Of Course I Have to Watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D trailer:

Agent Coulson is possibly TV's first cool "Phil."

Agent Coulson is possibly TV’s first cool “Phil.”

Three Birds of Prey.

Three Birds of Prey.

After viewing the trailer yesterday, I wrote on Facebook:

So Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is pretty much Heroes+X-Files+stylized witty banter?

Honestly, that’s what the trailer would have us believe. It looks as if the show will star incredibly good looking SHIELD agents who as of yet don’t appear to possess super powers, but will investigate people who do. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a similar “on the ground premise,” I recall someone within the comic book industry once hoping for a “Gotham PD” show which would feature cops who deal with the wake of the activities of Batman and his considerable gallery of rogues. Similarly, there was once that Birds of Prey show that got cancelled, but that worked out because Shemar Moore is now a member of a better crime-fighting unit at the BAU.

My excitement for Agents of SHIELD (I am too lazy to use the periods) is tempered by this trailer for several reasons which I will explain in this space.

00:6-0:25. A voice over provides exposition: For years the truth was hidden. People from other times, other worlds, heroes. But now we know. They’re among us. Essentially, the show picks up on the sub-plot which was revealed in The Avengers, namely that Thor’s arrival changed the landscape because it confirmed the suspicion that humans weren’t alone in the galaxy. I suppose that works: Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk all have technology/science to credit for their abilities rather than an innate “power.”

0:27-0:48. We’re reminded that SHIELD stands for “Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division.” When asked what that means to him, the speaker – an agent – replies “It means someone really wanted our initials to spell out ‘shield.'” There’s the witty banter I was talking about. So does that mean the show is a joke? Or is it meant to be some kind of set up for the ironic twist that SHEILD (and the show) is not a joke, but rather serious?

The same agent (who is being positioned as a lead on the show) appears arrogant, brandishing his “Clearance Level 6,” explaining that as such, he knows Agent Coulson died aboard the heli-carrier. Then Coulson shows up and says “Welcome to Level 7.” Witty.

0:50-1:05. We’re presented with a hooded figure (Luke Cage?) jumping out of a burning building onto the street below, ostensibly saving someone from death. Of the footage, Coulson says “That’s a super hero. We work the cases SHIELD hasn’t classified, the strange, the unknown.” There’s the Fringe/X-Files component. Coulson continues, “It’s not just ‘spy versus spy’ anymore. The whole world’s in on the action. I suppose that’s the conflict – that there are interests competing for super powers or something like that. There’s the Heroes influence.

1:12-1:21. An opposing viewpoint is presented. The hero who just jumped out of the burning building is informed by an attractive woman that he’s “in danger” because of SHIELD, which she describes as “government,” which as we all know from our history classes, has been a dirty word ever since the establishment of governments.

1:23-1:41. Ming-Na Wen, the voice of Mulan, is introduced as “Melinda May,” a Black Widow-esque femme fatale. She can kick ass and fly planes. Agent Ward, our lead, express mild shock that he is in Melinda May’s presence. His tone seems to characterize her as a SHIELD legend, and despite my affinity for Asian women, I still have to give the nod to Cobie Smulders’ Agent Hill.

We’re also introduced – through and by Agent Ward – to two more agents on the team, Fitz (she’s a biochemist) and Simmons (he’s an engineer who wears shirts and ties with hooded sweatshirts). They’ve both got foreign accents, for whatever that’s worth. International appeal? Star Trek-iness?

Sexy outsider, foreign biochemist, foreign engineer, Cool Phil Coulson, Asian Black Widow, smug team lead.

1:43-1:59. The attractive women who had a thing against SHIELD is found by SHIELD broadcasting conspiracy theories from an old van in an alley. A black bag is placed on her head and she is transferred to an interrogation room. Agent Ward says “There are two ways we can do this,” to which our attractive dissenter says “How? Is one of them the easy way?” Ward replies, “No.” “Oh,” she says, her bravado taken down a notch. Witty.

2:00-2:06. It looks like they’re going to recruit our alluring contrarian. I did a little research and discovered her name is Chloe Bennett, but her real name is Chloe Wang. I. Am. All. In. She replies by saying she “isn’t much of a team player.” “We’re not exactly a team.” I know that we’re kind of at the mercy of editing and small sample size, but I haven’t heard an interesting thing yet. They’re trying really heard to establish the characters as youngish and hip and arrogant and irreverent (outside of Coulson), aren’t they?

2:07-2:40. The rest of the spot is a mix of text and video. The tagline is “They will protect the ordinary from the extraordinary,” and is followed by “Not all heroes are super.” The footage is a quickly edited blur of action sequences quickly revealing chase scenes, fist fights, super powers, and advanced technology. At least the production value looks high.

What I like: I’m glad to have a show based in the Marvel Universe on television. Since Disney owns 37% of the world at this point, they’re printing their own money and can more or less take a chance on a show like this. I like that I don’t know the cast members outside of Ming-Na, as it will make it easier for me to believe in them. I appreciate that none of them appear to have super powers; this will put them at a disadvantage like all traditional heroes.

What troubles me: Really, is this thing a comedy or what? Like I said, we’re at the mercy of editing, but that was a lot one-liners and clever back-and-forth for three minutes.

While it looks like they’re trying really hard to establish most of the characters as young, hip, clever, and irreverent, I have no idea if the show is going to be character-driven or plot-driven. My hope is for a serialized style like Lost or Heroes, but it’s entirely possible that the investigation will become the conflict of each episode if the show leaned towards a procedural. I suppose the best case would be for a middle ground like Fringe, where there are numerous subplots running concurrently at any given time, some long-term, others short-term.

Most of all, though, I am concerned with the way the trailer positions Coulson. In the films, Nick Fury is obviously the Alpha at SHIELD, but Coulson holds his own. His interrogation of Thor in Thor showed him to be confident, and his interaction with Pepper in Iron Man 2 illustrated that he has a personality. Of course, his best work was as a blubbering fan of Captain America in the Avengers. Still, it seems like they’re going to make Ward the lead with Coulson acting as a kind of mentor figure. Perhaps that’s because Coulson knows too much and that knowledge would ruin the novelty of the show. Perhaps they don’t want to over-expose the character who had been so great in limited spots in the films. The cynic in me thinks he’s only there as a visual tie-in to the films. I hope that’s not the case, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be a true leader, either. It’s like he’ll be Dave Rossi instead of Jason Gideon.

I have to be honest. If this show was advertized as is, but had no tie to the Marvel Universe, I don’t think I could possibly care less about it. But the fact that it is going to be grounded in the Marvel Universe gets my head spinning with all the possibilities in terms of B, C, and D-list heroes and villains who might pop up. For a comic book dork like myself, that potential alone will force me to check it out.

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One comment on “Of Course I Have to Watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

  1. […] wrote about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. back in May when the series was announced, and as promised, I was […]

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