wed 28/02/2024

Marvel's Agents of S H I E L D , Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Channel 4

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Channel 4

The fantasy drama returns without much fantasy, or drama

Coulson and the team make their full bore return

Warning! Spoilers ahead, etc… Bearing in mind the high-octane thrills of recent Marvel forays into cinema, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a surprisingly unshowy show. Some have taken this to be a good thing, though I suspect these people simply don’t like comic book adaptations or superheroes much. Me? I love comic-book characters – preferably covered in spandex and the sweat of battle.

I want to see them have a massive scrap and fight personal demons along with extraterrestrial threats and improbably accented supervillains.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t known for that, but the last episode ramped up the drama effectively and so, as it returned from a mid-season break, I waited, breath bated as the catch-up montage flashed by. People died, revenged and changed. Changing was particularly important – we know this because people said it much more than other words and in a much more serious tone. This attempt to bring the audience up to speed bemuses me – either you watch the show and you know what’s going on, or you don’t and you don’t. To fully explain what’s going on to the latter group would take roughly the same time as it would to print the whole of the internet – and the resulting effort was like opening up a Chris Claremont-era X-Men comic in the middle and trying to make sense of it. For those with more refined tastes, imagine being thrown headfirst into the centre of a Harrison Birtwistle piece and trying to make sense of the careering cacophony without having any kind of context to tether it to.

Poor dialogue and cloying Hallmark sentiment managed to kill any potential emotion

The real problem was what followed this heads-down charge through past events. Which was, basically, not much. As the fog cleared, it was replaced by a mutant coming and going with the kind of cobalt kick that the X-Men’s Nightcrawler has trademarked. This flashback scene, in which Jiaying calmed the young mutant down as he struggled to cope with what was, clearly, an unexpected and unwelcome addition to the pubescent experience, was echoed in the modern day as her own daughter, Skye, sat in confinement having gained powers, but with no one there to comfort her. It was the nearest the programme came to a poignant moment, but piss-poor dialogue and cloying Hallmark sentiment managed to kill any potential emotion – and that's coming from someone who cries at DIY SOS.

In fact, there were so many problems with the episode it’s difficult to know where to start – although if you’re planning to watch it on catch-up, I would suggest "near the end" is as good a place as any. Now, I don’t expect a programme based in a superhero universe to be particularly revelatory, though there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be – the form is set up for exactly that kind of moral and personal exploration. What I want, however, is to see some superheroes. Doing superhero stuff. There was precious little of this however, as the characters attempted to make sense of events using nothing but clunking exposition and long, meaningful looks. Worryingly, for a show that has enjoyed so much critical praise, the acting bar is set limbo-low.

The mid-programme set-piece, in which S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives staged a hostage rescue and faked their own deaths, felt like it could have been a turning point. However it, too, ultimately fell flat. The characters' ribbing of each other over their dialogue in the staged heist, once the facade had played out, was an irony clearly lost on all involved. Has Joss Whedon ever put his name to a less lyrical project? Probably not.

There was simply no engagement. No one to care for, no sense of jeopardy, precious little action and woeful character motivation. Even the appearance of Kyle MacLachlan and his exuberant criminal camp couldn’t save it – by then my mind had already wandered to Netflix’s incoming Daredevil series and how Matt Murdoch would have coped had he lost his hearing as well as his sight.

Well, he would have been spared this, at least.

There were so many problems with the episode it’s difficult to know where to start – although I would suggest ‘near the end’


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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Agents of SHIELD is not a superhero show. It's a spy show set in a world of superheroes. The name kind of gives it away.

I know, which is exactly why I made reference to the series being set 'in a superhero universe'. My contention is that, while many seem to think that the show succeeds by basically being Alias in a world populated by mutants, I think it would benefit from a more visible presence of those mutant powers. And a decent script. 

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