Technically, I may not need it, but whatever, it's Marvel Time: I am watching all the Iron Mans, Thors, Captain Americas, and Avengers, but not Black Widow because hey, they haven't made her a movie. And Agents of Shield, because it exists.
When everyone talked about Agent May, I didn't know a.) it was Ming-Na Wen and b.) she is a badass that other badasses want to be in their next life since they're outclassed as fuck in this one and might as well just wait for the turn of the wheel and hope for the best (best: may be almost as awesome).
Sue me, I resented the show; mea fucking culpa, May doesn't even need a gun. My bad, fine. I was wrong. I was wrong about this show. I would have barreled through pretty much anything (except Stargate Universe, but I might now, just on principle) to watch May the broody pilot with a dark past who outclasses the known world and a lot of the unknown. Do you not get this, my favorite characters were Tom Paris and John Sheppard; she's my type but better since Tom couldn't fight and John could only selectively fight.
(Holy shit, they gave me a female character that is my type. Christ. I love this show.)
May's development utterly fascinated me, mostly because I was worried--like a lot--that Ward would open up the warm and fuzzy (ugh, gross) but no; it was her choice, and a hard one, just like wanting to return to combat, to face her own demons, and to do it for Coulson and eventually her team. And it was possibly the best part of my night when May told Ward (ugh, gross) that she'd deliberately said Skye wasn't of any use on the mission because she would be of use on the ground doing what she did best because May is that goddamn awesome. Coulson was a total asshole to her (seriously, Coulson? SERIOUSLY?) and she walked away to do what she could to help because he wouldn't let her. And then came back, because they're her team, he's her friend, and that's how May fucking rolls.
(And staple Ward's foot to the floor and beat him up; I almost cried in sheer joy.)
I didn't hate Skye, and I thought I would, but surprisingly, she only got on my nerves until her fuckup with her ex in Austin and then accepted the consequences for it, the consequences lasted more than one ep, and her team also provided peer discipline. Then I loved her and thought about shipping her and May because chemistry. I'm still thinking about it. I get why people hated the superhacker bit, but the thing is, no, she wasn't doing a lot that was 'superhacking', but she was (on occasion, granted) doing something much more interesting to me, since I don't see this often on TV used by habit.
When I was training for casework for SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid, the handbook was a massive twenty pound and counting notebook so huge and terrifying we all were afraid, and that was just one of our reference guides. It takes three months to train a caseworker, and the first day--the first day--our instructor told us not to memorize policy itself (did I mention this was a massive super binder from hell?).
Texas Works Handbook, online version: http://www.dads.state.tx.us/handbooks/TexasWorks/ ALL OF THAT. Updated constantly. All of it. And Google doesn't help as much as you think searching it.)
Our instructor told us not to try to memorize it and when I went to a two week MEPD overview training (that's two notebooks that could only be carried one by one, takes two full months for training), I was told the same thing.
For one, because policy updates all the time, literally, including the income charts every year and each income chart (SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, MEPD, MSP) at different times; before I was allowed on a computer, I had to do everything with a pencil and a piece of scratch paper before I was even allowed a calculator, and under Forms on the page I linked to, find the FS worksheet and see the math. Always check and make sure the policy and the numbers haven't changed, that was banged into us.
Two, related to one: the goal was to learn where everything was. I didn't need to have memorized the TANF income limit for a family of six with on parent; I did need to be able to flip to that chart without having to think of where it was. I didn't need to memorize all the codes for legal immigrants; I needed to know exactly where that chart was. I didn't need to know all the excluded types of unearned income: I needed to know A-1320 was where income was stored, 1324 was government payments, and check the list. By the time I was a caseworker for six months, I could do all of this faster than I could ever remember all those things.
Three, doing that, we'd learn all of it that way (it works), but equal to that, we would be in the habit, bone-deep, of going to check and make sure because policy changes all the time, things are added and removed and we had to be able to see a new paragraph was added to Income for XY sticking out like a sore thumb and verify the income limits hadn't changed or policy didn't update again.
