What’s the deal with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D?

and what does AOS means for the Inhumans TV show?

It’s safe to say that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D was not an instant success. Yet, in recent seasons, AOS has managed to improve on the formula that they had from the start, resulting in some compelling and often times emotional stories.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first attempt at television was inconsistent to start. Seasons one of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D had shallow characters, lackluster storylines, and cameos from the wider Cinematic Universe that felt like a desperate attempt to connect the two worlds in any way they could. In Stark contrast (excuse the pun), DC and CW’s Arrow and Flash had become fan favourites and had mostly positive critics reception. In recent times, however, it seems like the tables have turned.

Agents of SHIELD returns

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D promised to be apart of the same universe as its movie counterparts, which differentiated the show from DC’s lineup, with their TV shows being kept separate from the DCEU films. However, unfortunately for Marvel, a TV budget can’t stretch to Robert Downey Jr’s salary. It soon became apparent that we weren’t getting the A-list stars from the MCU films on the small screen. Instead, AOS saw the return of Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), who had died in the 2012 film ‘The Avengers’ (Sorry for the spoiler but come on). AOS’s first season revolved around Coulson coming to terms with his death and trying to discover how he’s alive. Brand new characters were introduced with Skye (Chloe Bennet), a hacker who was recruited into the organisation, Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) a long time agents of Shield, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) two scientists of SHIELD, with the big bad Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) filling out the roster. The new characters were shallow in the first season due, in part, to the story concentrating so much on the already established Coulson. This lead to the first three-quarters of season one struggling to define a tone. What was needed was something to shake up Shield, it just so happens that a Marvel film was released 6 episodes before the finale of season one that did just that.

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Captain America: Winter Solider premiered in 2013 to rave reviews and for good reason. With its spy thriller premise and exciting plot, it has become a shining example of what an MCU film can be. However, Winter Solider posed a problem for AOS. The film revolved around the fall of the SHIELD. The titular organisation the show was based on was no more. With Shield gone, the former agents became a ragtag bunch of vigilantes, fighting to take back control of their organisation. A lesser show would have crumbled, yet AOS took this and improved the show giving it more purpose and direction.

Season 2 continued exploring the repercussions of the fall of Shield. It wasn’t until the 3rd season where the quality of the show started to improve exponentially. The plot became more serialised with every episode having story beats that carried onto the next. The show had higher stakes, with an actual big bad that was formidable, and characters who felt like they were in real peril. The turning point for the whole series was the episode ’4,722 hours’. This episode saw Simmons, one of the two shield scientists, trapped on a distant and inhospitable planet. Elizabeth Henstridge’s performance was outstanding and showed what AOS was capable of. (If you dismissed the show in the early days, watch this episode, it will change your mind.) Season 3 continued to show off the talent that shield had both on and off screen. The scripts were tighter, the direction became more cinematic, and the acting more believable. Mack, who we were introduced to in season two, especially comes into his own, serving brilliant deadpan one-liners. You see, Netflix had seen success with their own Marvel shows and this inevitably influenced their network counterparts.

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Netflix’s original Marvel series explore the ‘Street Level’, New York based, characters of the Marvel Universe. Since Daredevil debuted in 2014, Netflix has added Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist to its roster with the idea to have all four heroes team up in the ‘Defenders’ ( a small screen version of the Avengers) in late 2017. Often, these series tackled social issues like race, morality and women’s rights and because of this, they’re a lot darker in tone which is something Netflix can embrace. They also tend to concentrate on the characterisation of the villains, as well as the heroes, making the bad guys oftentimes more enjoyable to watch than the good guys. This approach will be something AOS borrows successfully from Netflix with strong characterisation in their villains, but also their heroes.

Even though the Netflix shows are commissioned by the internet giant, they’re not produced by the streaming company. They’re made by ABC studios, the same studio who produces AOS. The Netflix series were bound to influence Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and luckily the show was changed for the better. This isn’t to say that AOS wouldn’t have become what it is today without the Netflix series, but they certainly helped.

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This brings us to the latest season of AOS. Season 4 introduced us to the Ghost Rider, a human who was gifted abilities by the devil to bring retribution to his enemies. This sounds incompatible with the shield universe, but the writers did a great job of making it seem plausible in a world where everything, including some of the more outlandish elements of Thor, is explained via science. The showrunnners have opted to split this season into two parts. This makes sense, allowing for shorter story arcs which help make the show more focused. With Ghost Riders all but wrapped up at the midseason, this allows a new story to be told, one that’s connected yet can also be viewed individually. Part 2 of season four explores Life Model Decoys (a staple of the Marvel comics). LMD’s are androids which can take the place of anyone. Because of this new approach, Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D is arguably a much better series now than it was at first and is a more enjoyable watch.

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So what could this new direction for S.H.I.E.L.D mean for the Inhuman’s solo series? Originally, the Inhumans were planned to have their own film slated for 2019 after the 4th Avenger’s film. However, over the course of the last two season, S.H.I.E.L.D has been introducing the Inhumans, explaining their concept and introducing the audience to key Inhuman characters. They even changed Skye’s name to Daisy Johnson, to bring her more in line with the inhuman character ‘Quake’ and gave her the power to control vibrations in the air. It now makes sense for the Inhumans to be on TV and keep these characters in one place. This isn’t to say that the Inhumans can’t be in the movies, but it would mean that their “home” would be on the small screen. This move to TV shouldn’t be seen as a demotion, but more of an opportunity to better connect the MCU.

The Inhuman TV show would be unwise to disregard AOS. Daisy would be the perfect bridge between the two shows, and piggybacking off of AOS would allow the Inhumans to hit the ground running. Having said that there are few details right now about the series. We do know that the first two episodes will be screened at IMAX cinemas, as well as premiering on ABC. This is an interesting move on Marvel’s part, further blurring the lines between Film and TV. Hopefully, Marvel has learned their lessons from the early years of AOS and understand how to make the series launch strong. Whatever the Inhuman’s becomes, it needs to be big, and it needs to make a statement.

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Ask people what they thought of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D when it first started and they’d probably written off the MCU on TV. Yet, Marvel didn’t stand still and changed elements of SHIELD that perhaps didn’t work at first. They now have a strong TV show that’s compelling and entertaining to watch. There’s no reason why the shield can’t obtain the same level of success that the films have.

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