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July 02 2016

Esquire Mag opines on 10 shows that were "saved with one fix". Agents of SHIELD and Angel make the list (with some possibly dubious reasoning). Possible spoilers for non-Whedonverse shows.

Really don't agree with that for Angel.

Honestly, I think it's "Switch" was flipped when they killed off Doyle and brought in Wesley. Then again I'm one those weirdos who loved the first season of Angel. "City Of" is pretty high on my list of favorite episodes.
A fix seems to imply that the powers that be behind the show did something to change what they thought was missing or needed in a show and Agents of SHIELD didn't have a choice about the downfall of SHIELD. They had to work around the events from something outside. I highly doubt the show runners went to the movie studio and said, "Hey, can you have Cap take down SHIELD? Or show needs a good shake up."

If I were going to put anything on the list, it'd be the addition of Bear (yes, the dog) and then Shaw and Root as regulars on Person of Interest. I loved the show from the first season, but once they expanded the team it went from great to amazing.
To believe that Captain America: Winter Soldier's plot was not already baked into Agents of SHIELD from the first pitch meeting onward, would be supremely na´ve as to how Joss and Maurissa and Jed and the Russos and Kevin Feige have ALL demonstrated they work. "Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan." -- Admiral Painter.

Clearly, the Hydra reveal would have worked better earlier in the season without losing a good part of the first season audience who just weren't that into watching CSI: The Bus. But they were already locked into the series and movie release dates.

The idea that the original long term series idea was "Let's take the most powerful military/law enforcement agency in the world with an unlimited budget and mandate; and have them triumph over relatively weak and ineffectual villains of the week, is kind of ludicrous."
I think some people don't know the definition of ensemble. At no point was Angel ever NOT an ensemble show.
The Cap 2/Hydra reveal was definitely the kick in the butt AoS' storyline needed to up the stakes, but I felt like an earlier bump came when Mike/eventual-Deathlok was blown up on the bridge during what was supposed to be that hostage exchange.

The personal stakes were still pretty big early on, as well -- I always wanted to know how and why Coulson was resurrected and the skittery/brain-threading nightmarish robot SHIELD had putting him back together was a pretty awesome reveal. Did we ever receive concrete reasons as to the "why", though ? Did Fury (in his one season-ending appearance) give much info about that ? I vaguely recall Phil telling him that they'd need to have more of a conversation about that. Or did Ron Glass' doctor/scientist character tell us much (I forget whether or not that character got killed off) ? Was it just because they didn't feel that SHIELD could be lead by anyone better than Coulson ?

There were a number of good episodes in Angel's first season and the best of them hinted at what the series could be, but nothing reassured me more than "To Shanshu in L.A." Thought that was a pretty damn good finale at the time (haven't been through the Buffyverse a second time -- aside from watching repeats a pretty often during thr initial airings -- so dunno how it would hold up) and the Darla reveal at the end was incredible.
I guess in an odd way I don't agree about Angel. I think the ensemble was great and it was great for the show. But I also think season 2 was the best even though the complete ensemble hadn't quite formed.

Agree with Blackadder except that I think the first series worked quite well. But yeah, it did improve when Atkinson decided to play smart.

SHIELD, Office US, Parks and Rec, agree with all that. The rest I haven't seen except the Simpsons, which is/was a great show but after about 10 years I just decided to move on. But I bet if I were watching it for the first time I'd think it was great.

Although I must say I don't necessarily agree that all of these shows were "bad" in the first place.

[ edited by batmarlowe on 2016-07-03 03:25 ]

[ edited by batmarlowe on 2016-07-03 03:26 ]
Their analysis of Fringe is nonsensical. The first half or so of S1 does have a very monster of the week format, one that does feel like other shows. At first blush one might well think they were trying to capture the attention of other genre fans simply by copying those shows.

