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Category Archives: Marvel Television Shows
In one of Family Guy’s notorious cutaway gags, a character declares that he “hasn’t been this confused since he watched the film No Way Out.” The scene them flashes back to him exiting a movie theater and declaring, “How does Kevin Costner keep getting work?”
It’s hard not to feel the same bafflement about Inhumans showrunner Scott Buck. The biggest mystery left in the wake of “Behold…The Inhumans!”, the show’s first episode, is not how the titular heroes will cope with a budding coup, or what a seer’s prophecies mean, or even the vaguely-defined superpowers of the protagonists. Instead, it’s how and why studio executives keep handing Buck the keys to the kingdom after how many meh-to-ugh seasons of television have been unleashed on an unsuspecting public under his watch.
Does Buck have compromising pictures of someone important? Are television moguls simply content with the fact that he makes the trains run on time? Or is he just a really nice person?
Not every main character has to be likable, or stay likable for that matter. Plenty of great works in all genres and mediums feature less-than-admirable individuals at their center. But even if the audience doesn’t like the protagonist, he or she still needs to be someone the viewer wants to spend time with. Especially in the early going, your lead has to be someone the audience wants to get to know better, that they want to see face whatever obstacles are in the offing, whether we’re rooting for them to leap over those obstacles or stumble.
That’s Iron Fist’s biggest problem out of the gate. Main character Danny Rand doesn’t do anything so terrible in the show’s first episode. His knocking out security guards and breaking into someone’s home (which, in fairness, used to be his home) is questionable, but fairly par for the course when it comes to superhero stories, especially those involving long-missing orphans (of which there are a surprising number). But after an hour with him — in an episode that runs 56 minutes and would have been better with half that — there’s no good reason to want to hang out with Danny for another twelve.
What is it, to be a cheesy voiceover montage in the last moments of a season finale? Do you have to try to sum up an entire season’s worth of themes using vague doublespeak and an army of cliches? Will you narrate over clips of our heroes looking vaguely sad or frustrated in the vain hope of wringing some pathos out of this big hunk of corn pone? Must you include strange or cryptic teases for future seasons or series? Or can you just speak in platitudes about heroism and strength and hope that somewhere in that stew of hokum you stumble onto some mild profundity?
Ahead of the release of Captain America: Civil War, Andrew Bloom and Allison Shoemaker rank every Marvel Cinematic Universe hero and villain–both in film and on T.V.–and decide who would win in a hypothetical fight between each good guy and bad guy.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Hive, Daisy, and the Show Itself Are Beautiful Accidents in “Failed Experiments”
Once they’ve been on the air long enough, most television shows start to become a little more reflective, a little more aware of their own histories, a little more apt to try to look back and tie everything together. With the release of Captain America: Civil War around the corner, and the increased viewership Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is likely to attract because of it, the folks behind the show are more inclined to try to make a statement, pull out all the stops, and demonstrate that their work stands equal with its cinematic brethren. So “Failed Experiments” presents the audience with a referendum on its protagonist, a referendum on S.H.I.E.L.D., and in some ways, a referendum on the series itself.
The concept of a backstory episode is something of a cliche. Take one of two characters; cut in some scenes from the past that inform scenes set in the present, and show the contrast between who a person is now who they were along the way to becoming that person. It’s a fairly standard exercise, especially in genre television. But it’s a recurring trope because it’s effective.
To the point, it’s nice to know where Peggy Carter comes from. Hers was definitely the better of the two parallel stories told in “Smoke and Mirrors”, where the show contrasted the ways in which Whitney Frost tried to be something different and was taught to be something more traditional, and the ways in which Peggy Carter tried to be something traditional and was taught to be–true to her nature–something different.
People change — some because they want to, some because they have to, and some because of factors beyond their control. It’s a fact of life. But people also have relationships with friends, family, and those closest to them. And as a person changes, so too must those relationships. But navigating how those relationships should evolve in the face of those changes can be extremely difficult, and the more drastic the change the harder it is to figure out. That’s the struggle for Melinda May in “Chaos Theory”.
But it’s also what makes her story, and her relationship with Dr. Andrew Garner compelling here. In Season 2′s “Melinda”, the show implied that May herself was so changed by her experiences in Bahrain that it led to the dissolution of her marriage. She was shaken by the events she witnessed, and these experiences made her a different person, putting a strain on her relationship with Dr. Garner.
Then, as this episode’s flashbacks to Hawaii show, May was finally able to move beyond her past and once again find common ground with the man she loves. The last scene in the episode puts too fine a point on it, but when Andrew takes her picture as she gazes off into the horizon, the implication is that May has finally made some kind of peace with who she is and who she wants to be. Then, right after May finds her equilibrium with the man she loves, he’s forced through his own change, by forces neither of them has any control of. And in “Chaos Theory” those nascent changes drive a new wedge between them. It’s tragic, and it’s not hard to understand why May feels like happiness is something meant to elude her.
While watching the first season of Agent Carter, I couldn’t help but wonder why I enjoyed it so much more than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., its much maligned and mildly resurgent Marvel television counterpart. Although the two shows have different teams behind them, they are, nevertheless, small screen cousins, with Peggy Carter making more than a few flashback cameos on AoS. The two series would seem to have too much shared DNA for anyone to have such different reactions to them. But in investigating this mystery, I kept coming back to one, overwhelming factor – Hayley Atwell.
Atwell soars as the protagonist of Agent Carter and commands nearly every scene she’s in. She portrays the titular character as a woman of quiet strength, with a steadiness in everything she does despite the tumult that surrounds her. But Atwell’s take on the character transcends the trope of the typical “action girl”, instead making Peggy a fully realized, three-dimensional character. Atwell acquits herself well when Peggy is exhibiting a steely resolve in a tense situation, and can just as convincingly show the character’s vulnerability and empathy in a private moment, with each emotional state feeling genuine and inhabited. She brings an undeniable presence to the character, and her rising tide lifts all boats in the series.