Like so many of my geek friends, I have been watching ABC’s new drama Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Before the show started, I knew I had to watch it. Not only was it part of the rich Marvel universe that has been grown in the movie industry, known as the MCU, but it was also a new Joss Whedon show. I’ve might not gotten to my honorable mentions for fangirling, but here’s a hint, anything Joss Whedon, I adore. So, a spin-off of the Avengers (kind of) for TV, brought to us by Joss Whedon? My Tuesday nights at 8pm were solidly booked at that point.
So, here we are three weeks into the show, and I find myself at a pause. There’s something that just is not working for me in this show. It’s not that I don’t like it, but I don’t love it. Not the way I love Buffy, Angel, or Firefly. The plot of the episodes are fun, creative, and entertaining, but that’s the story of what is going on. It’s the characters that are more lacking for me, which is hard to say about any other Joss show (apart from maybe parts of Dollhouse and the intentional lack of character that they intended for certain characters). Here I am, three weeks in, and I know almost nothing relevant or compelling about these characters. Certainly nothing that makes me want to care about them.
There’s Melinda May, the obviously talented yet scarred secret agent who has demonstrated the same emotional and character depth as one of the mind-wiped dolls on Dollhouse. She wants to avoid combat, but is known as “the Calvary”. She has expressed little emotion, other than disdain, throughout every episode.
Next, the twins, as I like to call them, Fitz and Simmons, who half the time I can’t recall which is which. They have the most actual personality of all the people on the show, but they also get the least amount of screen time. They are from all appearances, crazy smart, but we aren’t getting any interaction with them to see who they are beyond that. Hard to get invested in characters that you aren’t getting a chance to see.
Then we get to the merry threesome at the center of the show: Skye, Ward, and Coulson.
Skye and Ward are doing a merry little dance that is ultimately going to lead to them falling for one another. It’s written plain as day for anyone to see. Except, I don’t really care if they get together. At this point, all they have done is tell me that Skye is this amazing super hacker, who is also an orphan and a drop out, but she’s always looking great for someone who lived out of her van at the start of the show. Then there’s Ward, who has no personality, and it feels forced every time he tries to “be human” in attempt to connect with Skye in a way that she would understand. His whole story about how his bad older brother used to beat him up because him or his younger brother wanted cake, and that being the whole reason why he became a secret super spy that kills people when necessary and has to work alone? A bit far-fetched, just a tad. It was like the writers were told that Ward wasn’t connecting with the audience, so they came up with this elaborate reason why he has to protect people, which serves no function as to why that transcended from protecting his family to fighting to protect the world. I’m not able to make that leap with them as to how something so small could make him make such a huge choice. (Unless they forgot to mention that his brother was actually a super villain in training, and then hey, that would work. But that’s the kind of information they need to tell us so that we understand the gravity of standing up to one’s older brother.)
The worst part about Skye and Ward is that the relationship is likely doomed, by one of their ultimate betrayals. I’m betting on it being Ward; mainly, due to the fact that the signs are screaming at us to not trust Skye. However, it’s a Joss Whedon show. Any romance, no matter how much they love each other, is going to be doomed in some way.
Finally, there’s Coulson. Many people love and adore Coulson, but that comes more from his existence in the extended MCU rather than the show. He’s had the most “characterization” of any of the others, but it is limited at focusing back to his “death” during the Avengers movie. Whether he was killed and revived, cloned, replaced by a robot, we don’t know, but his character hinges on everything we were supposed to know already. He’s “rusty”. That’s all we’ve been told. It makes it hard for me to latch onto him. He’s not progressing.
None of the characters are really progressing. None of them are showing us really their internal struggles. They all feel weak and shallow, and I don’t know why. Joss has many times been able to show the internal struggle, rise, and fall of characters through monster of the week programming, and it worked brilliantly for those shows. Here though, it doesn’t.
The most interesting characters we’ve seen have been Maria Hill, Nick Fury, and Mike Peterson (played by J. August Richards in the first episode). Of all those, only Mike Peterson has been written solely for this show. I felt for Mike Peterson when he was on. I don’t feel for these other characters. Yes, it’s only three episodes, but that’s 120 minutes that I’ve given to these characters. They need to give something back.
I’ll keep watching. I hope this is just the growing pains of finding their voice, and that in the next few episodes, these people will be more like actual characters. That they will show me this, rather than just kind of tell me. (I mean, come on, the super hacker goes in undercover to a guarded fortress so that she can find a wireless signal, activate a device, and let someone else hack the system?) Perhaps we’ll even get more tiny cameos, like we got with Nick Fury in episode 2.
Thoughts, comments, questions? Share them with me.