Editorial: How Marvel Is Killing AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
I feel like I should start off by saying I actually like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s not a fantastic show, but it gets better every week and holds my attention better than most network offerings out there. I do however think that the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s main opponent is Marvel. Just like Coulson‘s crew finds themselves on the outskirts of S.H.I.E.L.D., the show is finding itself relegated to the minor leagues by Marvel. It may be odd to hear that the biggest opponent something has is the actual company that makes it, but follow along with the logic I try to lay out.
The show is dropping viewers each week. That’s a real problem but that’s not one of the concerns I’m laying out. The Thor: The Dark World themed episode this coming Tuesday may start S.H.I.E.L.D. back on the path of ratings supremacy, but we’ll just have to wait and see how that story plays out. S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s biggest problem is a superhero problem. Joss Whedon, head of Marvel TV Jeph Loeb, and everyone else involved with the series have said they didn’t want to turn the show into an Easter egg farm, but that’s sort of what it is. Following Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) up with Nick Fury (Sam Jackson) didn’t help things. Agents Jasper Sitwell and Agent Blake weren’t as big, but they were still cameos. S.H.I.E.L.D. works in countless references to the cinematic universe and oftentimes beats you over the head with nods and even more references as if to say “Hey, we’re part of the movies if you forgot!” Those two big cameos right out of the gate mixed with the countless winks at the audience and the camera have people expecting a little more than what they’re getting.
Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen are acting circles around their relatively young cast too. With no real threat of anyone dying and everything having a quick, happy solution by the end of the episode, there’s no real chance for growth and tension. The storyline involving The Rising Tide, Skye‘s parents, and Coulson‘s death are teased and then not followed up on for weeks at a time. There’s no consistency to the entire thing. That could be smoothed over as the season progresses and the writers really hit their strides, but with people already a little disgruntled they seem to look a little harder for something to pile on with.
But those things aren’t even the biggest problem The biggest problem is Marvel‘s recent announcement of the four Netflix series involving Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones. These are entirely different animals, but your average viewer doesn’t see it that way. You want heroes? S.H.I.E.L.D. won’t have heroes or villains. Netflix will. You’ve heard of three of the four heroes, come check out their shows when they start streaming. We’ve got superpowers, comic book heroes and villains, costumes, and potential for movie related things to happen on a big scale. It doesn’t help that Drew Goddard is tackling Daredevil. S.H.I.E.L.D. has Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, who no matter how successful they have been, will be known as Joss‘ brother and sister-in-law.
All of that culminates to make S.H.I.E.L.D. look like the snack until the main course arrives. No matter how many times Loeb tries to explain S.H.I.E.L.D. is developing their own characters that are just adjacent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, people are wanting some more solid Easter eggs and cameo appearances. They want heroes and villains- B list, C list, it doesn’t matter give them a hero. Everything folks are saying is ‘wrong‘ with S.H.I.E.L.D. is amplified by the recent Netflix announcement. Heroes? Check. Villains Check (don’t know for sure but it’s a safe bet). Big creative teams? Check (though we still need to hear about Iron Fist and Luke Cage). This is shiny and new. It has heroes from the comics. Come check this out! S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes last year’s Christmas toy, relegated to the refuse bin. It’s still a great toy and it’s a lot of fun, but people are starting to get rid of it already. I still want to pick it up, but I do see the allure of the new shiny Daredevil toys coming out soon. What do you think? Has S.H.I.E.L.D. found itself the red headed step-child (no offense to red headed step-children intended) of live-action TV with one big announcement?