I didn’t necessarily want a critique of television to be my first blog post on here (I’ve had several ideas in my head since I got a Tumblr, but never convinced myself to just sit down and write anything, coming up with many excuses like wanting to think through it more clearly first or not having a good concentration environment), but finally have I convinced myself, or rather, someone else convinced me, to post something. So, here I am, posting a deep blog post about a recent television series I’ve been getting into.
The television series is called Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. For those who don’t have the same nerdy interests as I do, it’s a television series from Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen, three wonderful writers (who all collaborated on my favorite film, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog). The thing is, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (I will be known to drop off the first part of the title, because to me it just seems like shameless branding) has been having a fairly rough beginning, at least when viewed in the light of these creators’ past work. The thing is, when we dig deeply enough at the past work of these writers, having a rough start isn’t all that new, or much of a problem. Especially when this series still shows promise, especially that of improvement.
I have made many jokes recently about the writing on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. While by no means the most awful writing in television, some of it can still use some work. The humor is witty and full of the pop-culture and Marvel references you would expect from a series written the same people responsible for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, but in other areas it often fails. The science is God awful, making little sense and often getting things very wrong (not to mention another horribly named applied phlebotinum in the form of “gravitonium”, which is only slightly better than “unobtanium”), and some of the more dramatic dialogue could really use some work (Fitz’s reaction to Skye’s actions in “Girl in the Flower Dress” induced some painfully cliche dialogue). No one has really proven their acting chops yet, either, with only the most recent episode (“F.Z.Z.T.”) getting the actors to use a wider range of emotions, and not all of them exactly did that, either (sorry, Brett Dalton, but if you were trying to be sad, it wasn’t working). On top of that, the show still hasn’t yet fully grasped its own niche in the mythology of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, instead still making constant references to New York and progressing some non-Skye character arcs very slowly, including the myth arc of the Centipede research.
However, when one steps back, we realize that this isn’t all evidence that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a terrible show. In fact, there is much that can be said showing that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be an excellent show once it hits its stride. In fact, those who compare it to previous series from the writers, we see that often times, those shows didn’t prove themselves this early on, even when they turned out to be wonderful series by the end. Those who start watching Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog may question how good it will be, but finishing it (and watching it over again) will show the viewer how brilliant that movie is. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as its spin-off Angel, both had awkward first seasons, ones that were full of hit-or-miss episodes and neither quite captured what it would become until it hit its second season. Buffy the Vampire Slayer in particular was full of not-so-stellar acting, poor effects, not-yet-interesting characters, and a lack of engrossing story lines. It wasn’t until season two where Buffy the Vampire Slayer's characters started to develop and the story lines began to get interesting. However, the potential for that was all there and the show merely needed to grasp what it was and get into the swing of things first.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., at the moment, is very much in the same position as Buffy the Vampire Slayer was in it’s early season, and is showing that same potential for improvement. The episodic story lines have been progressively been getting more interesting, with the last episode possibly being the best yet, focusing on characters who have the potential to reach the heights of previous Whedon casts, but haven’t been given the chance to develop. Within the last couple episodes, however, at least two characters have gotten great development and attention, and if the trend continues, we’ll have an excellent character-driven show on our hands. Even from the beginning this show understood it’s character-driven nature, and even if a few of the episodic themes and developments were ham fisted, the idea intent was still there, and a lot of Joss Whedon’s past work has excelled because of this approach. It just takes time to learn the approach a new show will take.
Other factors will improve, too, over time, as writers get more comfortable and get more budget. That awful science? The higher the budget, the more odds that a consultant can be hired to overview the show, and the more practice writers get writing science, they’ll most likely be able to understand and write it more accurately. The acting? As the actors get comfortable with their characters, they’ll get a hang of the role and take it on more effectively. Look at Clark Gregg. He has proven himself to be the best actor in the show, but he’s also had previous experience playing the character. He’s just more comfortable in it. The mythology? The show is already slowly (admittedly more than it probably should) moving towards it’s own myth arcs and many characters introduced and central to the plots are new to the Cinematic Universe, and the more the show does this, the more mythology it can pull from in its own niche.
My advice is to give the show a chance. I sure will. Because I see lots of reasons to believe that it could become another excellent show. It may be no Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly, but that’s not to say it has to be. However, it always could, and if it does, I will be there enjoying every minute of it.