Expectations can be a tough thing to manage, and oh man.. Were expectations high for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. post the Avengers movie ?
But how could they not be. A new Joss Whedon-created TV show would be reason alone to celebrate, even knowing he wouldn’t be involved in its day-to-day operation. And a new Marvel Studios-created TV show, tying into the amazingly successful and well-received Marvel Cinematic Universe films, was also a huge reason to be excited.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are just ordinary folks doing incredible things with the help of next-generation gadgetry and firepower. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), who died in the film, has returned to lead them. The show takes place in the post-Battle of New York world depicted in last year’s big-budget film The Avengers, that forever changed their world by revealing to the public the existence of “gods,” aliens, and a variety of walking experiments in superhumanity.
Review (Spoiler-free for first season atleast !!)
The premise of the show is straightforward, a kind of X-Files for the Marvel Universe. One aspect though, where fans had a bit of a time settling in, was the fact that they can’t expect a bunch of Avengers every now and then in the series. It was understood after a while that this would be a series focusing on normal humans existing in the world of the MCU – Coulson and a new batch of characters reacting and responding to the amazing events around them. Which is in itself a perfectly decent set-up, if you care about the people the show is centering on.
In general, the character work is where SHIELD struggled the most early on. It felt like the SHIELD crew were very poorly defined for many episodes. There was a lot of talk of a familial bond without feeling it and the show’s sense of humor was hit or miss, with genuinely funny moments sometimes followed by duds or scenes that took the jokiness too far.
As said before, It would be foolish to expect this show to deliver the Avengers flying in and out for a TV show.. Superheroes like Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow are too expensive for a TV show after all !! But the problem is, SHIELD itself, as an organization, had been portrayed as so big and powerful, that it was troublesome to feel like the resources on this series were so much smaller and more limited…
While it took several episodes, characters like Fitz and Simmons, Skye began to finally take shape a bit more and feel more individualized. I came to be quite impressed by the work of Elizabeth Henstridge as Simmons, who turned into this show’s real find – delivering on some big emotional beats when called upon to do so.
And there’s Clark Gregg as Phil Coluson of course. Gregg is perfect in the central role because he looks less like a superhero with every passing episode. He looks like a guy in an office, a car dealer, the nice dad married to the nice mom with a family of nice kids. His default facial expression is a reassuring smile, as if to say, “Everything’s OK, move along, nothing to worry about, isn’t it a nice day?” But he can also go from zero to 60 in a surprising nanosecond, exerting power and authority at will…
Once “Captain America: Winter Soldier” opened in theatres, things really changed in the TV world as well. The events of that movie had massive repercussions on Agents of SHIELD, which were immediately felt on the series. The entire SHIELD organization in shambles, the reveal of Hydra in their midst and the consequesnt events (I’ve promised a spoiler-free review y’all !!) were all really cool, engaging events, which were integral in the series becoming much stronger in the final episodes of the season.
So, you might think about giving up prematurely on the show after the slow and a bit cheesy first half.. but let me assure you, things start to fall in place pretty quickly. After several early missteps, the first season was delivering solidly entertaining, involving storylines by the end.
If it can manage to weave together the strengths of each in following seasons as well –the breadth and mythology and fan interest of the Marvel Universe on the one hand; the storytelling and character-development possibilities of serial television on the other–it could prove to be something truly special…