The Hands, Head and Heart of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In an earlier post I explained my theory of the tripartite composition of man. In short, I believe that people can be explained as being governed by their heads, their hands and their hearts. I believe that this composition is visible in the ensemble cast of Marvel's AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.:

Agents Ward and May are the Hands, i.e., they are people of action; they get things done. In episode 2, "0-8-4," Ward even says that he is trained to be the 'solution.' The first two episodes very clearly revel them to be action-oriented.  They do not speak much, but let their deeds do the talking for them. 

People of action often act and then consider the consequences afterwards. They  live by the motto "shoot first, ask questions later." Indeed, Agent May appears to be suffering from regret for some (as yet) unspecified action.  Agent Ward is still young and gung-ho, and perhaps we will see May help him reconsider determination to always act first.

Fitz and Simmons: Although its still a little early yet, and their characters are still being fleshed out, these two represent the Head to me. They are the lab rats, the ones who use their brains to figure out the problem using smarts and SCIENCE!  There is concern that they are not prepared for field work, especially if there is violence present and that they are no good to the team if things get messy. But in their home environment, they are tops, and everyone else is lost (note how many times Ward asks them to "speak English").

Coulson and Skye: At last we come to the Heart of the series. Coulson is the team leader. He is the natural bridge between the Head and the Hands, those figure things out by studying, and those who get things done by hard work.  In his review of THE AVENGERS (and before he knew that Coulson would return), Daniel Butcher, one of he co-hosts of the excellent WELCOME TO LEVEL 7 podcast, lamented the fact that when Coulson was apparently killed by Loki, director Joss Whedon and the producers "ripped the heart out of the film."

It has been noted by Butcher and his co-host Ben Avery that in the Marvel films leading up to THE AVENGERS that Agent Phil Coulson (a character previously unknown in the comics) functions as a sort of stand-in for the audience member who is learning what is going on here with these superheroes suddenly appearing and making their presences felt.  We see this new world through his eyes.  He is humble and down to earth. While Ward and May and Fitz and Simmons are characters that we dream about being, Coulson is who we really hope to be.

In the TV series, Coulson is a little more aware of what is going on, and a little more serious. I agree that he is sill someone we can identify with, but he is also now a little more assertive, especially with his team when they offer hopeless assessments ("Don't ever tell me there's no way!") or when he reminds his bickering team of their capabilities and then tells them to "figure it out" and learn to get along.

It should also be noted that as the main protagonist of the series, Coulson also fulfills many of the other parts of the team. he can be clearly seen thinking through the problem, and taking action when necessary.  Still, I think his primary function is that of the heart of the team.

Skye, then, is our new point of entry to the world within the series. She is an idealistic hacker who views SHIELD as a faceless monolithic government agency that keeps the people in the dark about the wold around them. She is also like Coulson, the Heart. She feels deeply for the disenfranchised and powerless and is seeking to do something about it when she is recruited by SHIELD. She becomes conflicted when her neat, preconceived ideals about what SHIELD is doing is faced with the reality that actually talking to the other agents presents her. It is a strong reminder that dialogue is better than prejudice.

Again, the series is still new, and I understand that the characters are still developing. It will be interesting to see the different directions he writers, directors and producers take the show. But for now, I like what I see and am certain that this, like nearly all of Joss Whedon's projects, has a great deal of depth behind the fun, action-adventure comic-book series facade.

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