Last season, The Flash was hailed by many as the best superhero show on TV and won awards and fans all across the board. Meanwhile, Agents of SHIELD managed to consistently improve and is one of the most tightly-plotted shows on television. Both have had time to recover, reflect on the mistakes they’ve made and fix up any faults they may have suffered from. But did they?
The Flash’s season 2 premier has impressed its fanbase, who still hail it as the best there is, although more weak writing and plot holes have seeped through and the criticisms of some viewers are becoming increasingly vocal. Agents of SHIELD isn’t without its faults either, although theirs are in different areas. So… what could The Flash learn from its rival?
1) Love the ensemble:
Both shows have a big cast of characters, both have a male and female scientist team as backup, and both shows try to project a “team spirit” sort of feel. Agents of SHIELD succeeds at making everyone seem necessary and that they have a place in the show. Agent May not only kick ass but she has family issues. FitzSimmons have a relationship which makes it understandable why they care about each other. Daisy/Quake has become more than just someone who helps out, she’s become a pivotal character. They’re all involved, and in more ways than just helping out in the lab.
With Team Flash, as they call themselves, most of their lives seem to involve just standing or sitting around in STAR Labs. They’ve shown them outside the office when necessary, but they’ve hardly shown us enough to make us believe they have anything even closely resembling a real life. Cisco walks in with a new toy, or Professor Stein comes up with a theory, and those are good moments. But what was the last important thing Caitlin really did other than pine over Ronnie Raymond? Joe’s a great character, but lately as a cop he’s done little, and mostly just gives Barry a pep talk every now and again.
Iris… that’s a grey area. After being little more than a damsel in distress or complaining to anyone for any reason in the first season (and making us wonder why Barry is even in love with her at all), season 2’s premiere actually had her being useful and – more importantly – likeable. It’s hard to know if the new season is going to continue developing her in this way, but it’s a promising start. Now if only they could make the same improvements with other characters.
2) Pick a name:
In Agents of SHIELD, Skye has evolved in more ways than one over the course of the last two seasons. She’s gone from human hacker to Inhuman powerhouse. Wait, did we say Skye? Her real name is Daisy. She calls herself Daisy and so does everyone else… except for Coulson who has to keep reminding himself (and the audience) to call her by her real name now. It’s smart writing.
In The Flash, everyone keeps referring to the Reverse-Flash as Harrison Wells even though he’s made it quite clear that his name is Eobard Thawne. Yes, Thawne killed the real Wells and stole his identity and yes, he’s fooled everyone for years. But Team Flash found the real Wells’s body and know who the Reverse-Flash really is. It’s been over six months and they (and many fans) still say the Reverse-Flash was Harrison Wells. Old habits can be hard to break, but it’s just wrong that nobody’s even attempted to get this right.
Wells was a good man, they even showed that. Eobard Thawne might have pretended to be Harrison Wells, but Harrison Wells definitely wasn’t Eobard Thawne. Even a little reference here and there pointing that out, similar to Coulson getting confused over Daisy’s name, would go a long way towards fixing that. Isn’t it time Eobard Thawne got the infamy he deserves, by name?
They say that insanity is making the same mistakes over and over in the belief that things will work out better. SHIELD has managed to make its way through three seasons by adapting to changes both within the Marvel Universe (SHIELD being infiltrated by Hydra) and fan expectations, constantly growing and finding its footing. Yet within the show, they haven’t changed the rules as to who they are and what they do. Whatever they say or do, they stick with it.
The Flash ignores its own rules, something proven once again with the premiere of season 2. Despite what’s been shown in season 1 (and was then forgotten about ever since), Barry races to STAR Labs in his civilian attire which remains remarkably intact. This includes his shoes, which looked just fine even though the soles should be smoking. They clearly pointed out in a great moment with Felicity that his normal shoes can’t handle superspeed, but time and again they’ve ignored this. Where’s the consistency? At least if Cisco pointed out he’d chemically altered Barry’s shoes to be friction-resistant it would be something. And whatever happened to Barry needing to eat more to keep his metabolism balanced? Still, if you think that’s bad, how about Al Rothstein – better known to comic book fans as Atom Smasher?
Yes, in the JSA he was a good guy (mostly) and I can easily accept that the one they showed in the show was the Atom Smasher of Earth-2… especially since another Al Rothstein was shown dead at the beginning of the episode. But did nobody on Team Flash question how the Earth-1 Al Rothstein could be killed now, when Eobard Thawne (as Dr. Wells) clearly told them that Rothstein had died in the original particle accelerator “accident” back in the season 1 episode Power Outage? Now they claim Rothstein wasn’t even in Central City when that accident occurred, but in Hawaii. Unless this is all revealed to be some complex cunning plan and that Team Flash has been suffering from amnesia, it’s poor work and they could take a lesson from the competition.
4) Character is key:
When you look at Coulson and his team, they all know what they’re doing and what their role is within SHIELD. FitzSimmons may have gotten involved in the action at times, but they’re lab jockeys and do that job well. Agent May, Bobbi and Coulson are experts in doing the covert spy work. Daisy, Mac and Hunter are the muscle. Not only that, but they stay true to who they are and what they’re supposed to be.
In The Flash, it’s hit-and-miss. Cisco may be the fanboy inventor but Dr. Caitlin Snow hasn’t proven much worth as a scientist lately – especially after last season’s woeful question of “What’s a singularity?” Likewise, Barry’s a scientist too and one of the joys of the comics has been how he’s used his intelligence to his advantage. In the show he’s little more than a monkey doing the job, while his science team grind the organ and advise him constantly in the background. The show really needs to start figuring out how to make these characters more believable.
Barry makes plenty of bonehead moves, ones which we could originally chalk up to rookie mistakes. Yet he’s still making them. For example, his second fight against Atom Smasher. Despite being physically outmatched by the powerhouse the first time around, the best he can come up with is to use the same strategy of just throwing punches at the giant. He’s supposed to be a smart guy, but it really doesn’t show and the writers need to start making these characters true to who they’re supposed to be.
5) A touch of realism:
Both of these are comic book properties and deal with the realms of the fantastic, so nobody’s expecting a documentary here packed with solid facts. But the shows still have to be real enough to suspend the disbelief of the viewers, and that means they have to seem real in some way. Thanks to Agents of SHIELD’s tight plotting, there’s very little left to chance and there isn’t anything done without sufficiently believable motivation. Agent May quits the team? We know why and it makes sense. Ward wants to re-build Hydra? We can understand that too.
The Flash’s season 2 premiere offered quite possibly the dumbest moment ever: Henry Allen is released from jail based on the word of a dead man, no questions asked, even if the man confessing happened to be in a police-recorded car crash all the way over in Starling City on the same night. Then, after spending 14 years away from his son in jail, the newly-free Henry has some cake and leaves town, and his son seems okay with that despite having jumped through hoops to rescue him.
Toss in the fact that nobody on the planet thinks it’s important to know why a “freak wormhole” opened up above the city and nearly destroyed the Earth, or why our scientific team don’t think it’s weird that the timeline wasn’t reset completely if the Reverse-Flash truly never existed (Barry’s mom should be alive, as should the real Dr. Wells, and there’s no way Thawne could have left a video will for anybody) and the whole show looks like it’s full of plot-holes.