How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Episode 10 The Bridge (1)

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!)

Follow me on Twitter @sljbowman

  • Jozef Kadlub

    I love articles like these

    • Sabienna B.

      Thanks, Jozef.

  • Guest

    “while keeping the larger focus of the show squarely on normal people in extraordinary circumstances. ” Good job you realized what AOS is all about, however it’s sad you have all those other fools out there who go WHY ISN’T HULK IN IT

    • Sabienna B.

      I think it is frustrating for some viewers that there haven’t been more Marvel characters in the series, but I’m happy with the characters we have. I’ve heard they’ll be going more Marvel after the break though, so while I doubt they’ll get their Hulk, they might get some familiar faces out of the deal.

  • Chibi RAWR

    I don’t know why people keep on saying AOS should be like Breaking Down and Walking Dead. They are nothing ailike. Agents of SHIELD is like Warehouse 13. Both are similar in terms of theme and in comparison, AOS established far more primary plot points. we have the bad guy told right off the begging and now we heard more.

    for more eps they already showed Victoria Hand again. there is another new agent that joins the team who deals with superpower humans like on the Index and knows the old coulson. it will get better but the internet trolls keep on coming back to each aritcile just to say THIS SHOW SUCKS IT HAS NO PLOT THE CHARACTERS ARE LAME I DONT SEE HULK THERE IS NO BLOOD AND GUTS

    yes you have to look at the product for what it is. not what you want it to be, which is the norm now a days for anything. OH THE HOBBIT SUCKED IT WASNT DARK ENOUGH IT WAS JUST JOKES AND STUPID PEOPLE

    • Sabienna B.

      Excellent comparison. SHIELD does have a WH13 vibe– another show I enjoy watching. I actually like that the show hasn’t went extremely dark. It touches on darker themes, but it’s easing us into that portion of the show.

      I agree it feels right on track at the moment.

  • Ian

    Glad you’re enjoying Shield. Definitely not my cup of tea, but “roughly on par with what little of Firefly we got to see”? No. No no no. Nuh uh.

    • Sabienna B.

      I was speaking more in terms of story arc. Firefly had only touched on its season long arc before it was cancelled and the episodes were largely episodic. Where Firefly delivered the most was in originality of concept and the characters worked immediately– SHIELD’s characters had to have room to grow, so Firefly definitely came out more fully formed.

      • BrianZ

        Well, a friendly advice, don’t compare Firfly in some cases, it just might upset somebody or else.
        It’s a very nice reviews.

  • fleiter69

    Face it, guys. This show is on the way out. It was sold to us as a Joss Whedon show. It’s not one. That is its primary problem. It has none of his love for dialog or character development. Skye and Ward are awful. May is probably the deepest character and she is barely two-dimensional. The plots are meh. The performances are flat. People gave this show a chance and it didn’t deliver. It won’t get a second season.

  • GrampaJoe

    Good piece, but calling it “on par” with Firefly is a little over the top…

    • Sabienna B.

      I think it’s roughly on par in terms of the way the story is unfolding. The pacing is similar. However, Firefly was an original concept with a cast that clicked immediately, SHIELD’s cast took a few episodes to feel cohesive, but they’re getting there.

      I’ve found that as much as I love Firefly, whenever I rewatch it I’m struck by how little we got in terms of an overarching plot. The seeds were there, but Whedon wasn’t given the chance to delve into the meatier parts of the story until Serenity the movie.

  • Sean

    Well it should be obvious to you why your in the minority with your opinion. The “accept it for what it is” arguement isn’t going to get you far. And this show is no where near FIRE FLY status. AOS is pretty much just NCIS with Marvel tagged on it. Characters are in no way interesting. I have to care about Skye before I care about what the hell happened to her poor mommy and daddy. All this compared to a show like ARROW which has a good supporting cast, a serviceable lead, and is ingrained in the DC universe totally. It’ll never have BATMAN or SUPERMAN, but it does have lesser known popular hero’s and villains. Unlike AOS.

