So. I mentioned on Twitter and in the sidebar that I had 41 problems in the 43 minutes of the latest episode of ABC's Agents of SHIELD. You see, I have this thing I do (it's a bad habit from back when I would review TV and movies for my website) where I kind of scrawl notes and my general thoughts on a show as I'm watching it. Do that for a couple years and it just kinda becomes second nature. Aaaaanyway, I put that out there as a general comment on the quality of the writing but there have been some people wondering a) if I was being hyperbolic, b) if I totally made up that number, or c) what my issues actually were.
So. Here you go. I've transcribed my notes here and I apologize profusely if they don't make a lot of sense but again - these are train of thought off-the-cuff things that just struck me while I was watching (all but #41 are in chronological order because I was writing them as I watched and the final one I didn't think of until after the show was over). They might be nitpicky, they might be things that I had a problem with that the episode itself resolved later, but oh well. They're things that made me go "wait... wha?" while watching and pulled me out of the experience. Agents of SHIELD is woefully lacking in suspension of disbelief.
Enough preamble, let's dive in:
- S.H.I.E.L.D. - an international spy agency with access to the absolute highest level technology and best trained agents on the planet, a stupendously giant and shadowy organization that is plugged into the very hidden world they keep away from civilians, a humongous military presence... and they transport a high risk asset in a (very poorly disguised) truck?
- S.H.I.E.L.D. employs truckers? Hoooo-eeee, we got ourselves a convoy, come back! Where's The Bandit?
- If the goal is covert movement of a high risk asset, why would you be bouncing major com traffic the whole time and surround the vehicle with two very obvious law enforcement escorts?
- Continuing #3... seriously that's it? You only send two SUVs to guard it? You couldn't send any of the hover jets or something that are all sitting on that GIANT HOVERCARRIER we saw in Avengers? Or even just a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopter? How about a dude on a hang-glider... ANYTHING to keep eyes on the asset from the air? That's just sloppy.
- Oh, agent bonding time. Lame. Of course "super hot hacker girl" (who is obviously in great physical shape and probably trains every day to keep her figure) can't even fake punch a bag because she's supposed to be all weak and nerdy. Suuuuuure.
- Duh you don't have a "truth serum". Did anyone not see that coming? If the tech existed Coulson definitely wouldn't use it on someone with Level 7 clearance, regardless of the reason.
- Simmons:"Hey are you seeing what I'm seeing?" Fitz:"I'm not wearing the [INVENTION THAT I NEED TO SPECIFICALLY CALL OUT BY TECHNOBABBLE NAME SO PEOPLE KNOW WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT DOES SO WE CAN THEN SHOW YOU WE HAVE COOL TECH THINGS IN THE SHOW], so no."
- Melinda May get told by Coulson to check all communication logs... she leaves, and then returns less than a minute later with a full print-out of every communication, already in a fancy binder... with labeled sections? Do they just print them all out all the time? No wonder they were shipping Dr. Hall in a fake Office Depot truck - they must spend a fortune in printer paper. She can't just pull the communication up on a screen? Like oh... EVERY single possible thing else they ever look up? No, they had to work in the tired "oy, look at all this stuff I have to do" gag.
- Apparently Coulson's SHIELD team is on a permanent "casual Friday" dress code since (even though Coulson is dressed like a SHIELD agent) apparently it's ok for Agent Ward to go on a mission in a designer tee shirt and jeans.
- Guy on a horse with gold bars? Seriously? Paying someone in gold bars. Because THAT'S not going to flag that person as super suspicious when he needs actual paper money and has to take these very roughly hewn gold bars to a bank or something and get them converted to currency. Sure - NO ONE would ask questions there. And it makes total sense that even though the "cowboy" has been hiding out for a little bit that he would carry his gold stash with him in his satchel for them to find.. That's a VEEEERY long way to go for a lame "now it really feels like the old West" joke. Let me guess - tracking the gold will lead to the bad guy?
