Monday, August 3, 2015

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I prefer to get my super-spy fix from shows like Archer and Venture Brothers, but I kept hearing that this show got better so when I saw season one in the library, I figured, 'why not?'. I watched the first few episodes when they first aired, but gave up when they kept reminding me of that old A-Team show. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Howlin' Mad, but I'm also not six anymore and watching people shooting at each other in a dark warehouse has lost its appeal.

The good news is that it does get better. The even better news is that when you watch it on DVD, you can watch it on 1.5x speed. Trust me, it helps. I still don't give a crap about about most of the cast and I openly cringe every time Ward is on screen. They could distill his personality if they ever run out of ammo for their 'nighty-night guns'. The mysteries of Coulson's death and the origin of the newbie-hacker-girl were not nearly as suspenseful as they were built up to be and there is far to much 'hand-waving computer 'magic' and deus-et-machina plotting. I'd like to add here, on a personal note: F*CKING STOP using computers as magic. No matter how you dress it up, they are as boring as hell to watch on screen. The show is also pretty guilty of all of these.

I think I started rooting for HYDRA when the characters started debating whether or not telepathy and/or clairvoyance exists. This is a world that openly acknowledges aliens, gods, cyborgs, dozens of different 'super powers' and includes a man who can turn into an unstoppable rage beast, but not telepathy? C'est impossible! Really? Really? Had it been a one-off joke I would have let it slide, but it develops into a minor plot point over a couple of episodes.

Combine that with the the general ineptitude of SHIELD and the rather terrifying real-world implications of such an organization's existence, and I have come down firmly on the side of our guys-in-green.
Looks like they have good Dental
Why will I rent Season 2? Season one did get better as it went along and while I wouldn't say I'm invested, I am curious to see how it develops. But mostly I'm watching for the Marvel easter-eggs ("What's a Man-Thing?"). There is a lot of source material to mine here, and I am curious to see how the show will interpret that material.

There is also another reason. For all its faults, or maybe because of them, this show is a perfect example of a good-gaming group in action. Its a perfect way to run a spy campaign, or even a super-heroes game using regular people characters. They operate independently of the Mother Corp, each person has their own specialties, the group is mobile, lots of cool gadgets and powers, plus the the mix of plot-of-the-week alongside the longer term mysteries means the players have a reason to come back to the table. Imagine the fun the spymaster would have handing out notes to each player that read: "You have come back from the dead, but don't know how", or "You are an enemy double agent. You may not act until you receive orders. Until then, be as boring as possible".

Let's face it, most game masters don't have the writing skills to come up with something truly original. You don't need to be. Capture the bad-guy, find the MacGuffin and solve the mystery are all solid staples to build a fun night around. It doesn't need to be a plot worthy of The Usual Suspects or Fargo. It just needs to be fun.

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