All, right, since you’re here, there’s been something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest, and it wasn’t until the San Francisco Giants won the NDLS last night that it all finally congealed in my head.
If you didn’t see the game or don’t care, all you need to know is the Giants clinched it three games to one against the Nationals in a weird one. Nothing showy or outlandish, really, unless you count Hunter Pence going back-first into the outfield wall, scaring the crap out of the fans out on the cove-side sidewalk to rob Jayson Werth. No how-do-you-hit-that pitching; no Babe Ruth grand slams. Just shoulder-down fundamentals, playing that small-ball and making things happen. Strange ol’ championship game that was actually kind of boring until it was over and you realize “Huh. That was a pretty good game, come to think of it.”
Nothing legendary like the 2004 Red Sox doing whiskey shots in the dugout during game six of the ALCS, and Curt Schilling literally being a one-legged guy at an ass-kicking contest. Just getting the job done, one out at a time. Born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine, you pick up your shovel and you walk to the mine. At the end of it, you’ve loaded sixteen tons and you did it with your shovel and your back and a couple pals.
And that’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
See, I finally figured it out. I could never understand why the crowd wouldn’t let them do the slow burn. Even the Peanut Gallery is still giving them a hard time on pacing, here, in the beginning of the second season. But I realized last night the audience has been raised on the expectation that Marvel is going to deliver the slam-bang. The wise-crackin’, charming class clown finagling his way into the homecoming queen’s heart with the fate of the world in the balance. The sad sack given a second chance to kick ass and take names with the fate of the world in the balance. The misunderstood god learns humility amongst mortals with the fate of the world in the balance.
That’s the kind of stuff that happens in a theatrical film that lasts two hours and you sell your popcorn and hopefully you tell your friends and they buy a ticket, too. Marvel could have easily thrown a Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. into the schedule and everyone would have loved it and they’d have sold their toys but the kids in the audience don’t get that Marvel isn’t just a studio making movies. They’re building a world.
It doesn’t surprise us comics guys, because, after all, that’s what they did in comics in the beginning. Navigating all the red tape to make that happen across theatrical films is an achievement, though. I honestly don’t think any other studio is going to be able to replicate that sort of cohesiveness. Hollywood just isn’t set up for it.
But now… you Sneaky Petes. Why follow Nick Fury once every three years when you can underscore the Marvel Universe every Tuesday? But here’s where the kids lose it. TV isn’t movies. Movies are spectacle and TV is character. You can’t do a poignant episode where your main character reveals a secret truth to a young boy and we pull back to show a pediatric cancer ward and hold and then have the fate of the world be in the balance! That’s just not what TV is good at.
After last night’s episode I turned to the missus and said that was a strange ol’ episode that was actually kind of boring until it was over and then I realized “Huh. That was a pretty good one, come to think of it.” For example. How many times have we heard from the kids that Simmons is useless?
Turns out she’s Modesty Blaise. But that doesn’t have a satisfying arc if she doesn’t go from sidekick-in-a-labcoat to FitzSimmons-comedy-jokes to undercover badass. Thing is, to appreciate the badass part, you have to see where she came from, which is what TV is good at. Look at the Lance Hunter character. They told us he’s an ass-kicker, and he’s got the five-day beard and the James Bond accent… but he’s everyone’s punching bag. Half the team wants to shoot him. That’s hilarious. “Why do we need Lance Hunter?” folks belly-ached last week. SO THAT CHARACTER HAS SOMEWHERE TO GO. I actually feel a little like Old Flynn in Tron: Legacy. The paths are clearly marked. You just have to see them. The old man’s gonna knock on the sky; listen to the sound.
Like the peppy song we can hear: “God Help The Girl,” that played under Simmons starting her day and going to work and the reveal being it’s at a HYDRA facility. It wasn’t shot-for-shot, but the exact same tone as the introduction to Desmond in Lost at the beginning of its second season. I’m a huge fan of juxtaposition, I admit… maybe so much so I see it when it isn’t there. But you show a cute girl working for bad guys undercover and play something uptempo in the same tone as the guy who didn’t turn the key and I’m thinking bad things are going to happen. Which is what you want from your TV, see? The fate of the world in the balance! That slow-building dread is worse, when we see you next Tuesday.
“God help the girl; she needs all the help she can get” is a great lyric, but it’s not hard to see how it applies across the rest of the show. I love Mack, the mechanic who can fix everything… but not Fitz. So he throws in by being Fitz’ interpreter. He’s just trying to work the problem, and fix what’s wrong with a man’s mind. This is such an obvious note but so powerful at the same time, and they do it in three or four lines an episode. It’s almost throw-away. They’re Las Vegas magicians making a hard trick look easy on that one.
I’m a little iffy on Skye’s heart monitor conceit. Chloe Bennett is a good enough actress that she can sell inner turmoil without spelling it out for the cheap seats. Shooting guns: fine. Maybe I killed Blizzard: no problem. Simmons a double-agent. Ah’m all a-flutter. Ward tells her Daddy’s alive? LAWDY IS THE HEAT ON.
You don’t need a FitBit to tell the audience that one. Trust your guys. They can carry it.
As in, all the characters around Simmons were hand-wringing. She’s not that good a liar. She’s not a field agent. She’s untested. Then there’s a reaction shot to Clark Gregg, who deserves all the Emmys, with just an incredible look on his face that’s simultaneously inscrutable and welcoming. Don’t bother me; I’m twinkling with mirth. The guy’s a goddamn secret agent Santa Claus. And guess what? Simmons is an awesome undercover agent.
She’s picked up the shovel and walked to the mine.