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"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Release date: TV series began in 2013
Produced by: Mutant Enemy, Marvel Television, ABC Studios
Featuring: Ming-Na Wen, Clark Gregg, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Brett Dalton, B.J. Britt, Ruth Negga, Nick Blood, Henry Simmon, J. August Richards, David Conrad, Reed Diamond, Simon Kassianides, Bill Paxton, Adrianne Palicki, Adrian Pasdar, Patton Oswalt, Saffron Burrows, Kyle MacLachlan, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Peter MacNicol, Brad Dourif, many others
Show returns March 3, 2015

Clark Gregg
Kelsey McNeal / ABC
What, he's still alive? It takes more than Loki's Glow Stick of Destiny to kill Agent Phil Coulson. Clark Gregg stars as Coulson in "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC, and one of the key story lines is how Gregg was revived after his heart was shredded in "The Avengers."
Hello. My name is John, and
I am a fan of 'Marvel's
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'
Or, how I gave a show a second chance and ended up gaffed and landed like a big-ass flounder
December 21, 2014

I loved the movie "The Avengers," so when the TV show "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D" was announced, starring no less than Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, who had been completely murdelized by the evil Loki, and with the great Joss Whedon on board in production and creative roles, I was thrilled.

Before "MAOS" showed up on the small screen, when "The Avengers" showed up in a digital version, it had become my nightly lullaby, the movie I watched 85 gajillion times on my iPhone before I drifted off to my beauty sleep.

I laughed every time The Hulk did the smack-down on Loki. I nodded in agreement every time Nick Fury lowered his pistol when that jet took off, because he knew a pistol couldn't take down an airplane in flight. I watched Cobie Smulders as Agent Hill again and again, trying to figure out what makes her so dang pretty.

And I was so excited when the TV show finally arrived. I watched the first episode.

And was not impressed. I watched a few more episodes, and continued to not be impressed.

The writing was unimaginative, the direction ham-handed, the set for that big jet airplane, "The Bus," was only slightly better than the original TV "Star Trek" sets, and the actors lacked charisma. So I stopped watching.

Chloe Bennet
Kelsey McNeal / ABC
Chloe Bennet as Skye on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Skye's story has played an important part of the series, and the first half of the second season ends on a big-deal cliffhanger involving her.

But then, sometime after the second season began, perhaps out of boredom, I watched another episode of the first season of "MAOS," and was hooked. I mean, hooked. A fish with a steel barb in its cheek.

And I stand before you today to say, "Hello. My name is John, and I am a fan of 'Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'"

I binge-watched the rest of the first season, and all that is available of the second season. And am completely pissed off that the show is on hiatus till March, just as I am pissed off that "The Walking Dead" is also on hiatus.

But I thought it might help me in my recovery if I shared with you my experience.

The first thing I think I will cop to is that it took me a while to remember that "MAOS" is a comic book.

Sure, it may have live actors doing stuff on a screen, but really, it is a comic book, and a long-form series at that, with story lines that sometimes don't resolve in the 43 or 45 minutes of an episode. And goofy stuff happens in comic books, that's one of the things that I have always liked about them. "Real life," "reality," whatever that might be, holds no sway in the comic-book world. If "The Avengers" can have its flying aircraft carrier, then "MAOS" can have a gigantic cargo jet with six tilting engines that help it maneuver like a Harrier jump jet. If a scrap of a Chitauri helmet from "The Avengers" is found and polished, it will leak a virus that causes human beings to explode like bombs.

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Like a good comic book, it's hard to be sure who are bad people and who are good people, and "MAOS" definitely throws some surprises at us in that regard. Also, it's hard to tell who is human and who is ... something else.

And, I found myself accepting Clark Gregg's portrayal of Agent Coulson, and the long storyline about how he struggles to find out how he came back from the dead. Plenty of sci-fi drama in that story, kiddies!

And I became increasingly fond of the cast.

At first, I'd thought Chloe Bennet was just eye candy as a computer hacker who sort of becomes an agent by the side door. But after a while, I began to appreciate her character's arc, and her skill in making it real.

