Or, I MISSED LAST WEEK’S REVIEW AND I’M CATCHING UP!!!
I want to treat this as a state of affairs for Agents of SHIELD. We’re four episodes in now, for better or for worse we probably have a good idea of what we’re getting. A few shows have managed to have earth-shaking tonal shifts mid-stream (actually can I really think of any? Spin City, I guess, but not really? The Daily Show? Even Cheers went through a huge cast upheaval and didn’t really change fundamentally) and sometimes it can take a season or two for a show to find its niche.
Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Marvel/ABC/Disney is going to allow this show to try to find its niche. Four episodes in, and the formula has already been well established. Introduce Problem in Act 1, debate/struggle with/explore/reason out the Problem in Act 2, overcome adversity, come together as a team, solve the Problem in Act 3. If the target audience is children and morons, fine. I might tune in a couple more times, then forget the show exists. Us fanboys are well aware what we collectively need to do in order to make sure something doesn’t get counted as canon. Widespread ridicule and ambivalence are remarkably effective weapons.
The sad thing is that there is significant potential here. Make it supernatural sci-fi. Or make it a spy drama. Or just make it incredibly weird. Draw on the enormous Marvel back catalog for characters, but give them an updated Marvel Studios spin. The show that they’ve actually made is overly cautious and has no real redeeming artistic merit whatsoever. It’s really the opposite of what Marvel Studios has done with their movie franchises.
So they’re dead set on doing one and done episodes that run together from week to week in only the broadest sense. It makes for the perfect opportunity for one shot cameos! Even if you can’t get a mid-level actor to come on the show, get a nobody to play an updated version of The Tinkerer! As of now, there’s really nothing that makes this “Marvel” other than Coulson (who isn’t even a back catalog character, he was created for the movies), five minutes of Maria Hill, and five minutes of Nick Fury. So if there’s not much Marvel, the content is completely uninspiring, and there’s no artistic merit, what exactly is there to keep me watching?
I have a plan for Joss Whedon, who apparently has forgotten how to take risks when it comes to making TV. Watch season 1 and season 2 of Sherlock from the BBC. The makers of Sherlock have done a masterful job of modernizing a classic character. Their usage of high end tech and dramatic mystery dwarf the efforts of SHIELD. Somehow, a show that theoretically has no spy thriller element is a far and away better spy thriller than the show that is about an elite spy organization. Yes, it’s a little high brow (it’s British for chrissakes) and needs to be dumbed down for the unwashed American masses. But it’s fantastic, edge-of-your-seat television, and something for SHIELD to aspire to. I suppose Sherlock does have the advantage of having Benedict Cumberbatch. But the makers of Sherlock accomplished far more in the series’ pilot episode than SHIELD has in its first four.
There have been moments. Forcing an innocent to do one’s bidding by giving directions through an electronic eye is pretty fucking cool. They also have done a decent job of setting up some future confrontations, like the scientist trapped in the element from episode 3, and we still don’t know who was ultimately manipulating people with the eye implants from episode 4. But it remains to be seen if they’ll actually capitalize on the opportunities that they’ve created, and at this point I have serious doubts.
This had (has?) the opportunity to be action-packed event television, but right now it’s being played so safe that it appears everything that would be worth watching has been strained out of it. ABC/Disney/Marvel/Whedon has three options, I’d be fine with any of the three:
1. Tackle socio-political issues through science fiction allegories (gay marriage? How about MUTANT marriage!!!)
2. Make 22 mini Bourne Identities per season (Jeremy Renner can guest star in two different roles!!!)
3. Throw out the playbook and give the comic fanboys what they want (Naked Scarlett Witch!!! Naked Maria Hill!!! Naked Moira McTaggart!!! Naked She-Hulk!!! Naked Spider-Woman!!! Naked…)
Bring it on, motherfuckers.
Ep 3 5/10
Ep 4 5/10