The 10 best things about Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Iain Robertson

18th December 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a spin-off from Marvel's hugely successful Avengers film series, has gone from being one of the most eagerly anticipated shows of the year to something of a damp squib. Expectations were stupidly high, based on the fact that the Marvel movies have defied the odds and not been dreadful, and that show creator Joss Whedon had managed to pull off the nigh impossible task of making a great Avengers movie.

What we were promised was a look at the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D., the shadowy government agency behind The Avengers. What we got was Samuel L Jackson's sidekick and his not-exactly-crack team flying around the world to lots of locations that all look suspiciously like California investigating thrilling stuff like space viruses and magic bits of alien wood.

I'd like to say it's really good. Unfortunately it's not, so I can't. I can, however, confidently say that it's pretty ropey, but with potential to be good at some point in the future if it doesn't get cancelled because everyone's given up on it. And if that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is.

Anyway, I'm still watching it. Partly cos there's bugger all else on at that time on a Friday night, but mainly as I've still got a little bit of faith in Joss Whedon. So here's a list of my 10 favourite things about the show.

It's about S.H.I.E.L.D., for God's sake!

You know, S.H.I.E.L.D. The ones who show up in all the Avengers films whenever things are getting interesting and hush everything up.

S.H.I.E.L.D.'s job in the Marvel universe is to keep track of and control all the various superheroes. They recruit superheroes, and then tell them off when they inevitably misbehave. What could be more exciting than a series about the bureaucrats of the superhero world? It's a bit like doing a Jurassic Park TV series where the lead character's the janitor who goes round clearing up T-Rex shit all day.
The amazing ensemble cast

Joss Whedon has a history of pulling together great ensemble casts full of great characters. Both Buffy and The Avengers are perfect examples of this. In S.H.I.E.L.D. we've got another great ensemble. Besides Coulson, there's new recruit Skye, two science nerds, Agent angry pilot woman with a mysterious past, and Agent Blandy Blandy McBlandface, both of whom who have real names but, after watching half the season, I've still no idea what they are. Not exactly a glowing, Buffy-style ensemble, but there's definitely some people in it.

In the movies, Coulson's main job was to show up whenever Samuel L Jackson needed someone to boss around or to stand in for him when he got bored and wandered off for a round of golf. Yes, there's the small matter that he was killed off in The Avengers, but this is a universe where Gwyneth Paltrow's not hugely annoying and Jeremy Renner is borderline interesting, so bringing him back from the dead's hardly the least plausible thing going on.

Officially he wasn't really dead anyway and got sent to Tahiti to recover, but that obviously didn't happen as it'd be a rubbish explanation and not even Coulson believes it. So instead, like angry pilot woman, he's got a mysterious past, and there's a big mystery surrounding how he's back, which I'm sure we all cared about at the start of the series but it's being dragged out and is getting boring now.
Bored-looking-computer-hacker-with-a-mysterious-past woman

In the pilot episode Coulson recruited Skye, a brilliant computer hacker. We know she's brilliant as she can hack into anything by pressing about three buttons on her phone whilst simultaneously looking a bit bored and coming out with mildly amusing one-liners. Other special skills include not being good at fighting, being the only character other than Coulson to have something resembling a personality, and taking her clothes off whenever ratings start to dip.

Whedon's justifiably renowned for writing strong female characters but, as anyone who saw Dollhouse knows, he's not averse to having a girl wander about in her pants whenever things are getting a bit dull. There was also a bit of stuff early on where she might still secretly be working for the group of hackers, whose purpose was never fully explained, that she was part of when Coulson found her, but they got bored of that and now there's some mystery revolving around S.H.I.E.L.D. and her parents, which I'm sure will be thrilling at some point.
Samuel L Motherfuckin' Jackson

Jackson's Nick Fury has shown up in S.H.I.E.L.D. and was by far the best thing in it. Unfortunately it was just for a one-scene cameo. Still, it was pretty good. He showed up and told Coulson not to install a fish tank on the plane. Coulson, being the rebel he is, then proceeded to not install a fish tank. It was every bit as exciting as it sounds.