And while at first I'd just completely dismissed interest in Iain De Caestecker as Agent Leo Fitz, boy genius, and Elizabeth Henstridge as Jenna Simmons, girl genius, in my second run at the show they have become my favorite story line.

De Caestecker, Henstridge
Kelsey McNeal / ABC
Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz, left, and Elizabeth Henstridge as Jemma Simmons bring both tech-head sci-fi fun to "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," plus a huge dose of puppy-like cuteness. Henstridge's eyebrows alone deserve a special award of some kind.

They are as cute as puppies, these two, who are FitzSimmons, naturally, but completely compelling to watch, and even more so as their story has progressed. Everybody knows, but them, that they love each other, although it's started to become a distraction to both. But nothing is said — until Fitz is pretty sure he is going to die while saving Simmons in a dire situation. So he tells her how he feels, saves her, and goes into a coma for a few weeks, after which he has some brain damage, and she goes off on a ridiculously dangerous undercover mission.

It is joy itself to watch Henstridge, who has a delightfully animated face that brings so much to the telling of this story. Yes, it is mannered and studied acting, but it works and is completely charming. Her eyebrows alone should get some kind of award.

Ming-Na Wen, who was one of my favorite characters in "E.R.," several million years ago, was a disappointment in my first watching of this show, but now has become one of my favorite characters in this show. Yes, she is wired so tight she is nearly boring .... but it turns out her behavior is understandable, as the story unfolds — and besides, she totally kicks ass in the fight scenes.

And, some of come-and-go actors, who show up for one or a few episodes, are fabulous. Bill Paxton is drama, scary and hilarious, with big-deal, big-screen charisma in seven episodes. Ruth Negga is some kind of sincere and sexy in 11 episodes. Brad Dourif, who has been consistently brave and committed in some of the strangest roles in screen history (Billy Bibbit in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Grima Wormtongue in a couple of the "Lord of the Rings" movies) shows up for one episode where his mouth is taped shut, with a tube stucking out of it. His acting is all in his eyes, and he's good. Patton Oswalt is quite amusing, as at least three identical brothers.

Ruth Negga
Kelsey McNeal / ABC
Ruth Negga as Raina on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. " on ABC. Part of what makes her character interesting, besides her smoldering seductiveness, is that we are never quite sure if she is good or evil.

But let us now praise Kyle MacLachlan, who has appeared in four episodes so far, as a character so dangerous and crazy in looks and actions that if this guy, "The Doctor," got on a bus with me, I wouldn't just switch seats to get away from him, I'd get off the bus, call the police, and advise them to call in satellite surveillance and laser-operated space weapons.

MacLachlan, looking like maybe a bus did run over his face, takes his character — supposedly a monster who murdered hundreds of people and who, by the way, is maybe Skye's father — takes his character through what looks like real fatherly love (although crazed fatherly love) and switches into murderous, we're talking murderous intent, in a heartbeat. Fabulous performance.

It's weird, it's wonderful, it's all comic book. Some characters are killed off? Well, we can never be sure, can we? Not when it's a comic book.

My name is John, and I am a fan of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

Email John Orr at johnorr@regardingarts.com

MacLachlan, Bennet
Kelsey McNeal / ABC
Don't let the smile fool you, kiddies! The character Kyle MacLachlan, left, plays on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is crazy on a stick, full-blown sociopathic psychosis and then some. Great performance by MacLachlan. That's Chloe Bennet as Skye he is imploring.
Oswalt, Wen
Kelsey McNeal / ABC
Patton Oswalt, left, and Ming-Na Wen in a scene from "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Oswalt brings a quirky charm in the series' wildly imaginative plotting, as at least three identical brothers. Wen brings the war.
Gregg, Simmons
Kelsey McNeal / ABC
Clark Gregg as Coulson, left, and Henry Simmons as Alphonso "Mac" Mackenzie in an episode of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," which seems to like to cast tall, good-looking guys. Simmons, Brett Dalton as Grant Ward, B.J. Britt as Antoine Triplett and J. August Richards as Mike Peterson would be four-fifths of a pretty good basketball team.


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