We have a problem on Agents of SHIELD, friends. Well, actually, we have several. It's what's keeping this little column in business. Agents of SHIELD: the more problematic it is, the more I have to write about! Wink!
But seriously. We've got an issue. And I'm not talking about this Coulson's SHIELD vs. Real SHIELD mess. I mean, I’ll give an honorable mention to the complete and utter bullshit that was Isabelle Hartley giving her comics girlfriend, Victoria Hand, a one-line mention in a flashback. Queer representation is totally moving forward on AoS! You could also forget that both canonical lesbians are dead! Haha, classic AoS.
Listen. I know I missed last week, so I have to make up for all the snark I missed. Call it overkill! Call it beating a dead horse. You’re not wrong! Moving on.
Now, what’s going wrong in AoS is, interestingly enough, not limited to this mess of a universe. There seems to be a common issue in comic TV shows where the writers continually try to adapt the black and white morality of the comics for TV. Of course, this ignores that there are very few black and white morality characters left in comics, and the ones that are rarely get the proper treatment. And of course, trying to treat television as the same medium as comics is a terrible plan. Do you want to stay in canon? Yes, probably. But you also need to recognize that bringing real, live actors and sets to a production adds a different depth than the one seen on the page.
Television is all about the grey. And the more comic book TV shows try to cling to black and white, the more painful their narratives become. As my friend Molly pointed out over at Word of the Nerd, the plot of Arrow isn’t doing too hot. They have this issue where they keep shoving false dichotomies into the plot for now reason.
“Shoving things into the plot for no reason?” the writers of AoS likely said, burning my dreams over a fire like they were nothing more than marshmallows. “We can totally do that!”
And do that they did.
Now, a quick lesson. A false dichotomy means that for one thing to be true, something else must be explicitly false. So on Agents of SHIELD, this means that for Coulson and his version of SHIELD to be good, the so-called Real SHIELD must be bad, no questions asked. And call me crazy, but not asking questions is what got Coulson’s team into a mess in the first place. This blind following of orders has left a bad taste in my mouth this whole season.
So imagine how psyched I was too see Real SHIELD. A multi-leader organization that seemed to have its shit together. No more secrets, and no more of Coulson’s dicking around. And listen. I know I’m hard on Coulson. But think about when Ru is hard on one of her girls. She only does it because she knows her girls are capable of better. I know Coulson is more than whatever the narrative has made him. Those rare peeks of dad-ness that we’ve been getting in 2b? We need that back.
No we don’t, the narrative told me last night. They brought Real SHIELD out in all its splendor. Had Bobbi Morse express via flashback how important it was for the proceedings of SHIELD to be a democracy. This is good, I said. This, I can work with.
And then they brought up the gifteds. We need Skye, they said. She’s dangerous. And just like that, I knew this entire plot was going to be swallowed by a false dichotomy before it could really begin. Because see, while Coulson’s team enacted the exact same policy towards gifted individuals in season 2a, and were overall shady as hell towards Skye in 2b, they’re our mother effing protagonists. So instead of both teams being a little right and a little wrong, Coulson will emerge sparking clean, and we’ll find out Real SHIELD is just bullshit. You hear us, Coulson dissenters? Just. Bullshit.
Honestly, I don’t know how we got here. I remember that I used to root for these people. For someone other than the Inhumans and Skye and Grant and Kara, who are getting shafted while the big boys have a measuring contest. And yeah. The Inhumans are the ones who are going to end up getting fucked, here. Because if there’s one thing that I have learned from AoS, it’s that no one’s easier to shaft than an “other!” Why, it’s like stabbing the air. It’s just so simple.
Coulson has some good points. So does Real SHIELD. Did Real SHIELD have a rather Hydra-like entrance? Yes. Does that negate every point they’ve made? Absolutely not. Especially not given that Coulson and May have been near-impossible to reason with when it comes to anything but Skye. And yes, I do wonder when Melinda May will actually come back to the show and stop being Coulson’s yes-man.
But she does kick-flips off cars! Isn’t that badass? Isn’t that important? Yeah, but remember when she had actual agency as her own character? That was fucking awesome. I miss you, Melinda. Please come home.
Next week, I will probably attempt to punch my TV in the face. Until then, stay shady, friends! It’s my only setting.