Gary Collinson with five suggestions as to how Marvel can save Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D…
First let me begin by stating that I’m fully aware there are people out there who enjoy Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but after five episodes, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not one of them. And after talking to people, and reading through Facebook and Twitter comments – both of Marvel fans and casual viewers – I’m certainly not in the minority. While there’s been a slight improvement since those first two godawful episodes, at this point I think it’s fair to say that the show is suffering badly from poor writing, a visual style and narrative tone straight out of the late 90s, and a near-total lack of interesting characters. And yes, I’m including Agent Coulson in that. The fact that the show has taken one of the best characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and made him as dull as Agents Dalton, Fitz and Simmons really speaks volumes for the writing on this series.
I hope Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. picks up. I really do. The concept is great, and really provides the platform to explore those characters and areas of the Marvel Universe that are never going to make it to the big screen. And on a weekly basis too. But I’m starting to lose faith that this will ever happen, and leaning more towards the hope that Marvel and ABC will come to their senses and pull the plug before it further dilutes the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and more importantly, the Marvel Studios brand – for the casual moviegoing public. In fairness, the show has been killing it in the ratings so far (even though it slipped a little last week, it’s still pulling in over 7 million viewers in the States alone), but if it keeps churning out dull, uninspired episodes, you have to wonder how long it will be before audiences are reaching for that remote in their droves. With that in mind, here’s five suggestions which I feel could help to save Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.…
Bring in Nick Fury
Back when Clark Gregg was first confirmed to lead the series, Joss Whedon said that you couldn’t have a S.H.I.E.L.D. show without Agent Phil Coulson. But, as we’ve seen over the past five weeks, you can’t have a decent S.H.I.E.L.D. show without Nick Fury. Now I’m fully aware that it’s highly, highly unlikely that Marvel could convince Samuel L. Jackson to board the series full-time, seeing as he’s busy making hundreds of movies a year and what have you. But that’s not to say his involvement couldn’t be increased substantially. His post-credits cameo in episode 2 was far and away the highlight of the series so far, and brief but regular appearances such as this (in a kind of Charlie from Charlie’s Angels-type role) would instantly improve the show tenfold. Sign him up for a week of filming, get all of his scenes out of the way at once, sprinkle them throughout the entire season, and at least we’ll know there’s going to be something interesting each week. At the moment, Coulson and company seem so far removed from the S.H.I.E.L.D. organisation, and this would instantly solve that problem.
Kill off half the cast
Seeing as this is a Joss Whedon show, it would seem a safe bet that at least one of the regular roster of Agents will be receiving the S.H.I.E.L.D. equivalent of the Purple Heart before the series is out, but frankly, that’s just not enough when you have a cast of characters as bland as this show. Let’s face it, out of the entire main cast, the only character you could see making an appearance in a Marvel Studios movie without instantly dragging it down is Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) – although it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see Skye (Chloe Bennet) popping up for some ‘comic relief’ in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, squeezing Chris Hemsworth’s muscles or some other such rubbish. Right now the only way I could see myself caring about Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) is if he witnessed his entire team getting wiped out before his very eyes, sending him off on some kind of crazy revenge mission. That being said, I’d still prefer he was included in the casualty list. What you have with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a cast that’s expendable, so my second suggestion is to lose Agents Ward, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) in a trap set up by the mysterious Centipede, give Coulson and the surviving members of his team a real purpose for tracking down the bad guys, and allow the producers to bring in a few new characters who haven’t been thought up and fleshed out in five minutes on the back of a beer mat.
Bring in the Superheroes
Now, I know it’s been said time and again that S.H.I.E.L.D. is meant to be a superhero show without superheroes, but is that really what people want to see from Marvel? Let’s face it, they’ve already had several super-powered individuals in the show, so why not drop in a few recognisable heroes too? It’s unrealistic to think we’ll get to see any of The Avengers making an appearance (although surely a 30 second scene with Chris Hemsworth would do wonders to promote Thor: The Dark World), but Marvel has an absolutely enormous talent pool to choose from, even if they want to try and keep some of their bigger names such as Carol Danvers and Luke Cage for the big screen. In all honesty, Marvel has a tonne of characters who are never realistically going to headline their own movie franchise, and regardless of that, the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems pretty well mapped out for the next few years, so unless you’re talking Ant-Man, Doctor Strange or Black Panther, it’s going to be a long, long time before we’d see a lot of these characters anyway. Give us a superhero or two that we don’t need to go running to Wikipedia to read up about in recurring roles. Hell, even a one-off guest role. Just watch the ratings for that episode go up.
Get some new writers
Okay, so this one may be a bit premature given that we’ve only seen episodes from five writers so far (Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, Jeffrey Bell and Brent Fletcher), but considering that three of those names are the creators of the show (and directly responsible for the two worst episodes), the signs aren’t good. Whedon can get a pass here, seeing as he’s preoccupied with writing the sequel to the third-highest grossing movie all of time, but that doesn’t hide the fact that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has suffered badly from sub-standard writing. The plots have been stale and predictable, the characters cliched, and the dialogue in the show seems to have two purposes – to offer up a half-arsed attempt at humour, or to spell every single detail of the story out to the viewer (I understand that Marvel wants to appeal to a wide a range of viewers as possible, which means keeping the little ‘uns on board, but throw in a couple of silly gags and some half-decent action and you’ve got them in the bag. Stop treating the rest of us like idiots). There are certainly talented writers on the show, so Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen have to take the blame here. Either stop using the ‘Writing for 90′s Television Handbook’ as a show bible, or get some new talent in. Preferably those with some Marvel experience. I’m sure Marvel Comics has a tonne of writers on their staff who could do a much better job than anything we’ve seen so far.
Pull a ‘Reverse Bobby Ewing’
The above reference may be lost on some of our younger readers, but what I’m suggesting here harks back to the whole ‘Dream Season’ from Dallas, only flipped on its head. So, it’s the season finale… post-credits… we fade in on a S.H.I.E.L.D uniform on the floor, guest star Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill is taking a shower (that should stop the ratings slide right there), she gets out, gets dressed, heads on down to the bridge of the helicarrier, turns to Nick Fury and says, “Where’s Coulson?”. “He’s in the morgue,” replies Fury. It’s the day after the Battle of New York, and the entire season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been one long dream. Coulson’s still dead, and Marvel hasn’t cheapened the most pivotal scene of The Avengers for a show that will surely find itself retconned out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe anyway once audiences start turning off in their droves.
What are your thoughts on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Let us know in the comments below…
Gary Collinson is a writer and lecturer from the North East of England. He is the editor-in-chief of FlickeringMyth.com and the author of Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen.