Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Reaction to "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
What is a shared universe?

According to comics, its a universe which encompasses an entire comic company's heroes, villains, places, artifacts, themes...all of it in one big world. A universe in which most or all of a comic company's stories take place in. A way to unite all stories under one banner and make things interesting. Alas, while things are getting interesting, plenty of money is being made.

That was one of the biggest complaints I heard people throw at the "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." pilot which aired last Tuesday. Some people don't understand if this is a show based on "The Avengers," or something that happened before "The Avengers" or they don't get how this fits into everything else Marvel is doing. That isn't something that surprises me. Knowing that Disney/Marvel is a completely separate entity compared to Sony/Marvel and Fox/Marvel is going to further confuse everything, so allow me to explain it the best I can.

After reading tons of comics, it becomes second nature that the characters written by Marvel comics exist in the same world. DC and Marvel back in the 1930's saw what big money could be made if their characters existed together in their separate company worlds. In comics, it is second hand nature to me to know that there is a Marvel universe, which is just like ours, but with superheroes and supervillains in it. There is a race called Asgardians and their Gods walked the Earth in the Marvel universe, still do in fact. There is a race of humans called Mutants who are feared and hated by regular humans. The major newspaper isn't "USA Today," but "The Daily Bugle," and there is a super-powered teenager who works as a photographer there. There is a billionaire with a robotic suit, there is a scientist who turns green when angry, there is a family of famous scientists with varied powers, there is a vigilante who wears a skull on his shirt. All of this is just a given when reading comics published by Marvel. Its the same with DC, in that comic universe there are cities in our country called Metropolis and Gotham. The 2000 presidential election wasn't won by George W. Bush in the DC universe, but by a bald criminal with a certain grudge against a certain alien.

Marvel studios in 2008 made a huge gamble and that gamble paid off. The studio is creating its own universe but instead of it being played out across publishing titles, it is being played out across Hollywood studios, release dates and movies. Now in 2013, that universe is being expanded to television. "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Characters in that show know about the Battle of New York from "The Avengers," they know Hulk and Thor and Iron Man. Before the show, I was very excited by the aspect of just how far Marvel was willing to expand its universe. I sat down this Saturday ready and willing to see what Marvel-on-TV would look like.

The pilot of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is full of big ideas, but they're great ideas. Any of these ideas would be great for one season of this show. However, what I am scared of is will these big ideas become the show's demise? One person could look at the pilot and call it a NCIS with superpowers, and that's a fair description. I just hope that isn't the shows ambition. It would be pretty disappointing if after all the hype and hoopla surrounding MCU expanding to TV, that its show only boiled down to NCIS with superpowers. The pilot can be described as a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents being assembled to find a man with superpowers. That's the pilot in a nutshell, and overall, its a strong pilot. But, if the entire series is just this team looking for super-powered people, that will get old fast.

The episode begins with an explosion in East Los Angeles, California. A man climbs up the building and saves the life of a woman trapped in the building. This grabs the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a group of agents headlined by Phil Coulson (yes, the real Phil Coulson) go to find and talk to the man. However, this mysterious metahuman isn't just being pursued by S.H.I.E.L.D. but also, The Rising Tide. A quasi-WikiLeaks group dedicated to sorting out the corruption within our big, bad government. Like I said, some intriguing ideas. Especially after the big speech the superpowered man makes at the end of the episode. It's clear the world has changed in the aftermath of "The Avengers," and I hope that change effects the rest of this series in a big way.

Joss Whedon, director of "The Avengers," is involved in the series. Remember, Whedon got his start on TV with "Firefly," "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," and "Dollhouse." He's a great TV guy, and now has proven he's a movie guy too. But he's not the only one involved with this series. Whedon, Disney, Marvel, ABC...there are tons of chiefs in this tribe, and according to what I've read, these chiefs have a different opinion on where this show should go. That is why I thought this pilot was overstuffed with ideas, and that is my biggest concern with the show after its pilot. Each idea every big spender has on this show can be fleshed out, but not all at once. Slow this show down, this could potentially have 5 to 6 season run, so why bulldoze through everything? If this show just translates out to a weird NCIS with some other ideas thrown in every once in awhile, then the show will be done after 1-2 seasons. Easily. The low budget of the show compared to the movies has already effected viewership to an extent (The agents fly around in jet rather than the Helicarrier, because ABC can't afford the effects needed for the Helicarrier.), so its going to take something really exciting to keep viewers coming back every Tuesday night.

But this is a movie blog, not a TV blog. So the main purpose of discussing this pilot was to dissect how it fits into the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe. Overall, it fits in really well. There is talk of gamma radiation and Extremis that will make fans happy. There is even a sign advertising Stark Industries on the side of a bus. I am sure there are plenty of Easter Eggs that I missed, another concern I have about the overall show is how they will use these Easter Eggs. Peppering each episode with them won't keep people watching, so it will fun to see how they use them. Samuel L. Jackson has already expressed interesting in making guest appearances on the show. Could other members of The Avengers make a special appearance? Can they legally do that based upon their Marvel contracts? We will just have to wait and see how things pan out. I feel that ABC has to make a strong first season before we can think about big guest appearances though.

So to sum it all up, I liked the pilot. It definitely left me wanting to see the next episode, so that is a plus. It is going to be fun to see how this series continues to fit into the overall Marvel Universe. But I do have some hesitations, one person needs to take control of this show and allow it to shine. They need to take their time with their ideas and establish them in a clever, intelligent manner. If they do that then "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." will be a wildly popular show, if they don't then it might not last five episodes.


  1. As a Whedonite Obsessy, I actually took away that the show would focus on the shady corporation that is using this technology to try to take control of the world/amass power... not really their search for others with superpowers. This is just based on the same theme in EVERYTHING else Whedon has done. Ex: Angel-- Evil Law Firm Wolfram and Hart; Dollhouse-- Rossum Corporation; Cabin in the woods- The Secret Corporation; Buffy-kind of the Watcher organization in later seasons, but more of a stretch for overarching bad guy; Firefly-- The Alliance which is a government but one that controls the ability of the populace to receive goods and services. Otherwise totally agree on the pilot.

  2. I kinda hope the show steers in that direction, and if you re-watch all the movies in Phase One, you can see clues of that. In "The Incredible Hulk," we learn that SHIELD monitors everyone's e-mails. In "The Avengers," we learn that SHIELD is willing to lie for the greater good, but are they still "good" if they have to lie? I think that focusing on corporation massing power would be great. And if the show was solely in Whedon's hands, it would probably be like that. But so many other hands want to stir this pot that its hard what the show will focus on. That scares me, because I want the show to be a hit.