Season 1, Episode 2
Date of airing: October 1, 2013 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 8.662 million viewers, 5.1/8 in Households, 3.26/10 with Adults 18-49
I still expect for AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. to be a bad and sometimes boring show during its first phase. I still expect for the writers to try and find their voice, try and find a unique aspect to the show that would give it reason for ABC to air it for multiple seasons, and to try and find a bigger story that is neither a repeat of a previous episode, nor a copy of all the crime procedurals on network television. I know that it will take some time for the show to find its setting and tone and characters and stories, and I am willing to wait. I am willing to accept the stand-alone arcs that won’t do much for the characters or the overall story arc of whatever the writers were coming up with, and I am willing to accept the campiness of the stories. I just hope that I do not have to wait long to find out whether the Whedon clan is able to make AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. stand on its own feet, or if it will continue to ride the path of generic storylines that are forgotten by the end of the episode, with science-fiction elements that are useless for the genre or simply just a weapon, because apparently everything about the universe is about acquiring the latest weapon of mass destruction. I also hope the episodes don’t just use the comic elements as “name drop” only. It was in the pilot like that with Extremis, but with the mention of HYDRA, the Tesseract and Captain America, I kind of got the feeling that the show just uses those names to mention them once or twice, and to let the viewers remember that this show is set in a bigger universe. Why the name-dropping, when you can actually use those back story elements for a greater purpose?
The episode was okay. It was definitely weaker than the pilot, and it had a lazier story than the previous one, which at least had the manhunt for a wannabe-superhero who quickly turned into a supervillain. That this episode used Tesseract tech… Well, I can live with that, but I did not like the back and forth within the story. People wanted to have that mysterious device, people were fighting for it, people were deceiving other people for it, people were about to kill for it. The episode carries the title “0-8-4″ for unidentified object, yet it was only used as a plot device in this episode, as a MacGuffin to get the characters together and battle for it, a way to create a hostage situation on the Bus, which makes AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. the next series that makes use of a hostage situation in a random story. Seriously, every TV show that is not a comedy makes use of a hostage situation sooner or later. There should be a study about writers using hostage situations in their shows for entertainment value.
At least the plot device was a nice one, because it brought some background into Coulson’s life. Who would have thought that this man once saw action with a woman, had a relationship that served both his secret government as well as his heart? Camilla was an okay-ish character, and I only accepted her, because she brought some depth into Coulson’s back story, but her villain status was not only predictable, but also kinda lame, especially since she didn’t really do anything as a villain. She didn’t even have time to be a villain, because one moment she is flirting with Coulson, wanting to pick up where they left off, and at the next moment the plane has been taken over and the writers didn’t even use the opportunity to have Camilla be the serious and crazy villain, let alone explain what she wanted to use the 0-8-4 for. Okay, it’s a weapon and there is only one use for a weapon, but why did she need it and who was she really fighting for in this Peruvian war? Furthermore, the episode made too much use of action scenes. First the fight scene of Ward and Melinda defending themselves against the Peruvian army, followed by the shootout with the rebels which may have been a little too long, which itself was followed by the fight scene on the plane after a hole has been shot into it, and that fight scene was also a little too long. It not only felt campy, but I also felt like I was watching an early 90s action show, which tried to cash in on the fame of KNIGHT RIDER, THE A-TEAM, and Tia Carrere in RELIC HUNTER. Instead of action, the episode should have continued to introduce the characters.
Which, again, did not work in this episode. Okay, we learned something from Coulson and Melinda’s past, but that was basically it. The remainder of the time has been spent in making it obvious to the viewers that this is an inexperienced team, that they still have to get to know each other, that a show with a team can’t just win fights and wars from the very beginning, because they still have to iron out the faults. The thing is just, the team is already winning the battles and in spite of their inexperience as a team together, they are acting like they are the best team in the world. But I am two episodes in now, and I still don’t really give a damn about the characters. Usually that is grounds for cancellation, because it is just a capital television crime to not make the characters known to the audience. Instead of giving them depth, Fitz and Simmons annoyingly argue over absolutely everything, and this when they don’t even have chemistry just yet, which isn’t really a great time for them to be fighting about stuff. Melinda is pissed about everything, and this when I don’t know much about her past. Ward is so cool (and takes it like a man) in every scene, the calculated soldier who throws punches and asks questions later, making him an action hero from a 1980s television show — that might be an interesting premise for this Marvel Comics television drama, but two hours in and Ward is too cool and calculated to be taken seriously as a character. And Skye? Well, she was only defied by her little secret at the end of the episode. At least Coulson is not alone — though I am a little scared that the writers will include secrets in every back story of the characters. And I cannot wait for those secrets to be exposed. Well, I can, because I have to.
At least the fact that the team does not have a dynamic yet seems interesting. It looks like finding the dynamic is an ongoing story arc for the first part of the season, and as long as nobody does not know anything about each other, there will always be confusion and conflict. Sadly, it was one of the two good moments of the episode, while the rest went down with the campiness of the 90s-styled action scenes.
Nick Fury’s cameo at the end was the other good part of the show. It is interesting how Sam L. Jackson managed to bring up the whole episode by pretty much playing himself. His anger, and the way he talked to Coulson, was great, and I would almost wish for more of those kind of scenes to follow, maybe even with Fury, but I understand that AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. cannot deliver one high-profile cameo after another, or even include them into a proper story. But I can still hope for the best.
All in all, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. is still missing the big ingredients to make the show better and more unique. In addition, it should less rely on action and a campy story, and more on the characters. You can probably make a comedy out of the show, if the writers would just focus a little more on the characters (and maybe hire a few joke writers), and how they secretly cannot stand each other. It would be a weird dynamic, but it would in fact be a dynamic.