I don’t know that I have anything resembling an insightful review to give Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As some of my friends have mentioned, that sure was a pilot. I mean, other than not knowing Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) was going to show up, I didn’t see much awesome in the premiere episode that wasn’t in the various promos. But, now there’s a stage, and it’s set, and maybe we’ll have some fun with it. It’s Joss Whedon and a geek property, so I’m certainly willing to give it a few episodes to show me where it’s going.
Oddly enough, the thing that might be most notable about the pilot isn’t the content itself, but the response to it. Specifically, Jim Steranko’s review. Or, at least, the last two paragraphs, where he tosses off a few rhetorical questions that are probably meant to be quick, cheap shots, but which I’m not sure really pan out that way:
Could anyone understand the dialogue delivered by the S.H.I.E.L.D. lab team? Did anyone feel punted into P.C.-ville by the Hooded Hero being black? And did we really need the rampant, dueling ideologies at the pilot’s denouement? We all understand melodrama has its conveniences, contrivances and coincidences, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect a certain transcendence with the kind of creative talent behind the series.
If only, at the episode’s close, a well-meaning security guard who worked in the subway terminal would have shot and killed the Hooded Hero to really punch up the philosophical dichotomy between what he termed the “bad guy” and the “hero.” Or would that kind of poetic irony been too over the top for a comic book-inspired TV series?
For a review which has as one of its primary criticisms a lack of focus in the work, the tail end here sort of suffers from the same, and goes a fair bit off the rails for me. Complaints about foreign accents have an uncomfortably tone deaf “why can’t those brits speak English?” feel, but I suppose it’s not too horrible.
The sudden jump to political correctness because of J. August Richards’ race gets especially hairy for me, though. And, mind you, inconsistent, since Steranko was just complaining that Samuel L. Jackson hadn’t made an appearance. Honestly, Richards’ role seemed to suggest the opposite of racial PC choices to me, in that it showed up the near-monopoly of Caucasian players in the regular cast.1
I gather from the last paragraph that Steranko was seeing some kind of Trayvon Martin allegory. That seems a stretch, though, as the guy in the hood here is the one running around playing vigilante. He’s also an adult, and possessed of a pretty ungodly level of strength. And his erratic behavior falls pretty clearly on the crazy technology / chemicals running rampant within him. The parallels to the case in question kind of seem to stop at “African American with his hood up.” If that’s all it takes for you to draw a line between them, it may say more about the critic than the writers in this case.
What the role suggested to me was: 1) Joss Whedon likes to use the same actors (note the aforementioned Ron Glass showing up), and 2) CW’s Arrow has a wider influence than I thought.
1. Ming-Na Wen is the obvious exception, though sadly she also doesn’t get to do much other than brood mysteriously and hit some people in the pilot. It will be nice when we get over the mystery there and she’s fleshed out. ↩