Lessons For Writers From Agents Of Shields – Part 10

by J.J.Foxe on January 5, 2014

 

This is the tenth part in an ongoing series following the Joss Whedon produced series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  If you’ve not read the earlier instalments in this series for writers you probably should.

You can find Part 1 here:

http://jjfoxe.com/lessons-for-writers-from-agents-of-shields-part-1

And Part 2 is here:

http://jjfoxe.com/lessons-for-writers-from-agents-of-shield-part-2

And Part 3 is here:

http://jjfoxe.com/lessons-for-writers-from-agents-of-shield-part-3

And Part 4:

http://jjfoxe.com/lessons-for-writers-from-agents-of-shield-part-4

And Part 5:

http://jjfoxe.com/lessons-for-writers-from-agents-of-shield-part-5

And Part 6:

http://jjfoxe.com/lessons-for-writers-from-agents-of-shield-part-6

And Part 7:

http://jjfoxe.com/lessons-for-writers-from-agents-of-shield-part-7

And Part 8:

http://jjfoxe.com/lessons-for-writers-from-agents-of-shield-part-8

And Part 9

http://jjfoxe.com/lessons-for-writers-from-agents-of-shields-part-9

SPOILERS

You’ll get the most value out of this article if you’ve already seen the first nine episodes.  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.  You can also buy them on the iTunes store.

A Précis Of Episode 10 – Bridge

For some reason there’s a mid-season break after Episode 10 – I’ll talk about this below – and this episode has a big cliffhanger at the end of it.

There are also lots of threads from previous episodes that pick up in Episode 10.

The Episode starts with a break out at Havenworth Penitentiary.  The person who is broken out – who is called Edison Po – is the guy that Raina spoke with at the end of Episode 5 (The Girl With The Flower Dress).  And Po is broken out by ‘super soldiers’ – guys who are fitted with Centipede implants and who have superhuman strength.

The Shield Team gets involved in this – because of the super soldiers displaying super human strength and close ups of on site video footage reveal the Centipede implants.

To help deal with these super soldiers if they catch up with them, Coulson calls in Mike Peterson from Episode 1. May is against this – but Coulson outranks her.

They have a facial recognition on one of the soldiers and they track him down via his sister.  However when they arrive at the warehouse unit in Oakland California it appears abandoned.

And it is – apart from the three Centipede super soldiers. After a fight where Mike is injured two of the super soldiers flee and one of the others is rendered senseless.  Before they can interrogate him, his eye does the ‘blood thang’ from Episode 4 and he dies.  (Tying Centipede to the people controlling Amidor in Episode 4).

Before the super solider is killed though, Raina and Po get a view of Mike and Coulson.  And Po tells Raina that there is the answer to her problems (in getting their plan from Stage 2 to Stage 3 – see below on misdirection.)

Peterson’s son is then kidnapped by Raina and her crew – and they offer up a trade.  The kicker is that when Mike and Coulson get to the trade it is revealed that they don’t want Mike – they want Coulson.

Peterson’s son is returned and Coulson is kidnapped.  Mike tries to go back and help and there is a big explosion that appears to engulf him followed by a helicopter fleeing the scene.

Inside the helicopter are Po, Raina and Coulson.  Raina tells Coulson: we want you to tell us about the day you died.

The episode ends on this cliffhanger.

The Continuing Story?

All of the main threads of the continuing story have been touched upon in this episode.  For the first time in the series there was a quick ‘previously on Agents of Shields’ recap.  (But I don’t know whether this reminder was deemed necessary due to these story threads being revealed over several episodes – or because of the strange scheduling that’s been going on with the series since it premiered in September.)

It appears that we’re finally going to learn what happened to Coulson in the next episode (thanks to the trailer).  And it also seems that the story behind Sky’s parents and/or who dropper her off at the orphanage is going to run for a while yet.