But it turned out that all of that was layering in the show's own backstory. I remember being really annoyed several episodes in that every "monster" they had to deal with each week seemed to somehow be related to something Walter and 'Bellie' had dealt with in their lab. It seemed too pat. Then [SPOILERS] it turned out that that was the point and the whole show opened up (and we really didn't have to wait that long for it to do so). It's almost like the showrunners planned it that way.
I think the way Angel (the series) evolved was the best thing about it. The season 1 format probably wouldn't have worked for an entire series, but I wouldn't have started it any other way.

I agree with the AoS commentary... Whedon shows are always about the struggle against soulless, monolithic authority structures, and that doesn't work too well when the protagonists are all *part of* a soulless, monolithic authority structure. I'm just disappointed that the show had already bled so many viewers by the time it got to that point.
Hun? Did this person even watched Angel? Just curious.
I think maybe it would have helped if they were able to get Samuel L Jackson for more than just (IIRC) two cameos and that Coulson's actual main directive was to help Fury figure out what was going on because Fury already suspected at this point that SHIELD was compromised, so Coulson being given a team and a bus and autonomy within such a large agency was his way of shoring up resources for later. (Which did end up happening, sort of. Since Fury made Coulson the Director even though SHIELD wasn't supposed to exist anymore.) Fury's always been depicted as a guy that's got plans within plans and has things arranged 10 steps ahead, so it would have been nice to see that reflected in the show even if Fury himself wasn't a part of it. Instead they used May reporting to Fury behind Coulson's back as a red herring for the betrayer in their midst, which was frustrating at the time. Not my favorite bit of reveal, really. And it would have given the show a greater connection with the movies, which it never really had except for a one of cameo here and there or a side comment by someone about a mess the Avengers left or whatever. I think that left a lot of MCU fans cold. But I will say that the sudden turn in Ward's character certainly made him so much more interesting, even if I don't think it was a thing that "fixed" the show itself. (I actually like it just fine.) (But come on, now that Steve Rogers *SPOILERS* has given up the shield and is underground just as much as Coulson and company, it's the *perfect* time for them to team up for a bit!)
Dubious reasoning, indeed.

I am so tired of articles that talk of the Hydra twist on Agents of SHIELD as a "fix" that the show did or had to do in order to "fix" a "bad show". Do they really think that this was something that they decided on a whim halfway through the season? Let alone something they decided because they thought "oh, we need to fix our bad show"? The Hydra reveal and SHIELD getting disbanded was something that was always going to happen during season 1, because it was going to happen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Do these media writers really think the writers only found out about it once they saw the movie? Do they know how much in advance movie scripts are written?

I also wish they would do some research. AoS writers have explained multiple times that they knew, as soon as the show was ordered, that SHIELD was going to be disbanded in CA: TWS, that they planned the entire season around that, and that they always knew Ward was going to be the Mole. (Jeffrey Bell said that they were leaving out the option to change their minds about the latter, if "it doesn't work out", but they did not. Among the things they did change, he named giving Raina a bigger role than what was initially planned, because they loved Ruth Negga.) But they also had to keep the secret and never mention the "H-word", because, obviously, they could not spoil the movie. They knew the movie would come out at some point around episode 15, 16 or 17, it was just a matter of later finding out the exact schedule.

Also, unpopular opinion: while the show was not nearly as good in the beginning as it would become later, because it seemed like a procedural at first, it was never bad, nor were any of the main characters "boring". It seems like simply a case of people having inflated expectations (both because of Marvel and because of Whedon's name) and giving up too early. The only episodes that were bad were the second episode and the episode with Lorelei. And, while it seemed like a mere procedural at first, the continual storyline started shaping much before the Hydra reveal, with Deathlok, Clairvoyant mystery and the mystery of Coulson's resurrection/TAHITI. I'd say it got consistently enjoyable and interesting at around episode 10 (well, apart from the Lorelei episode, which I despise, because of its tone deaf sexist writing and idiotic/annoying premise). Also unpopular opinion: it's not a good idea for new viewers to skip any season 1 episodes. You need to have a decent amount of time with the original team and regular SHIELD operations to get the full emotional impact of later events, when it all falls apart.

