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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"Of course, according to my parents the action I'm getting right now should make my last remaining eye go blind..."
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May 03 2014

Zap2it calls Marvel's Agents of SHIELD one of the Best Shows of 2013-14. Terri Schwartz of Zap2it discusses how the show has evolved from a rough beginning to become one of the best shows of the season.

I agree that the show has become a very good show, and the show that most fans (including myself) wanted to see.

But it seems like Robert Redford is the season MVP without having ever appeared in an episode. Has the show become successful by becoming what the producers said they didn't want it to be -- an appendage of the movies?

Ideally, a TV show shouldn't come with mandatory viewing pre-requisites... and the last few episodes of AoS would be more confusing than awesome to anyone who hasn't seen the Cap 2 movie.

But the show seems to be using this opportunity to build its own compelling mythology. Hopefully it won't need a visit from Rocket Raccoon when season 2 premieres this fall.

...And I have to note that the two episodes the article writer calls out as bad ones (The Well and Yes Men) were among my favorites of the pre-Garrett era. But, I do admit to having a crush on Sif. She's got that sexy Xena thing going on.
It has gotten better I agree. While I think it's had some severe pacing problems (some of which are still relevant), Cap 2 gave it a shot of life and purpose it needed. Regardless of what the show does or does not do it is dependent on movie events to inform its world. The events of the show are unlikely to have the same impact on the movies, the best we can probably hope for is Fury informing the heroes of what his team has been up too and maybe a cameo in a scene by one of the show actors.

It's character building could still use some work. Beyond May's relationship with Phil and maybe being hurt Ward ended things with her she's still very stoic. They are just now starting to differentiate Fitz and Simmons in any lasting way. Ward's flatness may have been intentional, but the fact they want us to believe he actually loves Skye seems like they are going for a cliche redemption arc which I'm not sure they can pull off believably. The insertion of Skye as the second lead did not make her Buffy-like, she came across as bratty Dawn-like. She's gotten somewhat better now and I did like her tearing into Ward last episode, but dragging her 0-84 mystery hasn't done the character any favors.

Also, the show treating humans with actual superpowers as somewhat of a rarity has to stop for a show set in the MCU about agents who are supposed to deal with that kind of thing. Deathlok is cool, but other then him we've had: origins of Donnie and Gravitron. And one-offs in Blackout, Scorch, Lorelei and the invisible stalker. I know there are budget constraints but seven super villains in a show set in this world is way too low, and Deathlok is the only one with an arc. They should use MoTW episodes as a way to explore characters that are unlikely to appear in the movies and metaphor to develop the main cast, Buffy excelled at this.

And a personal pet peeve of mine is they really need to stop treating Telepathic, Telekinetic & Foresight powers as absurd. Just because SHIELD might not have any data on them is no reason to write them off in a world where hammers can generate lightning. "So your a believer now? When Phil thought the Clairvoyant might actually be psychic was so irritating. Telepathy isn't even really hard on a budget and would tie nicely with Phil wanting to get rid of all the secrets and be a good way explore the characters on a deeper level.

That sounded more negative they I intended. I do like the show and do want it to improve in Season 2.
Perhaps this link should have a SPOILER tag.
Jamie Alexander's performance as Lady Sif was my surprise of the season. It shows how good Marvel is at casting what has essentially been a bit part in the Thor movies. Hopefully she gets more to do in the movies.

I agree the early season was definitely tied too much to waiting what happened in Captain America and that the beginning of the season relied too much on just cleaning up an Asgarding mess while pushing the extremis/centipede story harder might have made things more interesting.

I find that the writers have done a really good job with characterization in that in "Turn, Turn, Turn" any one of the "heroes" we had been following for the season could have been a mole and could have deeply needed the group dynamic for support and friendship. Admittedly I would like to see the writers delve a little more into the backstories of characters other than Coulson, the season has progressed nicely, I feel.
The show still has huge problems. I think the truly awful beginning to the season has somewhat lowered expectations whereby what we are watching now seems almost brilliant in comparison. But the pacing and characterisation still leave a lot to be desired. And in the recent episodes it's clear they are struggling whenever Ward isn't on screen. It's either a cringe-worthy B-plot like the Amy Acker one a couple of weeks ago or it's yet another Coulson/May conversation going in circles.

