Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, a guest post by Denny Upkins
It is arguably the most anticipated new series of the season. And for good reason. Many good reasons in fact. One of them is that it is the spinoff of the Avengers: the third highest grossing film of all time.
Why yes I would be referring to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The same Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in which Joss Whedon is the executive producer.
When it comes to anything affiliated with Joss Whedon, it is automatically my favorite film/movie/graphic novels/musicals/etc. Joss has that kind of clout with me. A fact that our beloved bartender is aware of which is all the more reason why I was honored when she asked me to do this very guest post. She is also aware of how big a comic book nerd I am, so I was so down for this.
I knew the Avengers would be excellent but even Joss exceeded my expectations. So when I learned that Joss would be the executive producer for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I was there.
After a few episodes, the series is showing considerable promise. However, because of evident and blatant Network Interference, if things don’t change and I do mean DRASTICALLY we may not see a season 2.
For those of you who aren’t comic book readers, S.H.I.E.L.D. is essentially an espionage and law-enforcement agency in the Marvel Universe that deal with superhuman threats whether its a rogue Hulk, Dr. Doom’s latest attempt at world domination or a Skrull invasion.
Essentially, it’s Marvel’s answer to the CIA, CTU, GI Joe, or the Torchwood Institute.
While they usually play back up and supporting role to the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, and other capes, they are formidable in their own right. In fact, more than a few Marvel players have ties to S.H.I.E.L.D.: Black Widow, Captain America, Nick Fury, Mockingbird.
Originally the acronym stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division. It was changed in the comics to Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. In any event that’s who S.H.I.E.L.D. is.
Phil Coulson- Played flawlessly by Clark Gregg, I’ve been smitten with this character since Iron Man. In fact, Coulson is in many respects the Anti-Tony Stark. Whereas Stark is the over-the-top, larger than life charismatic billionaire playboy, Coulson has a much more subdued style. He has what I would refer to as Grown Folks Swag. His style is subtle, classic, nuanced. Whether standing next to gods or irradiated monsters, he’s a man who’s comfortable in his own skin and has nothing to prove. And yes feel free to file this man under the elite list of White Boys Who Can Get It. And this character definitely reads as queer which is the highest compliment I could give him. As far as cast goes, Coulson is 50 percent of the reason I tune in each week. The other half?
Melinda May- Portrayed by the beautiful and most talented Ming-Na Wen. May is hands down the surprise gem of this fledgling series. I didn’t think there would ever be anyone worthy of enough to rival the likes of Kendra and Zoe Washburne in the Bossest of Chicks Hall of Fame, but damn it if May isn’t giving them a run for their money. We shouldn’t be shocked. After all, this is the original Chun-Li and Mulan. Her nickname is Cavalry. As in this one woman is who you call if you find yourself outnumbered and outgunned. And speaking of outgunned, don’t be shocked if you find her unarmed. As she told a peer, “If she wants a gun, she’ll simply take one.”
I could easily watch a show about Coulson and May by themselves flying around the world, kicking ass and taking names. In fact, I cringe when the show insists on giving screen-time to the snorefest that is the rest of the team. Ace pilot, walking weapon. It’s like May is the Asian lovechild of Wash and Zoe. Wouldn’t be shocked to learn if May has extensive history with Black Widow and/or Hawkeye.
The Pilot Episode- In the first episode, we have a down on his luck black man (played by the ever amazing J. August Richards) fighting and moving heaven and earth to be a hero to his son. Later in the episode, when things go south, Coulson tells his team that this man is worth fighting for and worth defending. How often do we see white men do that for blacks or other PoCs in fiction or in real life?
The Cameos- From Whedon Alumns Richards and Ron Glass to Marvel Universe appearances from characters like Maria Hill and Nick Fury (and if you missed Nick Fury’s cameo, to quote my sister from another maternal figure Amaya Radjani, Google is your Sister In Christ).
The Diversity- From the guest stars,to the villains, to the one-shot allies, I’ve seen more diversity in this series than I have in the entire CW, NBC and CBS lineup. Yet mofos who never have a thing to say about diversity wanna come for this series. Same punks who are conveniently silent when it comes to Supernatural, BBC’s Sherlock, Game of Thrones, or the Moffat run of Doctor Who. Suffice it to say I’ll be pointing that out to them over and over again.
