Agents of SHIELD: 1.02 - 0-8-4 - Review
After the huge success of Avengers and general adoration of Joss Whedon, Agents of SHIELD was always going to play a difficult expectations game. Sure enough, when the pilot was merely a decent sci-fi investigations procedural rather than anything lifechanging or amazing, the backlash was inevitable. It's a shame the early Torchwood series aren't still on, just to remind us how badly wrong this kind of thing can go.
And yes, that is the first time I've ever wished the early Torchwood episodes were still on. God, some of them were awful. Anyway, let's review the second effort from Agents of SHIELD. Spoilers are inevitable, watch the episode on 4OD if that bothers you.
The Sticky Bonding ProcessAlthough I mentioned Joss Whedon above, it's worth noting that his name doesn't appear in the writing credits for this episode, nor is he due to show up for any subsequent ones. If you're angry this doesn't feel like a "proper" Joss Whedon show, well, there's a good reason for that.
Anyway, this is the second episode after last time's heavy schedule of character introductions, and a lot smoother as a viewing experience. Our heroes go retrieve some weird tech, tussle with a few other parties over it and eventually win, making time along the way for lots of the bonding scenes that are necessary at this stage in the development of a regular team action show.
They could just skip them and have the heroes act as if they're best friends immediately, but that's what Atlantis is doing, and I can't say it's working particularly well. I'd much rather see Agents of SHIELD embrace the need for characterisation as long as it's wrapped around some kind of plot. And this is a decent action plot, not the most fascinating possible, but interesting enough to hold our attention. We get action, a few quips, a slightly unclear but still exciting plane-fight sequence at the end - in short, as ever, enough to keep the machine ticking over.
Personnel FilesThe most interesting part, actually, is the subplot material - Skye is a possible double agent, which has potential, and Coulson's mysterious resurrection is still wrung out for drama. Also, Melinda May's past as "The Cavalry" could go well, as actress Ming-Na Wen is making her tortured enigma attitude work well - hopefully that promise will pay off when we start learning the truth.
Conversely, I'm not yet sold on Agent Ward, which is sad as he seems to be the male action lead. Competent, but not yet overly personable. The FitzSimmons gestalt, well, they're the quirky nerd characters, and they're the right kind of charming, but you may hate them if that's not your thing - also did we really need two of them? All the moving parts are here well enough, the jokes are mostly funny, it just hasn't yet hit the character chemistry, emotional weight or mega-intriguing stories it needs to be a smash.
And then Samuel L. Jackson turns up, mostly only to trade quips with Agent Coulson, but he does it with such conviction and rapidfire presence that, to be honest, that's fine. Again, the lines are funny enough, and he does stay long enough to mention that SHIELD higher-ups are uncomfortable with Coulson recruiting this civilian hacker. Fortunately, Skye lives entirely in her van (and yet always has perfect hair), so we don't need to yet deal with the issue of her family missing her.
Long story short, Agents of SHIELD remains a diverting piece of suited science-fiction, watchable but never quite amazing. I don't know if it will appeal to quite the same broad audience that the Avengers movie managed, but it's fun for those of us who like seeing civilians poking around sci-fi gimmicks, especially if you also enjoy references to Marvel Comics characters.