But it is getting better and that's all you can ask for really.
Nah, its been brilliant from the start, and now its even better. :)
I don't agree with the argument that the show had an 'awful beginning.' I think impatient online reviewers who have no familiarity with Joss' works spewed out that 'information' and then a lot of folks started buying it. The show started out the exact same way all of Joss' shows do (stand-alone episodes mostly devoted to character development with small plot seeds planted to foreshadow long-term storylines later on).

The show was never awful. Episode two was the most pulpy and i guess thats an aquired taste, but it was very, very good from episode 1. The cases were nothing special but thet were entertaining, and i wasnt watching for the cases anyway. I loved the characters and the slow getting to know them and the hints of what they were obviously building towards to. And the pay off has been spectacular.
It's beginning was never "horrible" but guilty of a lot of wheel-spinning. We've had three episodes out of twenty so far where they've given us new information on how Phil was brought back to life, and this is one of our central mysteries of the season. The characters should have been more proactive on this as well as Skye's mystery. True, the show had to hold back on the fact that our real Big Bad is HYDRA/Garret and therefore Ward's true nature, but doing so in the last quarter of a season is makes the early stuff seem like filler. The character work in the early episodes was also mixed at best as many people pointed out they came across as archetypes rather then people we could get invested in. The events of Cap 2 helped it get off the ground but in future seasons they shouldn't have to always wait for a movie to actually show viewers what the stakes are.
I'm not sure where this idea that people will be confused if they don't watch the Marvel movies comes from: I haven't seen any Marvel movie except for The Avengers, and I haven't felt lost watching the recent episodes.

Fury is missing? Check.
HYDRA infiltrated SHIELD? Check.
SHIELD is now on the run? Check.

If anything, it gives me a sense that there's a bigger world out there beyond the show, which is kinda cool. (And which is Marvel's intended effect, really.) I don't feel so invested Captain America et al that I absolutely have to know what's going on with them, as I haven't been following the movies.
I wouldn't say the beginning of the show was horrible, but I'm not sure that I would have kept watching if I didn't know what the creative team behind it was capable of. Pilot was great, but after that I found myself wanting to like it, rather than actually liking it. The first episode that really felt smooth to me was TRACKS (I really enjoyed how the played around with the narrative structure), and since then it seemed pretty consistently good, with another spike in quality the episode right before Capt. America which has been maintained since.

Contrary to the article, I see being linked to the movies as a weakness, as this season it left the creative team in a bit of a holding pattern until Captain America (which also is likely part of the reason for the screwy schedule).

Looking forward to the movie schedule, whatever fallout exists from Guardians of the Galaxy should happen before the season premiere. The big question is whether they'll try to incorporate the events of Age of Ultron into season 2. If they do, they'll either have to have just the last few episodes deal with that material, or they'll have to delay the whole season so that midseason or so was in early May, which would be very unconventional. Still, if Coulson plays a part in AoE, it might be more interesting to take this different sort of approach (I really do expect to see him in it, or Avengers 3; there's too much dramatic potential when the team discovers that Fury hid that he brought him back). The other consideration is Ant Man 3. I don't know how much of an effect that movie's going to have on the cinematic universe. If it has a big impact, and they don't deal with AoE in season 2, then season 3's premiere is going to be pretty busy, having to deal with multiple developments. And of course, the end of season 3 will have Capt. America 3 in early May, leading to a situation similar to AoE's effect on season 2, so that could also get interesting.

Making the movies and TV show intersect can be rewarding, but I really feel for the people that have to try to organize it all and still make entertaining television.
I hope they don't have to tie into a movie coming out during season 2 again. That, I feel, was one of the big problems: the scheduling to align with the opening of Cap2. That forced this incredibly drawn out schedule and pace. Basically, very little of significance could happen before Cap2 aired. Of course that doesn't mean everything before that was a wash since I already said in another topic that everything came together pretty well when I did a rewatch of all episodes post Turn, Turn, Turn.

Now that everything and everyone is established, I hope they can keep the pace up in S2. Go nuts, have things escalate and make the characters live through whatever consequences for a while. Don't be afraid to change the show to service the narrative. Of course Marvel/ABC need to let them.

That said, most network shows "suffer" through this in their first season. They have to get into a groove and find themselves. Fringe season 1 was soooo formulaic and appeared aimless. Then it slowly turned crazy and awesome!

I currently feel very confident in recommending AoS to people after finally knowing that it is going places. Taking it on faith at the beginning was for us Whedon-loyalists only, I'd say.
I think in the last few episodes they've developed the characters and their motivations and milieu enough that it won't have to rely on movie tie-ins from now on. But it's a fact that it did need that jump-start. It was never a bad show, but it wasn't anything special enough to stand on its own until the last half-dozen episodes.

