I’m not a completionist or “real” comic book collector by any definition of the word. I don’t buy every variant, or original #1s, or even every single issue on the series (collected series are cheaper). But when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), I like watching it all. Yes to trailers, yes to one-shots, yes to after-credits scenes and yes to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And now, as we approach the season finale, I felt it was time to persuade anyone holding out: watch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you start now, you can even marathon it before the finale! (And it has just been renewed for a second season.)
The reaction to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been patchy at best – while the season premiere saw almost 12 million viewers, there has been a sharp drop off with a season low of 5.46 million in March. Still, ratings aren’t always an indicator of success (or of how good a show is). For a quick comparison, Whedon’s cult success Firefly averaged just 4.48 million viewers per episode when it was cancelled by Fox, and at its most successful in terms of ratings, Internet favourite Supernatural drew in an average of 3.81 million viewers per episode. (As an aside, it’s always important to note that TV ratings aren’t a complete indicator of how many people actually watch a show, with DVRs and of course, the Internet contributing to alternative viewing.)
I won’t deny that the procedural nature of the show can get a little repetitive, almost flimsy, especially in the first half of the season. Additionally, at times it does feel like the writers are trying too hard to give the show that Joss Whedon mix of dry humour and drama. And let’s not forget that since this is a TV show, not a film, their budget isn’t great and there are some cheesy moments. Still, what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D lacks, it makes up in excellent character development, fascinating larger arcs, great twists and some cameos (I won’t say who, but it’s not too hard to guess). On top of that, we see some superheroes. Sure, we don’t exactly see Iron Man, but there are some notable inclusions such as Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and Deathlok.
I won’t deny that I’m a big fan of Joss Whedon’s work (including everything from Dr. Horrible to Buffy to Firefly), and that might make me a little biased. But rewatching the pilot is honestly a joy. While some parts are a little heavy-handed, Whedonverse alumni J. August Richards (as Mike Peterson) is a gem, with some incredible moments.
As for the main cast. Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is still the same character we saw in every Phase 1 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film. However, his dry, unaffected sense of humour works best in short cameos. In a full season of television, he obviously runs across situations in which his unflappable personality becomes…well, flapped. Still, the mystery of his death/revival is intriguing (and still not fully resolved), and he makes for a good leader.
He’s joined by old friend and mysterious operative Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen). She pilots their plane and also destroys people. Ming-Na Wen is also the voice of Mulan, if you needed a further reason to love her. May is joined by Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), another field agent who is pretty much the definition of broody man angst, and is in my opinion, the most boring character in the show, although in recent episodes, he’s actually become somewhat interesting. The team is rounded out by Fitz (Iain de Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), two brilliant young scientists, and finally Skye (Chloe Bennet), a hacker with a mysterious background. But really, who on the team doesn’t have a mysterious background?
The dynamics of the cast mean that even shaky episodes are enjoyable, and good episodes are dynamite. While I’ll avoid spoilers, the MCU films have so far tied in neatly (while Captain America: The Winter Soldier completely smashed the status quo). On top of that, in a time when we’re seeing more and more superhero shows hit the air (Arrow, Gotham, Agent Carter, Daredevil), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has hit its stride and the science fiction element combined with the classic “group of ragtag misfits” has made it a great watch. Despite the fact that the inner workings of a shadowy, all-powerful government organisation is in all honesty, kind of boring, the showrunners have managed to turned it into a suspenseful, twisting ride, without veering into overly bleak, hopeless territory that, let’s face it, makes watching DC’s movies such a drag compared to Marvel’s. I’m over rich dudes grimacing and posturing and being manly and alone because it’s their duty or something. Bring on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season two!
If you’re a fan of the MCU or Marvel, give AoS a go. Stick with it through the first half of the season. I promise it’s worth it.