– 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.
October 10, 2013
emigee93 buffy, character development, the body engl3844, Story Telling, The Whedonverse 0 Comments
– Or The Body –
If I were petty, (or perhaps just lazy) I would simply post this quote and leave it at that. But it is unfair to rip quotes out of their context and just expect people unversed to understand why something, contextless as this is, can be so important to a character.
I have always admired Joss for how he writes his characters. Namely, his characters are people — though, with Anya, that is a little less than true. She’s technically a demon (is this a good time to shout SPOILERS? Okay, spoilers). To top is off, she is, essentially, a replacement Cordelia – not totally Cordelia, of course, but she fills the roll of blunt, at times inappropriate, and generally the fringe member of the Scoobies.
But this speech defines her. It is a fantastic bit of dialogue that I bet my bottom dollar most writers would never think to give a character like Anya. Anya is supposed to be the 1000 year old blonde girl who is a bit on the evil side – better not humanize her in any way. That’s what makes this bit of writing unique.
Anya is terrified. She has never had to deal with the mortality of those around her, because a) she was previously immortal, and b) has never taken the chance to get to know the women she previously avenged. She doesn’t know what to do, so she asks the most morbid questions because she literally does not understand. No one is telling her why or what to do and she literally cannot comprehend the idea the Joyce is gone. And how could she – death was never real to Anya. She asks things like “Will we see the body” and “Will they cut open the body” because she is Anya, and mortal things confuse her, but it is incredibly plain to see that she has no concept of how one operates in grief.
We are meant, at first, to react like Willow does – horrified and disgusted that someone would even say such things about a women they all knew. And that’s why this speech is so important. It humanizes Anya in a way almost nothing else can and carries through the scene (the worry in hr voice when Xander punches through the drywall and ‘could have hit an electrical thingy’ is clearly part of her emotional hangover).
People are never only one thing – they are always changing, always growing in some way. To give a speech like this to a character that most TV shows would treat as a one dimensional cardboard cut out is what cements Joss’ skills (to me at least) in character development. He used emotions we all know – aching sadness and grief – and applied them to a character that would not understand the situation and (much like a child), grows up because, in the end, know one really has the answers she seeks.