Thursday, February 20, 2014

View Log: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D "The Hub"

Been a busy week for me, so you may have noticed that these posts are late. Sorry about that.
No more time for sorry, though, we’ve got Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to talk about!

Whedon seems to like this show opening in the middle of the action. Another episode, another WTF moment. This one has them right after another. Coulson kidnapped, his interrogator an agent in disguise, a rescue from an icy field, and a nasal extraction that reminded me of that scene from the original Total Recall. Agent Shaw needs to find a less ew-y place for his secret data.

With "Clearance Level 8" being a plot point in this episode, S.H.I.E.L.D. seems more like a government organization now. (Fun fact: Whedon couldn’t satisfactorily explain who S.H.I.E.L.D. worked for, so they didn’t get military assistance for filming Avengers, which would explain why there was little S.H.I.E.L.D. presence in New York during the climax.)

The subplot about Skye's parents at first seems to be given minimum lipservice, which is nice that they haven’t forgotten that plot point, but then they kept going with it. It's nice to see a plot point like this be slowly built upon in this way, instead of suddenly thrust upon us.

We get to see another of Coulson’s bosses in this episode, Victoria Hand. Let’s get it out of the way, she likes women. This is irrelevant to the plot, but a landmark moment for superhero adaptations, though shows like The New Normal sort of one ups this show when it comes to LBGT presence on the TVs. Still, this is leagues above sneaking in Maggie Sawyer’s girlfriend in an episode of the 90’s Superman animated series. But like I said, her sexuality is irrelevant. What matters is the character’s interactions with the team. She seems antagonistic at first, but she’s the classic “You’re a loose cannon, but you get results”-saying boss, though she has the good sense to not actually say that to the loose cannons.

The plot, where former-Soviet rebels use comic book tech to try and gain independence, is a nice fictional extrapolation of real world tensions. The "Overkill" device has a nicely OTT name; I like the occasional bits when they embrace the inherent ridiculousness of the setting.

This was a separation episode, like I predicted for Fitz/Simmons, but was also one for the entire team. Poor Fitz. The guy would probably be infinitely more comfortable passing test tubes to Reed Richards. Then again, scientists in the Marvel Universe can't live normal lives. They're either super heroes, super villains, or are being kidnapped and having their tech stolen.  I've heard the complaints that Fitz being sent into a mission like this is unrealistic, but…
A. He's the only guy for the job.
B. In the real military, all tech guys get the same basic training as the other guys.

The fact that Fitz gained the loyalty of the Ossetian border-guys (by secretly shorting out and then fixing their TV) was nicely executed and a good twist from logical expectations.

Ward's the classic case of the tough guy who really cares deep down for the people on his team. We learn that Skye was dropped off an orphanage by a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but he's hiding the situation behind that event.... but he wants to figure out what happened. But it involves.... murder! Coulson has problems keeping secrets, Skye has problems with being in the dark about things, and Simmons... yeesh.

Simmons is scary. She's like a caged tiger. I would vote her "Most Likely to Become a Super Villain." She really seems to unravel without Fitz, and Skye needs to stop egging her on the way she does. "Fits tortured" is all it took to get her to cave to Skye's plan. And she ended up shooting Agent Jasper Sitwell. Oh my God. It was a stun gun that she had nicked earlier, but still... she's got issues. I think she’s more dangerous than Agent May.

Speaking of her, I'm also watching Almost Human, and it's pretty funny that the robot from that show is more human than Agent May from this one. Of course, that's the point. Melinda's not a people person. In fact, I don't think she's a person, but a robot. That reminds me, there are more hints that Coulson's a robot version of himself in this episode.

Skye: "He's acting like a robot version of himself right now."

I'm actually starting to wonder if Coulson isn't a robot. Joss Whedon's being far too hamfisted with his hints. For some reason, the Level 8 Coulson doesn't have clearance to know about his own death.... expect more teasing about this.

The strength of this show doesn't come from the plots of the episodes, but the subplots. Beside what I’ve already mentioned, all the characters seem to slowly be turning into authority-bucking cowboy cops, which will probably come back to bite them all in the butt in a later episode.

Unless the show gets canceled before then. Every time I get excited about this show’s future, that thought always brings me crashing down. It’s the “Whedon Pall” that’s cast over all of his shows. You can’t help but remember the fate of Firefly, Dollhouse….

But let’s focus on the here and now. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the air, and I’m enjoying it.
That’s enough for me.
Until next time!

(Originally posted on 11/25/13)

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