As for Angel, it was never an ensemble show. But even if one thinks of it as an ensemble show, I don't see how there was ever a point when it "became" one. Doyle was as much a prominent character as Fred or Wesley or Gunn were later.

[ edited by TimeTravellingBunny on 2016-07-07 09:43 ]
@Kris: I think the answer to the question why Fury went to such lengths to resurrect Coulson (even against his wishes!) is essentially the same as to the question, why Coulson always goes to such lengths to protect/save/help Skye/Daisy in any situation, while he's not ready to do anything like that for many other people: Fury really digs Coulson, and Fury essentially did whatever he wanted. Just like Coulson thinks of Daisy as his daughter, and essentially does whatever he wants. (And Daisy seems currently just as fed up with his protective paternalism and reluctant to accept his help, as Coulson was to endure his resurrection.) Both of them tend to make decisions based on highly personal motivations, and don't really have any system of checks and balances.

The only time when something like that almost happened was with the "Real SHIELD", but, while they made some really good points, the narrative discredited them by making them do the same thing, in an even worse way: keep secrets and secretly infiltrate Coulson's SHIELD, while criticizing Coulson for keeping secrets. I was happy when May finally called out Coulson on his hypocrisy in one of the late season 3 episodes, but calling him out is not going to make her stop fulfilling his orders.

I'm always torn about AoS, because, on one hand, I love the show, but on the other, I'm always wondering whether I'm supposed to agree with the protagonists' often questionable decisions and inconsistent ethics, or if I'm supposed to see it in a critical light. Am I really supposed to think that Coulson is a great, competent leader? Are SHIELD supposed to be heroes, or a highly problematic organization? The most interesting thing about the Hydra reveal in Captain America: TWS and AoS season 1 is that it's easy to see why Hydra so successfully infiltrated SHIELD: while they may have different goals, there really isn't much difference in their methods.

Look at Victoria Hand. She was such a convincing red herring because she really wasn't a good guy, even though she was a SHIELD loyalist. First we see that she's ready to sacrifice SHIELD members without a second thought; something that Skye, at the time, found really shocking and unacceptable, and Coulson agreed with her. (Oh, the days when Coulson was still the humanitarian side of SHIELD. And the days when the show's protagonists seemed to think that throwing your fellow agents under the bus for the "bigger" reason of the mission is not really OK. Come season 2, and Bobbi Morse was there to explain to us that it's actually totally OK and nothing to feel bad about.) We're told Hand is a real rule follower, very strict. Except she's not really a rule follower, either, or she stopped being one when she realized Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD. First she was going to blow Coulson's entire team out of the sky on a mere suspicion that he may be Hydra - no proof, no trial, no hearing, nothing. Then she does the "we're Hydra" fake-out with Simmons and Trip. What would she have done if Trip hadn't openly refused to serve Hydra? How many people would have agreed out of fear, or just pretended to go along with it, to buy some time? (I don't even think Simmons would have openly said no, so it's lucky Trip was there.) What happened to the people who did that? And then, finally, she wants to have Garrett extra-judicially murdered on the way to the Fridge. But she doesn't do it herself, or order it to one of her men. In hindsight, that's probably exactly why she was happy to have Ward come aboard: she had misjudged him as a not-too-smart, trigger-happy action guy who will be willing to shoot Garrett, just like he shot Thomas Nash - and it suited her to have a member of Coulson's team do the dirty work, rather than her own.
The unfortunate timing of Network Television Seasons and Summer Blockbuster Releases was obviously an issue for the first season. Unless they wanted to hold the series back and make it a mid-season replacement, which never (*cough* Buffy) almost never works.

I think there is a big clue in the title itself. When it changed from S.H.I.E.L.D. to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In retrospect, that telegraphed the reveal in a hidden, yet instantly obvious way.
The title changed because of The Shield. It wasn't really a creative choice.

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