by Thom Yee
1×03: “The Asset”
“This transaction combines Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories.”
Those were the words of Robert Iger, President and CEO of Disney, when Disney bought Marvel in back 2009. The thing I wanted to key in on is “library of characters.” One of the reasons that long-standing superhero comicbook publishers like Marvel and DC have such a large library of characters is because they’re constantly inventing new characters to fit the latest concept/intellectual property (IP) they’ve come up with. These characters eventually outlive their usefulness and are discarded whenever the next new IP(s) are being developed, replaced by new and, often-times, similar characters.
Melinda May, Grant Ward, Skye, Fitz, Simmons, even Agent Coulson — all characters that didn’t exist before the Marvel cinematic universe and this series. Sure, in the fullness of time, they may prove to be a bit more enduring simply for having starred in a show with a viewership of more than 10 million worldwide (as opposed to the 20-30,000 monthly readers an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic would probably reach), but eventually many of them will be forgotten and banished to relative obscurity alongside former agents like Bobbi Morse, Eric O’Grady, or the original Nick Fury. It’s something that’s always bugged me, that, instead of repurposing old characters, writers will just come up with entirely new characters who’ll eventually become little more than just another line in Marvel’s library catalogue of original IPs.
On the other hand, re-using old characters can pretty much give away the entire plot. This week’s new character, Dr. Franklin Hall — otherwise known as Graviton, Master of the Fundamental Force in the comics — is kidnapped by, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is sent in to get him back. It was reported months ago that Ian Hart had been cast in the recurring role of Dr. Franklin Hall, and so it became obvious that Graviton would probably be the show’s first major villain. Which pretty much gave away most of the plot details of this episode and how the episode would end. As I watched Dr. Hall fall into the gravity machine, it dawned on me that this was arguably one of the first completely cheesy origins that we’ve seen in this generation of superhero shows. As unbelievable as supersoldier serums and gamma ray origins may be, none of them were treated or looked as ridiculous as Dr. Hall’s, and it was a moment that really brought me back to how over-the-top comicbook origins have been in the past. Y’know, brought me back in the sense of I’ve watched this opening on YouTube several times (I wasn’t alive in the ‘70s).
This week’s episode, involving enemy camp infiltrations, forcefield barriers, and gravimetric pseudo-science feels a bit like the first part of a bigger story, but not in a good way. As we watch Skye take the lead and gain our enemy’s confidence, her cover is blown all too early, even as Coulson and Ward’s attempts to extract Dr. Hall amounted to little more than walking along a beach for what seemed like less than 500 metres before being caught. I don’t know if “The Asset” is a victim of the story compression necessary for an hour-long primetime show or if the producers genuinely don’t know how to do develop things like plot, a sense of struggle, or impactful moments, but this episode definitely didn’t feel like a satisfying, whole story.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “The Asset” final score: 6
Items of Note:
-Finally figured out which one is Fitz and which one is Simmons. Simmons is the girl.
-Agent Ward: “I had a brother…” HAD a brother? Background info or eventual plot point?
– Though I’m sure every character will get their moments, it seems pretty obvious that Agent Ward is the closest we’re getting to the traditional hero role, so it really kind of irks me that in this episode he’s running around in a plain t-shirt, pants, and loose-fitting utility gear. Why doesn’t he get an “action hero” jumpsuit and sleek accessories like Black Widow or Hawkeye (or even Melinda May)?