It's because the heroes aren't working for The Man anymore. No Whedon show can be good when people are working for The Man.

Don't know what's going to become of S.H.I.E.L.D., though. It would be awkward if the show has to change its title in season 2. I think S.H.I.E.L.D. will be back, and I suspect Tony Stark will have something to do with it. Its fate may be up in the air until Avengers 2.
SHIELD isn't an organization (anymore), it's a metaphor. no reason to change the title.
I don't think that future tie-ins would have quite the same effect on the show now that has it's own trajectory.
@AndrewCrossett - thought the last season of Angel was pretty darn strong when they were working for The Man.
Angel & Co. were working for Wolfram & Hart with the intent of taking them down from within... though they might have lost the mission a bit at times. W&H was always the enemy, even when the heroes forgot that fact.
I feel like the only one who, while liking the individual episodes, finding the whole Hydra arc completely stupid as an overplot.
I think Coulson's going to found S.H.I.E.L.D. 2.0 following his rules.
I gave up on this show after episode 10 and said that I wouldn't pick it up again unless I heard it improved greatly. I saw a lot of comments saying how great it has become since CA:TWS so I decided to watch the last several episodes... and I'm still totally underwhelmed. Has it got better? Yes. Does that make it good? Well, imo no.

I'm just flabbergasted anyone could call this one of the best shows of 2013-2014. I find it incredibly pedestrian, not remotely original, and I still really struggle thinking of it as a "Whedon" show when I think the quality is so far below BtVS/AtS/Firefly/Dollhouse. I mean, yes, it has improved but given what it was I just don't think that's saying much. If people are squeeing over these episodes and calling them "amazing" then I'm guess the show really, really isn't for me. But, hey, at least nobody can say I didn't try?

And if they really spent the majority of the season spinning their wheels because they had to wait for CA:TWS then that's a serious flaw in this franchise. And it's particularly frustrating for those of us complaining about how stagnant and repetitive the season was because our criticisms were ignored by ME and twisted into us complaining that "there's not enough Iron Man" etc. And now they're admitting they had to stall until the film was release? Hm.

But anyway I don't think I'm ever going to love this show which is really disappointing as I hoped to enjoy it. I watched CA:TWS and I was *blown away* by how great that film was and it just made it really apparent to me the difference in the quality of the writing when I saw AoS tackle the same plot. You can throw in as many twists and double agents as you like and, hey, you have a plot now! But as long as the writing remains so generic and by the book it's just never going to be a "great" or even good show to me. And it's just visually so dull to look at. Anyway, I tried, and the series has officially used up any good will or patience I had for it. But I'm glad for anybody who enjoys it that it's likely to be renewed and I hope it keeps making fans happy.

[ edited by vampmogs on 2014-05-04 07:41 ]
Considering how mediocre it was for at least 15 episodes, and how drastically it improved, I'm sort of worried that the show will return to treading water until the next film.
Until Avengers 2 comes out, AoS pretty much has the playing field all to itself in showing us what happens with the SHIELD/HYDRA business.

Garrett will presumably be dealt with by the end of this season, one way or another, unless they're going to Darth Vader him and make him an ongoing villain. The bigger problem will be from a US/world government that assumes any SHIELD holdouts are terrorists.

There's a lot of story to be told there, and nobody else is going to tell it. They have all next season to run wild... then Avengers 2 can open with a re-constituted SHIELD already up and running. To movie-only viewers, it will look like a seamless transition from Cap 2, but AoS viewers will get the story of how it happened.
vampmogs, I know how hard you tried to make this work - it's clearly not you, but I never really thought you and AoS were right for each other. You tried to talk with them about it and they just twisted and ignored everything you had to say. No one can blame you for being out of patience at this point. I think if you just keep your eyes open, you'll find that special show that makes you happy. You deserve it.

...and you should probably know I'm seeing AoS.
@Sunfire the great part of AoS and the MCU is that it questions whether SHIELD and what it does is a good thing. Tony Stark saying "An intelligence organization that fears intelligence, historically not awesome" for me sets the tone for the series. It continues through Cap. America where we essentially are seeing that Hydra and SHIELD are two sides of the same coin specifically with Black Widows testimony to congress. (Spoilers for the last episode) Now with Coulson finding out that he initiated TAHITI he and all agents have two wonder whether founding another SHIELD is a good thing.
I feel it would have really benefitted from splitting the season into two big arcs. They had a whole half season were they could have told their own story independent of all the Hydra stuff. I would have loved for the first 12 episodes to have concentrated on the Coulson mystery. You could still have a monster of the week structure, but that mystery as the driving force. Like Ramaldi in Alias. It could all have been wrapped up in the first half of the season and then, just as everything seems to be good and the teams working together. Hit us with the Hydra reveal which then fuels the second half of the season.

