What’s new this week? Well, aside from the first week of the Road/Kill beta being in full swing, not too much else. On that, I’ve been getting great notes and questions from all of you, so please keep them coming! If you haven’t gotten the beta kit but want one, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org . It’s up until December 15, so there’s plenty of time to try this game and get your input added. I will soon be adding a Road/Kill page to this site, with errata and a forum too, so stay tuned for news there. That said, I thought I’d take a break from Road/Kill talk this time out to talk about another passion…Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
As a long time Marvel fan, I was completely stoked when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was first announced. That Joss Whedon would be at the helm couldn’t have been more perfect, given his long history of geek compatible shows, to say nothing of his work on the Avengers movie. As we’ve been collectively watching the cinematic Marvel universe unfold, what could be more perfect than weekly return visits there?
When it finally started airing, my boy and I even deemed the night worthy of being upgraded to a regular pizza night. Well, we’re five weeks in now. I’ll be blunt. I’m not thrilled with it. By the sounds of it, I’m not alone. What really should have been a slam dunk is starting to feel like a lame duck. The show is on a break this week, so I thought it might be a good time to reflect on what we’ve seen so far.
The good news is that the boat isn’t sinking just yet. By my count, there haven’t been any iceberg sized gaffes. Rather, it’s just been a steady flow of water brought on by cliché and mediocrity. There really isn’t a reason in the world the show can’t be great, and there’s plenty of time to start bailing water, if those at the helm see fit to do so. The only thing I worry about at this point is that ratings might be putting up a smoke screen against this. I’m sure they’ve been very strong, and will continue to be for a while yet. The problem is those ratings are a cheque being cashed by someone else. The success of the Avengers is only going to buy S.H.I.E.L.D. so much time if it can’t create good content of its own.
So assuming they get the message, how do I see things turning around? Five ways.
Less Loeb, More Whedon
Joss Whedon’s name was the one most loudly proclaimed when the show was announced, and for good reason. He’s storyteller with years of TV cred. But I think as the show continues to roll, it’s feeling more and more like it’s been written like an animated series or worse, webisodes. Well, well. That just happens to be the prime territory of Jeph Loeb. As the exec of Marvel TV, that means his focus up to this point has been shows like the Ultimate Spiderman animated series. Kids stuff, essentially. Now I know his background in comics is solid. But I also know if this series is going to hit full potential, Joss Whedon has to be the Captain of the ship. That means Jeph Loeb is going to have to be a little more give and a little less take down the road. Seriously, if I hear another cliché like “In English, please!” when someone is trying to explain something to an agent, I’m going to hurl. I choose to believe Joss Whedon winces a little whenever he sees a script with turds like that laced in.
Where is my super suit?
This one from the mouths of babes. My son put the pin on this one after three episodes, and has backed it up most nights by walking off when things get boring for him. Damn guys. If you can’t entertain a 12 year old comic fan with your comic based show, you’ve got problems. He’s right, too. If this is the Marvel universe, where are the costumed heroes and villains? While it may not be a priority for me, I think he’s right. Sure, the films have taken creative license with heroes costumes over the years, but they don’t shy away from the fact comics are the source. To some extent, this stuff needs to be larger than life. You’re damned right that means the occasional super powered heroes or villain in costume with big FX and big action. Don’t tell me you don’t have the budget, guys. I doubt any TV series in history has gotten the credit card you’re being given. So far you’re using it to bring us average joes in hoodies with fists of steel. Step it UP.
Where are we going?
Ok, the series formula is a bit of a creature of the week affair. They fly the big bus to a new locale, and bust some up and coming super threat. Fine, but where is our series arc? What is the bigger picture? What beats and clues they are dropping are painfully stretched out and uninteresting, I’m afraid. We’ve got rogue scientists getting black market alien tech from the New York city invasion, and something of a hacker group like anonymous that one of our team members is on again/off again with. None of this is putting big questions in my head. Joss Whedon’s last series, Doll House, by comparison had me asking all sorts of questions. The show wasn’t perfect, but at least it had me curious. They need to invigorate their efforts in the big picture, and get us asking the big questions.
Cross promote, cross promote, cross promote!
For a show set in the Marvel cinematic universe, you’d barely know it and it’s a damn shame. We’ve seen Agent Hill once, and I believe Coulson has mentioned a detail about Tony Stark, Thor and Cap once each as well. That’s it. It’s ridiculous. Considering Coulson works for Nick Fury, you’d think the two would speak once in a blue moon. He could easily be the “Charlie” of Charlie’s Angels now and again, just get him on the intercom for a check in. The fact is, Marvel has so many projects in play, and this show could be putting Easter Eggs in here left right and center. Maybe they don’t have the budget to get Robert Downey Junior in each week, but they really don’t need to. Just give us a hint these things are all happening in concert, and maybe once every three or four episodes, get some crossover going on. Could we see the heli-carrier at least?? Jeez.
Don’t blow it with Coulson!
Good old agent Coulson. He’s why most of us are here. Our soft spoken but supremely capable leader has even more going on under the hood since Iron Man days. The details of his death are one of those precious big questions I mentioned early. They are also, as I’m coming to suspect probably being wasted. Speculation he is actually a Life Model Decoy seemed right on the money early in the show. The idea he could be a download consciousness in a superhuman machine body (something from the established S.H.I.E.L.D. fictional armory, no less) would be…AWESOME, and not undermine the power of his death in the Avengers. It would also give this team a bona fide super. For a show taken from Superhero comics, how apropos would that be? Well, they planted the clues early on, but weeks later, he’s seemed pretty human after all. Guys. Listen to me on this. Coulson is the most interesting character in this show. He doesn’t need to be a LMD, but give him some truly worthy secrets, then deliver on them.
Wimp out on this at your peril above all.
Well that’s my two cents this week. Until next time!