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September 22 2014

(SPOILER) Jeff Bell talks criticism and why Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. deserves a second chance. Meanwhile, showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon talk to Entertainment Weekly about the new season.

My biggest problem is their excuse that the reason people liked it better when it became an underdog story last season is that it was because they didn't like them being spies or whatever, no it isn't that, people are showing up to watch a show called AGENTS of SHIELD, they know what SHIELD is what they didn't like was showing up for AGENTS of SHIELD and getting Skye and her tag-a-longs talk about how bad tapping phones are and why SHIELD is bad. Then people started liking it more once Skye got into the SHIELD set-up more instead of betraying them time and time again. Say what you want about NCIS(The direct competition) being boring and cookie-cutter or whatever but even last season when introducing a new character they never had that character just betray the team and down-talk the organisation.
I really hope the producers/writers stop giving interviews if this is the kind of spin that's going to be put on it. This is practically a hit piece. You don't need the start of a new season bogged down with headlines talking about "criticism" and whether your show "deserves a second chance". It's already been given one - and the popular consensus is that S1 finished strong.
Sigh. What an odd opening paragraph or two

Frankly, I'd be fine if all show runners / producers stopped with the passive acceptance regarding the tone of these things .. The "When did you stop hitting your wife ..." kind of framing interviewers are providing, and instead said "You know, we made the show we set out to make, and while not everyone adored it, a couple million folks tuned in every week and we, unlike a ton of other new shows, have a chance to deliver an excellent second season. Deal with it"

But that's just me.
Sure, yeah. Because there were about five different things happening at the same time and so what I think was challenging for us was there was no consensus. They'd be like, 'Oh, it's not the movie!' And, 'Oh, you don't have Captain America in your show!' or, 'Oh, you're too standalone!' or, 'Oh, there's not enough Marvel people in it.' It wasn't like everyone said the same thing.

People have different opinions and perspectives. It shouldn't have been surprising that there was no consensus on what people didn't like. I had problems with the writing and the pacing of the show, and the reveal of Garrett as The Clairvoyant was really deflating. I also hated Skye. She's better now but I certainly thought I was getting a show about SHIELD as a shadowy government agency and introducing a random hacker girl with half-baked ideas was not well done or interesting.

[ edited by the ninja report on 2014-09-23 04:43 ]
No actor bashing, thanks - Simon

[ edited by Simon on 2014-09-23 20:38 ]
Not to beat the same dead horse over and over again, but:

I think we found other ways to tell compelling stories, though it felt more standalone in the beginning. As it started to connect and as the pieces started coming together, I think it gained momentum.

Standalone and compelling aren't mutually exclusive concepts. Firefly was almost 100% standalone episodes, and many people consider it their favorite TV show ever (or at least favorite of Joss's works). TV writers should be able to tell a good, standalone story. This concludes the latest installment of "sumogrip gripes about the assumed superiority of serialized over episodic storytelling."
I enjoyed it. All of it. And fwiw I enjoyed Chloe Bennett. But it could have been better. Two things are worth mentioning;

1) the 2nd and 3rd episodes were very weak. There were a couple of interesting "things" but no interesting people. After that I thought the people part got better.

2) up till episode 12 or arguably 13 the show was marking time until they could start the build up to TWS. They seemingly did not want to expend effort on building up and exploring an organization that they KNEW was going to die on Apr 1st. In hindsight I think that was a mistake.

No bashing please, this post completely overstepped the mark. Chill for a while - Simon

[ edited by Simon on 2014-09-23 10:58 ]
JDL, I agree. The first half was slow and uninteresting because they didn't seem to see the benefit of building up SHIELD as an organization. We hardly even cared about these characters; why should we care about what happens to them or the thing they supposedly love? Skye started off very weak and undermined the entire show because she was supposed to be the one questioning their methods and the writers dropped that aspect of her personality too quickly. And her convictions and ideas about how information should be free came off as ramblings. They made her come off as immature because she fell in with them very quickly. She didn't distinguish the rights of one guy from the wrongs of an entire organization. I didn't think the writers had actually given her any punch to her convictions. Rising Tide was supposed to be an actual formidable group; it came off as a bunch of 20somethings really bored while sitting in coffee shops.

SHIELD was supposed to be ever-knowing and omnipresent and we were supposed to examine that. It was a string left in Avengers that I thought they would pull. But SHIELD was never allowed to fully develop as an organization.

Bell said
It's hard to say, 'Yay! They're tapping my phone.' ... Especially with all the NSA stuff that was happening last year and everybody listening in on everybody's information. S.H.I.E.L.D., in many ways that was their bread and butter. And so the fact that the people who were leading that were proven to be corrupt, as I think a lot of people fear governments are corrupt, plays into our storytelling.

I agree, but I think the other end of that string would have been the question of what the audience should think when they do say "yay, they're tapping my phone!" Or in the applicable scenario, when they tap Ian Quinn's phone or someone else they're tracking who wishes to harm people. How do you justify it all? I don't think they ever successfully presented that question or explored the answers.
My two cents:

1) Thought Chloe was great.
2) Loved the dynamic between Skye and Coulson, it added a much needed human element to the show. And I absolutely think the show needed somebody saying 'Hey, guys, are we sure SHIELD should have all this unaccounted power and be doing all these things?'. Because it turns out she was asking the questions Coulson and Fury should have been.
I have a lot of optimism for this season. The last few episodes retroactively saved all of season 1 as far as I'm concerned.