What I've found interesting is that so many TV shows are terrible at payoffs and everyone gets annoyed at the end. This show has been so obsessed with payoffs it seems to have forgotten that the build up should be equally exciting and entertaining. And it does no good to say how interesting it is to go back and watch earlier episodes again to look for clues. By that time it 's too late.

I should add that I do still enjoy the show. Just frustratedly.

I also don't believe you have to have seen CA:TWS to enjoy the show more or understand it. Because all you need to know is that Shield has been taken over by an evil organisation called Hydra. All other details are entirely incidental. I don't believe it's narrative hangs off anything else. That story could just as easily existed and happened in the same way had CA:TWS not been made.
I hope the show can be good. I think my concern is probably the same one that gets voiced which is this show may end up being constrained by "playing in the wake" of Marvel films.

When I think Buffy, Angel, Firefly (if it had gone on), or Dollhouse I think of worlds where the show could fundamentally change the universe it existed in and shift the status quo when necessary. In a show where the big bad was "Hydra", Hydra was exposed somewhere else. That doesn't mean it can't be exciting or interesting, but to me there's a big difference between when a show flips the world in your face and what happened here where people saw TWS and then tuned in to see how that would play out in Agents of Shield with a twist they already knew.

I'm not sure Shield will be allowed to flip the world of Super Heroes because that would be far too confusing for a film only audience. And that's a problem for a great show because great shows can shock you. It's hard to be shocked when you can see the guard rails of the plot.

That doesn't mean it can't be great or Marvel can't change it's mind about the importance of the show, I'm just saying right now the criticism especially coming from some Whedon fans makes sense to me. I'll just say it's still a fun show that I like to some degree, I just wish I could fall in love with it more. I do think for me the key to that may be Trip and Fitz being more active (and by that I mean doing things so the first thing people talk about when mentioning him ISN'T Simmons).
What vampmogs said.
I am just going to put this out there that pretty much every Whedon show with the exception of Firefly have been pretty bad in the beginning. Specifically with season openers Joss himself has said that because they had to start from scratch every year having wrapped up everything the year before it was hard to have a great episode as a series or season opener.
@ Tausif-MoAS is different in that our main character had already been established in multiple movie cameos and this universe has a lot going on that Joss can influence but he doesn't have sole control over or absolute final say on everything. This has both advantages and disadvantages obviously.
Dusk, the reason the characters are acting suspicious about telekinetic and telepathic abilities and the reason that super powered humans are such a rarity in the series is because of the movies. The show writers have to play by the rules that have been set by the MCU and so far(at least until Avengers 2 and Dr. Strange) telepathic/telekinetic powers do not exist in the Marvel universe(remember, this is a world where the X-Men don't exist). If every episode of the show had new super powered beings showing up it would throw a wrench into the Marvel films' plans where The Avengers having powers is a pretty big deal. The shows/films are not the comics.

[ edited by eddy on 2014-05-04 17:28 ]
The show is improving, but I think the criticisms have merit. It's a shame folks felt that they were being labeled as just wanting an "Iron Man." That's not right. I hope that with the Whedon lead Avengers on track for next year, the AofS team will have greater freedom to do what they are good at, run a great show with challenging themes.

But a show that has to wait for a movie was going to have issues. I still am uncertain how I feel about how closely the show was tied into the movie. I was very angry for a while as I had some fairly stressful stuff that happened in my life that prevented me from getting to see TWS. But I got over myself, spoiled myself and moved on. And I love the show and now look forward to it every week.

Since TWS, the show is moving and at a clip. The twisty turnies feel pretty organic now and make a lot of the awkwardness of the first part of the season make sense, just as this article said.

I also think adding Bill Paxton, whether friend or foe, helped me to enjoy the show more easily as I adore him. His style just speaks to me in unexpected ways. I ought to despise him but I never ever do.

I'm not sure it's the best new show on TV. Fargo is really good as is True Detective from what I hear. But AoS made solid improvement which should continue in the next season.