  • David Young

    Yes, I’ve been very happy with AOS so far. (It’s not as good as “Firefly,” but then, the “charisma quotient” of that set of actors was exceptionally high.) I would like to see a few more “walk-ons” of the movie characters — even second tier ones — simply because it would serve to more firmly cement the show as being in that universe…and also because it might calm down some of the more rabid fanboys and girls. Sif is the character I’d most like to see. (Of course, I’m a Sif/Jaimie Alexander fanboy, and I’d like to see her in every episode of every Marvel production…so factor that into my opinion on the subject.)

    • Sabienna B.

      If they could get Sif that would be awesome. I’m mostly okay with the lack of Marvel characters because I came into the show as a Whedon/Marvel movieverse fan. I have some knowledge of the comics, but I fear all of the Marvel comics’ characters I would like to see are currently owned by Fox. Aside from The Runaways, that is.

      Firefly trumps SHIELD in terms of the cast (the Firefly crew were a special a bunch), but in terms of pacing I think they’re in a similar place.

  • Lore Krajsman

    I gave it six episodes to convince me, after those six eps, the characters still felt flat, lifeless and heartless. It was like the actors were just giving rote lines without putting any personality into it.

    Buffy’s first season might have sucked, but it’s characters grabbed you within one episode.

    Almost Human on Fox, might not be perfect, but the two main characters grabbed my heart in one episode.

    The Tomorow People has its issues, but once again, the characters worked within one or two eps.

    I don’t care about special effects working or not working, I don’t care whether it’s enough like the movies, even though I would have preferred at least one superpowered character in the group. I just care that none of the characters felt like anything other than cardboard. Admittedly, I never cared for Coulson in the movies either, but if characters aren’t anything other than tropes or stereotypes, then you end up losing my interest.

    • Sabienna B.

      I totally understand that. If I can’t find a character to really grab my attention I’m less inclined to stick around. I was lucky in that Coulson was a favorite of mine before hand and Fitz and Skye grabbed me immediately.

      I commend you for at least giving SHIELD a proper chance though. Sometimes a show just doesn’t click. It did for me, but I do understand how it might not work for others.

    • BrianZ

      Yes, you had spoke my mind. The characters did feel kind of stiff, cardboard is the right word for it. I think the writers contributed most of the stiffness.
      Take an example, recently NCIS had introduced a new cast and the writers delicately ease her into the mass of seasoned veterans, “AND IT CLICKED.”
      So, the cast needs to loosen up, enjoy each others and the show as well. I believed recent improvement is the result of that. But I’m still looking forward for the episodes to come.

  • Francesco Spreafico

    Great article! I agree with every single word! But the Firefly bit, of course, Firefly is the best thing that ever graced TV, so it shouldn’t be compared to anything else. 🙂

    Still a great article, though!

    • Sabienna B.

      Thanks so much!

      I should have been clearer, I think SHIELD is roughly on par with Firefly in terms of story pacing, although Firefly had an originality factor that can’t be beat. The same is true of Dollhouse, although it took it a much, much longer time to figure out what it wanted to do with its concept.

  • ptjackson

    Maybe I am in the minority, but I like this show, and have not felt the need to criticize it. Yes, I understand why people do, but I am enjoying it for what it is, and having fun watching it. For me personally, if I want stress, I will turn off the TV and return to my real life. But when the TV is on, take me somewhere else. This show does that for me.

    • Sabienna B.

      I’m right there with you, PT. Early on, I wanted the characters to be fleshed out more, but they have more than rewarded my patience in that area. I have a ball watching it each week, and I am dying to see the next new episode.

  • Not_a_Agents_of_Shield_fan

    Thats not true.They only
    thing we want them to acknowledge is that we live in 2014
    Gone are the times of boring medicore tv shows. People demand a
    good script, actors who have actually acting abilities, etc. For example
    Sky character is a snoot brat but they started her with an interresting
    story, as a foe who gets into Shield and works as a double agent for
    the risingtide, that story arc had great potential. Instead they
    switched to the “i`m looking for my mommy” trope. And i hear people
    saying “well the switched the tone of the show now” or “they
    experimented with the first episodes to get a feel what the audience
    likes or dislikes”. I say this is the greatest BS i ever heard!! These
    properties are years in development before we see them on the screen and
    they have a rough direction what they want to create,
    The scriptes
    are mostlly finalized, of course they are always possible last minute
    changes but the rough outline or direction is there. So if you willing
    to lower your expectations fine by me but i`m not willing to
    do that.