– Or Rough Beginnings –
If there is one thing I have learned to accept about Joss Whedon shows this semester, it’s that the beginning is going to be a bit rough. Enter Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Angel, both of which have lackluster series premieres.
Let’s start with the older series, Angel. The opener of the series, if you’ve been watch Buffy like I have, is frustrating as all hell. The show opens with Angel pretending to be drunk at a bar (though, through the acting, it seems more like he maybe high), and then fighting off two vampires who are attacking—-a skinny blonde girl. This is alright in and of itself, I think, but Doyle, a clairvoyant half-demon, then sets Angel on a path to connect with a person and save them. Who is this person? Tina, the skinny blonde waitress who is lost and alone in LA trying to be a movie star.
See a pattern here?
The entire episode is an exercise in showing that Angel can kick ass on his own, but also is still being a sad panda over his break up with Buffy. Did I say sad panda? I meant constant source of melancholy and ‘woe is me’ vibes. Going from a strong, well rounded Buffy to a rather bland Angel is a bit of a rough ride.
On top of these disappointments is the fact that the first episode must assume that no one in the audience has seen Buffy — even though most of the audience was probably drawn from Buffy. Thus, the entire episode feels like a walk down a very overused memory lane.
To be fair to Joss, he was now in charge of two shows, and co-wrote the episode with David Greenwalt. There may have been network pressures or requirements involved. Still, the episode ‘City Of…’ was lackluster and was not an encouraging introduction to a series I was not all that excited about watching.
Now, on to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D premiered this week and it was…underwhelming. Once again, the show suffered from ‘getting those out of the loop into the loop’ syndrome, but less so than Angel. In fact, I was surprised at the number of things that, if one hadn’t seen the Marvel Movies or read the comic books, Agents just assumed you could figure out. (Extremis was a very blatant case of this glossing over effect). The plot was okay – seemed very episodic, as is the style with Joss – but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting out of a Joss Whedon premiere.
I think what got me were the casting choices (this, of course, can be attributed to the Casting Director). The female characters except Badass Asian Lady (pardon my monikers, I am bad with names) suffered from a serious case of Same-Face, and the Generic Action Hero was just that…generic. Perhaps it it because the last Whedonverse show I had particular contact with was Firefly, but man, does this cast seem a bit low on diversity.
It was not all bad. I recognize, both as a Whedon fan and a writer, that starting something is immensely difficult. Writing the beginning to anything, be it a television series or a novel, is tough work. I don’t know if Joss just hasn’t figured out the balance of mystery and invitation yet, but he’s getting there – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is no ‘City of…’ Angel. I’m willing to see how both these shows turn out – if the writing and the casting and the other production elements can come together into something great.
Let’s hope they do.