Bleh. More Bleh From S.H.I.E.L.D.

The latest episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivered more bleh and helped continue this show along its increasingly boring path of dark colors and mediocre plot-lines. Episode 6 “FZZT” featured a Chitauri infection that killed people and suspended them in mid-air. Jemma Simmons contracted the infection through an electrostatic shock, and then had to race against time to try to find herself an anti-serum before she died. Of course, Fitz helped save the day by scratching some Chitauri cells from the inside of a Chitauri helmet (which was somehow the initial cause of the infection) and helping to develop the antiserum from them. Overall it was an incredibly purposeless and boring episode.  It was obvious that Jemma (it’s the only time she’s referred to as “Jemma” rather than “Simmons”) was not going to be killed off, so it was just a matter of waiting out the episode to find out how she saves herself or gets saved or whatnot.

While I’ve been hoping for an episode to feature FitzSimmons, this is the oposite of what I was hoping for. What I want is back-story and character development. I want some reason to care a bit more about the duo. But instead, I was treated to another episode that made it increasingly difficult for me to distinguish Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from anything else on TV.  What is going on? Who is writing these episodes, and more importantly, who is OK-ing them? I assume it’s Jed & Maurissa again at fault for this. Or maybe it’s Marvel and ABC. Maybe Jed and Maurissa can’t stand up to Marvel and ABC, or maybe it’s what I said before, that Jed & Maurissa are good writers, but they don’t necessarily share Joss’ brilliance for bringing out the brilliance in the people around him.

Not everyone is so disappointed by this episode as I was. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Joss should be heavily disappointed, and racking his brain on what to do about it. If the last few episodes were something that Joss actually rewrote, then I think he may have dementia.  I expect more from Joss. And while I know that he’s not running this show, ultimately it’s his name on the line and it’s his responsibility to make sure it’s not utter crap.

Am I being too hard on the Whedons? S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t the worst thing on TV. But it isn’t the best thing ever either, and it could be. It should be. It’s not enough for it to just be ok. I expect it to be at least as good as Dollhouse, which was an unpopular show that was canceled after two seasons. Dollhouse had so much going for it – it was a thinking person’s show. It made you think, wonder, imagine. All S.H.I.E.L.D. makes me wonder is when will Joss’ rewrites start showing up and when will this show get better?

Episode 6 wasn’t horrible. It just wasn’t great. It was just bleh. But it had a few things going for it. For example: finally, finally the music was more varied and less horrible than it’s been before. And while it wasn’t funny in the least, some of the characters made each other laugh, which was kind of nice. It was not Whedon Wit by a long shot, but it was welcome levity.

There were a couple moments here and there, during Episode 6, which might have been important. There was a brief interchange between Fitz & Simmons which hinted at how they ended up with S.H.I.E.L.D. (says Fitz: “The Academy, psy-ops, and now this plane.”) And there was a scene in which Coulson wondered why he felt so different after being brought back from the dead. Nothing was actually revealed (the blood tests he ordered for himself were all normal, except for a little extra iron) so we still don’t have a clue whether he’s a robot or a clone. About the iron in his blood he joked un-funnily: “You don’t have to start calling me Iron Man.” But I think that the iron in his blood was a result of how rusty his skills are! In any case, in spite of the non-funniness, it is Coulson at this point who is carrying the show. Clark Gregg is an amazing actor. He reminds me of Giles, in terms of how much expression he can carry on his face. The similarities don’ t end there, of course. But that is another topic for another day.

The fact that other reviewers aren’t horribly disappointed by S.H.I.E.L.D. just shows how low the bar is. S.H.I.E.L.D. was compared to CSI, in what I think was supposed to be a compliment, by one reviewer. But CSI should not be what S.H.I.E.L.D. aspires to. All shows, and especially Whedon shows, should aspire to be as good as Buffy. Of course, all will fail. But Buffy, the greatest TV show of all time, showed us what is possible with television. Having seen what is possible, should we really aspire to mediocrity instead? That is all that is being delivered in this latest series.

But I’m still hanging on. I’ll watch every episode and in spite of repeated disappointments I’ll impatiently wait for the next, and the one after that. I’ll keep hoping for it to get better. There is hope. There is the hope that Joss will eventually finish work on The Avengers: Age of Ultron and return to working on S.H.I.E.L.D. and make it a better show. Because if I had given up on Buffy, Angel or Dollhouse when they were struggling in their first seasons, I would have missed out on so much I can’t even bear to think about it. I’m willing to give this show at least two seasons before I give up… and I am not alone in holding out hope. There are an awful lot of good reasons to watch a Whedon show, and maybe someday they’ll be evident in S.H.I.E.L.D. We can dream.

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