The Bad Guys On Agents Of SHIELD Were Bad Guys After All
Monty Ashley isn't a crackpot. He just thinks obvious storylines aren't improved by talking about how obvious they are.
Some television shows rely on surprises for their narrative drive. A character the audience thought was good will turn out to be bad. Earth is actually getting closer to the sun instead of farther away. Unless it was the other way around. Technology seems helpful at first, but then it's a Black Mirror situation.
On this week's Agents Of SHIELD, we're treated to another angle on things. Remember Dr. Radcliffe, the scientist with a shaky grasp on ethics? Turns out he's still got a shaky grasp on ethics. Remember that robot lady he built? The one that learned all that dark magic? Turns out she's killing people and trying to gain more power. I know -- crazy, right? The character that was introduced as a bad guy is being revealed as a bad guy, and the self-aware AI was a bad idea after all. Everybody's exactly what they appeared to be, which is kind of the opposite of a twist.
I am not a crackpot, but you can't hide an obvious plot by having characters comment on the obviousness.
Mack spends much of the episode complaining that robots inevitably turn evil, because he lives in a universe where that happens pretty regularly. Ultron, for example. And also Roombas are evil in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it doesn't get mentioned much. What does get mentioned a lot is how the evening's festivities mirror those of a variety of movies, like Terminator and Maximum Overdrive.
The idea appears to be that Mack stands in for the audience. If it starts to occur to us that a robot uprising is something we've seen before, we're supposed to be distracted by seeing one of the characters within the show commenting on it. But while Mack is asking if he's the only one who's seen a movie from the 1980s, I'm wondering if Westworld exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or if it at least exists in the offices of the people that write Agents Of SHIELD, because if you're going to have a plot about self-aware robots rising up against their human masters, I think it's now a rule that there should be cowboy hats involved.
Listen, I'm not opposed to an obvious plot development. Obviously this magic-using android woman is going to be a problem. Just let it happen and everybody's going to be cool with it. It's the characters are wandering around, cracking wise about how obvious things are, like that somehow immunizes the show from doing the obvious thing.
And what about the anti-Inhuman crusader Senator Nadeer? She's been obviously evil ever since she was played by Parminder Nagra, who wasn't going to be on this show just to stand around in the background. But there was a feint toward something more interesting, where her brother turned out to be Inhuman and she seemed to be basically okay with it. But then she was going to kill him, so she was evil again. But then she saved him! And then killed him. So...still evil, then? Great. And that whole thing about getting Simmons to get her brother out of the Terrigenesis cocoon? Blind alley. Just a waste of time on the way to finding out that the person who seemed to be evil is, in fact, evil. It's like the show ran out of budget for the music that goes behind shocking betrayals, so the producers decided to just have the bad guys be the bad guys for a while.
Let me be clear: I do not mind obvious plots. There are a lot of television shows, and most of the good twists have been used. But don't have the characters talk about how predictable things are. That's just cheating. I am not a crackpot.