Over the course of season 3A on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we’ve been writing up both reviews (courtesy of Grant) and breakdowns (courtesy of Doug), both with varying opinions from week to week. For some fans, Grant’s “bashing” of the series was a bit much, and they looked forward to Doug’s breakdown, which they saw as a more positive recap. Given their varying opinions, we thought it would be interesting to get both Grant and Doug together to debate the first half of season three and express what works – and doesn’t work – for them. You can read the debate, which took place in a live chat over on Slack, below!
Chris Nelson: Alright so lets get started. Grant: Why do you hate Agents of SHIELD and want everyone to die? 🙂
Grant S.: Hey now! Not everyone has to die, just about half the cast.
I loved SHIELD’s second season. It struck the right balance of espionage intrigue with great cosmic connections. It also had some fantastic long term character arcs and development. But in season 3, SHIELD has not struck that balance. It’s bloated with too many characters and storylines, to the point where it hurts the few great stories they’re telling.
Bobbi and Hunter are my favorite couple on the show, but they’ve been almost completely sidelined in favor of other storylines. The FitzSimmons romance has dominated season 3, and it’s just wheel spinning at this point.
Coulson and Ros had the potential to be a great couple, but the show took too long to get to them and ended it too quickly.
Chris: And killing off characters will solve that? Or could better writing help? What do you think Doug?
Doug Herring: I actually agree with Grant that the number of characters on SHIELD is reaching critical mass. In our respective weekly write-ups, we’ve both mentioned that a major cast of 10 isn’t sustainable in the long run. However, in terms of what we’ve seen from Season 3 so far, I think it managed to juggle multiple storylines extremely well, and perfectly tied them all together in episode 8. We have a crystal clear idea of where the second half of this season is going, and I think it’ll be much more streamlined as everyone will be working towards a common goal. As for Bobbi and Hunter, they’re getting their own spinoff soon, so I wouldn’t worry about them too much–which also helps combat the rising character problem.
As for FitzSimmons, I will admit that storyline has maybe gotten more than its fair share of attention so far, but part of that is because that romance represents the only emotional investment any character had towards the alien planet! Sure, part of it is just for the sake of drama, and I can’t say I’m a fan of drawn out romantic plots in general, but at least with FitzSimmons it feels drawn out because of natural reasons, not just characters failing to talk to each other and getting mad at each other for no reason. (Looking at you, Arrow)
Grant: True, there’s not a lot of artificial rage on this show. But with Fitzsimmons, they won’t talk and then nobly pine for each other over many episodes. It’s not that I want the characters to die, it’s that they just don’t add much of anything to the show anymore. So a grand, cosmic love story between the Fitzsimmons is contrived to make them relevant.
Chris: It does seem like they always manage to add in new characters as others are planning to leave. Joey could be a new long term member of the team.
Doug: Joey, and surely some other Secret Warriors by the end of season 3.
Chris: How did you guys feel about our first look at the MCU Secret Warriors?
Doug: I enjoyed their look. The team is still in its embryonic state, but the three members so far seem to have great chemistry and nice teamwork as well.
Chris: Joey was the brightest spot for me… “I’m bulletproof!”
Grant: I liked Joey a lot in the first episode, but that’s about it. He captured that classic Marvel “my blessing is a curse” dichotomy. But when he appeared again, he’s just a gung-ho SHIELD agent. We don’t see any of his growth. Lincoln’s just a cold towel. Worst member of the main cast.
Chris: I could definitely get on board with Lincoln biting the dust, he’s a boring character with no real motivations unless Lash is involved.
Doug: You’re being harsh on Lincoln! Even though he’s been around since season 2, we really haven’t gotten a chance to get to know his character that well yet. You could argue that Mack was nothing more than a wet towel for his first handful of episodes, but now he’s the best director SHIELD has ever had.
Grant: Agreed on Mack wholeheartedly. The Mack/Daisy relationship is my favorite new dynamic of the season.
I ship them. But let me pose a question, Doug: what would Lincoln and Joey talk about in their down time? Or Joey and Daisy? Or hell, Daisy and Lincoln?
Doug: I’m not sure yet. But remember that Lincoln has a lot more experience with Inhuman culture than either Joey or Daisy. He’s also a former addict of some sort, and has a desire to help people. There’s the outline of a really complex and interesting character there that we just haven’t seen yet. Lincoln might turn out to be a mentor to Joey, like a big brother. We saw a bit of that tonight when he was helping Joey deal with his pre-mission fear.
Grant: I just don’t see the dynamic yet. Right now, the Secret Warriors are a po-faced muscle (Daisy), a po-faced brooder (Lincoln), and a po-faced newbie (Joey). This team desperately needs a wildcard.
Chris: Who do we have coming for the second half that could possibly be new Inhumans? What kind of characters do you guys WANT to be introduced and then eventually join Secret Warriors?