Skye- I haven’t decided how I feel about this character. On the one hand, she’s got potential and I’m happy to see another woman of color represented on the show. She definitely needs more development. She kind of reminds me of a watered down version of Buffy Summers. While I get she may not be a Slayer, she’s definitely a badass in her own right, especially when you hand her a laptop or an iPhone. I’m hoping we get to see her truly shine and bring it in the next few episodes.
Captain Whitebread- A friend once described Agent Ward as a poor man’s Captain Harkness/John Barrowman. I found that to be an insult........to the perfection that is Capt. Harkness/Mr. Barrowman. As I told my friend, unless he’s going to be having sex with another guy in the next epsiode or two, that comparison should never be uttered again. No he’s more the poor man’s Capt. Mal Reynolds. This guy is boring but the Networks keep beating over our heads that he’s supposed to be awesome and a badass. In fact his test scores are supposed to rival that of the Black Widow’s.
LOL!!!!!! That’s cute. But real talk Boo Boo, you ain’t ready for that Natasha Romanov realness.
The Nerd Twins- I didn’t think it was possible for nerds to be any more annoying than those posers on Big Bang Theory but these two are trying it. This is why I know Network Interference is going on. Joss knows nerds. Jed knows nerds. Marissa knows nerds. They gave us Troika from Buffy Season 6, Dr. Horrible, Topher from Dollhouse, and other nerds. They know nerds. The Nerd Twins should’ve been a slamdunk but much like the rest of the writing on the show, it’s a watered down parody of Joss’s work.....because again, Network Interference. The sad part is these two got lampshaded in a line when it was pointed out that Coulson (and by the extension, the audience) probably doesn’t know who is Fitz and who is Simmons.
The Background Music- The over-the-top-patriotic heroic music. Not feeling it. And Bear McCreary has done amazing work over the years from Battlestar Galactica to Terminator the Sarah Connor Chronicles. Again, Network Interference.
The Cat & Mouse Romance between Skye and Captain Whitebread- WE DON’T CARE.
And let me be clear, I'm not bashing the actors. They're only doing their jobs as instructed. But the fact is they aren't being given anything to work with, so here we are. Thanks Network.
What Needs To Happen Now
Agents of SHIELD has infinite potential and with a full season order, the show can be saved and some impressive storytelling can happen, but the Network needs to back off and let the Whedons do what they do best.
Here are a few ideas:
Wildbunch It- Captain Whitebread and the Nerd Twins have got to go and this is one of those times where Joss needs to exercise his sadism in killing off characters. November sweeps are coming up and having the team get their ass handed to them by a Big Bad which results in the death of Team Fail, would be a major turning point. This would allow the show to introduce some new players who are on the level of say Coulson and May. This would allow the original team to explore losing their teammates and Skye finds herself in a very big way.
The Traitor- While Skye's loyalties is a subplot for the show, I think jt would be awesome if Capt. Whitebread reveals himself to be the Big Bad/mole. He knows the team inside and out and introduces a rival team of his own. Business would definitely pick up as it would have just gotten real.
More Capes- This is a superhero show that's a spinoff from a superhero movie. We need some superheroes, supervillains, or superpowers, or cool tech, or something. I'm okay with some excessive wuxia action, give me something here. SHIELD is supposed to be designed to hold their own against Marvel's super powered population. Half of this team wouldn't last five seconds against Dr. Horrible. This team doesn't have to be Avengers West Coast but they need to be able to be epic on their own merits. Marvel has an abundance of C and D-lister capes who they could use for the show. Amp it up Marvel.
Some LGBTQs- It is the 21st century and the age of Torchwood. We are not here for your Breederfest. A young Jack Harkness or Luke Smith would be a lovely and most needed thing.
It’s time to get creative. The Marvel Universe exists because Marvel took a chance in telling a great story that just happened to feature a black superhero by the name of Blade. Marvel got creative again because they allowed a series of one-shot films to intersect and build towards a movie universe which led to a major payoff known as the Avengers. The Avengers paid off because Whedon was allowed to be Whedon. The same has to happen here. Now is not the time rest on laurels. Now is the time to take it to the next level.
Not sure where the show is headed. It’s got a pickup for a full season and Marvel has more TV projects on the way. That being said, as long as it’s a Whedon Project and I continue to get the Adventures of Coulson and May, I am here for the ride.