For the most part, anyone who knows me knows that I tend to love all things Whedon. This started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the show, not the 1992 film that loosely embodied what he wanted the character to be), continued with Angel, went full tilt with Firefly & Serenity, Dr. Horrible, and fluttered with Dollhouse. Then Mr. Whedon took to the big screen with arguably the best SuperHero movie ever made (and the 3rd highest grossing film of all time), The Avengers, and in the process became Consigliere for Marvel’s big screen franchises in the process (possibly the smartest move Marvel has ever made). Now Whedon has come back to the small screen with the Marvel Cinematic universe’s spin-off Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which thus far has been pretty solid – and it is this solidity that concerns me.
We all need to remember that while Mr. Whedon is the creative force behind everything I have mentioned, he is not the only one responsible for every episode. There have been many great Whedon alums that penned some of the best episodes we’ve seen. Such marvelous names as Jane Espenson, Marti Noxon, David Fury, Drew Goddard, Tim Minear, and David Greenwalt just to name a few. All of these writers helped to shape the characters that I love – but when the truly heavy hitting was needed – Here comes Joss.
The most recent additions to Whedon’s spectacular writing entourage (as far as I am aware) have been his brother Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancheron, who is incidentally Jed’s wife. I LOVE LOVE LOVE what they did with Dr. Horrible, and I think they are doing a great job with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. both in bringing in new fans and providing veteran Whedonites with that familiar feeling from his previous works. But there is something about that familiarity that is beginning to creep under my skin. Even the word is raising ad red flag for me – familiar, as in we’ve seen this before. This is the source of my concern.
I have not been the only person to see some pretty strong parallels between what we are seeing with Shield and Firefly. The environment of “The Bus” is very reminiscent of the internals of Serenity. The dysfunctional family structure is pretty familiar as well. If I had to make direct parallels it would go something like this:
Melinda May ==> Zoe
Agent Ward ==> Jayne
Skye ==> Kailee/River
Fitz and Simmons ==> Simon
While the last two are not as concrete, I think the first three are some pretty rock solid connections. Notably missing are Book, Wash, & Inara who I believe would be divvied ups amongst the other characters.
Then in the most recent episode, I heard a line that always gives me goose bumps – “Close your eyes” spoken by the Girl in the Flower Dress, which also happens to be the episode’s name. Serious Whedon fans know that this is the phrase uttered (twice) by women just before something horrible was done. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy has to fight Angelus, the demon inside of Buffy’s love interest, Angel when Angel loses his soul. Seconds before his defeat, Angel’s soul is restored by Willow – but it’s too late. To save the world from being destroyed, Buffy now has to kill the man she loves, condemning him to hell. Just before she does this, she kisses him gently and whispers “Close your eyes…” In the beginning of the previous episode, we see a flashback in which his origin is revealed – the Vampire Darla sees a strapping young man who is also a bit of a drinker. She offers herself to him saying she can show him a new world. Just before she turns him, she whispers three words – “Close your eyes…“, and Angelus is born – another pivotal moment in the Buffy/Angel universe. These are some of the biggest events in the Buffy universe that left a wound that many fans have never completely healed from. These words are POWERFUL precursors to major events in Whedon’s previous works. Imagine my disappointment when in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the girl in the flower dress stands in front of Scorch and whispers these fateful words. OK – he DOES get kidnapped, but he is a minor character that didn’t even make it out of the episode. He was a red shirt! Why would they use this tactic for such a minor moment?
Now there are hundreds of thousands of fans who would like nothing more than to see Firefly revived (myself included) – but what I DON’T want is for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to be seen as a Firefly/Serenity imitation, or a rehash of Whedon’s previous works. Joss Whedon has proven time and again that he is capable creating new and wonderful worlds. This brings me back to the writers/producers/co-creators of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancheron. While Joss is involved with this show, he’s also busy weaving the fabric of Marvel’s cinematic universe – leaving the remainder of the team leading the creative charge. As I said before I love what Jed and Maurissa have done – but could it be possible that they are emulating Whedon’s work instead of adding to it?
Recently in an article Joss Whedon was quoted as saying: “It’s very important that we start creating new content again.” Whedon added, “We can only build on nostalgia so much before we have nothing left to build on. Before we’re rebooting Spider-Man—again. It’s dangerous to the culture, and it’s boring to me.” This is what I want to see. As much as I love everything else – I want to see Joss engaged in something that will engage him and bring out his genius. I don’t want to see his formula applied from existing works to something new. Is that what is happening? I hope this is not the case. I hope I am reading into this too much. I hope that this show, only 5 episodes in, mind you – finds its own tone and pacing.