Agents of SHIELD doesn’t deliver the unexpected in the same way that previous Joss Whedon projects have. The world in which it takes place is already fairly well defined, and so the sense of discovery and wonder that I had when I saw Firefly for the first time isn’t replicated here. That said, Joss Whedon is good at what he does, and his skill at establishing an interesting and precarious status quo is clearly shown in this most recent project.
Agents of SHIELD doesn’t occupy that category of stellar TV shows which are unassailably good right off the bat, but it seems to me that the foundation is being laid for a much longer story which should gradually grow in complexity and appeal. To be honest, I think I may prefer it this way, provided it pans out: a carefully designed and cultivated story that grows into an excellent favorite would be much better than something that starts off promising only to go sour.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I’m not yet rabidly enthusiastic about this show, I do think it holds promise. I don’t constantly foam at the mouth in anticipation of the next episode, but I want to keep up with what happens next. And I can see the potential for this show to be really great.
What’s good? I like the characters, brief as our exposure to them has been, and I want to see them given more chance to grow into bigger, deeper people. It seems like Joss Whedon is moving them in that direction, though we haven’t truly seen that yet. The writing and wordplay is predictably enjoyable, with the fun and funny banter I’ve come to expect from something with Whedon’s name on it. Perhaps most importantly, Joss Whedon’s previous successes give me hope that this will become a more powerful and gripping story.
But what about my concerns? Well, it seems like the characters haven’t had the time to really show themselves as the more interesting people I suspect they are. I don’t have much sense of the characters beyond the role that they play for the team, and I want that to change. The problem is, I don’t know that the current constraints of the show will allow them to; “find problem, investigate, solve problem” doesn’t leave much room around the edges, especially if the “problem” is always some SHIELD-specific mission.
Similarly, I worry that Whedon is constrained by all the other Marvel stories that he has to juggle at the same time. That constraint seems like a real risk for a show like this, since it automatically means that the scope of the show can’t grow to larger proportions. Anything that the heroes (or villains) do above and beyond the farm-league level would have to be acknowledged as a development by the big-time superheroes, and it’s unlikely that the eponymous stars of the various Marvel franchises would show up in person (regardless of how much sense it might make for the story). Then again, Nick Fury shows up… so perhaps I’ll be proven wrong.
Finally, I really want there to be a big bad that I can sink my proverbial teeth into. Unfortunately, despite the most recent episode’s hints (1.05 Girl in the Flower Dress), I still feel like I’m chewing a dry bone in search of meat that isn’t there. It’s a very unsatisfying experience.
But I still think that this show could be great. In fact, I’m hopeful enough that I’ll probably keep watching even if I don’t feel that it’s changing in the ways that I want. I’m a little sad that SHIELD can’t (and shouldn’t) be the next Firefly, but I believe that Joss Whedon can still deliver on the promise that I think is here. I really hope that he and his team do just that, because that would be great.
Screenrant is unhappy with Agents of SHIELD as it currently stands, and you can read one of their articles here.