Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Six Suggestions to Salvage AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
Okay, we're three episodes into ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and while it's been a pretty decent series so far, it still feels like something's missing. Or something's a bit off. Or perhaps something of a general "Trust me, it's not you, it's me" feeling.
The second episode of the much-hyped series lost roughly 1/3 of its 22 million viewers that tuned in for the pilot directed by Joss Whedon, meaning at least 30% didn't like what they saw enough to give it another shot. Granted, some of those folks that bailed were possibly expecting Iron Man and Thor instead of a series centered around Agent Phil Coulson and a bunch of nonsuperpowered people dealing with strange events.
And don't get me wrong, there are a number of things to like about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Clark Gregg's dry and stoic line delivery as Coulson is a particular highlight every week, we've had fun cameos by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, and last night's episode "The Asset" gave us an actual supervillain origin in the form of Dr. Franklin Hall, a.k.a. Graviton. But this doesn't feel like a proper S.H.I.E.L.D. series, not yet at least, so here are six suggestions of mine to help Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to get closer to where it needs to be:
1. Regardless of the Whedon cliché, someone needs to die -- There are six main characters in this series and the stories so far only seem to require four at the most, namely Coulson, one badass, one tech geek, and someone to react in an unexpected way. That renders at least two characters as nonessential/expendable, so killing one off shouldn't affect the overall dynamic and would give the other five more screen time. A sudden character death would also raise the stakes, making the missions afterward more dramatic as the other characters' safety wouldn't feel so automatically certain.
2. The whitebread cast needs more diversity -- Personally, I'm not a fan of diversity just for the sake of political correctness alone, but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feels whiter than the Republican National Convention, even with Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May. I was hopeful when I saw Firefly's Ron Glass briefly appear in the pilot as a S.H.I.E.L.D. lab guy along with Angel's J. August Richards, but they haven't been seen since and I'm guessing Sam Jackson isn't up for a weekly TV series. If nothing else, killing off one character (Grant Ward, preferably) would provide an opportunity to create a new African-American role.
3. The Big Bad needs to step up quickly -- The tease of Graviton's return at the end of last night's episode seems to be a flashing "Eat At Joe's" neon sign that he's coming back but he'd better do it fast and he'd better do it in a big way. Apart from setting up Graviton, the team missions so far seem purely random events without any sense of a looming menace in the shadows adding to the overall drama. Without a Big Bad to focus their operations on, this S.H.I.E.L.D. team is essentially Torchwood, right down to being a "secret" organization that has their logo plastered on the sides of their vehicles.
4. Honor the original source material -- While it's great seeing Nick Fury and Maria Hill cameos to connect the series to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there are a ton of S.H.I.E.L.D. characters from various comics that could (and should) be brought in for the occasional episode. Abigail Brand (Head of S.W.O.R.D.), Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Nick Fury's fellow agent/love interest), Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman), Daisy Johnson (Fury's assistant Quake from Secret Warriors), Gabe Jones, Clay Quartermain, Jasper Sitwell, Jimmy Woo and others would be wonderful nods to the comics and could add a lot to the TV series mythos. At least we finally got to see a classic flying car in the form of Lola...
5. Embrace the strange -- One of the better criticisms that definitely S.H.I.E.L.D. artist Jim Steranko nailed in his review for the Hollywood Reporter was that the series needs to be "much tougher, much stranger, much edgier to reach its potential." Strange X-Files story plots are a start, but you can't rely on just those to make this series stand out from NCIS. Where are the agents diving off tall buildings or jumping out of The Bus in S.H.I.E.L.D. glider suits? The agents with telepathic abilities? The LMDs/Life Model Decoys? Well, I suppose we might already have at least one LMD in play...because Tahiti is a magical place.
6. Opening credits would be nice -- So let me guess this straight...You hire Bear McCreary, the guy who made his name with the recent Battlestar Galactica series and The Walking Dead, as your music composer and you don't let him have a theme for an opening credits sequence? If nothing else, use the opportunity to set the tone while introducing your actors and their characters so new viewers can get a quick handle on them.