Third-episode verdict: Agents of SHIELD (ABC/Channel 4)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Tuesdays, 8/7c, ABC
In the UK: Fridays, 8pm, Channel 4

Three episodes into Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and it looks like the show is finally finding its feet as a show separate from The Avengers/Avengers Assemble and the rest of the ‘Marvel Universe’. Episode one was a derivative affair, no different from Knight Rider and NCIS in set-up but with even prettier casts and Whedongags and constant references to the movies to differentiate it from other ensemble action shows that deal with the hunting down of ‘terrorists’. 

With Joss Whedon apparently absent behind the scenes of episode two, taking his jokes with him (although rumours are they he did do some re-writes on it), the show made an unfortunate shift sideways in the direction of Torchwood, giving us a rubbish, bickering team, trying to save the world from alien artefacts, while making yet more references to the movies. And we just don’t need another Torchwood – one was enough.

Episode three was considerably more pleasing, though, giving us some juicy flips of a standard plot, some actual personalities for the prettier members of the cast and a guest appearance by an accent-laden Ian Hart. While still not quite up to Whedon-standard, there were better gags than before and the laying down of some new mythology for the show so it doesn’t have to keep drawing on the Marvel movie universe. It did have some weird ideas about Malta, though, and some pretty poor fight scenes, so let’s not get too carried away.

Agents of SHIELD is clearly a show finding its way. It’s not trying to be as clever or off the wall as previous Whedon efforts, and while its playing with the tropes of mainstream action and comic-book shows gives a certain edge on the po-faced likes of Criminal Minds and NCIS, it doesn’t yet have good enough writing or a good enough cast for it to quite get by without the goodwill brought about by the movies.

But it’s got enough good things about it and enough strengths that given time, it will be a decent enough show and could possibly grow into something innovative. We can at least keep our fingers crossed.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Will last at least one season, but needs to find its own place in the Marvel and TV-viewing universes for it to go beyond that.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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