I saw Captain America on Thursday. It was amazing. I loved it.
Afterwards, I was walking home with my friend, Joe, munching on my popcorn refill as we went over what everything in The Winter Soldier meant for our heroes on ABC’s Agents of SHIELD because shit was going to go down. There is no SHIELD, only Hydra.
Every five steps, I’d say, “Sooooo good,” to the point where everyone on Hollywood Blvd. thinks I have some sort of weird popcorn fetish.
Anyway, I could not wait until Tuesday. I wanted to know. I had to know. What was going to happen to Coulson? What was going to happen to a show centered on an organization that has just been destroyed internally? I’m so excited.
And, then I read a bad review for Tuesday’s episode.
Mind, I don’t make it a habit to read bad reviews just as I don’t make it a habit to write them. Unfortunately, this bad review was deceivingly titled. I honestly thought I was going to find some viewership numbers, because I wanted to know if there was a Captain America bump for the show. Instead, I was treated to a rant about how the show isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do and is merely surviving on thin thread tie-ins to blockbuster films.
I am not going to say that Agents of SHIELD started out as strong as it could have. It started to lose me. Then, I saw episode 6, which I still will argue is one of the best episodes of the season. It finally pulled in the non-Clark Gregg/Ming-Na characters to give them a stronger arc and finally show what they are made of. I want to see more of the team dynamic. I want to see more of the relationships. This episode did that beautifully while illustrating what being a member of SHIELD means to Coulson’s team.
But, even with my own questions and flagging confidence, Jeph Loeb put out one last call to the fans at PaleyFest.
And, I do.
Agents of SHIELD is not about the Avengers. It’s not about Nick Fury. It’s not about Maria Hill (though if they can pull her in, I would be ecstatic.)
Agents of SHIELD is about the non-superpowered in a world of people and organizations that are. It’s about the grunts. It’s about the people that don’t get to know everything. It’s about people with limitations in a world full of impossibilities.
At this moment in time, I think people are too focused on trying to make Agents of SHIELD what it isn’t. It’s not about pulling in all the superheroes not big enough to have their own movie. It’s not about answering all the questions that were raised in the movies. No one is defined by what they aren’t, they’re defined by what they are.
Science fiction is an iceberg medium. You only get to see a little bit without being privy to the immensity of the whole. The Avenger-universe movies are a piece of that iceberg. The TV show is giving us a glimpse of a different side and every once in awhile gives us the wink-nudge reminder that it’s still part of the same iceberg.
You can’t be upset that you aren’t seeing the whole iceberg.
If you want to choose to just watch the movies, go for it. But, for me, having the show is giving me a richer experience of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I love seeing glimpses of this iceberg. I love knowing that there’s so much more out there. I have never been this much of a fangirl, getting so excited to see the rest of the season, conjecturing as to who is which Marvel character, squeeing over Easter eggs, and laughing out loud when Coulson says, “Booyah.”
Maybe this is how all those Firefly fans felt…
I unapologetically have no time to watch TV when it airs. So, it’s rather surprising that I was able to watch Agents of SHIELD last night.
But, if you know me, perhaps not that surprising. Because I love Agent Coulson. I had a small twinge of jealousy during Avengers when he said there was a cellist in Portland. I nearly ripped my theatre seat out of the ground when Loki stabbed him in the back. I hung on through the movie, thinking, “No body, no death,” the reality of action movies, but the movie ended.
And, seemingly, Coulson ended with it.
Now, as anyone knows, Coulson is back and as quippy as ever. And he comes bearing conspiracy.
The pilot episode explains Coulson’s reappearance as Nick Fury faking our favorite agent’s death to get the Avengers to work as a team. This hypothesis is icky. If Coulson’s death was a fake, it’s ultimately meaningless, considering everything that Coulson stands for. However, Maria Hill and Doc Shepard (Firefly guy) hang on Coulson’s resurrection a little too long. So long, in fact, that we know there’s something rotten in the state of Strategic Homeland Initiative, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
The general agreement is that Agent Phil Coulson of Agents of SHIELD is a life model decoy. I’m not placing my bets on that, but it’s certainly possible.
Any way, the thing that I really wanted to talk about was the definition of heroism. io9.com posed this in their biggest unanswered questions about Agents of SHIELD:
Are all superheroes essentially psychotic?
This seems to be one major theme of the episode — Michael gets superpowers and uses them to help people, just like the Avengers. But he resists doing the whole “costumed hero” thing when Skye suggests it… until he starts to go insane due to the tech in his arm. Then he suddenly starts talking about being a hero, and his mean factory foreman being “the bad guy.” And he tells the nice doctor lady that this is his origin story. So… is the whole idea of being called to heroism just a form of psychosis? Is it essentially sociopathic? At the end of the episode, though, Michael says “it matters who I am,” and Agent Coulson turns that around into a thing where Michael’s real chance for heroism is self-sacrifice — saving the people in the train station from his own spontaneous combustion. (And then luckily, it doesn’t come to that, thanks to Fitzsimmons.)
This is an interesting idea and, while I won’t bet on the true nature of the current Phil Coulson, I would wager that Agents of SHIELD will be addressing a lot of the stigma around heroism. The tagline, after all, is “Not all heroes are super.”
Part of my love of Phil Coulson is this weird grey area he exists in. He’s definitely a hero. In Avengers, he’s the hero that the super-powered aspires to be. He faces a “god” because it’s the right thing to do. At the same time, Coulson absolutely loves his job. Is he just following orders?
Anyway, I would purpose some major unanswered questions of my own:
Will Phil Coulson be in the next Avengers movie?
You can’t just ignore the fact that Coulson is back. While the Marvel cinematic universe just got a little bigger, it’s still very insular. Coulson was the go-to guy on ALL the heroes. He was Thor’s contact, the first man on the job when Tony Stark started suiting up, and even saved Pepper a few times in the first Iron Man film. Not to mention JARVIS could have out with the big secret within 20 seconds of half-assed hacking.
How will the heroes react to it?
They don’t need Coulson anymore. But, if they stick with the cover story that Nick Fury is a liar, well, that’s not real great for team cohesiveness.
Where are the super-powered?
A lot of people wanted the Michael character to be Luke Cage. And, that’s not a bad tactic, introducing Marvel characters less likely to get their own movies into the television universe. However, my thought is that we won’t see any super powers. We’ll be seeing how people in a world with the superpowered deal with not having them. And, that’s pretty much how the series has been billed. Maybe we’ll get these characters later, but I doubt we’ll see supers in the first season outside of artificial ones.
What does this mean for the cinematic universe?
In the comics, all of the Marvel heroes exist in the same universe. X-men, Avengers, Spider-man, they’re all kicking it around in the same world. With 20th Century Fox holding on to X-men and Sony with the iron grip on Spider-man, who knows when these properties will be back together on-screen. Stop celebrating the Batman/Superman movie, give me Spider-man/Human Torch or Wolverine vs. Hulk. One can only hope that competing companies will play nice for the sake of Marvel’s success. But realistically, Coulson might have to die again to make that happen.