I assume Jackson didn't read the small print in his contract until too late and didn't realise he's contractually obliged to appear in every Marvel project going. He probably has to show up in post-credits scenes at the end of Stan Lee's home movies to try and recruit his grandkids.
The hilariously witty dialogue

If there's one thing Whedon's known for, its witty dialogue, and there's no abundance of it in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Sure, there was a good line from Agent Blandy in the pilot (his character's name is apparently Ward: who knew?) when he was asked why their organisation was called 'Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division' and came back with the witty: "Because someone really wanted our initials to spell S.H.I.E.L.D."

And that other time when ... er ... oh, someone probably said something interesting at some point. I generally tune out until things start blowing up nowadays.
It's really, really tied in with the Avengers films

It is. It really is. They're constantly reminding us it is. It's the only reason most people are still watching. They're frequently name-dropping the likes of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Not exactly the same as showing them, admittedly, but a hell of a lot cheaper.

They also do episodes that are loosely tied in with events in the films. So we had an episode that centred around a helmet that one of the alien army at the end of Avengers Assemble was wearing. Then they did another where they went to London after Thor: The Dark World and it was a bit messy. I'm assuming this was tied in with the events of Thor; I couldn't be bothered to watch it. I've been to London; parts of it always look like that. And those glowy, explodey people from Iron Man 3 have shown up a couple of times just to convince us it's worth watching.
The inevitable appearance from one of the Avengers

Providing it doesn't get cancelled, at some point one of the Avengers will inevitably get dragged in to boost the ratings. It obviously won't be one of the expensive ones, so don't expect Robert Downey Jr or Scarlett Johansson to show up any time soon.

Chris Evans is a possibility, as there's a new Captain America movie out next year, which is apparently quite S.H.I.E.L.D.-centric, and he's fairly cheap. Or Jeremy Renner, who I presume they just keep locked in a cupboard when they don't need him.
The hilarious science nerds

There's two science nerds. One's called Fitz, one's called Simmons. Hilariously, they're referred to by everyone as Fitzsimmons. Brilliant, eh? The downside of this is I've still got no idea whatsoever which is which. They've also got identical, interchangeable personalities and she was apparently in a couple of episodes of Hollyoaks, which is completely irrelevant, but does mean Hollyoaks is still on, which was news to me.

Oh, and they're both British, which along with being sciencey means they're both incredibly sexually repressed and, despite quite obviously having the hots for each other, don't do anything about it. Because scientists don't have sex. Neither do the British. Come on: even Stephen Hawking's got three fucking kids. How'd that happen, Whedon? Magic space elves?
It really might possibly get better

It might, it really might. Whedon's shows have a habit of starting poorly and then turning brilliant. Dollhouse was fairly ropey to begin with and then became less ropey. Buffy started off with that godawful movie before turning bloody fantastic. Sure, Firefly would have been great if it had the chance. And if I'd ever bothered watching it. Serenity was good, so that probably counts.

I want to like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I really do. It's just pretty poor at the moment. It may well get better given time. The series has set up a couple of big mysteries surrounding Coulson and Skye, as well as a few potential supervillains. And you should never give up the man who brought us Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly, Toy Story, Serenity, Cabin In The Woods, that weird thing on the internet starring Doogie Howser and of course Alien: Resurrection.

S.H.I.E.L.D.'s got potential. It's just not fulfilling it. It'll get better, probably. Besides, as Whedon's directing Avengers 2, I'm sure if you stop watching, you'll miss the nuances of various elements of the backstory. Just like if you watched The Avengers having never seen Thor. Why, you'd think Thor and Loki were just alien brothers with silly hair who didn't really get along, rather than ... erm, yeah.

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