I give it the award for most improved, hardest working TV show.
AndrewCrossett, I don't think they're going to bring back SHIELD in Avengers 2. They specifically got rid of SHIELD for story reasons related to A2.
AndrewCrossett, I don't think they're going to bring back SHIELD in Avengers 2. They specifically got rid of SHIELD for story reasons related to A2.

In that case, it's going to get pretty silly if they don't re-title the show.

I have to believe that, since Joss is the writer of A2, he wouldn't have called his show "Agents of SHIELD" if he was going to permanently destroy SHIELD halfway through the first season.

I think the organization will be back, in some form, maybe by the end of A2.
The Browncoats didn't cease to exist just because the Alliance won and the rebel army officially disbanded. SHIELD agents haven't all ceased to exist just because HYDRA won and SHIELD is officially disbanded. The show isn't about "SHIELD," it's about the "AGENTS" of SHIELD. Apparently some of them are going to continue with their mission even without official sanction. This should make for some pretty interesting storytelling...
If Coulson rebuilds S.H.I.E.L.D., it would be a very different organization. He's experienced firsthand what can go wrong. I think he'd start small with people he trusts. He has those. Or will have them by the end of the season, anyway.

Also, Age of Ultron spoiler:
@eddy-Is Dr Strange confirmed as getting a movie? I know they mentioned him in Cap 2 but I thought the film was just rumors at this point.

Denial of T & T just seems rather silly to me with the rest of the powers or characters and this world has come to accept. I know the notable ones like Charles and Jean are off-limits in the MCU but that shouldn't stop them from either creating new ones or using a few non-mutant ones. There is that fan-theory floating around the MCU could have Inhumans soon as one way to explore this kind of thing.

In terms of powers, an average person in this world wouldn't be used to seeing them much but this is a show about an organization that has multiple super-prisons at it's disposal. It powers are rare for them to come across in their work what do they do most of the time? These aren't average people. The show at least in early episodes seemed to try to downplay that aspect of this world. Marvel has thousands of characters and most of them are probably not going into the movies. The addition of the Netflix shows soon will also expand this world. I'm not asking for RDJ to show up for an arc but the rarity of powers so far doesn't jibe for me, even Gravitron and Donnie technically did not have any powers when the show dealt with them (so far). It'd be like if Buffy only fought a vampire or demon once in every five episodes.
I'll believe SHIELD is gone when Fury is actually dead. It wouldn't surprise me at all if it was reconstituted as a possibly smaller and less funded underground organization by the finale. And honestly, what better way to get eyes and ears into all of the other government and private organizations HYDRA may have infiltrated than to disperse trusted not-actually-ex-agents (like Maria Hill) throughout them?
Iron Man really does help make shows better, though. It worked on Ally McBeal.
Without SHIELD, there are no agents of SHIELD. Former agents of SHIELD, maybe, but that's not a very snappy title.
Re: T & T powers. What I remember is that what was said was that there had not been any documented cases of T & T. That's not the same as saying they aren't possible.
For Coulson, "Shield" is not just a job, it's a way of life. It was an organization, which dedicated themselves to protect humanity from meta-human threats. Just because the organization collapsed, it does not mean mission ends. The former agents can still identify themselves as Agents of Shield. Throughout the 10 seasons, Buffy has lost her powers on a couple of occasions, and she continued to refer herself as a 'slayer' and kept fighting. Captain Malcom Reynolds lost the war, but continues to fight and identifies himself as a browncoat. Any religious person can also tell you that you don't need a church or synagogue to continue believing in God. SHIELD is still alive as long as Coulson, May, Fitz, Simmons, Skye, Tripplet, or anyone oppose Hydra.
I just attended an academic conference called "From Buffy to Batgirl," about women in sci-fi/fantasy genres. Nearly everyone there watches AoS, and loves it. LOVES it!
@ JDL-It's been a while since of seen it but I'm pretty sure in Eye Spy May said something along the lines of "We've done conclusive studies confirming telepathy is impossible." When they thought Akela was reading people's minds before she acted. And then in Repairs when Simmons is trying to figure out why stuff flies around that woman she said telekinetic energy doing it was impossible. If they said they had no data on it yet that would be one thing. But saying it cannot be done is ridiculous in the MCU world even with the X-Men being off limits to me. Others may disagree, not trying to be rude or anything.
At the beginning of last episode, Maria Hill (working now for Tony Stark) said "we're privatizing global security." At the end, she invited Coulson to come work for them but he said "it's not my style."