Other People, Cont:
Skye's abilities--to me--was knowing not just what to do, but where to look and how to use the resources she had instead of re-inventing the wheel every goddamn time (evite, for example; plausible, no idea, but I liked the idea of her using a fairly no-magic computing skills method, just excellent networking skills). It's impressive, because knowledge is more than what you can do personally with your own brain; it's also knowing where to look for what you need, and honest to God, if someone's invented the wheel, you don't need to do it again. Use it to build a better wheel, yes, but our cave ancestors would not be doing too hot if every single caveman had to figure out 'round' and 'rolls' on their own and didn't level up once we had a basic design to build from. We call this progress.
(I was charmed by her half-assed Trojan, fine. That was adorable: she didn't have the time to make anything great, so she did what she could for now and would make it work later, somehow (we've all been there). Just, Skye, you're awesome. I also liked she didn't (often) write a new magic program from scratch; she pulled her old code--most logical, sort of, by value of plot and Agents of Shield--that she'd used before) and even better, didn't get a magical upgrade when the tech she was hacking did (the ocular eye implant thing that after the first time they couldn't hack anymore: plot, sure, but also nice she didn't "oh, let me do magic and five lines, voila, fixed!").
I get Skye was our audience stand-in and therefore Special, but I'm actually okay with that (I love that, actually) provided the character actually earns it and the plot development shows as well as tells, and the characters do the same. I liked that Skye wasn't Coulson's first troublesome protege (he apparently really liked strays), and the introduction of Akela gave the audience context on why he was invested in Skye (his feelings of failure with her, her exploitation and victimization, his own personal unremembered trauma), and that it felt natural (to me) that he'd become very invested in Skye both for herself (and seriously, I was surprised how much I liked her) and also for himself.
I very much liked how they handled the near-death experiences of Gemma and Skye and how they show the progress of the team's unity. The reaction to Gemma almost dying was fairly dramatic and just personal enough for the team to show they're beginning to bond. It made sense timeline wise that they'd all been together long enough for the initial intensity of Gemma to ramp up with Skye by sheer familiarity and didn't hit my Everyone Loves Skye bullshit meter (I worried about that). Not to mention it was fairly clear that part of Coulson's subconscious was also interested in TAHITI, though obviously not at the expense of his team, as well as Coulson's guilt over sending Skye in and her being shot. It was about Skye, sure, but it was also about their team (Fitz and Simmons, Jesus), and seeing May react to the near-loss of a team member was just--yeah.
I now like Coulson.
Yeah, didn't see that coming. However, I was kind of hit by the hilarity of the Peru episode with the ex telling Coulson his young pretty team and pretty car and superplane was a midlife crisis and Coulson's expression, which was two parts "kicking your ass soon" and one part "I see no bad in my midlife crisis; hot people, super airplane and saving the world. Don't you wish you were me?" Coulson, I'm with you; everyone wishes they were you.
Fitz and Simmons - I cannot think of them apart, so I have to switch to Gemma for Simmons when I try, and I love Gemma like one loves supersmart kittens whose claws are her brains and are very very sharp indeed. Also they're both adorable.
The coming of Antoine Triplett I hope leads to good things, and not just because he's hot (though yeah, that helps). I love the callbacks to the Howling Commandos, and I love, love, love his interaction with the team in Ward's place. He fits so well and Christ, that plane needs someone with a working sense of humor, come on. And someone that thinks practically; we have May for badass, and while badass #2 is definitely his, it's nice to have someone in that position a.) not filled with misery or dark secrets, b.) has a sense of humor, and c.) see a and b. FUN. Please let him stay please please please. DON'T TELL ME YET I WANT TO BASK IN HOPE OKAY.
Mike Peterson - GUNN OMG GUNN - is possibly only second to May my favorite character, and in a second, I will tell you why.
Okay, so yeah, him
I hate Grant Ward.
I was heavily spoiled, but that kind of worked for me since I wanted to punch his face on principle. It's his face, IDK, it's punchable. You, sir, are no James Bond, and sure as fuck aren't a May.
