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Amid all my joy about how good Season Three of Agents of SHIELD is, the news dropped this week that Captain Marvel was pushed back again for an Ant-Man sequel, named "Ant-Man and the Wasp". The announcement on came with a "The sequel will mark the first Marvel Studios film named after its heroine." line that made my blood pressure jump.

We've all been clamoring for a Black Widow movie since The Avengers. Everyone I know loved Hope Van Dyne in Ant-Man. The news about Captain Marvel stoked everyone I know who loves Carol. The announcement that her film would be shoved back to make room for Teenage White Dude Pisses Off A Radioactive Spider Again for the Sixth Time was brutally denounced across social media. Now they've done it again and this is how the frame it: the first Marvel Studios film named after its heroine, conveniently leaving out that she has to share it with a man.

If Ant-Man and the Wasp does terribly, I already see the opinion pieces that will lay the blame at the shared spotlight with a woman. I'm getting my cynicism everywhere, but I'm at a crossroads with the film side of Marvel Studios. They took a running leap from their place of success coming off The Winter Solider into a pool of arrogance so deep they'll never recover if these bets they're making at the expense of marginalized fans don't pay off. I don't think they'll fail, per se, but I also don't think that the parade of white men is going to be as bankable into the future as they're assuming.

We have a universe in which the lead roles for women are being relegated to television: Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD focusing a lot of its attention on the development and back stories of its women, and the upcoming Jessica Jones. Not even that will last forever: the shows following Jessica Jones are also about men, isolating her in a group of heroes as the lone woman hero, another common problem that's plagued the MCU across several films.

Many people with much more experience in film and television have pointed this out as the problem in the last decade. Women's roles tend to be better in television as they continually come up short in major Hollywood projects that have a huge international reach. I'm thankful that we get the television shows, because at this point Marvel doesn't seem invested in listening to the criticisms or tapping into the huge market they know is there for these things after the years of the media yelling about expanding into Black Widow's story. The success of Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel in the comics are signs that Marvel is just straight up ignoring. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about the industry to say why. Money? Plans for Phase 4? Disinterest in telling any stories besides those of white male heroes? Wanting to know what direction to go in once the current Infinity War story is tapped out?

I'm happy to see the Wasp getting her due; I wish it could have been in her own film like every other male hero has received thus far in this universe.

On the plus side, this week's episode of Agents of SHIELD was great. I'm trying to keep my expectations in check because I know how quickly this show likes to slide into mediocrity, but every storyline this week was fantastic. First, there was the main team working to investigate the evil monolith that ate Jemma with the help of an Asgardian, then Ward going Full Hydra and getting 100% more interesting as a character, and finally the revelation of May's whereabouts, full of so many great moments I could write an entire essay of feelings about all her scenes.

group of white dudes

The beginning scene shows society of old white dudes in the 19th century who regularly sacrificed one of their own to the evil monolith in some sort of weird ritual to test it and explore to discover its nature. They select one man by choosing rocks out of a bag, and the unlucky fellow with the white rock was destined to be monolith food. Old white men who were moneyed had time for supernatural adventures like this, after a fancy dinner with the good wine. They send one dude packing with "gifts" like a flimsy sword and a small pack of food as if he were going on a nature hike. Great adventuring skills from their best minds!

bobbi, skye, and lance holding back the evil monolith

The episode revs up by having the rest of the team rip Fitz away from the evil monolith after his nervous breakdown where he decides punching a giant rock would be productive. They discover something new: hella old sand! Of course him punching the rock would turn out to be productive this time. This breaks the case wide open with SCIENCE. Watching everyone step up and go, "YES let's solve the mystery of the giant evil monolith rock portal even if we have to discover Jemma's dead body!" was inspiring. Marvel's Agents of SHIELD: story of TRUE FRIENDSHIP.

fits in front of a large screen with data displays

Although I can't believe Coulson wouldn't even offer to get Fitz a sandwich. Be a pal, Coulson! It's not like you'd have to make it, gosh. All the cute character moments here were excellent: Coulson and Bobbi sniping at each other over Bobbi's weeks of covering for Fitz, Daisy, and Mack being super partners, and Bobbi being anxious to fly and do something at Coulson's offer. Even though I'm not super invested in Bobbi's relationship with Lance, I do find her towering over him pretty cute. I'm of two minds about Heroic Lance. I like that he owns up to wanting her in the lab doing science instead of chasing Ward due to his worry about her that is 100% him and nothing to do with her abilities. But does he really have to play the hero card? He couldn't just wait awhile? (The plot says no, my mind goes, "way to listen to what the the person you care about wants, bud!")

ward looking like a serious super villain

Now free from all the pesky morals that held him back from his true calling as a super villain, Ward has begun to rebuild Hydra by terrorizing its former leaders. In this case he drives a Hydra operative through a lair populated by his new, leaner recruits on the hood of his car to gain access to info about Wolfgang von Strucker's son, Werner von Strucker. Ward is so much more interesting this way because he's unpredictable, callous, and there's not even a hint of a redemption arc anywhere around him. Hydra leaders so far have largely been defined as a bunch of boring white men sitting atop of pile of privilege cushioned by extravagant finances. They're either politicians, corporate leaders, or men in other positions of power who wear nice suits and don't have to clean up the mess left behind after they kill people. This is not how Grant Ward defines himself.

andrew having none of your shit

This episode closed one of the biggest holes of "Laws of Nature" by bringing Andrew Garner back as the SHIELD psychologist and revealing May's location. Instead of a romantic vacation reuniting with her ex-husband, she's with her father helping him after a car accident and Andrew is assessing people for Coulson and Daisy's team of Inhumans. They don't seem to be on the greatest of terms, although its unclear why. May's not really speaking to anyone, is suffering from extreme paranoia (or is it!?), and wants to be done with the entirety of SHIELD for good.

may and her dad at the kitchen table

My favorite part of the episode was yet more father/daughter emotional connections, this time between May and her dad. Not only do we get those, we get backstory that helps define May's determination as well as her family life growing up. I spent my whole second viewing of the show grinning at the television as pictures of baby May appear and inspire emotional conversations. I was agog but super thrilled that they chose to deepen her character but also terrified, because as she tells Lance when he shows up to recruit her for his Ward-Killing mission, she's out. What does that mean for all this amazing, adorable backstory!? DON'T PLAY WITH MY FEELINGS, WRITERS.

bobbi, randolph, fitz and cousin standing in a group

To solve the mystery of the evil monolith portal, Coulson decides they should tap the Asgardian, Professor Randolph, who continues to be a sarcastic delight whenever he's on the show (also, I could just be projecting my feelings for him in Ghostbusters II onto this character, but I'm okay with that). Turns out the scroll that Fitz retrieved was actually useful if you were a time traveler/immortal/Asgardian, and leads to an ancient castle with a Steampunk Room addition that of course Fitz knows how to work immediately. One shaky adventure later after putting the evil monolith portal into the machine, Daisy is down for the count and the machine has broken apart. I felt really proud of myself for realizing that Daisy could make the evil monolith portal work before she collapsed, and then a friend reminded me that it was obvious so not to get too cocky.

group looking over the a deep hole

Because the Steampunk Room is a great big vibration engine to turn on the evil monolith portal, of course Daisy can save the day! But generally I'm not used to women being the answer or having the canonical power to solve these problems, so of course I was ambling along assuming Fitz would be the one to solve the problem and get the machine working again. But even as Fitz rambled, Daisy already knew what he was saying even though Coulson had giant question marks flashing above his head. Meanwhile, I didn't care because I was too busy fist pumping over Daisy getting to save the day again! Again, for the second time in a row! I hope this is the start of a beautiful relationship called Daisy/HEROICS.

daisy using her powers

Then of course Fitz dives into the evil monolith portal instead of the probe they hooked up, and I screeched out loud because OF COURSE HE DID and GODDAMNIT FITZ. I assumed, cynically, that as Fitz searched for Jemma, Daisy was going to be unable to hold the portal open and both Fitz and Simmons would be lost and our evil monolith portal would continue to be a feature, but no! Instead, Fitz triumphs! Daisy triumphs! Jemma comes back, resolving ongoing mystery #2, although I don't think she's possessed, sorry Ana. :P And watching Mack rush to her after the portal explodes and Fitz and Jemma are revealed to be okay was the greatest. I'm continuing to have so many feelings about Mack and Daisy as partners. He gave her a cute nickname! He's supportive! They banter! He recognized her strength and they disagree respectfully with each other. He calls her the cute nickname after dramatic, tense events. Dear show, please continue this trend.

jemma holding a weapon in front of her

In Season Two, the person beaten down and changed was Fitz. This season Jemma gets to fill that role. Jemma attempted to solve some of her and Fitz's problems by leaving to go undercover in Hydra, hoping Fitz would improve away from her influence and the reminder of what had happened between them. I'm curious how that's going to play out here since Jemma spent months completely lost and alone. After Jemma wakes up from a nightmare, armed and ready to fight, she slips off the bed to curl into Fitz, who is sleeping against the wall. This is both heartwarming and so bittersweet, because now their tentative relationship is once again derailed by one of them being injured. I worry, because in general when shows play the will they/won't they game, they eventually resolve all the obstacles and come down on the side of "YES!" and then don't know how to handle it or to keep developing the characters in light of their relationships. They do okay with Lance and Bobbi, who had a previous romantic relationship, but with Jemma and Fitz we've watched them grow up on this team. We know they've never been anything but friends, and we know they're dealing with a lot of baggage. I'm a little concerned it's not going to be handled that well. Show, there is no such thing as magical healing dick. Don't get any ideas.

randolph looking super disturbed and worried

Randolph is pleased that the portal is destroyed and no one can accidentally or on purpose jam him through it. He really dislikes portals; it's nice to know Asgardians can have totally legit phobias! He's confused by Daisy, and when Coulson tells him she's Inhuman, the way his face changes is fascinating. Yes, show, please give me some delicious foreshadowing to make myself nuts over. Thank you! The Asgardians and SHIELD's relationship with some of them (especially their relationship with Coulson's team specifically) have become fairly important as the show has progressed, and so with the Inhuman storyline coming to the forefront, I hope this means this isn't the last we'll see of them. But although Randolph is great, I vote more Sif.

may and her dad sitting on the couch

May's reluctance to return to SHIELD leads to some great metaphorical conversations with her dad, who lays down the inspirational guilt trip smoother than warm peanut butter. I was teary after he brought out the picture and reminded her that she always got up off the ice after she fell. SUPPORTIVE DADS FOR DAUGHTERS 2015! It also reveals that perhaps her inability to reconnect with Andrew was that she decided she wanted to leave SHIELD while he was realizing that he felt needed due to the unstable nature of Coulson's current team and the new team that Daisy was trying to build. Their phone call at the end to discuss Jemma's return and his tentative reach out to her was The Worst. Direct jab to the heart!

ward and his new minion standing in an empty warehouse in front of the hydra logo

But of course, she can't come back to SHIELD or to work with Andrew, because although the accident that caused her father to be hurt probably wasn't Ward targeting her parents, she'll never know for sure. Taking down Ward is one avenue out of the paranoia. Her status is still up in the air: taking care of Ward will resolve some of her paranoia, but will it help her stop worrying? Will she return to SHIELD once he's finished, or will she opt to leave completely? I suspect we're not going to know for awhile and her choice will hinge on how the confrontation with Ward and Hydra plays out. May hasn't really made her choice yet; she's only deferred it for the time being.

andrew looking at ward's new minion who is in disguise

And of course, the episode closes by validating her paranoia by showing that there were multiple reasons for Ward to go after the heir of Wolfgang von Strucker's legacy. It's easy to forget that Melinda May understands Grant Ward in a way a lot of people don't. We can easily think of Ward as a brute force, kidnapping von Strucker's kid only for access to his finances. But Ward is more of sharp implement, which was horrifyingly set up in Season 2 as he tortured Bobbi. Ward is all the worst parts of SHIELD and the most lethal parts of Hydra, and it makes him extremely dangerous in a way he hasn't since the end of the first season where he walked Skye out of their hidden bunker. He's turning into the non-comedic version of Garret, who never realized just what type of monster he was creating. Grant Ward is officially a monster factory.

More thoughts:
  • Is it just me, or is Coulson a little darker this season, falling out of his quippy nice guy routine more often to land in quippy asshole instead?

  • Bobbi rolling her eyes every time Randolph goes on and on about objectifying women is my jam.

  • Okay, I shouldn't laugh at all the terrible jokes May's father made about marriage and May's mother, but the actor was so on point in the delivery that I couldn't help it. This is so similar to my own experience of parents who are separated and at odds that the tone of every conversation was excellent. Families can be screwed up.

  • Again with Lance being the one to go after Ward; I felt a little reassured that he'll have May with him since apparently he can't even knock on a door without getting put in a knife choke hold. Oh, May, what have you gotten yourself into? Please take hella weapons.

  • Coulson being unable to call Daisy by the name she's chosen: HMM. There are pros and cons to Daisy owning her name, but I came down on the pro side. Her parents were not good people and did horrible things, but Daisy always wanted to know where she came from and who she was. They gave her that: a past, even if it was messy. They also gave her a name. I like that she takes it away as a positive thing from her experience with Jiaying and Cal, rather than just another bad memory. There's something there with this mistake: I wonder if eventually Coulson and Daisy will confront each other over it?

  • "You did good, Tremors." HOLD ME.

3x01 - "Laws of Nature"3x03 - "A Wanted (Inhu)Man"

Date: 2015-10-12 01:01 pm (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
My feelings on Peter Parker can be summed up as "You had your turn. LET SOMEONE ELSE HAVE A GO" and I like comics!Peter.

I can't believe we have to wait even longer for a solo woman-led superhero movie.


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