I think they're setting the story up for a new SHIELD run by Stark and Hill, which certainly has precedent in the comics.
I searched the transcript and did not find anything like you are suggesting:
Here are the lines that mention something on the topic
There are people in the world with superpowers, right?

What if this woman has ESP or something? There are no credible studies that support precognition, - telepathy, or extrasensory perception.

- Okay, so science says "no".
No, you're not suggesting some sort of precognition - or telepathy because - I know it doesn't exist.

And not long ago, I would have dumped ESP in the "aliens and portals are for crazy people" pile.

But now....(interruption)
I will argue against saying the other Mutant Enemy starting terrible. In my opinion, they all started good (even Dollhouse, to some degree), even if they pale against the improved later seasons.

The pacing for AoS has gotten a lot better, and some of the guest actors (like Patton) have brought a spark, but if this is the best show of the season, I think that is damning of the field. The characterization, dialog, and self-awareness of this show are still underwhelming, especially by ME standards. Too many things on the show happen in order to advance an arbitrary plot, not because character motivation was provided.

Not to mention that this show has no problems with torture and random killing, as long as it is the good guys doing it. Which surprised the hell out of me, considering Joss' view on torture porn. Joss worked around this (with the "truth serum"), but that hasn't been true for the episodes after the pilot.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2014-05-05 03:58 ]
I do prefer Black Widow's means of extracting info from people over May's. Examples of random killing, OneTev?
^They were pretty brutal when breaking into the Guest House compound, for one. Though in retrospect, I don't know for sure who fired the bullets, and if it was Garett, it would make the show a lot better from where I sit.
It was Garrett and Ward who shot the two guards at Guest House.
but if this is the best show of the season, I think that is damning of the field.

Note how the title says "ONE OF THE BEST" not "THE BEST."
@Nebula (1) - Widow talks about all the red in her ledger. She is still haunted by what she is doing, even if it is for a good cause. While the other agents respect her, they like her better after she reduced the unnecessary killing.

(Edit: After thinking about it some more, the Widow is a good example. Both Avengers and the 2nd Cap movie made it clear that she was a dangerous person. It had her and the people around her question, "Is this who she wants to be?" "Can she be more than a hired killer?" The answer is an obvious "yes", but asking the question is important.

The TV show keeps putting her as an idol for SHIELD agents, without going into any greater detail beyond name dropping.)

@Nebula (2) - No one on the Bus even blinked about the two guards being killed. I realize they were focused on Skye, but the show needed SOMEONE who would question whether it was necessary to create a situation which resulted in their deaths.
Considering the episodes before and after that one had them using Night-Night guns, the only reason for the guards to be shot and killed was that the plot wanted the mystery to be continued.

Still applies if it is "one of" the best. To use a sporting term, this show has left a lot of points off the scoreboard.

I won't say this is a terrible show, because it is professionally made. I just think it falls terribly short of the standards of story telling of previous ME series. Maybe being the flagship of Marvel/Disney means it can't be as ambitious, I dunno.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2014-05-05 16:29 ]
There's a world of difference between a show being "bad" and a show not living up to your expectations. Just something to keep in mind.
@JDL-Thanks I couldn't remember the exact lines because as I said it's been a while. Maybe they'll introduce it later or maybe it's even the reason why Skye is an 084. It's up in the air.

On the topic of killing I'm pretty sure Ward and Garret killed those two guys, and when Ward shot the fake Clairvoyant-everyone- even Hand seemed surprised. So I don't think the show is by any means trying to downplay that kind of thing.
@chrisobrien There's a world of difference between a show being "bad" and a show not living up to your expectations. Just something to keep in mind."

Not if your one and only expectation was for the show to be good. Just sayin' ;)

The only expectation I had going into AoS was that it'd have the quality of writing I'd come to expect from a Whedon show; bold, original, witty, nuanced, funny, moving etc. I've liked Whedon's past shows to various degrees (I think Firefly is overrated and Dollhouse greatly underrated - and neither come close to BtVS) but one thing I can absolutely say is that they were all well-written and above average shows. It didn't surprise me in the least there was literally thousands of academic papers written about BtVS because it was just that good. That's the only expectation I had.
@Dusk: So after Ward and Garret did the killing, perhaps have Coulson express sincere regret, or at least reluctance that they killed two guards who may have been allies of SHIELD. (The show was busy introducing the mystery of the blue man, and saving Skye's life. My point is that it never took the time, even later, to show the personal consequences in a meaningful manner.)

