Farewell To Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The final episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that aired last night marked the end of an era in Marvel Comics-related television fare. The show was the last TV show produced without the involvement of Marvel Studios guru Kevin Feige. Of course, there are a couple of other shows that are coming soon like Hellstrom and some animated fare, which are not spearheaded by Feige. But with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s conclusion a chapter has been closed in a time of shows not directly related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Early Missions

When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. debuted in 2013, there was a lot of anticipation for it. After all, Joss Whedon, the director of the hit film The Avengers, created it and directed the pilot episode, but more importantly it was supposed to be set in the MCU. It did star Clark Gregg, who played S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson, a recurring character in the MCU films. The complication was that Coulson was killed off in The Avengers so a big mystery in the early episodes was how he was resurrected. There were numerous other connections to the MCU such as guest appearances by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Jaimie Alexander as Sif, Maximiliano Hernandez as Agent Jasper Sitwell, Powers Boothe as Gideon Malick and a few other actors that appeared in the MCU films. Not to mention, the early seasons of the show were directly connected to MCU films, notably Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World.

However, many viewers came away disappointed with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in that many episodes were bland, unimaginative and did little to satisfy the cravings for the MCU between films. That was not entirely the fault of the show’s producers. It turned out the show was the victim of a turf war between Kevin Feige and the head of Marvel Entertainment, Ike Perlmutter. The two men often clashed over the direction of the MCU and while Feige was in charge of the films, Perlmutter handled the TV shows and other media. As we all know, Feige ultimately was allowed to directly control Marvel Studios and the MCU without having to report to Perlmutter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. began its slow divorce from the MCU.

Tenuous Connections

Even before the schism fans complained about how the show was never referenced in the MCU films. Meanwhile, for a time it seemed as if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. namedropped whenever it could every single MCU character or incident. It was clear any connection to the MCU was a one-way street.

Still, despite its missteps, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did find its legs and made the most of its tenuous connection to the MCU. This was best seen during the latter half of its first season which tied-in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and that film’s plotline of the S.H.I.E.L.D. spy organization revealed as having been infiltrated by the terrorist organization Hydra. Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), one of the core characters in the show, was revealed to be a Hydra agent and the show fully dealt with the ramifications of the film’s events.

A major story line that was supposed to be carried over into the films was with the Inhumans. Originally, Ike Perlmutter wanted a film made based on the characters since he wanted these superhumans to fill in the role of the mutant X-Men. At this time, Marvel Entertainment did not have the film rights to the X-Men and Permutter did not want to promote them in the remaining media. Thus, characters who were Inhumans popped up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and took on prominent roles. It went so far as to retroactively make another major character, Daisy Johnson (Chloe Bennett), to be an Inhuman (the Marvel superhero Quake). But once Feige was allowed to go his own way, he dropped any plans for an Inhumans film and the show was left holding the bag.

While this was frustrating, this gave the show the opportunity to find its own voice. It wholeheartedly embraced the Inhumans plot point and then embarked on season-long arcs that allowed the show to shine. It introduced other characters from the Marvel Comics such as Ghost Rider, Mockingbird, the Hive and the Aborbing Man, and they were well received by fans. At one point, Ghost Rider was to be spun off into a new series but those plans were cancelled.

Arguably its best arc was during its fifth season when Coulson’s team was hurtled into a future where Earth was destroyed and the remnants of humanity were slaves of the alien Kree. A new character Deke Shaw (Jeff Ward) a scruffy, goofy, Peter Quill-type character was introduced and became part of the team after he and the agents returned to the present to prevent Earth’s destruction. Another interesting character that joined the team was Enoch (Joel Stoffer), a Chronicom anthropologist (a race of alien androids). He was perpetually fascinated with humanity and the actor’s befuddled and whimsically befuddled mannerisms were often the highlights of episodes.

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Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Is too Cute & Bland

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I really wanted to like Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., I really did. But after seeing a few episodes of the new series on ABC I have to admit that the show is a subpar, uninvolving disappointment.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has many things going for it, at least on paper. Start with executive producer Joss Whedon, who created the great TV shows Firefly and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. He directed the pilot episode and the megahit film The Avengers and he is one of the driving forces behind the show. For fans, it’s clearly set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its many references and name drops from various Marvel films. Also, the star of the show is fan-favorite Special Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who turns up alive and well despite being apparently killed by Loki in The Avengers. That’s about it in terms of what’s good with the program.

socalled interrogationThe problem with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is that it commits two cardinal sins for genre fans; it’s dull and it’s a procedural-type of show. There are plenty of shows polluting the networks that are just like this one. Here’s the formula: the characters investigate some kind of crime, enter some forgettable guest stars, have everyone speaking in tech-ess that tunes out viewers and add in the Whedon touches. That would be adorably cute and perky female characters and actors speaking in a staged, witty manner. We’ve seen it all before and done better. Plus, in each episode there is an air of whimsy and lightness that doesn’t gibe with the situation in that world. What’s worse is that the light tone undercuts any sense of danger that is so badly needed with the episodes.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. takes place shortly after the movie, The Avengers. Society is dealing with the fact that superheroes and aliens exist in the world. S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) is a multinational agency that is a major player in the espionage field. Phil Coulson, coulson and carwho appeared in most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, puts together a special task force to confront supernormal threats to world peace and security. On his team are veteran agents Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), two scientists/engineers–Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Emma Simmons (Elizabeth Hentsridge)–and the newest S.H.I.E.L.D. recruit, a hacker called Skye (Chloe Bennet). Continue reading