It's not just that though, and the show--I think, but again, spoiled--shows very early on his ethics lack a baseline of anything but 'no idea, this may be right, IDK'. I didn't hate him for having a dark past, a shitty childhood, or being manipulated; I hate him because he's not a traumatized teen or a twenty-something mixed up guy, but a thirty-something adult who hasn't bothered growing the fuck up yet because no one ordered him to and so won't make the effort, which is pretty much everything you need to know about him.
I was creeped the fuck out by his fixation on getting Skye (beyond. words), but it creeped me out on various levels, all disturbing. I buy he loves her, because what he thinks love is was illustrated by Marcus Daniels' stalking of Audrey Martin, another monster just like him, but at least Marcus didn't pretend he was a man.
The most interesting thing he admitted was that his eldest brother didn't beat up their youngest brother, but he did it because his eldest brother made him. Which was the moment I thought: nice foreshadowing. (I was unspoiled on who held his leash, but lets say that didn't take long to figure out.)
Which leads me to the next part.
It was kind of neat to realize Ward's antipathy for Peterson was mirroring. I kind of assumed it was Peterson having a weak spot for his kid, because fuck knows Ward doesn't like those, but how similar and how totally different they were and for that matter, Ward's inability to understand what a weak spot is.
I get why Ward hated Peterson; Peterson is the better man, the better Ward: they've--in a sense--been committing the same crimes (JUST GO WITH IT), and they're both playing roles. The thing is, Peterson is literally playing for his son's life, his weak spot; to get Peterson to do it, they had to jack him with drugs, implant him, fuck with him, kidnap his kid, and cybernetic his ass to hell and back, and the second--the second--his weak spot was safe, he was fucking done with this bullshit (not once but TWICE). That weak spot, Ace, was Peterson's soul, and no matter what he was forced to do, he never pretended to anyone, including himself, that what he did wasn't monstrous, and he never lost himself; that's why he didn't become a monster. His first act after events wasn't begging for forgiveness, excuses, whining (though fuck knows he earned the right and more); he owned his actions, and sought to atone for them. And let me point this out: he did it three times, he didn't ever give up. HE kept trying.
To get Ward to do it, all they had to do was tell him, a living, breathing monster, that he was really a man. It wasn't hard, I guess; it's not like he knew what one was, but on a guess, looking at Peterson and seeing the real thing gave him a few doubts.
I never once felt Peterson didn't feel every death he caused; it simply didn't stop him because he couldn't let it, but the cost was high and it showed. I never, once, felt Ward so much as saw anyone he killed as existing, much less a person (Fitz and Simmons did get the dog upgrade, so there's that).
This is actually more about Peterson; Ward can fuck himself (plz someone staple his foot to the floor again, that was amazing, Christ May).
Peterson, like Akela Amador, was perpetrator as well as victim due to extraordinary circumstances, without options or hope of help or rescue, and implanted with eye-bombs (eye horror, my God) and if their actions were their own, the motivation for them wasn't.
(Honestly, there's self-sacrifice, which is easy, but not so much dealing with optical induced agony, which on a guess was the discipline usually meted out when it wasn't critical. It reminds me of Babylon 5, when Sinclair was being tortured with botulism and thought finally it was over and he was dead, but no, second day, exactly the same as the first; how long can the human mind, even a SHIELD agent's, stand up to that without breaking? How the hell could she be sure they'd kill her and not just give her two days of unmitigated, unsleeping migraine torture?)
I want Akela back like a lot; I hope she's able to sleep now. I want her to come back, but only after a year or two in a nice SHIELD prions suite for a few years just because I honestly think that's what she wants more than anything. A prison, yeah, but to her, that's somewhere safe (no one can get to her) where she can sleep and eat and not be afraid and not be forgotten again. Just--Christ, I want her to take all the naps so much, and learn to live with what she did and didn't do and why and find the person that she can be, and have a chance to atone as well.
Yes, that was indeed a lot of words.
Okay, I gotta ask: is there any May/Skye fic anyone would recommend? Gen/friendship or romantic or a slow burn starting with the first and going to the second by preference. I have no idea why it appeals to me, but it really, really does.
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