Sleeper Agents

We may be approaching the year's end, but the current TV season is still in full swing. Most of the shows I decided to watch have been going well, and I've been really looking forward to them each week. There are always a couple of stinkers in the bunch, though, and about a quarter of the way into Episode 9 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I reached the end of my tether. There won't be a season end review of this one, because I just can't watch anymore. I have no idea how such a highly-budgeted, highly-anticipated, highly-pedigreed show turned out so.... damn.... boring.

We're always told to give Whedon shows some time to build. After all, Dollhouse took a while to find its sea legs, but once it settled, it was smart, entertaining television. I like Clark Gregg a lot, and the premise of following a team of specialists who live in a world still getting used to aliens and superheroes is a fascinating one. So what the hell happened?

Well, just cause it's a Whedon show doesn't mean it's a Joss Whedon show. He helmed the premiere, and has his finger in the pie, but the day-to-day showrunning has been left to his brother Jed and Jed's wife Maurissa Tancharoen. I don't want to imply that they're bad showrunners, because I suspect a lot of the issues this show suffers from are related to executive interference. This isn't just a television show; it's a television show that is wrapped into the entire Avengers franchise, and I get the feeling a lot of creative control was sacrificed at the altar of focus testing and mass appeal. It's not even bad enough to be fun as a batshit trainwreck (as I'm finding with American Horror Story). It's a shrug.

The result is a show with no soul. The team wanders from place to place, solving a mystery-of-the-week that centers around technology so advanced it may as well be magic. That would be fine if it were also advancing a seasonal arc, or if the character interactions themselves were worth getting invested in. But nine episodes in, and they're all still a collection of bland archetypes. The emotionless toughie. The nerdy science geeks. The badass veteran. The roguish hacker. All of these character types have been played to great effect in the past, but in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., they're wooden and milquetoast. Maybe it's still building. Maybe by Season 2, they'll have worked out how to make a show that works. But until someone tells me that's happened, it's the end of the line for these superzeroes.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Episodes 1-9): C-


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