Let’s Talk About Agents of SHIELD

Did you watch it this week? Because you really should have.

See, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (henceforth referred to without the periods), is a spin-off of a movie. A movie series, mind you. And it doesn’t focus any of the protagonists from said movie series. The deck is kinda stacked against it. With all that it’d be easy for the show to wallow as just something to sorta tide us over while we wait for the next big Marvel movie. Alternately, it could be a half-hearted show just meant to cash in on the Avengers craze. Instead, SHIELD is a fully formed show that exists within the same world as The Avengers but, rather than being dependent on it, is able to stand on its own and tell a great story.

Of course, we have to talk about its ties to The Avengers and the others. We’re clearly in the same world; we see action figures of the Avengers in a store window and an ad for Stark Industries on the side of a bus. But when all the fun’s to be had by genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropists why are we following around such ordinary non-superpowered people? That seems to be show’s central question: at the climax of the episode, the hunted Mike talks about normality and gods, about wanting to be more than normal. The tension comes from relatively normal people being thrust into abnormal situations, that line between normal and super. And instead of sitting around waiting for Iron Man and Hawkeye to come save the day, we’re following the agents of SHIELD (hey, that’s the name of the show!).

Who, by the way, are terrific characters, owing in no small part to the very smart, very tight script. Skye, for example, at first seems to be the usual super-capable, antiestablishment, rebel-hacker. But we quickly learn that she’s a bit of a fangirl (cosplaying outside Stark Tower? One of us!) and isn’t as confident or one note as she appears. Every character feels distinct and unique rather than just a bunch of bland faces around Coulson. Even Fitz and Simmons, the two scientist types, feel different from another and yet complimentary. And Coulson gets even more development than he did in the movies; he grows into not just the leader of the team but into a father figure and moral center.

Of course, as much as we’re told about these characters we still want to learn more about them. Why doesn’t Melinda May want to go back into the field when she’s so clearly capable? And what really did happen to Coulson? We get all these tidbits, knowing full well there’s more just waiting for us to find out. They seem interesting, there’s so much more about them we want to know. Now that our interest has been piqued, we’re going to watch every week to get to know them better.

Along with that, each character feels needed. It’d be plenty easy to just dismiss Fitz and Simmons as the sciencey ones who do science when the plot needs a science to move the plot on while the heroes set about with their thrilling heroics. Yet there’s a certain badassery to the way their roles are portrayed. In SHIELD, it’s cool to be the scientists. It’s like Firefly or Chuck the way that everyone in the team has their role and purpose. Everyone feels real, everyone feels needed.

Agents of SHIELD has me very, very excited. Everything from the Extremis tie-in to Shepherd Book Ron Glass as a doctor has me giddy. I haven’t been this excited about tv show in years. We’re getting more stories in the world of Iron Man and Captain America, only it’s not about them. It’s about the agents policing that world.

Man. I can’t wait till Tuesday.

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