Marvel's Agents of blandThis program really had to be the televisual disappointment of last year. A new show with Marvel characters, with Joss Whedon involved! How could that fail to be good?
Lets start with structure. The overarching plot has been fundamentally dull. Theres been some slow burning plots in the background, but they've been pretty unexciting. The terrible truth about Skye's parents, Coulson and his death. While I appreciate that perhaps the reveal will be awesome, taking a few minutes every episode to mention that Coulson probably did die or something just doesn't excite. The utter failure for that plot to have any moment until the most recent (in the UK episode) really stymied that one.
The bad guys in the background were sort of interesting, although they really failed to present much of a threat until, again, that final episode (on which.. why no back up? Why did they not respond when Coulson wandered off?). Still, at least they have some personality.
Sadly, personality is something the main cast really lacks. Coulson probably comes the closest, but most of it was nabbed from the films, where he managed to be much more interesting with much less dialogue. The other main leads? Skye's obsession with her parents is tedious, and her obsession with pushing boundaries boarders on the obscene. There hasn't been an episode where she hasn't been annoyed at not having access to every single level of a super secret organisation, despite proving herself repeatedly to not be trustworthy with that information. I've actually forgotten the name of agent bland, but less said about him the better really, and the same with May. Fitz and Simmons are a bit more likeable, but they really don't get a great deal to do. I think the best episode so far was when Simmons leapt out of the plane, because I found myself actually caring. A character was finally in peril!
Thats what I think it all comes down to, a distinct lack of peril on the show. The problem of the week is rarely compelling, and you don't really get the feeling that there's anything a well equipped local police force couldn't have dealt with a lot of the time. When you get down to it being able to throw a good punch isn't that great ability when the police have access to guns. In some episodes, the threat is so minimal as to be hard to spot. For instance, the episode where the mining magnate kidnapped someone. His evil plan, as far as I could tell, was to use the awesome gravity device to do more mining! That may have led to some unforeseen consequence, but that certainly wasn't communicated very well on screen. We did get Coulson claim that he was a bad dude, but really no evidence behind that!
I mena, I get that we can't have the whackier stuff from the Marvel universe, that theres been a (boring) creative decision to limit everything to sciency explanations, so we miss out on the funnest lunacy of the Marvel universe. But we can still have peril, right? 24 manages that without a wibbly gadget that makes people a bit grumpy, so Agents of Shield can too, right? On the evidence so far, it apparently cannot..