This may be spoilery to you. Consider this your spoilery warning. If you don’t like spoilers, don’t read my stuff. I have no idea what you know and don’t know when you read this. I don’t believe in spoiler policing. I’m a spoiler whore. I have seen the pilot ep by now more times than is healthy to admit. I also have read about eps two and three and know a few things about the Marvel universes (comics and cinematic) that you may or may not know, and that may or may not be used by “Whedony” in the coming months. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is not intended to be a sincere re-creation of the Marvel comics, but it’s inspired by the Marvel comics in much the same way the motion pictures have been, and the movies have already had quite a departure from canonical comic stories, which is totally acceptable and normal and blah blah blah.
As for “Whedony” when I speak of Whedon I may not be referring to Joss Whedon. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’s pilot was written and directed by Joss, but he’s given the reins for the most part to his partners in crime, brother Jed Whedon and Jed’s wife Maurissa Tancharoen (aka “the Asian Whedon”). So when I talk about specifics Whedons I’ll try to use their first names, but when I say “Whedon” or “Whedony” i’m not being specific, cuz I don’t always know who is specifically responsible for what.
“You and me. What are we?”
“We are a team.”
This will also be very speculative. The difference between spoilery and speculative is that spoilery has a higher probable chance being in the future of the show. It means I read it somewhere. It came from somewhere outside my head. For example, the next sentence is a spoiler. I’ve read that a character which will be introduced in episode three is named Doctor Franklin Hill. I have also read the name of episode three is “The Asset” and that Dr. Hill is the “asset” that Agent Coulson and his team are tasked by SHIELD to go get. Whether he’s already a bad guy, or he’s just a normal guy kidnapped by other bad guys..? I don’t know yet. Beyond the guy’s name, the title of the episode, and basic plot stuff that I’ve read about, anything beyond that is me speculating. That’s the difference between spoilage and speculation. Spoilage didn’t come from my brain. Speculation does.
I won’t always be able to label what’s spoilery and what’s speculative. I will try, but you’ll have to figure this out as we go.
I know from my comic book reading days that Doctor Franklin Hill is the alter ego for a super villain named Graviton. I have not read that Doctor Franklin Hill will become Graviton either in episode three or later on in the series. It might just be a coincidence, but come on! This would be like naming a character Peter Parker and then not making him Spider-Man. The Whedons could do it, but that’d be really mean to us spoiler whores out there. When we first meet Doctor Hill in the comics he’s not a supervillain. He becomes one after he miscalculates during an experiment and is exposed to subatomic graviton particles which then mingled with his own, giving him the power over gravity. Being just hypothetical at this point, and I thought kinda thrown out the window with the discovery of the Higgs Boson, we don’t really know that gravitons exist yet in real life, but gamma rays don’t make people The Hulk in real life. So don’t expect a dissertation on gravitons in Whedony-land.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself. Doctor Franklin Hill doesn’t show up until episode three. Meanwhile in episode two we got an “0-8-4” which is the title of the episode, and what at the end of episode one, Coulson’s team were tasked to go confirm. So, what’s an 0-8-4? Well. They don’t know. It’s an object that SHIELD learns about which thus far doesn’t coincide with anything they’ve encountered up to that point. They know something is out there. They just don’t know what it is yet. It’s unclassified. The spoilage is they seek an 0-8-4. Speculation as to what it will be. I got no idea yet. The show airs on Tuesday. You’d think I could wait until then to find out, but I can’t help but speculate. It could be an entirely new source of energy, or a device from a world not yet known to SHIELD, it might be a radioactive hairball from a very green alleycat. They don’t know, which is why they have to go investigate. This is probably not the only 0-8-4 they ever encounter. This is one of the main things Coulson’s team will be up to on a regular basis. So they’ll either go after “supers” or track down 0-8-4s. So far those are two things we know they’ll be doing. There might be more types of missions but these are the basics.
Why go after 0-8-4s? Well, like the alien neural link that Agent Ward snagged from that “broken fireplace” at the beginning of the pilot, SHIELD wants to contain any and all alien or otherwise dangerous devices from the general populace before it gets into the hands of more shady characters who would like to exploit these things for personal gain at the expense of other people. While Michael Peterson wanted to be a superhero in the pilot episode, he couldn’t do it alone and he may not be able to do it at all. That remains to be seen. I have read nothing that indicates the series will ever revisit J. August Richard’s character in the pilot, but he did such a great job I’d be really disappointed if they never use him again. What a stellar performance. Most of us would not be as idealistic and noble as Michael Peterson intended to be. Most of us would cash in. Maybe some of us would want to exact vengeance where we felt wronged. Maybe we’d ingratiate ourselves to powerful people in hopes of getting on their payroll. Maybe we’d just go rob banks. Maybe we’d just take what we wanted when we wanted and feel above the rules of society. What if an object gave you the ability to be impervious to any and all harm? Suddenly that object would be like a football, and everyone in the world would want to take it from you. That’s an 0-8-4.
