Sunday, March 30, 2014

Like Insects--Agents of Shield ramblings

Agents of Shield may be the little brother of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but that's not a bad thing. Complaints about the lack of canonical superheroes miss the point.  Yes, we got to see New York under attack in The Avengers,  we saw SHIELD descend on the New Mexican desert when Thor's hammer fell, but we haven't seen how that knowledge affected ordinary people. How can you sleep at night when you know that aliens could tear open the sky and send down armored beast? If a man can wake from a seventy-year sleep and another swell into a giant green monster, what secrets might other people be hiding? Even the main characters further ground the show. Instead of a raging green monster or a billionaire genius, the main characters are
  • A one-man combat ops team
  • Awkward scientist duo with British accents (yes, the accents are significant. British accents immediately add classiness)
  • An ace pilot with superior unarmed combat skills
  • A civilian hacker with mysterious origins
  • Former right-hand man of Nick Fury
Three pairs of themes keep reappearing throughout the show:  information/secrecy,  trust/loyalty, and government/the little guy. Skye's position as a hacker brings her into conflict with SHIELD on all three fronts.
 The truth is in the wind. It’s everywhere. You cannot stop the rising tide. You will not find us. You will never see our faces but rest assures-we will rise against those who shield us from the truth.
At first, this rhetoric sounds familiar. It is the language of freedom fighters and activists, of the Arab Spring and Soviet-era protesters, of anyone who resists a corrupt government. But Skye's interactions with Mike Peterson  provide another perspective on the little guy fighting the government.
You said if we worked hard, if we did right, we'd have a place. You said it was enough to be a man but there's better then man! There's gods... and the rest of us? What are we? They're giants... we're what they step on.
The devastation of New York showed exactly what happens when gods bring their war to earth.  As Loki said, an ant has no quarrel with a boot, but recognizing their utter helplessness is bound to unsettle the ants And Coulson manages to calm Mike down with an affirmation of "little guys."
 I've seen giants, up close, and that privilege cost me, nearly everything. But the good ones, the real deal? They're not heroes because of what they have that we don't, it's what they do with it.
It's the same theme as Doctor Who-- "nine hundred years of time and space and I've never met anybody who wasn't important."  The Doctor showcases this by his choice of companions; Coulson's team was chosen on similar grounds.  Just as the Doctor and his companions develop trust and loyalty towards each other (with a few exceptions),  the Bus grows throughout the season and develops into a family. Not that this comes easy.

May doesn't want to be there, Ward is used to following procedures, and Skye's loyalty is suspect.  The latter plays a key role in "Girl in the Flower Dress," where she is finally forced to chose sides, but is still in play in "The Hub." Ironically, in the same episode, Skye discovers an irregularity that puts Ward and Fitz at risk.

Coulson repeatedly tells Skye to "trust the system," but his faith in SHIELD bureaucracy is shaken.  Not only did Agent Hand send his team out without an exit strategy, but this was kept a secret. Some agents are sent out without extraction plans--Romanov and Banner--but they know this. Instead, Coulson and the team fly to the rescue in a big damn heroes moment, reminding me of this quote from Firefly:
Simon: You don't even like me. Why'd you come back?
Mal: You're on my crew. Why are we still talking about this?
The team bond is cemented in "The Bridge," and stated outright in the best moment of "TAHITI." After being told Skye's family should have a chance to say goodbye, Coulson says "We're her family." I never doubted he'd do anything necessary to save her, just as the whole team came to his rescue only a few episodes before.

But Coulson's loyalty to his team conflicts with his duty to SHIELD and the secrets they keep. From the first episode, viewers know that Tahiti is a lie, but the double revelation of Coulson's trauma and the serum's origins shake faith in SHIELD. Even Fury's friendship with Coulson is questioned--what sort of man would have a friend undergo half-a-dozen surgeries, have him injected with a serum of questionable origins, and who knows what else, over the objections of the patient and surgeons.  Was this choice motivated by friendship, or did Fury have other objectives in mind?

With seven episodes still to go, we'll have to wait to see how it plays out. My hopes are high for renewal, and the writers have admitted mapping the show out through season three. This show isn't just about aliens or shipping or tiding fans over between movies. It has thematic and character depth with intriguing plots, and I am looking forward to more.

No comments:

Post a Comment