That this show exists, that Marvel and Disney have created a television show that is 100% nerd is an extraordinary feet. Yeah, I know you want me to talk about show quality, go full tilt Comic Book Guy on it, but have a little patience. Take a step back for a moment. Tonight ABC debuted a superhero television show that doesn’t run away from its roots. S.H.I.E.L.D makes no attempt to hide itself in pseudo-realism. There is nothing Nolanesque here. Nothing is grim. Nothing is a grudging hammerlock homage to the glory of the Silver Age bound and gagged in body armor. It’s not an alternate universe like Smallville ( i.e. it doesn’t count!).
I am thirty five years old. This is the first time in my life a television show hasn’t just embraced an established continuity. They’re two teenagers making out in a car in the middle of a drive-in sci-fi double feature. Not familiar with the Marvel films of the last decade? Too bad. This show doesn’t apologize for wallowing in its mythological history. A plot element to Iron Man 3 emerges front and center, as does the battle of New York featured prominently in the Avengers, and that makes me a little giddy. However, if you haven’t seen the feature films you’ll pick things up pretty quickly. Nothing about the continuity flourishes suggests the density of an X-files.
I need another moment to soak this all in.
Alright, done. So yeah the first episode is okay. Now when I say “okay,” I mean by Joss Whedon standards its okay. It’s got the jokes and the witty banter and solid twists, but the impact of said twists is largely an outgrowth of the expectations of the internet, rather than any dramatic engine within the show. Despite flying cars, mad scientists, and spies with mad skills, it is a show informed as much by Dollhouse as it is the Buffy-verse. Looking at it from the long game, patience pays off in episodic television, but too much patience will give you Dollhouse ratings to go along with the Dollhouse conspiracies. It’s a bit of a risk considering the show has the might of the Disney empire behind it.
The acting is fairly bland, but it’s a first episode so I’m willing to cut it some slack, but save for Coulson, the ensemble is in danger of becoming nothing more than self deprecating quip machines or worse, wallpaper. The stand out moment though is J. August Richard’s speech near the end of the episode. It is a speech about betrayal, using superheroes as a metaphor to discus the betrayal many Americans feel by the government. We were told to work hard, be men, and the food would come. Success would come. What did we get? A never ending economic crisis, a surveillance state, and space whales wrecking the New York skyline.
Betrayal: expect this to be a theme in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the next Avengers film. I imagine Captain America will be none too pleased with Fury’s deception and I have a feeling Colson is in for a rude awakening when it comes to Tahiti. I love betrayal, so much so I’ll be turning in next week. I’m willing to see how the writers build this house of cards, but the crumble had better be impressive.
Written By David Arroyo