Friday, June 27, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 1 (2013-2014) ***

TV-14, 22 45-min. episodes
Creators: Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, Stan Lee (Marvel Comics), Jack Kirby (Marvel Comics)

Directors: Joss Whedon, David Straiton, Milan Cheylov, Roxann Dawson, Jesse Bochco, Vincent Misiano, Bobby Roth, Jonathan Frakes, Billy Gierhart, Holly Dale, Kevin Hooks, Kenneth Fink, Paul Edwards, John Terlesky

Writers: Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jeffery Bell, Brent Fletcher, Paul Zbyszcewski, Rafe Judkins, Lauren LeFranc, Monica Owusu Breen, Shalisha Francis, DJ Doyle

Starring: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennet, Iain DeCaestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge

Guest starring: J. August Richards, Shannon Lucio, Ron Glass, Cobie Smulders, Leonor Varela, Carlos Leal, Samuel L. Jackson, David Conrad, Ian Hart, Pascale Armand, Michael Klesic, Ruth Negga, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Cullen Douglas, Vincent Laresca, Titus Welliver, Saffron Burrows, Maximiliano Hernandez, Ilia Volok, Peter MacNicol, Michael Graziadei, Erin Way, Molly McCook, Ajani Wrighster, Paul Lacovara, Rob Huebel, Daniel Zovatto, Christine Adams, Carlo Rota, Bill Paxton, Elena Satine, Robert Belushi, B.J. Britt, Jaimie Alexander, Brad Dourif, Charles Halford, Adrian Pasdar, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Brennan, Amy Acker, Tsai Chin, Austin Lyon, Glenn Morshower, Josh Daugherty

So, my family finally got through season one of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Our delay wasn’t because we didn’t enjoy it. A little addition to the family made it difficult to find quite family TV time together. But, I’m glad I’m finally getting my chance at this one.

During the run of the season, it seemed that MAOS was the punching bag for anybody who wanted to see the Marvel/Disney deal falter. Throughout good (but not mind-blowing) ratings, it seemed that every business website that could tried to jump in the ring with Marvel on this one, posting new stories every week about “Why MAOS will fail.” The biggest culprit was a site called the Motley Fool, who based most of their facts on conjecture and seemed to conjure their conjecture from bitter resentment. Their consensus was that MAOS is only still around so they can cross promote all of the Marvel big screen ventures, not with traditional advertising but an expensive 22 episode television show that requires countless more employees and money than producing commercials from footage that has already been produced as part of each movie. Sure, that seems plausible. That’s also probably why ABC also ordered a new Marvel tie-in show, “Agent Carter”, which takes place 50 years ago, since a period piece will offer countless opportunities for tie-ins to movie that are taking place in the present. Or maybe, people liked it.

I know I liked it. It certainly wasn’t a perfect first season, but not every show can be “Lost” or “Breaking Bad”. It had its rough spots in the first half of the season, when the creators definitely seemed to take a more classic 80’s television action show approach to the series. The truth is I kind of liked the throwback feel to the first half of the season, which was very episodic, more plot driven than character driven, and seemed to be searching a bit for a direction. By the second half—despite still taking great pains to tie-in with Marvel’s big “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” feature film release—the show had found its personality. With witty cameos and meaty guest spots by the likes of Bill Paxton, Patton Oswalt, Amy Acker, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson and Jaimie Alexander, the series was chugging on all cylinders tying portions of the Marvel Universe together and still offering good and surprising melodrama for the main cast of the series.

Clark Gregg is the unlikely yet perfect anchor for the series as the beloved Agent Colson from the “Iron Man” movies, “Thor” and “The Avengers”. His story drives much of the mythology of the series as he searches to discover just what happened to him after he died in “The Avengers”. And yep, he did die, but now he’s alive. That’s actually a pretty good mystery right there. The writers, however, do a pretty good job tying that mystery in with Hydra’s plot to take over S.H.I.E.L.D. from within—the plot revealed in the second Cap movie—and the origin of another superhero from the comic books known as Deathlok.

Now, that they’ve found their footing, I’ve no doubt that the second season will be even better than the first. Yes, Motley Fool, there will be a great deal more cross-referencing with other Marvel properties and products, as that’s half the reason many people do like this show. There will also be growth with the existing characters, and many more guest spots to boot from already existing characters and some new ones with hopes for further expanding this movie/television Marvel Universe. The fan base is established now, and it is loyal, so I have faith that MAOS will be sticking around for a while. And I can’t wait for “Agent Carter” either.

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