Agents of SHIELD = Lazarus?


If you read my previous posts about Agents of SHIELD, I’ll forgive your surprise at seeing another one.  It would be a bit harsh to say that the show should have been buried after the end of last season, but it certainly feels like the show was killed and resurrected in time for the beginning of this new season.  Though we still see many of the same people on screen, this show feels wonderfully new and different, perhaps even reborn.

Stepping back for a moment: the first two episodes felt considerably better than season one’s, but they were limited by their need to establish the transition away from season one and it wasn’t until episode three that I was really sold.  In this case, “sold” includes me cackling and clasping my hands in glee.  There have been better and worse parts of the episodes since then, but they continue to leave me excited.  It’s almost a shame that season two builds so much on the context created in the first season, because you’ll have to watch the first season if you want to really know what’s going on between the characters.  I mean, maybe you could get by without it, but you also might miss a good deal that is simply referenced in passing.

You know, I feel vaguely prescient.  When the show started up last year, I said this:

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 didn’t think that I’d nearly abandon it before it improved, but all’s well that seems better at the beginning of season two, right? I’m sure that’s how that quote is supposed to go.

So, there’ll be no spoilers or anything else like that in this post.  I just wanted to say that, in case you dropped it in distaste at the end of last season, you may wish to give SHIELD another chance.  At least for a little while, until I have the chance to change my mind again.

SHIELD takes a turn for the better

First things first: if you haven’t watched The Winter Soldier you should most definitely not watch any more Agents of SHIELD.  Captain America 2 is lots of fun to watch, and is way better than Agents of SHIELD.  It would be a shame to have the less entertaining one spoil the better one for you.

Second, despite how much I’m mentioning it this isn’t a review of Captain America 2.  I did love watching that movie though, and I’ll review it later and probably see it again in theaters.  You should go watch it, and keep in mind that all spoilers in this post will also effect your knowledge of that movie.

So then!  If you’ve been watching Agents of SHIELD you’re probably familiar with many of the problems of the show.  Even ignoring any complaints about the acting, one of the show’s big problems is that SHIELD agents (and especially our heroes) appear to be utterly incapable of acting in a clandestine fashion.  Nor are they very good at keeping secrets in a more general sense.  Their incompetency in the realm of secrecy is a running joke between me and my housemate.  And while I’ve been watching in the hopes that the show would improve and perhaps live up to the potential that I thought I saw at the beginning, it’s been stuck on maybe-not-quite-mediocre for a while now.  Every so often there are flashes of fun, little nuggets of something worthwhile jumbled into the dross, but they’re consistently buried.

This most recent episode helped change that.  Look below the break to learn more.

Continue reading

Thor 2 Brings The Thunder(ous Laughter)



Right.  Now that I’ve gotten my oddly compulsive enthusiasm for Heimdall out of the way, I can get on with reviewing this movie.

Thor 2 may be one of those cases of too much of a good thing; I love it so much that I’m really not sure where to start talking about it.  All I can tell you is that I cackled repeatedly in the theatre despite being surrounded by strangers, and that I would happily see it again soon (though preferably without paying through the nose for my tickets, thank you very much Loews Boston Common).

I haven’t had this much fun in a movie theatre since I went to see The Avengers.  Heck, I think Thor 2 might be even more fun than The Avengers, though they’re competing in different categories.  See, The Avengers is one of the serious episodes of the superhero series, while the Thor movies are the comedic relief.  They have their serious moments of course, but it seems like everyone involved recognized the first movie’s comedic potential and decided to run with it for Thor 2.  And holy shit did they ever succeed.

On that note, I, um, have to have another shout out:


Darcy sizes you up for her next laser-guided comedic strike.

Darcy is hilarious.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but do you recall how she totally stole the spotlight in the first movie?  I hardly paid any attention to poor Natalie Portman in the first Thor, despite the fact that I usually love her characters.  I think Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster got far more attention this time through, which was good, but you should still keep your eyes on Kat Denning’s Darcy.  Every scene that she was in became funnier, just by virtue her presence.  She was flat-out one of my favorite characters, and her simultaneously accepting and no-nonsense reactions to all of the truly ridiculous things going on around her only made her scenes better.

I’m a little worried to be talking too much about this movie.  I seriously don’t want to give anything away.  It’s everything that I had hoped for from a superhero movie, and it does it all with a particular attention to dramatic comedy that will leave you with a grin plastered to your face.  It is an unapologetic superhero flick in high form, and (as I’ve come to expect from Marvel’s tightly woven movie universe) sets up perfectly for more fun and excitement in the future.

Now, before I go on to talk about things that might be considered spoilers, I just have to say: stay for both of the post-credit sequences.  As with Avengers, there are two of them.  Oh, and if you want to read someone else’s excellent take on why Darcy is so cool, check this out.

Right, so here there be *SPOILERS*.

I’m not actually going to say very much.  What I really wanted to talk about was the fact that they managed to find an excuse that let them have a climactic set piece battle with callbacks to other previous challenges faced by Thor.  I thought that that was very cleverly done, and I was glowing with admiration from one storyteller to another for how they had managed it.  Could they have done more with it?  Probably.  Did they need to?  Not at all.  It was wonderfully done as it was.

Oh, also, my overweening enthusiasm for Heimdall was well and truly paid off in this film.  I liked him in the first film because I thought he was simply cool.  His actions in the the second movie cemented my impression of him, given his careful maneuvering of his obligations to simultaneously do what he saw as necessary and right while still maintaining his loyalty to Asgard.  Who would have thought that I would like someone so stoic and terse?  Oh, right, everyone who’s seen me watch a Spaghetti Western.

Watch this movie.  If you’ve ever been at all tempted by a superhero story, it’s truly a treat.


First Thoughts on Agents of SHIELD

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.