Is Agents of SHIELD A Victim Of High Expectations?

1:27 PM Joseph Aberl 0 Comments

I was recently watching a video by the ScreenJunkies team, who I think have brought us some great videos and were the one’s who created the ever popular “Honest Trailer”, but while watching a recent video regarding what is the best Comic Book TV Series currently running I have come to realize there is a common shadow cast over the show Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, which it probably will never be able to shake off. Anyone who knows me is aware that I quite enjoy the series for having interesting storylines and characters, while also having to balance its own, unique storylines while trying to also interconnect with the general franchise we have come to know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is the gigantic shadow that it casts upon the show as a whole and here is my reasoning. I believe Agents of SHIELD’s largest critique points are the result of false expectations.

“Why are there no Avengers?”
This is probably one of the oldest complaints throughout the series’ run. Many people expected that the actors from the film would appear within the TV show. Of course, I was hoping to see at least one or two cameos throughout the entire series’ run, but besides seeing Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) himself there have been no major actors appearing. We did in fact receive cameos by Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders),  Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hern├índez), Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough), Felix Blake (Titus Welliver), Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi), and Dr. List (Henry Goodman). These are just the cameos that are actors that appeared either in the films or one-shots produced by Marvel Studios and are taken for granted. Marvel’S TV and Film division’s are heavily separated, now more than ever, so having cameos by Iron Man or Thor was just not in the budget or truly possible. Hearing actors like Jeremy Renner or Robert Downey Jr. stating interest in appearing didn’t truly help the matter, as it just seems like there is a communication issue here even though we are technically still talking abou the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The entire show was never sold as an Avengers spin-off, it just sadly came out shortly after it and the pretty divisive Iron Man 3, which probably was just terrible timing for the show as well. It never was meant to be just The Avengers on TV, it is about the Agents of SHIELD.

“Why did they bring back Phil Coulson?”
This probably is the strangest question I ever heard and never understood why it was a point of criticism. The whole reason the show exists is because people wanted Coulson back, they loved his character and were hoping to see him return to the MCU. If it wasn’t for Clark Gregg’s amazing performance of the famous agent, we would never even be able to watch this show and to a certain degree even the Netflix shows, which is something I will get to later. To be honest, has anyone noticed the recent trend of people stating that Marvel or Marvel Studios doesn’t listen to its fans? Somehow a Black Widow film has become much more important than the already announced Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange films, which have been fan favorites for years. What about Agents of SHIELD though? It probably is the biggest fan service the company has ever given the public by not only making an actual show set in the MCU, but also bringing back a character that was heavily campaigned in the Internet and Social Media. The show is pretty much a love letter to all the fans following the MCU, but somehow people just forgot about this.

“The first season was so boring! Why did nothing happen?”
Agents of SHIELD really came out at the worst time possible, as it came out as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead were the peak of their popularity. Telling stories in shorter terms and at a faster speed has become the most popular form. Netflix was on the rise with its own unique programming that also told its stories at quite a fast pace. Then you have a show that has to fill the mandated 22 episodes that any network show on ABC has too. They thought it would be interesting like old spy shows to have multiple subplots that evolve over the course of the series. They played the long game and lost too early, because at the time no one was truly really interested in it anymore. Drama television was slowly coming down and people were still lingering on Lost, which suffered the same format. They had to fill the show and each episode with more plot and mythology that it all imploded in the end. This just already took away many people’s expectations, because it just came out at the worst time possible for its format.

“Is there even a point to Agents of SHIELD?”
Here comes one that also ties into what I stated before. The show was supposed to be a love letter to all its fans while also trying to look at smaller adventures within this universe. I could also point out that while people complained in the first season that it only complemented the MCU at large instead of leading into the films, one has to remember that most films were in development long before the TV show was a concept, so changing that in the last second might have lead to a lot of issues. Furthermore, Captain America: The Winter Soldier played a massive part into the show, which also tried to show the other implications of that entire fallout. It did was Agent Carter did for Captain America: The First Avenger by continuing a story we only knew so much about. Another important factor that many forget is that Agents of SHIELD was the testing ground that even lead to the idea of creating a Netflix series based on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage. It tested the waters that were quite scary at the time and even with the negative buzz after the first few episodes, it still proved that the Marvel brand was going strong with viewers that not even this years The Muppets could reach in its pilot episode. Agents of SHIELD holds much more meaning than shown on the surface. Also, it introduced us to concepts like the Inhumans, who we will only be able to see in 2019, and allows for many characters to make appearances we otherwise wouldn’t see anytime soon. Hell, we are even seeing the Secret Warriors appear in this show, which also perfectly leads me into my next point.

