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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Well (Review)

So this is what a tie-in to Thor: The Dark World looks like. This is the episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. broadcast specifically to tie into the major motion picture blockbuster. In essence, this is as close as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will ever get to integrating with the shared Marvel universe. Given the fact that the show’s official title includes the prefix “Marvel’s”, that cross-media synchronicity is a large part of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s branding.

The result is… disappointing, to say the least. It’s just a generic “strange phenomena of the week” episode with even more crossed wires than usual, a tiresome bit of back story for a bland character played by a mediocre actor and an unwillingness to take advantage of any of the benefits of being a television show tied into a blockbuster franchise while remaining firmly anchored to the weaknesses associated with the medium.

Hot rod...

Hot rod…

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Hub (Review)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has burnt through a lot of goodwill at this point. Offering a television spin-off from one of the most popular and successful movie franchises of the last decade (if not all time) should be easy; giving the show to long-time collaborators of Joss Whedon should only increase the series’ likelihood of success. The show has the budget and the scope to offer an exciting slice of pulpy comic book entertainment, but all the episodes so far have been incredibly generic, and could easily have been lifted from shows like The X-Files or Fringe.

At least The Hub offers us a sense that the writers are finally pitching shows to the niche filled by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s a story about a massive multi-national spy organisation with dark secrets and impossible technology, which places it firmly in the show’s wheelhouse. There are a lot of problems, mostly with finding the right tone, but it seems like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is at least finally finding its own voice. It’s not a strong or distinct voice yet, but there’s still a faint sliver of hope.

Plane sailing...

Plane sailing…

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – F.Z.Z.T. (Review)

F.Z.Z.T. is a reminder that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a genre show still in its first season. That might not sound like a good thing, and F.Z.Z.T. isn’t the strongest of the mediocre crop of episodes so far, but it does indicate that there is still potential. The Girl in the Flower Dress teased the possibility that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might have settled into its own incredibly unambitious niche, and any evidence to the contrary should be welcomed.

F.Z.Z.T. is boring and generic, but at least it’s boring and generic in a way that is different from most of the boring and generic episodes so far. So that’s something.

A Gemma of an idea...?

A Gemma of an idea…?

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Girl in the Flower Dress (Review)

The first few episodes of any new show are about finding the right balance, striking the right tone. You experiment a bit, you figure out what works and what doesn’t, you try a number of new things knowing that only a few will pay off. The problem with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t that none of the show’s experiments are coming to fruition. It’s that the show seems completely afraid to try anything new at all.

The Girl in the Flower Dress is the show’s fifth episode, but it already feels like something of a reheat, taking the best parts of The Pilot and The Asset, and synthesising them into a single familiar story.

The problem is that the best bits of The Pilot and The Asset weren’t anything to write home about.

A chip off the old block...

A chip off the old block…

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Eye-Spy (Review)

Well, we’re still at the point where Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is improving, so that’s something. On the whole, Eye-Spy is a well-produced and stylish piece of television, even if it still feels too light and fluffy and generic for its own good. Like 0-8-4, it feels like the kind of story that the show had to tell at some point, providing an explanation for why Coulson is doing what he is doing and giving him a dark secret from his past. It all feels pretty routine.

Still, there are signs that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might be finding its feet. We still aren’t getting good television, with the show still feeling a little bit too much like a higher-budget and more stylish NCIS spin-off for its own good, but – like The AssetEye-Spy suggests that it might be possible to get good television at some point in the future.

Masque of the red... er, face...

Masque of the red… er, face…

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Asset (Review)

Well, The Asset is certainly stronger than The Pilot and 0-8-4, not that those two episodes represent an especially high bar for the show to cross. The Asset is hardly the best episode of television in the history of the medium. It still suffers from many of the same problems as the first two episodes, involving the cast and formula and the constant name-dropping. However, it does tease the possibility of improvement. The Asset isn’t an episode of a brilliant piece of television, but it is an episode that shows the potential to develop into something far more exciting and compelling.

Coulson appreciates the gravity of the situation...

Coulson appreciates the gravity of the situation…

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – 0-8-4 (Review)

The first few episodes of any show can be rough. It’s generally about learning to walk before you can run, drawing boundaries before you can cross them. The opening few episodes of a new television show often feel like a party full of people we’ve never met before – the first few hours are timid, awkward, probing. Hopefully, you get more comfortable and casual with the guests, you open up a bit – and before you know it, you’re having a great time. If things don’t seem to improve, you check out early.

Like The Pilot, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second episode never feels like it’s straining too hard. Indeed, there’s a sense that we’re watching a show go through the motions. After all, Joss Whedon and his production posse are very familiar with constructing first seasons. There’s a sense that the team – led by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen – have been given the keys to the most expensive car in the garage by Disney and ABC, and so the show feels more like a casual cruise than a pedal-to-the-metal joy ride.

0-8-4 does very little wrong. In fact, it does a lot of smart stuff, essential stuff, homework stuff. Still, it lacks any real sense of fun or joy – there’s no real suggestion that the show is giddily playing with the toys locked away in this particular toy chest. Appropriately enough, given the title, it feels a bit by the numbers.

When it comes to ranking the cast, Coulson is number one with a bullet...

When it comes to ranking the cast, Coulson is number one with a bullet…

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