Guys, I want the internet to make a New Year’s Resolution: I want everyone to stop nitpicking S.H.I.E.L.D. for one week. Just watch it on your own, don’t discuss it, just absorb it. Drink it in. Think back to other first year shows in your head and compare its progress. Don’t think of it in terms of Marvel or even of Whedon, just examine it as a work in progress and if the denizens of the internet still hate it…well, I’m still ignoring everything you’ve said about Scandal, so we will let bygones be whatever the heck a bygone is.
Meanwhile, I’ll be over here loving this kick butt little show. I was like you once. I had reservations; I thought things started out too slow, that it was taking too long to get to the character work. But now…I love S.H.I.E.L.D., completely and unabashedly, and the midseason finale, “The Bridge” encompassed a lot of the reasons why. It also alleviated those last few doubts lingering in my mind. I trust the Whedon family and their writing kin now, but it didn’t happen over night.
Here is how I stopped worrying and learned to embrace S.H.I.E.L.D.:
I Stopped Criticizing It For What It’s Not
It is not a Marvel movie, nor is it an excuse to trot out the bargain basement Marvel heroes in order to attract a bit of uber Marvel fan glee. The series is an extension of the movieverse that is determined to do its own thing. Would I like to see a couple of The Runaways pass through sometime in the future? Sure. However, I commend the writers for creating their own hero in Mike, while keeping the larger focus of the show squarely on normal people in extraordinary circumstances. The results have created a series that can give us a unique perspective on a world where villains and heroes are often the primary focus.
That kind of humanity isn’t always necessary in comic book realities, but it is a must for television.
I Embraced The Characters
Last time we convened, I broke down all of the reasons I adore the crew. “The Bridge” capitalized on my affections, by casually ripping my heart out half a dozen times. May revealing affection for Ward and being rebuked, Skye breaking down over May’s harsh words, Coulson reminiscing about the cellist, that horrifying, nail-biting ending…if you have allowed yourself to invest in the team, this episode was killer.
I Remind Myself We’re Barely Halfway Into Season One
S.H.I.E.L.D. is a season one show. I sat through all of Revolution last season and that sucker was all over the map quality wise, now it has turned into a genuinely thrilling series. The bar was set high for S.H.I.E.L.D. and I feel, for a first season show, it’s on track. It didn’t come out of the gate like season one of Lost, but if we compare it to past Whedon shows, it is better than Buffy season one, better than Angel season one, better than Dollhouse season one and roughly on par with what little of Firefly we got to see.
I’m speaking in terms of cases of the week and character work. Episodically, week to week, S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s quality has been on the rise. We haven’t seen any out and out clunkers and the show has been smoothly transitioning into telling denser, serialized stories. At this point, every character has had a standout moment. The team is clicking, there is a big bad in place (The Clairvoyant)– for a show that is 10 episodes into a 22 episode season that’s not shabby work.
I Checked My Fangirl Baggage At The Door
This is a new show with an audience that is bringing a unique amount of baggage to their viewing experience. We want it to have superheroes, we want it to be very Whedonesque, we want it to be Marvel, we want it to be old school adventure style television, we want better characters, we want more name recognizable characters…OMG, if I were the writers I would be curled in the fetal position chewing on my hair if I had to cater to that many disparate voices. Luckily, they don’t have to.
The Whedon way of doing things, and the best way, is to give the audience what they need, not what they want. Right now, they need to calm down because what they’re getting may not seem impressive taken in pieces, but I know that for me at least, when I stepped back and really looked at the show in front of me, I saw the makings of something special.
The themes of family, of governmental secrecy, of heroism– they are all there, all wrapped in imperfect people. Right now, S.H.I.E.L.D. is exciting, it’s fun, it’s stylish and, when it needs to be, it’s serious, painful and unflinching. That is no small feat.
So, once again, I’m issuing a challenge. Try watching the show without the expectations you brought to the table then come back here in January so we can discuss the aftermath of the crazy cliffhangers: is Ward okay? Did they really kill Mike? Who is The Clairvoyant? And what is the deal with Coulson? (Come on, how can you not want to know what the deal is with Coulson!)
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