“…the world is full of wonders.”
Now, I’ve watched the Pilot an uncomfortable number of times in the past week. I been waiting for months to see this thing. Now that it’s here I can’t get enough of it. Is it perfect? No. Is it cheesy? Yes. It’s my kind of imperfectly cheesy. I’ve made a few more observations after multiple views. I may have covered some of this in my previous blog post. I’ll try not to duplicate too much.
“Agent Ward. There’s been a development. It’s The Rising Tide…”
What do we know about The Rising Tide? By the end of The Pilot i felt we were led to believe it’s just Skye. That she’s this crazy hacker lady who was acquiring information and then making it available online as soon as she got it. Why? Cuz she’s a crazy hacker lady? Maybe she started a movement. Maybe The Rising Tide wasn’t her idea and she was just one of many people who were responding to some propaganda by a more sinister group? Maybe The Rising Tide is all crazy hacker people like Skye or maybe it’s more insidious. The two guys who jumped Agent Ward in the Parisian apartment didn’t look like hackers. So far everything we’ve seen The Rising Tide do was on the Internet, and it’s very plausible all of it was Skye’s doing, but Whedony has intentionally left it open to be far more than that.
Most curiously, at the end of the pilot episode, Michael Peterson’s ‘doctor’ knew exactly where Peterson and Skye were, and had one of her men hunt down Peterson to silence him. We assumed Skye sent her longitude and latitude coordinates just to SHIELD so Ward and Coulson could come save her. However, she may have been sending that information the same way she was sending all information, through the Internet, so anyone from “The Rising Tide” could also see it. She was probably not caring who came to save her just so long as someone did. I think Skye’s still working for the bad guys, or she’s still playing both sides hoping to be with whoever “wins” in the end.
“..it was a porcupine. it wasn’t a poop.”
“No I’m pretty sure..”
Agent Maria Hill (no known relation to Dr Franklin Hill) may not be more than an occasional cameo, or she could become a regular on the series. The actress who portrays her, Cobie Smulders, is a veteran of both the big and little screen. Most recently she has had a regular tv gig on How I Met Your Mother which is in its final season. She has been known to juggle multiple gigs before, scheduling both tv and film productions simultaneously. Also, she’s in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies like Avengers and Captain America. Unlike some actors of her caliber, Smulders doesn’t seem to feel TV is beneath her. So long as the checks clear, she’ll do whatever Disney asks. Here’s hoping that by season two, she’ll be drawing poopy animals on everybody’s reports.
There have been reports that Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Rockwell, and Tom Hiddleston have each reportedly made public statements indicating they’re willing to appear on the tv series. Why is this not a sure thing? Why wouldn’t the production company behind Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD bend over backwards to make this happen? They might be doing that as we speak but a real big drag on this boat is money. Well, these guys aren’t Smulders. She’s a go-getter who sees both the little and big screen the same size. Makes no difference to her. A gig’s a gig. These other guys won’t work for scale to do TV. Not for Disney. They know Disney can afford to shell out big bucks, but may not be willing to do so for television. Maybe Jackson, Rockwell or Hiddleston would be willing to work for peanuts, but their agents will jockey for a Dumbo sized share of peanuts. That’s their job. Curiously silent is Robert Downey Jr., who i don’t think has done tv since his Ally McBeal days. Heck, by now I doubt the guy climbs out of bed unless someone puts a million dollars in his Wheaties.
“..the battle of New York was the end of the world. This. Now. Is the new world.”
I’ve noticed a lot of ‘fans’ online dissing this show cuz it doesn’t feel like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It feels like a tv series. Duh. It IS a tv series. It’s not gonna be Avengers Weekly. That’s by design. However, this show will intentionally give more depth to the Marvel films, which quite frankly they so desperately need. You can’t tell the wealth of stories available from the Marvel comics in just two hour installments every six months or so. Marvel comics have been churning out on a weekly basis for the better part of a century. Yes there is A LOT of crap in these things, but there’s also some endearing gems. Real breakneck storytelling with compelling characters and concepts that turn the biochemical relays in a human brain into a fireworks display of creativity. Television is a different medium from ink on paper. Joss Whedon has learned first hand the differences between telling stories on six by ten inch paper compared to a plasma screen. He took Buffy the Vampire Slayer from movie to tv to comic. It’s not all the same to him, but he’s comfortable in any of these worlds. When it comes to storytelling, I bet he kicks ass around a campfire while cooking smores.
But Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is heralding a new world. The stories in the previous movies have come and gone and the repercussions of those stories are now affecting the status quo of the world for future movies. Whedony is keenly aware that the further away you start a story from the world your audience knows, the harder it is to keep your audience from losing interest, because they don’t feel connected to your characters or the environment in which they live. This is the problem that comic books suffer from a great deal, and it why when new editors join a comic book they feel it necessary to reboot or retcon some things to tie them back to where the comic book started so the old audience doesn’t feel jaded and the new audience doesn’t feel lost. Many tv shows and movie franchises have a similar problem. Back To The Future Three had Marty and Doc so far away from where they started, the only saving grace was that they landed in a past that the audience felt some nostalgia for: a glamorized wild wild west untainted by the historical reality.
In order to make the future movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise work, Disney must make this world of gamma radiation and extremis nanobots and alien Asgardian or Chitauri technologies or serums based loosely of Erskine’s notes feel as familiar to us as our own. It’s an alternate reality that is evolving alongside our own but we don’t have any of these things, so when normal every day people like us are exposed to these items, we should feel where they come from and be excited or afraid for them for where these technologies might take them. That’s the heart of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. That’s their brave new world, for which we’re along for the ride.
“..you get shanked by the Asgardian Mussolini you can tell it your way..”
Okay so we know Agent Coulson was shanked by Loki in the movie Avengers. When Director Fury spoke to Coulson as he died, we got zero indication this was staged. Thor was already falling to his (averted) death. The other Avengers were cast to the four winds. Nobody was around to hear Coulson tell Fury he was clocking out or to hear Fury tell Coulson that’s not an option. That moment was real. It needs to remain real otherwise the whole movie kinda falls flat in hindsight. So while we’re led to believe in the SHIELD pilot that Fury staged Coulson’s death for the Avengers’ sake, that’s not what really happened. So. What really happened? Well, that’s speculative.
“..Tahiti. It’s a magical place..”
As I believe I mentioned in a previous blogpost, but i may not so I’m repeating it here, back in the Captain America First Avenger movie, there’s a kind of Easter Egg just before we meet Tony Stark’s Dad who introduces the failed flying car (a variant of which is now in Coulson’s possession as of the pilot episode) we get a glance at Dr. Phineas Horton’s Artificial Man. The story doesn’t dwell on that cuz it was about Captain America, but I think that same day Steve Rogers met Dr. Erskine and joined the army, the world was briefly introduced to an android that accidently burst into flame the second it was exposed to unhermetically sealed air.
Why is any of this significant to Agent Coulson? Captain America’s story took place in the 1940s, then he went into a deep freeze until present day. Agent Coulson couldn’t possibly be that old, could he? Well. He could. If he’s that Artificial Man we saw briefly in The First Avenger movie. He may have lived all these years, lived more than a few lives. Maybe something rebooted his brain relatively recently and he doesn’t remember being as old as he is. Coulson claims he woke up in Tahiti, surrounded by cool drinks, his preference of reading material, and a lady short on conversation and long on physical therapy. I got a working theory that Coulson is Dr. Phineas Horton’s Artificial Man, and I’m not the only person who finds this deliciously plausible.
Based loosely on characters from the comics including the original Human Torch and The Vision (perhaps others), the guy we know as Agent Phil Coulson has always been artificial. There are viewers who think a real human being Phil Coulson died in Avengers and what we’re now seeing is a Life Model Decoy or a clone of some sort. I think he’s ALWAYS been what some would consider to be a fake person; made in a lab. However, for all intents and purposes he is just as sentient and self-aware as anyone born in a mammal’s womb. The fact he was processed in a lab and not naturally born of a mom and dad doesn’t make him less real. Even he doesn’t know where he originally came from. Perhaps his memories have been blocked to protect him from the truth so he can have some resemblance of a real life.
“He really doesn’t know, does he?”
“He can never know.”
..but he’s gonna find out. That’s inevitable. When he does, it’s not gonna be pretty, but it’s gonna make for great television.
One thing that disturbs me. We see Skye’s arrival to the team. We see Coulson go and recruit Agent May to “ride the bus.” We see Agent Hill break the news to Agent Ward that he’s being reassigned from Paris before he gets to see the city and is reassigned on board Coulson’s magical mystery tour. We see everyone’s “Origin Story” for how they joined the team, except for Fitz-Simmons. Why is that? I’m thinking cuz their origin is somehow connected to Coulson’s rebirth. Simmons is biochem. Fitz is mechanical engineering. What two people would be more qualified to fix an android that doesn’t know he’s an android?
Fitz and Simmons are both already on board the team before anyone else is. Coulson never questions the idea of taking these two with him on the field, even tho they’re obviously inexperienced field agents and have zero combat training. Maybe they were assigned to him, or perhaps Hill and Fury found some way to make Coulson think it was his idea, but he was already attached to them before the pilot began. Whedony doesn’t do something like that unless there’s a reason behind it. You can go back and watch how the Whedony FOX series Dollhouse played out from beginning to end to understand why I’m uniquely suspicious of this writing approach. There’s a reason we are not privy to Fitz-Simmons initial meeting with Coulson. Why, is of course, speculative.
