After a stupendous fourth season introduced Antifa subtexts to a brilliantly immersive illusory Agents of HYDRA dystopia, I was expecting great things from writers D.J. Doyle, the Zuckerberg sister’s et al… Agents of SHIELD season 5 began with Coulson waking up in a spaceship which, it turned out, was 90 years in the future after Daisy quaked the earth apart.
What must have seemed a great season premise in the writers’ room has turned out to be a massive misfire with many knock-on effects. While the budget has seemingly been spent on great CGI shots of space trawlers docking, the locations, or lack of them, have limited the story and normally great ideas.
The production designers have done the best they could with about seven locations, but many scenes have taken place in dark grey or red-lit corridors which don’t lend themselves to action well.
Most stories, Agents of SHIELD included, often contain an element of hunting or being hunted. The trouble is, when groups of people must hide on, for example, Level 28 of the space rock, Level 28 looks exactly the same as Level 27, 14, 56 and every other level.
We, the audience, subconsciously understand that, despite the best efforts of the set designers who dress that level to the best of their abilities, scenes take place in the same studio space as previous ones. Apply the same hunter/hunted relationship to earth and characters can break free from studio sets to go on the run in any number of real, open spaces.
WHERE WE’RE GOING, WE DON’T NEED ROADS
A fraction of the anti-Trump storyline remains as blue-faced Kree alien (for Orange would have been too obvious) son called Kassius – a cross between Eric Trump and Juaquim Pheonix’ Commodius – collects inhumans in the vain hope of impressing his as-yet-unseen, all-powerful, draconian father while his more successful brother (Donald Jr) and quasi-sister (Ivanka) wait in the wings.
Truth be told, I was hoping the writers would stick it to Trump even more this series, but alas…
The Agents of SHIELD arrived via time-travel, except Fitz, who took the long route via meeting a 32,000-year-old android who appeared in the Bible, Enoch and being cryogenically frozen. They then tasked themselves with saving earth’s few remaining humans from Kassius aboard a giant rock in space. Only trouble is, having met just three of them (to represent the million or so slaves) plus a villainous taskmaster who was dispatched early on, we don’t really care about the last of the human race.
When the storytelling hasn’t been limited by the lack of locations by basing this series on a giant rock in space with barely any space vehicles and by the lack of physical room to run, hide and stage action set pieces, it’s been repetitive, predictable or down-right confusing. Just some of the ideas that have been lost on me this season include:
- The psychic little girl, Robin – who May adopted
- The whole lighthouse story
- Deke’s drug-induced holodeck
- The fact that Daisy possibly brought about the earth’s destruction
- How Gravitonium maintains a breathable atmosphere on earth
- Rock-manipulating mutant “Flint” sends the team back in time by recreating the time-travelling monolith out of normal space rock
- Tess, one of the slaves, being brought back from the dead
- Yoyo meeting a future, clairvoyant version of herself
- Coulson suddenly being about to die for no discernable reason other than the plot required it.
For me, every single plot point on the above list demonstrates that the writers had so little wiggle-room to work with on the space rock that they ended having to pull ideas out of their asses. And when the geography, everyday physics and quantum rules of time-travel are not made clear or adhered to, those ideas become fucking nonsense.
Case in point, during one fight in a gravity storm, Daisy killed Sinara (Ivanka) when the latter jumped, floated too high and was impaled on Daisy’s spear up on a walkway. How come Daisy wasn’t affected by the same lack of gravity as Sinara?
The last episode, Past Life felt so rushed and so paint-by-numbers that its reveals and sacrifices lost all meaning. Enoch may be dead but Deke will be back to annoy the shit out of us all as he was standing near a piece of the time-travelling monolith when it was activated.
Worst of all, all this confusion and lack of cognitive storytelling translates directly to the actors. Ming-Na Wen especially, who looks like she’s sleepwalking through her lines, while the normally effervescent and highly watchable and likeable Fitz and Simmons are shadows of their former selves.
Let’s hope it’s the lack of air in space and that the writers can breathe fresh air into the scripts when the team arrive back on erf where there’s plenty of room for car chases, foot-chases and set pieces. If the fresh, California air doesn’t wake them up, perhaps guest star, Disney Club’s Dove Cameron can… whoever the fuck that is.
The Agents of SHIELD return in All The Comforts of Home on Friday, March 2nd.