I’ll admit it: I was not sold on Agents of SHIELD when it began. I thought the first few episodes were a bit too formulaic and hollow, without any real excitement or character development. But I stuck with it, because the premise of building on the Marvel Cinematic Universe through television is such a good one, and because I love me some Joss Whedon. And lo and behold, SHIELD got better. It’s improved in a lot of ways, managing to find its own path in the dense Marvel mythology, but this article is only going to discuss a few of them. So if you’re wondering if you should give SHIELD a try, or if you should just stick with it, here are five reasons to keep watching.
This article contains references to events in Marvel’s comic books and how they interact with the plot of SHIELD. If you aren’t familiar with the comic book world, there are some minor spoilers. You have been warned!
There have been many other shows pertaining to Marvel, but none of them have ever taken place within the same sphere as the live action movies. It’s an incredible opportunity to delve deep into the world that we’d previously only gotten to experience in two hour increments a few times a year.
Coulson is the main link between the films and the show, which gives the fan favorite a lot of development. Not only do we get the mystery and drama surrounding his resurrection, we also get to learn more about the little details only hinted at before, like his relationship with the Portland cellist mentioned in a few throwaway lines in The Avengers. Like all the other characters, he’s become more fleshed out and less pigeonholed since the premiere.
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We also get to see a lot of other Marvel characters, both from the movies and the comics. So far we’ve had Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Victoria Hand, a few others (see below), and we’re getting Sif from Thor in an upcoming episode. And that’s just in the first half of the first season. With an almost unlimited access to Marvel’s collection of characters, the show has equally unlimited potential for awesomeness.
The good guys are not the only Marvel characters we’ve met so far. SHIELD has also established backstories for some of its villains. Dr. Franklin Hall was last seen trapped in Gravitonium in “The Asset”, presumed dead by everyone. In the comics, he also gets his atoms mixed up with the element, which gives him the powers to control gravity and turns him into the supervillain Graviton. Who knows how long it will take, but there is no way something like that won’t be brought up again.
We also have the more obvious case of Donnie Gil from “Seeds”. His mishap with his freeze machine left him with an apparent ice-manipulation power and a really bad attitude. Both of these will inevitably combine to make him into his comic counterpart, the supervillain Blizzard. This origin is different from the comic version of Blizzard, but it’s interesting to see SHIELD‘s spin on it. There’s also many a theory about what character Mike Peterman is turning into, but that’s a subject for a different article. What’s important is that Agents of SHIELD is making a habit of leaving us these wonderfully suspenseful breadcrumbs of what’s to come.
Unexpectedly Good Relationships
In the first few episodes of SHIELD, the characters seemed cliche and boring. Skye was a standard sassy Whedon girl, Grant was a standard surly loner action guy, FitzSimmons had no characterizations as individuals, etc. It also seemed like they were setting up for a romantic relationship between Skye and Grant, Coulson and May, and FitzSimmons, respectively. None of these things ended up being true.
On the romance front, SHIELD totally deviated from expectations. Having Grant and May, the two most emotionally unavailable characters, develop a relationship that may or may not involve actual feelings is vastly more interesting than Skye and Grant shooting each other meaningful looks for four seasons. I also love that they made the cellist a genuinely important part of Coulson’s life, and that his feelings for her did not disappear overnight just because he’s on a plane with several attractive women. As for FitzSimmons, it’s refreshing that they’ve focused more on how important their friendship is than their potential romantic feelings for each other.
In fact, the show hasn’t focused very much on romantic relationships in general. Platonic relationships frequently take a backseat to romantic development, but on SHIELD it’s exactly the opposite. We sat through the overdone lesson of the week about teamwork, but we also get to watch the agents develop actual friendships. The team pranks Skye because she’s the newbie. Skye and Simmons hug it out after mortal danger has passed. Ward helps Simmons overcome her fears about field work. Everyone makes fun of Ward. It’s a beautiful thing.
The relationships are often complicated, like the tenuous trust that is made and broken and made again between Skye and May. And they’re often unexpectedly tender, like the quasi-parent/child relationship between Skye and Coulson. It’s way more than I initially expected from ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, and it makes the show much more satisfying to watch.
It’s Actually Pretty Funny
Midway through episode two I was about ready to give up on SHIELD altogether. Then Coulson was asked if he was shot and replied, “…ish.” I knew I couldn’t turn away.
SHIELD has the same ironic, self-deprecating sense of humor that all of Joss Whedon’s creations share. It makes fun of the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. is a ridiculous acronym, that Raina inexplicably only wears floral print, and that Thor is unbelievably dreamy. It also finds some humor in realism. Simmons is a lab rat with no real field experience, and it shows when she panics in simple situations and ends up shooting people with the Night-Night gun. Skye has no combat experience and says “bang” when she shoots a gun, as we all would. Every episode has funny moments that entertain and add to characterization. And finally, last but not least…
Someone We Love Has Already Died
There are several laws that govern the universe. Monday always comes after Sunday. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And a Whedon show, given enough episodes, will kill someone you love and send you into an emotional spiral.
But in the case of SHIELD, someone we love has already died. Coulson was dead before the show started, and his death is a major part of his story arc. I don’t have an official death algorithm, but this might count as a loophole that will save us massive psychological trauma in the future. I’d estimate the likelihood of needing therapy as a result of SHIELD at 70%, as opposed to the usual 100% guarantee. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to keep me watching.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)