Grant: I think Yo Yo Rodriguez has been rumored? But we don’t really know what’s coming next.
Chris: Yeah! That could be a great addition. Pretty much any B/C/D level Marvel characters could be “Inhumans” from what we’ve seen. So lot’s of options out there.
Grant: I don’t really know much about the Secret Warriors, but an ex-Hydra agent would be nice. An-anti Ward, if that makes sense, someone like Spider-Woman. But again, I’m hesitant to want more characters when this show can’t balance the ones it has.
Doug: Yo Yo Rodriguez would be great, and correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Alisha (duplicate girl) still alive?
Chris: I believe so yes.
Grant: Oh yeah! She actually worked with SHIELD this season.
Chris: She wasn’t horrible.
Grant: Where was she during the assault on the castle? Just give her a bunch of guns and let her go H.A.M.
Doug: I think she went into shock after one of her doppelgangers was killed, and had never signed on to do any field work anyway. That doesn’t mean she might not change her mind though.
Grant, would you have liked the first half of this season better if it had been advertised as “The mystery of the alien planet” rather than “Secret Warriors”?
Grant: The problem isn’t the marketing, it’s the execution.
How many antagonists are there this season? Lash, Rosalind (she counts), Malick, Ward, the alien planet…
The show just pulled itself in too many directions.
Doug: Are you really counting Ros and a planet? Ros was only a potential antagonist for like 3 episodes, and the planet was only featured heavily in two.
Grant: Coulson banged Ros specifically to get close to her to see if she was Hydra. She definitely counts.
Doug: Even so, there are really only two antagonist groups moving forward: Ward/It and Malick are working together, and then there’s Lash.
Grant: Can we talk about Lash?
Grant: Doug, did you like Lash this season? And why?
Or why not?
I wrestled with him a lot. I still can’t quite figure out where I land on him.
Doug: I didn’t love Lash–one of the things this show has done a lot this season (and maybe this is a result of juggling so many plot lines) is introducing things and resolving them really quickly. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. The Andrew reveal wasn’t stretched out over multiple episodes, which worked for me. However, Lash was this serious threat for the first half-dozen episodes, only to be quickly taken out. I thought that was kind of anticlimactic, but now that he’s back on the loose I’m curious to see where the show goes with him.
Grant: Yeah, he’s such a great physical presence. But I kind of hate Andrew, and I hate that so much of the drama heading into 3B will be May wrestling with whether she can put down her husband, who is a vicious monster.
Doug: You think that’s where it’ll go? May doesn’t seem too conflicted about it.
Grant: Yup. 100% sure.
But when he’s Lashed out, he’s such a different presence on the show. And I know I ragged on Lash’s design at the top of the season, but it’s really grown on me. Those morphing sequences are really solid.
Chris: Do you think they’ll ever give him “control of the beast”? It seems like such a wasted opportunity to not explore some strange relationship between May and Lash.
Lincoln seemed pretty sure that he’d stay the beast at some point, maybe they can keep it under control?
Grant: Well, they had a whole episode surrounding it, but I think most of it was May’s fraught reaction.
One of the few episodes where we’ve seen May vulnerable and exposed.
Doug: I’d be surprised. I guess they could turn him into a tragic anti-hero like Deathlok, but I think they’ll allow him to go full-Lash and kill him by the end of the season
Grant: I think the Hydra monster is going to wind up possessing Lash.
OR: Lash is going to be what kills the brain slug.
But it won’t go there at first. Lash is all about killing the unworthy, and nothing could be more worthy than a thousand year old brain slug.
Doug: Speaking of the brain slug, who wins our bet? You bet that no major character would die in the finale, and I bet they would. So do we consider Ward dead, even if Brett Dalton still has a job?
Grant: I won and you know I won, dammit!
I will fight you to the death on an alien world!
Chris: If I had to moderate (which I am). I’d say Doug won as I mentioned earlier.
Ward is definitely DEAD
Grant: Ah, you guys know exactly what I meant. Ward was dead, and ten minutes later he was walking around again.
Even when the show kills a character, they still leave themselves an exit to keep the character alive.
Chris: It’s a tough decision, but I just feel Doug has more rights to a win than you do. I’m not saying it’s clear cut.
Grant, you worded it oddly. Purposely?
Grant: I don’t really care, but my family’s honor is at stake.
Stan Lee once said the reason comics were successful was because of “the illusion of change.” They changed the continuity just enough to give the story momentum, but kept things the same to seem familiar. AOS is just not very good at keeping the illusion. Their storytelling feints are very blatant.
