I’ve watched up to episode 11 on Youku (神盾局特工 第一季), and I’m not sure I can continue giving the show any more of my attention.
Like many, I began watching the show because I was interested in it fleshing out the universe and backstories of the film franchise, as well as serving up potentially significant plot points for future movies in the franchise.
So far, not a single episode involving some variation of a super-powered threat resulting from alien artifacts or super-serums (as well as a particle reactor mishap) has been captivating and, with the exception of Agent Phil Coulson’s resurrection mystery (somewhat revealed in episode 11)…
…none of the story arcs are compelling. Project Centipede and the Clairvoyant are not particularly menacing as the show’s primary behind-the-scenes villains and I frankly don’t give a shit about Skye’s quest to learn more about her parents. Her quick transformation from a hacktivist everyone couldn’t be sure was trustworthy to the mewling adoptive daughter of Agents Phil Coulson and Melinda May that everyone now fully trusts was too quick to be entertaining.
Every episode involves some amount of interpersonal friction, random science-fiction, and physical action of the guns and martial arts variety. The fights scenes aren’t impressive and seem to just waste screen time. The show is more reminiscent of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (Wikipedia) than Heroes (Wikipedia). There’s a pervasive campiness to the show, and not exactly of the intentionally self-aware variety that could even be amusing. The show simultaneously takes itself too seriously while not taking itself seriously enough, if that makes sense.
Any of the depth so far suggested for the characters feels contrived. I’ve already ragged on Skye above (as has Ward, directly above, in one of the funnier self-aware bits of humor in the show). Phil Coulson get’s a pass only because he’s earned enough lovability from the films. May’s mysterious traumatic past is particularly obnoxious, and Ming-Na Wen just can’t pull off the no-nonsense kung-fu fightin’ sexy Asian bitch persona. Ward had something involving an abusive brother and a well that was wholly forgettable. Finally, there’s Fitz and Simmons, the team’s resident pair of nerds who make up of the show’s comic relief and are fortunately not obnoxious like the Geiszler and Gottlieb pair in Pacific Rim (Wikipedia/IMDB). In fact, they’re somewhat cuddly and endearing.
There’s an obvious “family” dynamic with Coulson, Ward, and May being the responsible adults and Skye, Fitz, and Simmons being the children. Hurting the show then are the many pithy “moral of the story” plots about teamwork, trust, sacrifice, responsibility, redemption, forgiveness, greed, corruption, etc., all of which can be considered “family-friendly” might have a place in our society’s socialization of our children through television but often feel overbearing and ham-fisted for adults. And then you have a sudden and random hotel hook-up between Ward and May (episode 8> and 9, note the disappearing injury on Ward’s face by the next morning). Huh.
The movies work for both adults and children because kids get the superpowers and flashy action while the adults waxed nostalgic and appreciated a pseudo-realistic portrayal that didn’t involve bright spandex and did involve fairly decent actors. This show has decent computer generated special effects (god help it if it didn’t have at least that) but the comedy is corny, the action is uninspiring, and the drama is unengaging. Younger audiences and especially children might enjoy it just fine, but more mature audiences will find it lacking in substance and ultimately disappointing.