Brace yourselves, a fat bearded dude is about to bitch about a widely praised show.
I’ve long criticized Agents of SHIELD for being one of the shallowest, ugliest, suspension-of-disbelief breaking additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the show was first announced, I knew it couldn’t possibly compete with its silver screen peers. Television simply doesn’t afford the same budget as a feature length Iron Man or Captain America flick. Still, I thought (rather, I hoped) that Agents of SHIELD would compensate for its lack of spectacle with a far more cerebral, character driven affair. They didn’t really go that route though, did they? Joss Whedon, his brother Jed Whedon, and that brother’s wife Maurissa Tancharoen have delivered us a super SUPER derivative piece of pulp. A few cups of recycled Buffy story lines, a dash of hand-me-down jokes, and an insanely plasticy universe, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for Agents of SHIELD.
And you know the one scene that perfectly sums it up? The one that really grinds my gears? The most heinous of the heinous?
In last night’s episode, “Ragtag”, while Coulson and Mae escape the super secret Hydra tech facility, their teammates shot a harpoon into the fourth floor window to create a zipline. The elder spies jump onto the zipline and slide down to their getaway car.
So in what sturdy material did the harpoon bury itself? Was it a porous concrete pillar? A denser-than-he-seemed Extremis soldier? Or how about a nice stout desk?
Or how about a ceiling tile. Because that’s totally what the pair used to anchor themselves. A God Damn ceiling title! A square piece of perforated cardboard totally supported their combined weight, because physics and stuff.
I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s emblematic of the show’s entire problem: They don’t care about a believable universe at the most basic levels. The Whedon crew is so self aware and drenched in television tropes that they don’t even care to cultivate a credible world. I know these are superhero stories, and are innately absurd, but let’s take a page from the Russo Bros. and their incredibly successful Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Their tale involves the struggles of a recently awoken World War II soldier who was preserved in a chunk of ice. The science in that origin story is absolutely insane! But we, as the ravenous audience that we are, accept this fiction because the universe the Russo Bros. created is so believable in every other way, that we can happily believe their narrative. Every bit of combat has visceral weight. Each gunshot carries a true threat of death. And while humor is utilized, low-brow quips aren’t the basis for characters, as the Whedon’s have done with every single person in Agents of SHIELD.
Behold! The great weight bearing paramount of Western Architecture… the ceiling tile.