I wish I could tell you, dear reader, why I fell so deeply in love with Agents of SHIELD. Honestly, I was on the fringe of the MCU fandom, at best. I was upset that Coulson was dead, but not devastated. I’d only watched the trailer a couple of times, at most. All things considered, I should not have liked this show.
But I did. Oh, I did. I still do, but it’s a bit more dramatic to say “did,” in this context. I digress. I was sold on the pilot. I’m one of those people. The pilot of Agents of SHIELD, which has been so broadly critiqued, brought out an inner fangirl that I thought was long dead. Because I killed her, reader. I told myself I was going to be an adult and I slew my inner fangirl-and then Grant Ward said “there’s something wrong with your fireplace” and like the majestic Phoenix my inner fangirl punched a hole right through her coffin and reclaimed her place in my cold, black heart.
Agents of SHIELD appeared to me as a campy power hour, a tongue in cheek acknowledgment that the superhero world is actually kind of a silly place, when you think about it. Apparently, that was not a shared sentiment. The show, especially in earlier episodes, wracked up quite a few negative points, and much to my chagrin, was consistently compared to the CW’s Arrow.
At some point, I wanted to shake my screen and yell “I don’t want another Arrow! I’m tired of superheroes being dark and gritty! I want silly! I want fun!” I didn’t shake my screen, though, because my laptop is my baby and you wouldn’t shake a baby, would you? Of course not. But my point still stands. I, for one, was charmed by SHIELD’s silly-factor. More specifically, I had been turned off by how dark Arrow felt the need to be.
Of course, there’s an irony in that: in episode 17, following the big HYDRA reveal in The Winter Soldier, Agents of SHIELD took a much darker turn. And apparently, this is when the show ‘got good,’ according to most critics. Reader, if you could please picture me, clutching a photo of the cast and hissing ‘no! you don’t deserve this show’ that would be greatly appreciated. It’s pretty spot-on as to what actually happened.
I loved the show when it was silly. I love the show now. But I think we should take a moment to look at what really won my heart over, parts made my inner fangirl weep with joy, despite my protests of “NO I’M AN ADULT GET BACK INTO YOUR COFFIN INNER FANGIRL.” Alas, dear reader, she did not. She did not.
I was sold by episode 3, The Asset, where Skye wears that super pretty pink dress and infiltrates the party. Remember? She looked amazing. I tried buying that dress online but they didn’t have my size. It was awful. Vital moment from this episode: Ward tells Skye he had to learn to protect people. I go ‘awww’ and then, months later, when it is revealed that Ward is HYDRA and has been controlled by abusers his whole life, I rewatch and weep.
Also, we find out that Skye isn’t ready to pull the trigger. And hey, I know Skye was getting a lot of backlash in the early episodes, and really only started getting support in episode 11, when she rescues Coulson. A lot of accusations were thrown around that she was the ‘archetypical Whedon heroine’ or that there was too much focus on her character when it wasn’t even her show.
I was just happy to see a woman of color in leading role. Skye appeared to us not as a super-scientist or as a weathered badass. She’s new. She’s different. And I think we’ve become so jaded by the idea of “different” that we immediately scream ‘Mary Sue!’ when we see it. Ironically, Skye is actually named Mary Sue, which is so in-your-face-haters clever that I had to cheer out loud when she announced it. But for real, I can’t help but think that Skye would not get the same amount of slack if she was a male character, and that her ‘quirkiness’ as a female character was only taken at face value.
There were several hints to a darker element of her character were hinted at, which I quickly latched onto because I love con-woman orphans (hi Sarah Manning), though maybe there’s something to be said about the viewing populace not really wanting to look at her character past the surface. Then again, it always seems to me that female leads that are not immediately ‘kickass’ tend to get kicked around by the fandom quite a bit, especially if they’ve got a love interest (see: Elena Gilbert.)
And that’s the thing about AoS, for all my talk of silliness: I personally think they put a lot of depth into their characters that went largely ignored until the later episodes. A lot of viewers were expecting the show to be one very specific thing, and I think they were less willing to adapt to the things the show was trying to be and instead chose to focus on everything the show was not.
It’s especially interesting to look at early criticism of the show that complains Agents of SHIELD didn’t focus enough on actual SHIELD. We have to consider that showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Taucheron were handed a show called “Agents of SHIELD,” and then told “by the way, SHIELD’s going under in April. Good luck!”
That must’ve been a fun conversation.
Dear reader, I know that Agents of SHIELD is not a perfect show. There are a lot of issues in the first season that I am hopeful will be addressed in season 2, but despite that, I really have latched onto this show like an elbow-leech (hey ATLA!) It’s actually brought me from the fringe of fandom into it’s very heart, and I’ve got to say, I’ve had a lot of fun with this fandom.
Also, Brett Dalton once wore a shirt of a cat riding a horse and paired it with a windbreaker straight out of 1994. Did I mention this cast has ruined me? It’s ruined me.