Doug: Overall, I think this show has always suffered from expectations of what the show could be versus what it actually is. Before the show started, people wanted it to be The Avengers on TV. Instead, it was sort of a freak-a-week adventure show, which only kind of worked. Then after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it morphed into a more serious spy/espionage show. As soon as people got used to that, it became a weird show about Inhumans and aliens. Ironically, this is the closest the show has ever come to living up to its original expectations before season one, and people are clamoring for a more serious spy show again. I’m not calling you out specifically for being guilty of this, but I think some of the most common complaints I see against the show are from people who condemn the show for failing at something it’s not trying to be.
Grant: But that’s my question Doug: what IS the show trying to be?
It reinvents itself every three months.
Doug: What’s wrong with that? You mentioned the illusion of change earlier. SHIELD may be keeping the characters fairly constant, but it actually changes pretty radically every 10-15 episodes.
Grant: It changes the genre, but not the storytelling.
Season 1 is the X-Files. Post Winter Soldier, it’s spies on the lamb. 2a is a war of spies. 2b is an Inhuman family affair. 3a is a cosmic mystery. The genres change, but they wind up keeping the same storytelling flaws.
Chris: That’s kind of where I was going to head with my next question. Would you guys actually prefer if this show was more disconnected from the MCU and had the ability to spread its wings more? Or is this just down to writing or storytelling flaws like you mention Grant?
Doug: Chris, I’d be able to answer that question if the Inhumans movie wasn’t so damn far away. I honestly have no idea how the things AoS is doing will impact the MCU, if at all. But I think, since it’s the pioneer for all this Inhumans stuff, it’s spreading its wings fairly freely right now.
Grant: Agreed. SHIELD has carved its own niche. I don’t think MCU connections dominate it anymore like the first season.
Chris: I just look at shows like Arrow/Flash/Supergirl…the characters they are able to introduce freely without restriction.
Is that something that would benefit AoS?
Doug: I’m not sure if it would or not. I can’t think of a Marvel comic character that would work better if introduced on a Network TV format that can’t be used on AoS already. Characters like Deathlok and Quake have been introduced here, while the “big guns” like Black Panther and Doctor Strange deserve, and are getting, big budget movies.
Grant: I’m with Doug. There are some characters that are better than others, but it’s all in the hands of the writers James Gunn reinvented Star-Lord to the point that he’s a totally different character from the comics.
Like, if SHIELD could create their own version of Iron Man, distinct from the movies, I’m not sure it would help very much. Most of the SHIELD cast are original characters; they could’ve created their own Stark by now, but haven’t.
The one place I think they’re hamstrung is mystical stuff. I bet Marvel Studios won’t let them use magic stuff until after they debut Strange. I know they weren’t allowed to use AI before Ultron.
Chris: Follow up question then. Do you think AoS could use more integration into the film/netflixverse? Or is that not a pretty much non-issue when we’re talking about this show?
Grant: I think it would be cool, but wouldn’t help the show much.
I don’t need to see this SHIELD team in the movies, but I’m actually surprised a Netflix crossover hasn’t happened yet.
Doug: I’d rather let them stay separate. The U in MCU stands for “Universe,” after all. It’s a big place, not everything is going to connect with everything else.
Grant: What else we got?
Doug: We can wrap up with our general impressions of the season and what we’d like to see moving forward?
I’m disappointed and angry and I want to see everyone die! Doug?
Doug: I love it and think it’s flawless and hope everyone lives forever.
Grant: There’s three months before SHIELD returns, and the biggest favor ABC could do for the show is greenlight that damn Mockingbird spinoff. It would clear the deck, let the show reorient its cast and reduce the bloat. I’m not a big Inhumans guy, but I think the show could’ve told a decent Secret Warriors story this season, but there were just too damn many storylines. I’m hoping that season 3b scales back and focuses a bit more.
But if ABC declines the Mockingbird spinoff, these writers have to commit to killing a couple leads.
There’s too much dead weight.
Doug: My impressions actually aren’t too far off! I really enjoyed the first half of this season so far, and thought it was maybe one of the strongest SHIELD has ever had. But clearing Hunter and Bobbi to leave and do their own thing would certainly help with the clutter. I am a big fan of the Inhumans stuff, and I can’t wait to learn more about the ancient civilization on the alien planet or see the Secret Warriors. If Most Wanted winds up not moving forward, I’ll be disappointed. But in terms of the season we’ve gotten so far, I’d give it a solid B+ or A-. The FitzSimmons scenes were some of my favorite parts of the season, largely because of the insane acting from both Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain de Caestecker, so I’m happy to see more of that moving forward.
Grant: Alright, these coffee shop employees are giving me the stinkeye so I’ma gonna bounce.
Chris: Have fun. Make sure you shout a “Hail Hydra” on the way out.
Grant: Tis the season!
Doug: It was a pleasure debating this season with you, Grant. Even if you are a joyless SHIELD-hater who wants to kill every character we love.
Grant: Doug, thanks for the lively and spirited discussion, you incoherent fanboy.
Chris: With all of that said, I’m going to go cheat on the MCU and watch the monstrosity that is Arrow.