…Unless you’re too under-whelmed so far by the freshman series spin-off from the Marvel film universe. As a fan of comics and their big screen adaptations, my nerd sense was tingling in the lead up to the series premiere. But like much of the audience, I’ve been frustrated by the Scooby-Doo approach to espionage, the limited amount of crossover with the source material (they got to clean up after Thor one time!), and the fact that an alternate title for the show could easily be ‘Agents on a Plane.’
Given how strong the debut of the show was at over 12 million viewers, the steady decline in the ratings suggests ‘Agents’ is in trouble in spite of an order from ABC for a full season. However, I’m here to take the optimistic view that this show is worth saving and can still reach the potential of super-awesomeness we hoped for. Here are a few reasons I hope it sticks around:
Agent Coulson could be funny again.
I’ve enjoyed Clark Gregg’s wry performance as agency stalwart Phil Coulson since he first appeared in ‘Iron Man’ back in 2008. He was the bridge between several characters leading up to his death(?) in ‘The Avengers,’ and his resurrection for this series was something I was excited about. But the new Coulson is dark, vulnerable, and damaged. I get the choice to add emotional depth for carrying the series, and yet I’d be game for his former sarcasm and every-man’s view of super powered problems. He used to contrast with the emotional heaviness of the world, and he could do that again with a little more Classic Coulson.
The young cast has nowhere to go but up.
While some have criticized ABC for building a Mickey Mouse Club of youthful characters, I prefer to look at the long game. ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ also featured a group of younger talent that matured with the show, and their characters became iconic to the audience. Will the flirtation between Ward and Skye become as emotionally charged as Buffy and Angel? Maybe not, but just like any series, you have to allow the performers and writers time to hone in on what works. Give the Mouseketeers a chance.
The showrunners have a track record of memorable surprises.
Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon are no strangers to running one of brother Joss’s creations, or making bold choices when a series is on the bubble. ‘Dollhouse’ was regularly struggling in the ratings, and managed to hang on for two seasons. Living on the edge of cancellation can make for interesting twists and turns; one highlight was the shocking reveal of Boyd (Harry Lennix) as being the over-arching villain of the series. Once they start to play with the episodic formula, the results could be as explosive as an extremis experiment gone awry (see ‘Iron Man 3’).
The wider Marvel universe is an untapped resource (sort of).
While Netflix has made a deal for a slate of Marvel heroes to star in their own series, there are plenty of characters that could make appearances and have an impact in the world of this show. We’ve had hints Cobie Smulders may reprise her role as Agent Maria Hill, which would be a welcome addition. Maybe it’s my 10-year-old-self talking, but I’m a sucker for an opposing villainous organization; here’s hoping HYDRA rears one of its many heads as a sign of things to come, because ‘Centipede’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Here’s my humble suggestion to keep this show from getting the premature Hulk smash:
This S.H.I.E.L.D. show needs more S.H.I.E.L.D.
Ground the ‘Bus.’ Having a small, specialized team ride around on a plane finding Mcguffins is a practical idea to keep the budget of the show manageable, but it exemplifies what fans are annoyed about most – that these characters are somehow separate and not really part of the cool cinematic universe we fell for. Use this season to establish the character dynamics, but please, land the plane, and get these guys working at the Hub with the rest of the organization (as featured in Episode 7, one of my favorites so far).
Also, Easter Eggs for ‘Thor: The Dark World’ and the upcoming ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ are fun, but a wasted opportunity when elements from the films are mere cameos that don’t play a meaningful role in an episode. I understand it’s not possible to have Tony Stark fly in to have drinks with the gang, but in some ways these minor crossovers only serve to salt the wound of the fans; it’s telling them if you want the exciting version of Marvel, turn off your TV and go out to the cinema. Embrace the shared universe of the mediums, and use it to your advantage – hence the spike in viewers at the mention of Asgard.
So consider keeping 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' on your DVR a while longer. This time next year we could be talking about Samuel L. Jackson’s Emmy worthy guest spot as Nick Fury! Or the crazy reveal that Skye is a shape-shifting alien Skrull! Or why Coulson thinks Tahiti is such a magical place!