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[personal profile] cammeh
Hmmmm.

Well, not as good as I was hoping, not as awful as it might have been? There were awesome things about it, like the gender balance and MELINDA MAY and many subversions of gendered tropes and ♥MELINDA MAY♥, but some things just felt really…off. To me.

For one, I was so excited at the beginning when I thought they were going to be helping/recruiting a down-on-his-luck pre-superhero who was a black dude. SO excited. And I initially loved the set-up where he was this extraordinary guy and a great single dad who got screwed by the system, but who was true to his underlying heroic nature anyway, and who was gOING TO BE RECRUITED AND THEN HE WOULD BE ABLE TO BUY HIS SON ALL THE SUPERHERO TOYS WITH A SHIELD PAYCHECK AND MAYBE ALSO EVENTUALLY HAVE AN ACTION FIGURE HIMSELF??? 8D

But then the reveal kind of circled it back around to that trope where the oppressed but noble-intentioned minority gets involved in Bad Things out of desperation and becomes an unwilling/inadvertent antagonist by lashing out against the system, and then the White People have to talk them down soothingly and save the day. :/ Like. Okay? How does any of this change the reasons why Mike was desperate enough to volunteer for a bizarre experimental procedure in the first place? Just because he was being affected by a dangerous cocktail of meta factors when he went off the handle doesn’t mean he didn’t have a painfully salient point about the rigged world he and so many others are living in.

Rather than giving this guy powers as a pilot episode device solely to set up the antagonist Centipede and establish the Agents of Shield team’s mission statement, I think it would have made a better statement on the problems that people like Mike face - and a better message of hope - for it to have been just as Mike said: “This is an origin story.” Obviously this show is about the Agents of Shield, but they could have found a way to either bring him into the fold, or to spin his story out so that he kept his powers (or even had powers originally) and then became a superhero off-screen to this show, with occasional appearances and whatnot.

IDK. That one line of his really got to me, about it mattering what kind of person he was inside, because that’s what mattered in Erskine’s supersoldier formula. He was a good man, and he was pinning everything on that internal goodness being amplified the same way it was for Steve Rogers, because he’s just as good, just as hard-working, just as deserving, right? Right? And he was clinging to that by his fingernails in spite of everything that happened to him. But he got screwed over. Yet again. Mrrr. Just. I wasn’t satisfied with his storyline, okay. At all.

And then, shifting gears, there’s what I told my brother: I’m skeptical (at least for now) about the ensemble they’ve built. There are tidbits of intrigue built into a lot of the characters - “Considering your history/family” (idk I can’t remember the line) re: Agent Ward; “He can’t ever remember” re: Coulson, ♥Melinda May♥’s apparently semi-legendary status as a field agent and why she transferred to a desk job, etc. And that’s all to the good, obviously. But while they seem to be interesting characters individually, at least in the pilot episode I’m not convinced why they’re going to be interesting together?

Like. One of the best things about the interconnected MCU is the brilliance of the character dynamics, and those weren’t established at all for me in this episode. We got brief sketches of interaction between Coulson and most of the team, but he’s the handler, that was already established, and while those scenes were enjoyable, there was nothing really illuminating, unexpected, or revelatory of character for me.

The only agents who really got much interaction with each other were Sky & Ward and Fitz & Simmons. Sky & Ward’s dynamic sincerely irritated me; it felt fairly trite and unoriginal, which is a shame because I kind of like Sky with Coulson and on her own, even if she’s a bit much personality-wise. The banter was alright, albeit slightly forced, but nothing particularly interesting or memorable.

Fitz & Simmons…also irritated me, even though I was really eager to love the science duo. They pretty much consisted of 100% overeager pseudo-science babble in this episode, and they spoke so quickly, literally right over the top of each other, that it became unintelligible ~*~SCIENCE ENTHUSIASM~*~ noise without much actual content in terms of explaining things to the audience or developing their characters. ‘Think of it as an exam’, really? Really? And then their off-screen, totally unexplained Miracle of Science coming up with a cure. Uh-huh. Okay. >_> (“It’s the pilot episode, Cam,” I whisper to myself. “Give it time.”) (While the other half of me whispers back, “Firefly’s pilot episode was perfection itself, so what gives.)

And, I don’t know, there was this glitzy sheen of Whedonesque quirkiness to almost everyone that felt a little uncomfortably over the top. It felt like different shades of Tony Stark’s semi-manic quirkiness in the various characters, tbh, and that was just weird, because that doesn’t work with everyone. I like and appreciate Marvel’s incorporation of humor into their on-screen superhero stories, but it felt kind of shaky to me in this pilot episode.

Melinda May came off as the single most grounded character because she got the least of that treatment, I think, so she felt the most…idk, real? Which is probably why I like her so much. (Also, badass, taciturn ex-field agent with a traumatic event in her past who greets Coulson’s flim-flammery with a straight face and just gets down to the job, and who is also an Asian woman? SWOON.)

Anyway. Getting back on subject. This is supposed to be a team. They’d better start selling the team as a team in the next few episodes, or it’s just going to be painful. I’m…not as worried about that as I might have been in other shows, though, because, y’know. Joss Whedon. King of the ensemble cast, lol.

So I’m not in love with it, but I’m gonna tack a ‘yet’ on the end of there out of hope, because there are plenty of things I like about it. I’ll definitely keep tuning it for a few weeks at least to see where it goes.
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October 2014

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