“Why are we only watching normal Agents instead of Gifted Individuals?”
The simple answer is, it is in its title considering that it is about agents of a fictional organization called SHIELD in a world that pretty much just recently was introduced to the concept of gods, flying armors and the return of a long-forgotten legend in the eye of the public. Naturally the show was trying to do something different by making it feel more like a living, breathing world outside of the famous Avengers. So, the thoughts was simple to follow everyday people, even if some of them are very gifted in what they do, and let the story evolve naturally. Yet with this complaint hanging as another shadow over the entire show, it ended up becoming a more and more important element to it. Why not? The films were introducing more characters with powers so it became a much more natural fit. Maybe the surprise of the Inhumans would have worked more efficiently if we didn’t already know about the Phase 3 line-up, something that is also worth talking about someday in the future. Still, now we are getting more and more characters with special powers, especially considering the introduction of the Secret Warriors, which will cement the show’s evolution since the beginning, but even this has become an issue.

“The show isn’t consistent at all! It changed too much!”
To a certain degree, the fans behind the show are its worst enemy now as slowly coming to accept the show, the fans who made the complaints I have listed before are now annoyed that the show is changing already. It was a natural reaction because we, as “fans”, complained they don’t listen to us, but as they did they had to make some sacrifices. In the end, people were more annoyed by the changes made as they felt the show wasn’t the same anymore. It became a battle between personal views on a show that was doing its best to do exactly what we wanted it to. I am not here to touch upon the subject of Ward, whose own fandom has also left a strong rift for the show. I believe that the biggest issue here is simply as soon as people got use to what the show as and still complained about it, it has just became a regular fashion to “complain” about Agents of SHIELD and compare it to other shows that are completedly different.

“Why isn’t it like The Flash or Daredevil?”
I have actually read this complaint once and already realized the true enemy behind Agents of SHIELD. People want to see their favorite characters on the small or big screen, but when it comes to minor characters there is absolutely no true interest. It almost shows that Agents of SHIELD tried to do something different and sell us on characters that weren’t truly established in the public eye, but came at a time where everyone wanted to just see the actual heroes. If the show started off with Iron Man or Captain America it probably would have been a better sell to people, but that was never the point of the show. Even if Nick Fury was in it, it probably would not have worked either because he isn’t a main player. The interest for a SHIELD film only existed due to rising awareness of Black Widow and Hawkeye, they were reasons behind the show as people wanted to see more “heroes” not actual agents. It isn’t like those shows because it was never meant to be and one has to respect a show to try its best to try to tell the stories it wants to. Maybe the Secret Warriors will be able to make a change of people’s perception?

“I thought it would be like Buffy or Firefly?!”
I will finish this with the biggest expectation that people had all due to the fact that the director of the pilot episode was the director of Marvel’s The Avengers and the mastermind behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. People seemed to skim over the fact that the show was actually is being showrunned by his brother Jed Whedon and Maurissia Tancharoen. Also, many people complained that the show was boring because the writing was bad. Can I be honest? I have watched Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer now and I must the dialogue, or the way it is handled, is pretty similar. Firefly simply ended with one season before it ever truly evolved and is held to high standards. That is the biggest issue here is that people hold the standards to one show due to the earlier successes of a director. It was once again another shadow cast upon the show due to the people behind it, who were trying to tell an interesting story. 

Agents of SHIELD's third season starts tonight and I do not intend to offend anyone. This article is simply me trying to tackle some common criticisms I have been reading. I want us all to enjoy the various shows as I certainly enjoy any show may it be Gotham, The Flash, Arrow and many more, so I am hoping that we can stop fighting each other, but start working together to enjoy this era we are living in. You will also find a little joint project between me and friends over at My Mind Never Stops, which you can read by clicking HERE.