I finally got around to Netflix bingeing on the first season Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — which I had been less than interested in seeing when it premiered 1) because i don’t have cable and making time for a show isn’t my speed, anymore, and 2) I thought the premise a bit lackluster, and 3) I wasn’t hearing great things from the fanbase. So, what did I see?
The allegedly weak first half of the season wasn’t. I’m a big fan of spy-fi, and this was a generally good example of the genre for TV. I think the fans were expected the superhero/supervillain of the week sort of thing, so this would be an understandable let down. The supposed better back half wasn’t that much better, but finally pulled all the disparate elements together, at a better pace (until the last episode or two, where it bogged down, in my opinion…but that’s the hazards of the 22 episode seasons that US broadcast television seems unable to break out of.)
The acting is good. It’s obviously Clark Gregg’s show — Agent Coulson is the glue to the piece and they managed to make it work. They don’t run to long on the “secret” of his survival, but give you just enough by episode eight or so to be satisfied, then build on it a bit toward the end of the season. The characters around him are a big cliched — the geeky, combat weak scientists (Probably the strongest performers of the cast, and at least they got a real Scot for the Scotsman.); the girl hacker fighting the system with a dark secret; the tough chick that supports the
captain Coulson; and the bad ass turned traitor. It’s a pretty standard Joss Whedon set of characters so better than about 75% of broadcast TV.) We get some great guest players, as well — Saffron Burroughs as a quasi-foil senior SHIELD officer, Bill Paxton (playing Bill Paxton…but here it works) as the hard-charging leader of another team, Samuel L Jackson (with nary a “motherfucker” for the ear but he does get to shoot guns), Cobie Smulders (in a less likable version of the Hill character), and Jaimie Alexander (not great) reprising their roles, and the always good Patton Oswalt. (Whom you need to see in Justified‘s fourth season — seriously!)
The plots are generally good, but the Whedon-y slow burn through the season gets a bit long in the tooth by the end of the 22 episodes. We learn Coulson’s secret, we deal with the collapse of SHIELD following the events of Captain America 2, but are left until second season to explain the hacker, Skye’s, big reveal. The season’s bad guy, the Clairvoyant, is revealed well, and actually was a surprise to me. Character development is solid, and the characters remain consistent, and some of the half-develop stereotypes — May, for instance — finally get some decent fleshing out. The hacker, though, still the weakest of the bunch. The release of the supervillain prisoners from “the Fridge” gives us the chance to expand the show from a spy show with some superscience into a spy show with super-powered bad guys.
Overall, I think the quality of the show was more consistent than others have opined, and that it’s a good counterpoint to the movies, which are increasingly more superheroic as they go on. I’m looking forward to seeing season 2.