about Centipede. Instead, they had the bad guys kidnap the one character who is absolutely indisposable to the show and put him in danger. Do the people running the show think its viewers are such rubes that we’d actually be afraid for Coulson’s safety? Promos say they’ll finally reveal the truth behind his Tahitian vacation in January, and maybe they will, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has utterly failed in getting me excited about it.

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The Hub

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the kind of show you’d suspect of insulting your intelligence, except you’re pretty sure it’s just that dumb. “The Hub” is  a perfect example of the writers thinking they’re pulling one over us, except they have all the subtlety of Godzilla in Tokyo. “Trust the system.” “I like following the rules and doing what’s expected of me.” “The people who put these ops together are the best of the best.” That Coulson and Company would turn against their Big Brother org (workplace morale must be so low there) was obvious from the episode’s first few minutes — hell, from the show’s first couple of episodes. The question is, what took them so long? Lots of serialized shows use a first season mystery to keep viewers invested in new characters. Every serial killer show is guilty of this. Mad Men did this with Don Draper’s secret past, and Homeland with the question of Brody’s allegiances. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is obviously trying to do this with Coulson’s death and the identities of Skye’s parents — which, based on last night, seem not to be Coulson and the Cavalry anymore. But as with so many things on this show, the pacing is off and the characters aren’t well-defined enough for us to care. It all feels inconsequential. Coulson may have some issues with his employers when he finally learns what happened to him during the “Battle of New York,” but he’s still going to be a part of S.H.I.E.L.D. (He definitely isn’t ready to give up that sweet jet.) And […]

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FZZT

There are too many universes in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Once upon a time, by which I mean the pilot six weeks ago, that was supposed to be a strength of the show. The “Battle of New York” had laid bare to the world the existence of gods, aliens, super-powered mutants, and half-robot kajillionaires, and the normies peed their pants in response. They became afraid, or jealous, or both. It was a scared new world. I want those people back, because they were smart enough to be frightened. Instead, we got a bunch of dum-dums this week in “FZZT” (W.T.F.?) who should know better than to bring back souvenirs from an alien invasion but didn’t, so they died. The highlight of last night’s hour was the cold open, which ended in the kind of semi-cheesy ironic reversal The X-Files loved to indulged in. A Boy Scout leader fails to scare his young troops with an ineptly told scary story, then inadvertently traumatizes them for life by turning up dead just a few moments later. His glowing corpse lies peacefully a few feet above the ground, looking like he’s undergoing the universe’s slowest UFO abduction.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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