Or when Coulson was ready to torture and kill Quinn, have Fitz or Simmons have a talk with Coulson. "Quinn is scum and a killer, but he is currently a helpless prisoner without any immediately useful information. You've already let May brutalize him. As law enforcement officials (with almost unlimited authority), shouldn't we be more responsible? Think twice about needless torture and arbitrary execution?"
OneTev said:

No one on the Bus even blinked about the two guards being killed. I realize they were focused on Skye, but the show needed SOMEONE who would question whether it was necessary to create a situation which resulted in their deaths.

At first that bothered me, too, but Coulson did question the killing of the guards in subsequent episodes. He also told one of them, just before he died, that he was going to get him help. This indicated (1) that he didn't do it, and (2) that Garrett and Ward had no problems with it (aka: they're evil). Coulson did have a problem with it.

I'll have to rewatch a number of the episodes to see if your other points have merit. I think the assertions about torture do.

One of the roles Skye seems to play is to be both the Cordelia (states the obvious that others need to be reminded of), as well as sort of a moral center (she refuses to allow Ward to be killed, even though she sees him as an evil, Nazi, serial killer). Hopefully the writers will be brave (or capable) enough to address some of the issues of good and evil, torture, and wanton killing in the line of duty.
the last few episodes of AoS would be more confusing than awesome to anyone who hasn't seen the Cap 2 movie.

I really don't get this claim at all. There's simply nothing you needed to know from Cap 2 that AoS didn't fill in for you. SHIELD has been infiltrated by an evil organization called "Hydra" which dates back to WWII and was one of SHIELD's original raisons d'etre. Hydra have become active and have rendered SHIELD essentially inoperative; SHIELD agents are under suspicion everywhere. What part of that requires you to have seen Cap 2 to understand?

As for people not liking the show. Well, there's no such thing as a show that pleases everyone. There are no Whedon shows that were liked and admired by all fans of all the other Whedon shows. Firefly debuted to almost universally bad reviews; Dollhouse threads here on Whedonesque were full of hypercritical naysayers from the get-go. There are those who love BtVS but hate Angel and vice versa. It's sad for those who wanted to like the show and didn't, but it's not a particularly "telling" fact that someone liked a, b and c other Whedon shows but doesn't like this one. That's just the way these things go.
I think the show has already been addressing those issues, Nebula. There's a line at the end of this Coulson/Garrett exchange in "Turn, Turn, Turn" --

Garrett: We had a good thing going, too, waving the SHIELD flag as hard as we could. I guess we'll be changing colors now.

Coulson: For Hydra? You really believe all that crap? Spreading death and destruction?

Garrett: I wouldn't say I'm a true believer. Let's just say I felt the wind changing direction and swung my sail. You really should, too.

Coulson: I would die than before serving Hydra, you sick sonofabitch.

Garrett: I hate to tell ya, but you've been serving Hydra all along.


It's a pretty thin line between murderer and those who kill to serve the "greater good", isn't it? So far we've seen the show reveal outright that Phil Coulson's memory wipe (revisionist history?) was done to hide that he was the architect of his own resurrection, but it's been building on the political and moral themes all along. We've seen and been told that Phil Coulson is a "good man" but we've also heard people from his past asking what was done to him, why is he different. He wasn't always like this, was he? What kind of work does a man do to become a Level 10 operative in an organization like SHIELD?

Maybe he wasn't a specialist like May or Ward, but odds are, he's got red in his ledger, too.

ETA: I haven't see Capt. America: The Winter Soldier and had no problems following the Hydra reveal. It works fine within the show's own narrative structure.

I agree with Yoink that no Whedonverse fan is going to enjoy each show or movie. And I remember how contentious ALL the BtVS forums were at the time of the original broadcasts.

[ edited by punkinpuss on 2014-05-05 19:59 ]

[ edited by punkinpuss on 2014-05-05 20:01 ]
@Nebula: I am going to take a deliberately over-exaggerated view of that one particular scene...

Coulson tells a guard he is going to get him help, but suggests that the guard give him information in the meanwhile. Coulson never does get him help. If someone was suspicious that Coulson was evil (maybe subliminal programming by that brain machine), it sure seemed like Coulson was lying to a murdered man to try to get him to talk.

In the following episodes, the writers made curious choices for his dialogue. Coulson talks about what happened at that facility almost in the third person. When he talks about the situation being serious enough that men had died for the secret, there is no acknowledgment of his involvement in their deaths, just a general statement that this is a serious secret.

