Lessons For Writers From Agents Of Shield – Part 2

by J.J.Foxe on October 9, 2013

This is the second part in an ongoing series following the Joss Whedon produce series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  If you’ve not read the first in the series you probably should.  You can find it here:



You’ll get the most value out of this article if you’ve already seen Episodes 1 and 2.  If you haven’t, I recommend finding them on the Interwebz and watching them.  In the UK you can find them on the Channel 4 website.  In the US you can find them on the ABC website.

The Main Thing(s) I Was Looking For In Episode 2

The main thing I was looking for in this episode was to see how much of the ongoing story would be alluded to in this new episode.  Now obviously until we have a clearer idea of that ongoing story it may be difficult to pick those elements out.

Here are the main ongoing story threads that are present in Episode 2:

  1. The coming together of the characters as a team – there’s a scene about a third of the way in when all of Coulson’s team are arguing. To solve the problem in Episode 2 – and make sure the 0-8-4 doesn’t fall into the hands of Reyes – they have to work together to overcome Reyes’s soldiers.
  2. Ward and Skye.  They have a couple of character moments…and Ward talks with May about Skye becoming an asset. May says that she needs a good Control, clearly meaning Ward.
  3. Who is Skye?  At the beginning of Episode 2 Ward objects to Skye joining them because she’s a risk. At the end of Episode 2 she gets an encrypted message from The Rising Tide asking for her status.  She sends a message: ‘I’m In.’
  4. There are three specific mentions that tie in to the mystery of Coulson’s death/rebirth. When Reyes accuses him of having a mid life crisis he says: “Afterlife crisis, actually.”  He tells Skye that he took a Chitauri sceptre through the heart – and we get another mention of Tahiti, a magical place.

What We Didn’t Get In Episode 2

One thing I don’t know is how many episodes are planned for this Season – and so I don’t know how long the writers have got to play with.

But the really interesting story questions for me are to do with The Rising Tide and who the ‘bad guys’ were in Episode 1.  The latter were totally ignored, and Skye talks briefly about The Rising Tide when she’s having a drink with Ward.  And she makes it sound like it’s an ideal more than anything.

The encrypted message she gets at the end of the show tells us otherwise.

Some Whedonisms That Cropped Up And I Noticed

I’ve really enjoyed the first two episodes.  I’ve found I’ve had to watch them (usually with my kids) and then think about these articles and watch them again on my own.

I’m loving the snappy dialogue between the characters – it reminds me of Firefly and Serenity.

And I was (pleasantly) surprised that Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) had a two-minute cameo at the end of Episode 2.  Joss Whedon loves featuring actors he’s worked with – there was also an appearance for Ron Glass (Shepherd Book from Firefly) in Episode 1.

With Joss Whedon’s involvement you’d also expect strong female characters – and Skye, May and Simmons are all great characters in their own way.

One other “Whedonism” I spotted – when Skye drops off her van at the Shield facility and gets onboard the airplane she takes a figurine with her.  And there’s a short scene where she’s lying in her bunk looking at it.  Simultaneously I was wondering what significance it had – and it reminded me of Wash’s dinosaurs (again, Firefly and Serenity).

A Writing Lesson From Episode 2

There’s a great writing tip that you can pick up from watching Episode 2.  We already know that May is pretty kick ass – we saw her take an assassin down in the train station showdown in Episode 1.

But watch the Episode closely and there are two instances where dialogue is used that helps tells us more about May in a way that doesn’t require exposition.

Around the 7 minute mark there’s an exchange outside the Incan temple between May and Ward that goes something like this:

Ward:  Where’s your sidearm?

May:  If I need a gun I’ll take one.

Ward: I forgot I was working with the Cavalry.

She gives him a glare then says: Don’t ever call me that.

Seconds later they are involved in combat and May disarms two assailants and takes their guns.

Then at around the 25-minute mark May, Ward, Fitz, Simmons and Skye are chained in the hold and talking about what to do.  (May is unconscious)

Fitz says he should have learned Kung Fu.  Skye says that it wouldn’t have happened if May hadn’t been ‘on the stick.’  She would have busted out some of her kung fu moves.

Fitz says: Agent May?  No, no, she transferred from administration.

Skye: Well I’ve seen her destroy a guy, so…

Fitz and Simmons look at Ward.

Ward: You’ve heard about The Cavalry?

Fitz and Simmons both nod as if they are being told something really obvious.

Fitz: Everyone at the Academy talks about The Cavalrywait

Fitz and Simmons: SHE’S THE CAVALRY.

May sits up and says: I told you never to call me that.

Moments later she dislocates her wrist to get out of the ropes that are tying them up, and then disables the guard looking over them.

But because we’ve seen her able to take care of herself in a fight, and because of these two exchanges, we KNOW she can kick ass. The other interesting thing we want to know is what happened to her back in the day: Coulson apologizes to her because she was involved in a combat situation earlier in the episode.

So that’s a really neat exposition trick – let the other characters in the story talk about a character and give the audience an expectation of what the character they are talking about can do by the way they talk about her.  Very clever.


Episode 3 – which is called The Asset – aired tonight in the US and airs on Friday in the UK.  There will be a third episode in this series of articles to follow.

If you’ve got any writing lessons – whether story oriented or otherwise – from this series, don’t hesitate to share by dropping a comment.



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