Also – and much lower key – is the relationship between Ward and May.  There are a couple of oblique references to it between Ward and May.  And when Ward and Coulson are out in the field, Ward asks about relationships between agents. Coulson says that in his experience that’s asking for trouble.

What will be interesting is to see if the writers tie up why the people behind the ‘eye spy’ technology (Episode 4) were getting former Shield Agent Akela Amidor to photograph the symbols on the white board in the science lab.

The use of Mike Peterson from Episode 1 was unexpected too…and it will be interesting to see if Mike was killed in the blast on the bridge or if he survived. And if he survived will he continue to work with Shield after what happened?  (Earlier in the Episode, Coulson says people deserve a second chance, but there will be no third chance.)

Writing Lessons From Episode 10

The Importance Of Scheduling

I’ve paid no interest to ratings for Agents Of Shields – except being peripherally interested in seeing if the show got enough ratings to get the green light for a complete series.

But I saw via Twitter last week, that in the US the ratings had dropped for this episode.  And I’d say that part of the blame for this lies in the scheduling of the episodes.

For example, here in the UK they only showed one or two new episodes in December.  And there’s been a break of three weeks before Episode 11 airs over here.  Now, in the age of Netflix that’s not good enough.  And is definitely going to cause the numbers to drop off.

Why have a weekly show and then publish on a different timetable?

Writers can learn from this too. If you’re writing serials of any description, make sure you give your audience a schedule that they can expect you to publish on.  And make sure you stick to that schedule.

If I wasn’t writing this series of articles I’d probably have forgotten about the next episode of Agents….despite the cliffhangers in play.  Big lesson I think.

Misdirection

There’s a great piece of misdirection in this Episode.  It involves Coulson’s kidnapping.

It’s set up like this: Raina has a conversation with Po where they talk about the problems their ‘super soldiers’ still face (e.g. post operation exhaustion), and what the solution might be.

When they encounter Mike Peterson working with Shield, Raina posits he might be the solution they need.

The next event in this mini plot thread is that through the eyes of the dying super soldier they see Peterson bending forward with Coulson in the background.  And Po says: this is the man is the key to your Stage 3.

Then we have the kidnapping of Mike’s son.  And the trade on the Bridge follows.  Only the kicker is that they want Coulson, not Mike.

We still don’t truly know why they want Coulson.  But this thread was brilliantly set up in a way that when it paid off it made sense, but was never telegraphed in the episode.

There are plenty of ways you can use this kind of misdirection in your writing…both for large and small events.

Character Dialogue

Although they have a relatively minor part in this episode, I’m continually drawn to the dialogue of the characters Fitz and Simmons.  Every character should have a unique way of speaking (and acting) – and Fitz and Simmons are great examples of this.  (Skye is too, but to a lesser extent).

An example of this:  when the Shield team watch the super soldiers break out Po and they get the close up on the Centipede device, Simmons says: “So we were right.  Chan’s platelets solved their combustion problem. Now they can create super soldiers with no fear of explosions.”

And she’s almost giddy with excitement about the scientific aspect of that – before Fitz has to remind her not to get excited about it.

The scene when Simmons is measuring Mike for his suit also contains examples of good character dialogue.  (In a TV show some of this may come from the actors rather than the writers…but for us fiction guys it’s something we’ve got to do on our own).

Summary

Episode 11 is not scheduled until Tuesday in the US, and Friday in the UK – as discussed above, it’s hard to build momentum for a series (of any sort) where the episodes drip out irregularly.  But that episode looks really interesting – it’s entitled “The Magical Place” and the trailer appears to let us know what the big secret of Coulson’s death or otherwise after the battle of New York is.

When it airs in the UK, I’ll post the next in this series.

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

Postscript

I’m really frustrated by the scheduling that’s happening with the show.  Additionally the show hasn’t lived up to my expectations for what it could be.  So whilst I plan to carry on and do this kind of analysis on the remaining episodes, I ALSO plan to rewatch the available episodes of Firefly and do a similar analysis of each episode.  So watch out for those!

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