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Monday, December 16, 2013

AGENTS Building a "Bridge"

Article first published as AGENTS Building a "Bridge" on TheTVKing.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has started slow this fall. On a series like this, the episodes really need lots of through arcs and character development to be entertaining. A procedural format may work for some crimes shows, but those tend to be watched by older audiences, while younger viewers often (though not always) prefer a bigger story. Given the nerd-skewing draw of this series, and nerds like epic tales, the show would be smart to keep that in mind.

Creator Joss Whedon has been burned on TV before for going too serial. Firefly was canceled when viewers who didn't see the pilot (which didn't air first) were lost in the story. Dollhouse started out as a case-of-the-week, which was what the network, but not fans, wanted, but changed gears too late. It appears Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to split the difference, but by going for both serial and procedural formats at once, neither quite lands as it should.

The mid-season finale, "The Bridge," is moving more in the correct direction. It continues the larger story of the gang hunting Centipede and brings back familiar face Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) from the first episode. It furthers the mysteries surrounding Coulson's (Clark Gregg) resurrection and the identity of Skye's (Chloe Bennet) mom. It allows agents Ward (Brett Dalton) and May (Ming-Na Wen) to explore the beginnings of their relationship. And it ends on a fantastic cliffhanger.

If more episodes could follow the pattern of "The Bridge," the series would be better and the show just might regain some of the fans its been hemorrhaging. I truly believe it will continue to grow, now that it's been established; I just hope it's not too late to save it from cancellation.

The Skye and Coulson stuff are both really interesting plots. These are two people who are very different, definitely at varying stages of life, and yet the desire for the truth about themselves is one thing they share. Coulson knows how to control himself better and has patience, but essentially, it's two parallel stories that make the show feel more cohesive.

I really like that Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is developing the Ward / May pairing.Wen is nearly twenty years older than Dalton, something few shows would dare to touch on, at least with the woman being older. Yet, she's still fierce, tough, sexy, and has good chemistry with the younger man, so why not? I don't know if this is destined to last for long, but it came about unexpectedly, and because it still seems like such a novel pairing, it's still very exciting.

What the union says about May is also enlightening. She's such a tough nut to crack, and by her letting Ward in, she's also revealing a little of herself to viewers, too. We get to see some vulnerability there, and hints at what motivates her. Some might say it's a little early for her to bloom, but I don't think the show really needs a closed-off enigma. It's enough to give us well-developed personalities and allow them to change over time.

Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), unfortunately, still lag behind the others in terms of exploration of the role. They are funny, charming, and smart, but the bits of them that have taken them away from the lab haven't explained much about them, either. These two are more than just sidekicks, and I look forward to any stories the writers want to toss their way because the actors both have great screen presence.

Watching "The Bridge," it occurs to me that it's a shame there is not a superhero in the group. I understand that the original intent was to show the people behind the scenes, rather than the guys that get the films made about them, but maybe a lesser person with abilities could sort of fit the bill, such as Mike's character.

It's too bad they seemingly killed Mike off. Not only does that leave his son without a dad, but he could really be useful on the show. He was the first person we were really introduced to, and I'd hoped he'd recur more than once before getting rid of him.

"The Bridge" leaves me wanting more, which is what a good mid-season finale does.  For this, it deserves praise, even amid the nit-picky gripes. And there are mostly only little things to complain about. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return soon to ABC.

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