Agents of SHIELD has made its way into the category of “current good” in my band’s mythos, and I am, as they say, disappoint. That sounds contradictory, but it’s not; let me explain.

Core Crime and the Forces of Evil mythos is that we were superheroes who lost a war to our world’s supervillains. In a universe with superheroes, that means villainy triumphant gets to decide what’s right and good; the victorious villains become the new super-heroes.

This isn’t some cosmic event, it’s not even magic; as a rule, humans basically go along with whoever is in charge. Once the supervillains have the power, well, there y’go. And if you don’t go along – well, somebody has to be the new super-villains, don’t they? Good, evil, whatever – we’re just the supervillain enemies of the new order.

SHIELD, now – SHIELD has long been a clandestine secrecy, surveillance, and enforcement organisation that is above the common law. There are laws they follow, apparently, but these, too, are secret. SHIELD threatens and intimidates and disappears people and things that We Aren’t Meant to Know, and are sole and unaccountable deciders of these matters.

At least, if you lack the money and power to prevent it, like, say, Mr. Stark.

And all that’s fine; you have evil and intrinsically corrupt organisations all the time. But the show appears to expect us to be on their side. They are the paradigm. Oh, they get their hands a bit dirty, but who doesn’t?

Why don’t we take a look at that?

With “The Girl in the Flower Dress,” what do we have? (Spoilers, ahoy…)

We have explicit derision of the idea that “we” can afford the luxury of law, rights, and process. We don’t have “time” for that.

We can have our “heroes” being kind by giving someone the option of having any chance they have of using their skills to earn a living destroyed, and being stranded without passport illegally outside their country which means they can’t go home, instead of being locked away forever without trial or appeal. That’s being kind.

We’re shown an execution of someone whose crime was not hiding his abilities completely enough. Don’t get that wrong; they made a call to execute him. Sure, he was dangerous, I’m not pretending otherwise, but they made a call: we’re just going to kill him. “Those tranquilliser rounds were his last chance,” they said, as they decided to inject him with poison instead of other tranquillisers. And the structure of the setup, in the script? He didn’t hide himself well enough. He got himself in trouble. Therefore, he must die.

All for a basic superpower that I could duplicate with 20 minutes of tinkering at Radio Shack.

We have our ‘subversive’ information-should-be-free/people-have-a-right-to-know/privacy-matters character having Learned Her Lesson, so she now knows How Important this Secrecy And All This Stuff Is To Saving Lives. She’s even tasked with delivering the line about how SHIELD doesn’t have “time for” due process and all that rights crap. Or, if you prefer to think that’s Skye just playing along, you get the alternative end-of-episode explanation: her real goal the whole time hasn’t been any of these ideals, but to find out about her parents – that’s all she really cares about. In short: she’s a fraud.

We have our second representative of this “hacktivist” organisation having already Learned His Lesson off-screen, and whose only actual crime is selling out to the wrong people. Most importantly, he, too, had learned how foolish all this right-to-know stuff is, because there’s no money in it; he, too, is a fraud.

And we have every other character already enthusiastically onboard, a part of the machine.

Now, you can make the argument that this is all long-con setup for how awful SHIELD is, and that it’ll get inverted as it goes. We’re only five episodes in, after all. I most certainly hope that argument is correct.

But that would require a degree of writing sophistication we have not yet seen at any level in this show. Sure, it’s been improving every week. I’m almost to the point where I’d be willing to let Specialist Truthserum die without tremendous, excruciating pain – tho’ make no mistake, he still needs to die. The last two episodes, including this one, have been really quite solid B-level entertainment.

That’s B-level entertainment, not the kind of smart and clever you need to be to pull off the kind of thematic inversion we’re talking about here.

So, what do we have so far? So far, we have yet another post-9/11 “we need constant endemic surveillance and there’s no time for the luxury of rights and due process, we’ll imprison people forever without trial because IT’S IMPORTANT!” show.

It’s exactly the kind of show full of exactly the kinds of heroes and ideals I’d expect to see in my post-supervillainy-triumphant Crime and the Forces of Evil mythos. The heroes doing all these things are in the right, it’s good and necessary; there is no principled opposition, there are only fraudsters playing their own agendas.

Really, the only missing element is the critical importance and fundamental effectiveness of torture, though there’s still plenty of time to work that in. On the other hand, we got hammered with that already in 24, where torture always works and always produces vital truth to Keep You Safe, so I suppose it’s a tad redundant.

So, there you have it. Agents of SHIELD – a look into the alterverse of Crime and the Forces of Evil, on your very own television screens each and every week. Seeing as I’m in the opposition, well… like I said above. So far, at least, I am disappoint.

eta: Cora Buhlert is also disappoint, for some of the same reasons, but also and particularly on issues of race.