- WHAT DO YOU KNOW!!! That's exactly what they did. Ok, so Coulson knows who owns the mine. Fitz knows who owns the mine (since he already pulled it up - no paper print-outs here) why the need for them to actually state it out loud and then qualify it with a brief synopsis of the owner? Oh that's right because the writing is terrible and they're trying get away with using trope-y shorthand with the audience.
- Ok apparently SHIELD is NOT international and has to work under the restrictions of international law... so that whole thing where they straight up landed right in THE MIDDLE OF GERMANY AND EXTRACTED LOKI in Avengers was probably a giant bureaucratic nightmare. Oooookay.
- Ah, the tried and true "hey old buddy let's catch up with drinks and tell each other all the things the audience might need to know about our past together and ourselves and our current situation and/or goals". "Remember when I said blahblahblah?" "You were always so blahblahblah." Chuckle chuckle chuckle... good times.... ugh.
- Moving directly on to "show and tell time" with more Fitz and Simmons (seriously please keep these two as secondary characters already) complete with graphics presentation. Let's tell you exactly what our MacGuffin is and what it does.
- There's a casual mention that Skye is a high school drop-out. Who is "crazy good with computers". At this point she better have a computer super power or something because otherwise her character makes no sense. And before you say "high school drop outs can be good at computers!" - yes. They can. But if they are good at computers that probably also means that they possess the basic intelligence to follow a conversation about things that aren't computers. That line (and character explanation) is just there to get her to say things like "explain it to the audience....errrr... to ME... like I'm a fifth grader". More spoon-feeding the audience.
- Someone who is apparently super good at computers... and has hacked into SHIELD databases... and understands the general concept of things not being as they appear on the surface... and is herself a double agent for the Rising Tide... is surprised that a "notoriously good guy" is a shady capitalist. Sure. Okay. Whatever, AoS.
- Oh, the rookie lady who no one believes in is the only one who can get in! Of course she has an invitation. Someone took the Pixar lesson "coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating" a little too seriously. Of course, I'm going to bet that Ian catches Skye (and Skye will be glad she listened to Agent Ward about something or could do a pull-up or whatever) and there will be some coincidence to get her out of a situation.
- Coulson: Hey, let me make sure to mention the Avengers to remind everyone that they're watching a Marvel tie-in show because ABC is owned by Disney and Marvel is owned by Disney so it's all just an hour long advertisement for their own film projects. Melinda May: Also make sure to mention Coulson died because it's super important to keep hamfistedly reminding people that there is something fishy there. Hey, Red Hulk called - he wants his sense of mystery back.
- Skye at the party... I'm tempted to let this one slide because she's a rookie and doesn't know what she's doing but do they not have Casino Royale in this universe? Take your hand off your damn ear. Nothing says "hey I'm a spy" than walking around with your hand on your hidden ear communicator and talking to no one.
- Ok, so now Ward is actually dressed for the occasion (infiltration gear) but Agent Coulson decides to wear a suit on a beach mission? Not even a suit under a wetsuit or something so he isn't running around with soggy pantlegs and sloshing shoes? Just a suit. Because why not?
- In a crowd of black and white suits and dresses... everyone standing still listening to the speech... no one seems to notice the one girl in HOT PINK suspiciously leaving in the middle of the big speech? There's no security teams on duty inside the house during this event? I suppose they're all outside at the gala because that's how security works, right? You only guard important things when there isn't another event taking place. For a place they literally just got through talking about how tight the security is... of course there's no one around so Skye can go sneaking through the halls.
- Speaking of speeches, thanks for the voice-over explaining things to the audience Ian. SHOW, DON'T TELL. Screenwriting 101 there.
- *ahem* Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal, Skye! (that definitely won't be a betrayal or the show would be over)
- Really? A highly experienced agent like Melinda May doesn't catch on that Skye "was done for" but then now suddenly Quinn is giving her a tour. Red light anyone? (side note - the guy playing Ian Quinn reeeeeally wants to be Wentworth Miller). For highly trained operatives... May and Ward are dense as bricks.