I think a big mistake for the show is that we never see them off the clock, so we never see honest reactions. That made made it very difficult for me to understand these characters, because all we ever see is the facade, not how they behave when they think they are alone. (That is the bread and butter of ME shows. We see the mask, and what is behind the mask.) Especially for a spy show, with loads of lying and deception, I needed a baseline.

Sorry about venting, but this show is very frustrating to me. I see a lot of untapped potential. (Obviously, there are others who don't see the flaws, or feel that it is very successful in its storytelling.)
@punkinpuss - Yes, that exchange in Turn, Turn, Turn wasn't lost on me. There were layers upon layers of things like that in CATWS. The question is, will AoS become the kind of series that is one thing on the surface (an action/spy yarn), or will it continue to be about something bigger than itself? Will it continue to address the questions we're asking here about the morality of the decisions made, and even the existence of S.H.I.E.L.D., even if it isn't simultaneously Hydra?
I really don't get this claim at all. There's simply nothing you needed to know from Cap 2 that AoS didn't fill in for you. SHIELD has been infiltrated by an evil organization called "Hydra" which dates back to WWII and was one of SHIELD's original raisons d'etre. Hydra have become active and have rendered SHIELD essentially inoperative; SHIELD agents are under suspicion everywhere. What part of that requires you to have seen Cap 2 to understand?

You can follow the plot just by watching AoS, but you can't appreciate the context. It's all completely out of left field. Like why it mattered whether certain agents were recruited by Sitwell or not, and who "Alexander Pierce" is.

I probably would get the gist of it if I hadn't watched Cap 2, but it wouldn't make nearly as much sense. And a lot of my enjoyment of the show would be lost.
It's all completely out of left field. Like why it mattered whether certain agents were recruited by Sitwell or not, and who "Alexander Pierce" is

Sitwell being a bad guy is established separately in AoS as well as in Cap2. And I don't recall any plot points of any kind in AoS that depend on knowing who Pierce is. You're confusing the fact that people who know the films have a wider range of references and contexts for various things in the show with the (erroneous) idea that people who don't know the films have no context to explain the things that happen in the show.
And people who read the comics understand all the little references dropped all the time. I have no idea who/what Manthing is and yet I love the show (from the very beginning). Knowing that some of the aspects of the show aren't created especially for and directed at ME and may just be nice shoutouts for diehard Marvel comics or Marvel movie fans doesn't lessen my enjoyment/understanding one bit.
And people who read the comics understand all the little references dropped all the time.

Yes, exactly. I know there must be in-jokes and continuity stuff all over the place in AoS and all the Marvel movies that mean nothing to me as someone who has never read the comics, but I don't care so long as the world as it's presented in the things I do watch hangs together without that knowledge. And, so far, it does.
Hey, all this crossover with the movies works for me. 90% of the stuff I've enjoyed on the show so far plays directly off the movies. If not for the infusion of story created by the SHIELD/Hydra plotline, I'm not sure I'd be back next season.

I hope most other viewers feel the same way. I'd venture to say that almost all regular AoS viewers go to see the MCU movies. I guess those that don't are going to be puzzled by certain references, just like I (not having read a Marvel superhero comic since Stan Lee was writing them) am puzzled by some of the comic references.
I can say that being of a very different age range than Buffy and the Scoobies, I missed a lot of the pop culture references in that show, and yet I love it without reserve. One doesn't have to understand every single reference to follow the important stream of a series and appreciate it.

Coulson tells a guard he is going to get him help, but suggests that the guard give him information in the meanwhile. Coulson never does get him help. If someone was suspicious that Coulson was evil (maybe subliminal programming by that brain machine), it sure seemed like Coulson was lying to a murdered man to try to get him to talk.

He doesn't get him help because the guy dies WHILE he is talking to him. There was no lying, there was just a hectic, stressful, high pressure situation where maybe calling away the only medic who is currently watching over the person you are trying to save isn't on the top of your list. I really don't think this is a scenario that warrants too much dwelling on.

Nevermind the fact that these guys rigorously stuck to their protocol and opened fire on them in spite of everything. And I know the Night-Night Gun argument gets brought up often too but unless I'm imagining things, those were limited to pistols and a sniper rifle until Yes Men, the episode AFTER the facility attack when Fitz debuts the Icers which are now available in spanning all types of guns.

[ edited by D-e-f- on 2014-05-06 22:39 ]

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