But Bell needs to realize that the criticism of season 1 was *not* primarily based on the fact that it didn't have Iron Man or Thor or summer tentpole movie special effects. Nobody with any grounding in reality was expecting that.
I think Bell & Co. know that the show had a lot of shortcomings in the beginning and they did address many of the issues, but I think they keep being set up in interviews to have to defend those first episodes and we cannot honestly expect them to say: 'we know our writing was bad'. Instead let's hope for a fresh string of good episodes in the first half of Season 2.
Has anyone bought the book that accompanies the first season? Big glossy thing that came out in July?
I did not know about the book. While I agree the first few episodes (minus the pilot) were weak, the show did get better, especially in the last half of the season. While I think Chloe's acting can improve, she has had her moments where it was fine. I'm really lookingforward to the show returning tonight.
I am excited for it coming back, and I agree we can hardly expect Bell to say "Our early episodes were weak because we had to wait for the movie before we did anything important." Although I do think it was true to some degree given they had to hide their Big Bad because of it which hurt the show.

It's pacing of it's mysteries still needs work. Gotham gave Gordon more purpose in one episode then this team had for about 10 episodes last year. And some character work like keeping May flat and inserting Skye into the team was almost as bad as trying to say Kennedy deserves Willow and a spot on the Scoobies. But Skye is better now and the back half of the season was more like a big story which I like.

In the EW interview I'm glad to know the characters won't be in the dark about Skye's father too long especially since he's supposed to appear next week. And they seem to say Hydra is the umbrella of the Big bad this year.

Between Hydra, Skye's father and the "gifted" fridge escapees this season seems to already have a better grip on where it is going.
I thought the same of Gotham, Dusk.
Glad to know it wasn't just me. On the other side of the coin SHIELD may have an advantage because most of it's characters are OC's and it's tied into the current MCU.

Gotham may struggle to create real stakes because the villains they are focused on promoting are all advertised to *become* great baddies in the future, so what happened with Penguin last night lacked some tension and I was more interested in seeing how he got out of it. This problem could extend to the good guys as well and already does to Barbra Kean unless they make a major break from future Batman plots.

In theory any of our main cast on this show (except Coulson) could die at any time and it won't step on the movies toes so that gives them more freedom.
I agree that the stakes are technically higher because original characters can be killed off, it's not nearly so gratifying to see their journey if you don't care about the characters to begin with. Characterization was a weak point for the SHIELD writers last season. I wasn't very invested in their wellbeing, whereas I cringed with Penguin because I actually did feel invested in that character right away. He was unnerving and creepy and yet still sympathetic. So when he's going through what he's going through (really trying to avoid spoilers, so please forgive the verbal gymnastics), even though I knew he'd get out of it, I still felt tension for how he would be affected.

[ edited by the ninja report on 2014-09-23 18:45 ]
True,the actor for Penguin definitely has the voice down and the make-up department certain helps him look pathetic and slimy. In most of the scenes though I felt more tension from Fish Moony because in spite of the very stupid name she actually seems dangerous and a bit of a wild card because so far she is an OC so we don't know what her endgame is exactly. She's a more sinister version of May essentially, But she feels like she has depth because on some level she "cared" for Penguin but still has her claws.

May on the other hand was mostly stoic except for kicking Ward's ass and she was a bit warmer with Coulson, but it's not much of a character range. You could say having to extend it to 22 episodes makes things drag out when establishing the personalities of the teams, but that's not exactly true. Recently in another fandom we met a team of *villains* that were cool and had fun personalities and actually seemed to enjoy each other's company. We wanted to learn more about them and thought they had a point even when they were trying to kill the main character in only 13 episodes! For some reason the link won't show properly so just Youtube search "P'Li Escapes From Jail." In this one scene they have are clearly shown to have a strong bond.

It took Skye getting shot for the team to truly start functioning and even then may of them only had a few characteristics. I'm hoping these new characters will bring some range out of our main team.
I agree 100% with JDL about his point #2.

I was complaining here during S1 that I didn't know what the limits were on SHIELD. If they could potentially do anything (or nothing), that makes it hard to know what is actually a threat to the team.

To make a comparison, let's think about "Angel", and say that Joss was being truthful about the plan for Doyle to leave mid-season (versus Quinn written out due to personal problems). How would the show have been if they left Doyle underwritten and mostly in the background? By giving his character personality and urgency, the impact of "Hero" is more personal to the viewer.

AoS made it that I didn't care too much if the agency got torn down, because the twist (corruption in SHIELD) wasn't set up by the show and I never got to know the old SHIELD (apart from Fury, maybe).

The show began with a nemesis (Rising Tide) that was actually RIGHT to be suspicious of SHIELD. That would have been interesting drama and self-reflection, if they weren't ignored and discarded early in the season.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2014-09-23 22:34 ]
In my opinion, the writing suffered in the first ten episodes. Maybe that was due to TWS reveal, or maybe it was just poor writing. I was not as invested in any of the characters as I am now. Pacing and characterization definitely improved as the season went on. I just hope that the show continues the momentum it found last spring.

I don't like this idea that the PTBS hope folks give it a second chance. They just need to worry about telling smart stores about complex relationships and characters. But, as others noted, the reporter probably framed the story in this manner. Bell may have just trying to be all around positive.

FWIW, I loved Garrett as The Clairvoyant in the end. But then I love Paxton.
Garrett being the Clairvoyant was fine; my gripe was that the Clairvoyant was just a high level agent who could access files. I think that was a letdown.

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