Monday, April 14, 2014

The Winter Soldier Bigfoots Agents of SHIELD. It Gets Better.

Yay.  Marvel's Agents of SHIELD has finally gotten really interesting. And I don't mean an individual episode, I mean the entire series, several of the characters who weren't before, and the writing in general.

How did we get here? And better yet, where do we go from here?


So, I was talking with Matt Bowman, the Novel Ninja, and he noted.
Matt: Agents finally woke up and realized "hey, we've had most of a season without real character growth. What up wit dat?"

Me: I think it was "Hey, we can't do anything really because Cap2 is going to come in and step on us like Godzilla. Let's do NOTHING until Cap2 comes out. Hail Hydra"  [Best use of Gary Schandling ever]

Matt: I need to write a blog post on it and then link to your argument on the subject. 

It then occurred to me that I should probably have an argument on the subject.

Obviously, you know where parts of this is going. After an initial start that I felt was kinda positive, they had a steady downward slide, especially when compared to other shows. What was the excuse for Agents of SHIELD's piss poor performance?

"We didn't want to have a Marvel movie tie in series. It needed to build up to that."

And yet, nothing happened until last week's episode, which was a direct tie-in with the new Captain America film. Nothing.  No character development, no character, nothing.  The best episode before that?  THE TIE-IN WITH THOR: THE DARK WORLD! The episode that happened the week after the DVD came out!

And they were "building up to" Hydra as the primary villain? Really? Hydra came out of NOWHERE on this show.  There was no buildup, no hint, no whisper, nothing that indicated that it had survived WW2. The closest they got to Hydra was episode two, where they found a Hydra weapon in Brazil, ripping off a 1970s novel and film, The Boys from Brazil. And it was such a throwaway episode that I found it painful.

Ooooo, but this was the plllaaannnn.

No, Jeph Loeb, head of Marvel television, you don't get to pretend you had any idea what was going on. Chekov's gun says that you have to show a hint of a plot point before you can fire it, and you didn't show us anything aside from some crappy tinker toys. I have been told that they knew about Hydra since Day Two.

Here's what's going to happen. I'm going to tell you exactly what goes down over the remaining five or so episodes. Ready?  Almost everything that you've seen over the course of this season will make a brief appearance. The Hydra ray-gun from Brazil, the ice-machine guy from the academy, a few lab experiments from "centipede" (which was obviously not-AIM, but now they're going to be Hydra), will all be whipped-out of the Hydra toolkit. The writers and creators will point to these things and say "See! See! We said we had a plan! Really we did!"

Fertilizer! Biofuel! And other variations of crap! Standard Marvel doomsday weapons do not require a whole origin story. That is not a plan! That is not any kind of a plan. That's padding, and hoping that they accept it as a plan.

If there were a real "plan," someone would have invested us in making Agent tall dark and wooden (Ward) a likable person, so when he turned traitor, we would have cared. Instead, they gave him a creepy sex-buddy status with a woman old enough to be his mother, and gave him completely inappropriate feelings towards the woman he's mentoring (teacher-student relationships don't work that way), and somehow we're supposed to care when he exhibits something like feelings towards her? (It's hard to tell, he doesn't emote well... or at all).

For the record, I've had people tell me that they can reverse Ward turning traitor. No, they really can't. He just stone-cold murdered the highest-ranking member of SHIELD. There's no way to spin that unless Victoria Hand faked her death too, and it makes no sense to do that, and it's officially overused at this point.

The original maxim of Chekov's gun is that if you show a gun in act one, you have to fire it by act three; conversely, if you fire a gun in act three, you must show it in act one.  You want to bet that they're going to just take that literally, and it's the gun from episode two? That's where my money is. There has not been a hint of Hydra outside of that lousy gun.

Like I said, this isn't a plan.  At best, it's padding.

The closest they had to advanced planning has been writing in an obvious replacement for Ward -- who is, of course, a young hip black fellow, in an obvious attempt to answer the critics who said that Agents of SHIELD was too white. The only reason that works thus far is because the character, Triplett, is a fun, charming, likable guy who has more personality than any two of the series regulars put together.

At the end of the day, I'm finally encouraged by and looking forward to episodes of Agents of SHIELD. I'm even semi-enthused about season two.

Oh, you didn't realize they were renewed? Yup. They are. And, now that Heroes is being rebooted, maybe Jeph Loeb will go back to NBC, Joss Whedon will finish Avengers 2 and actually do something for Agents of SHIELD.

I can see it now. Save the cheerleader, save Agents of SHIELD.

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