- What person takes a makeup compact out of her purse... does an obvious pregnant pause when asked about intel... and then - instead of putting the compact back in her bag like a normal human being - sets it down on the table? Yeah, that wouldn't be out of place. Hey, let me just pull this thing out and put it on your table. Why? Oh no reason. I just like unpacking things at weird times. La la la....
- Once her cover was blown, Skye would be dead. He has the gun, he knows she set him up. There is no reason to keep her alive at that point other than your run-of-the-mill villain-of-the-week mustache twirling.
- Dr. Hall being behind the whole thing isn't that unexpected (if you know Graviton in the comics I suppose) but you don't need to explain the whole thing piece by piece again. Let people put some things together themselves.
- Monologuing... always monologuing. The bad guy can't just check a security feed to see what's going on? Or have someone "check it out"? Or simply kill Skye and then check himself? No, he has to keep her alive and talktalktalk until she...
- Bingo - coincidence to get herself OUT of a situation. (facedesk) Good thing they showed us that (CHEKOV'S) gun scene earlier with Ward teaching her to do that trick. Blergh.
- Probably time to mention the waaaay-overused "ticking clock" scenario. OH NO THE WHOLE PLACE IS GOING TO BLOW! GET DAAOOWWWOOONNNN!
- Scientist with a conscience who wants to destroy his work rather than hand it over to the bad guy. Check.
- Soaking wet female lead, no bra, running... Hi lonely fanboys, tune in next week!
- Agent Ward conveniently to the rescue right at the right time! Where's Skye's lame southern accent now? It would be the perfect time for a "MAH HERO!" *swoon*
- The experiment needs a catalyst. Lemme guess. it's going to be Dr. Hall...
- Yup. Of course it is... and the glass in the lab... the one probably responsible for keeping debris and outside elements from breaking through it into the lab... isn't bulletproof. No, why would you make something like that unbreakable? Oh right - TO KEEP DEBRIS AND OUTSIDE ELEMENTS FROM BREAKING THROUGH IT INTO THE LAB.
- Yeah... don't bother getting rid of the MacGuffin with the Slingshot or destroying it or something. Put it away, Indiana Jones style in a hidden vault to be forgotten about until you need it later to bring back Dr. Hall as a bad guy with superpowers. Oy. "It's what Hall would have wanted." NOOOOoooo... he was pretty clear - he wanted to get rid of it.
- Second time with the "I'm a little rusty" line. No muscle memory. GEE WHATEVER COULD THAT MEAN?
- Boom - Melinda May with the rule of three with the "little rusty" line. Just so you caught it. Three times.
- Awww... now Skye appreciates Agent Ward because he was bullied and wants to be a good lil agent and commit. Of course she does. Time to share and bond some more. So much sympathy for NotSummerGlau.
- Aaand right on cue there's the future bad guy tease.
- Waaaaait... to escape, Skye dove off the balcony into the pool. Did anyone stop to think about just how long it takes to dive into a pool, then come to the surface, then swim to the edge of the pool, then get out of the pool... all while in a soaking wet dress? And the fact that there are armed and (presumably) trained security forces directly above her that could just point down and shoot her? FISH. IN. A BARREL. Did they just get to the balcony and go "awwww... she's all the way down there. How will we ever reach her with these GUNS THAT SHOOT INTO THE DISTANCE?" UUUUGH.
So that's it. Those were my notes from the episode. Like I said, sure - some could be considered nitpicky but overall these are the things that occurred to me while watching the show and if I'm spending my time going "wtf that makes no sense" every minute or so instead of getting enveloped in the show's plot and world? They need better writing. This was the first episode that the showrunners (Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen) wrote all by themselves and it doesn't bode well for the show as a whole. The people who wrote this episode are responsible for the whole show... if that thought isn't sobering I don't know what is.