“You’re gonna risk thousands of lives over this nobody?”
“Nobody’s ‘nobody’ Agent Ward..”
Coulson purposefully adds Ward and May to his team, two people that combined are essentially an entire platoon. Compensating much? May immediately behaves like a den mother protecting her cubs. She escorts Fitz-Simmons to the bombed out laboratory, and she escorts Skye back to her van in the alley, just before Michael Peterson reminds her why she demanded that desk job.
Then Coulson adds Skye to the roster as a consultant, who has better people skills than most of the rest of the team, but even less combat training than either Fitz or Simmons, and no knowledge of the inner workings of SHIELD itself. Her hacker abilities, while we’re led to believe are better than anyone who works for SHIELD, can probably be replicated by two or more people already on SHIELD’s payroll. Her best purpose on the ‘bus’ is essentially to keep Ward’s mind on love and not war, and also to keep Fitz-Simmons from speaking their own private little language all the time. Is Coulson working up a mobile combat unit for espionage and superhero cleanup detail, or is he building an adopted family for himself in the shape of old 1950s sitcoms?
We get an indication of Ward’s backstory during the pilot. His family is of questionable lineage according to Coulson. Perhaps one or more members of Ward’s family are working for one or more of SHIELD’s enemies. At the very least there are anger management issues which Coulson feels are reflected in Ward’s own lack of people skills. I think Ward’s grandmother is going to become an issue eventually. If not immediately, hopefully further down the road. I’d like to see Judi Dench play the part, or maybe Jamie Lee Curtis, if they want someone younger but still with a regal carriage. They will need an actress who can turn from drama to comedy on a dime. Would Goldie Hawn be averse to it?
We still don’t know why May wants that desk job, and we still haven’t seen her take Coulson to task “at length” like she promised after getting beat down by Peterson. She may have understood by the end of the pilot where Coulson is taking the team, and that might be enough, but I’d rather see her lay into Coulson, preferably not in front of the children. This might give us a chance to find out what happened to her to make her not want to be out in the field anymore. My guess is she had a moment like Agent Romanov did in the Avengers movie with The Hulk. Perhaps she went toe to toe with The Abomination, succeeded in preventing his escape from prison, but at the cost of someone or something dear to her. That’s speculation, but it’ll need to be something big like that. May knows she can take down most anyone human like her, but she doesn’t feel equipped to compete with someone like Michael Peterson who can blindside her in a heartbeat.
“I’m sorry. I was trained from day one as a specialist. I go in alone. I get it done.”
Anyone else notice how similar Agent Ward is to Hawkeye? Or how similar Agent May is to The Black Widow? Oh neither of them use a bow and arrow but it wouldn’t be a stretch to put one in their hands if the plot required it. I can’t help but think early on this Agents of SHIELD story was gonna have more than just Agent Coulson from the movies, but Disney just couldn’t convince Scarlett Johansson or Jeremy Renner to hop on board their Journey Into Mystery. So Ward and May were fabricated using Hawkeye and Black Widow as blueprints, to be similar to those two characters in case at some point Disney was able to change their minds. It wouldn’t have been difficult to squeeze Renner or Johannson into the roster at their convenience. Now that it’s pretty clear Scarlett and Jeremy won’t be joining the party, Whedony can steer away from these similarities as they flesh out Ward and May. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if between the two of them we’ll continue to see similarities. Perhaps Ward has a history of spy work even as a child. Perhaps May took him under her wing back at the Academy and helped him get on the straight and narrow. Perhaps May is aloof and prefers to stay on the periphery so she gets a ‘bird’s eye view.’ Like Hawkeye, I doubt May likes being blindsided, and her tactics probably involve thinking several steps ahead of her prey. She may even be farsighted.
Would Fitz-Simmons have originally been joined by Dr. Erik Selvig if Stellan Skarsgård’s agent ever agreed to him working for Scale? Maybe Fitz-Simmons knows Selvig somehow? And they made a point in the pilot to indicate that Skye has at least once hung out near Stark Tower as a groupie. So it’s not entirely implausible that she’s met Tony. They may have even had sex, though I doubt he’d remember her. Or maybe Skye bumped into Pepper or Happy while lurking about with a throng of other groupies. I’m sure there will eventually be a flashback scene where we learn exactly what she was up to back at Stark Tower. I imagine her dressed as a bunny for some reason. Or maybe a squirrel..
“Come on sir. What game are you really playing?”
From Buffy to Avengers, “Whedony” likes to play this game of sleight of hand. Many ‘fans’ are currently complaining about how cheesy and shallow the pilot seems. I assure you. We’re being set up, and the rug is about to be ripped out from under us. We’re just running towards the rabbit hole right now. We haven’t started falling into it yet. That’s yet to come.