Special Features – Five Ways to Save Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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.

Around the Internet…

  • http://delusionallosers.wordpress.com/ Anthony Donovan Stokes

    It just needs time to get better, give it a few more seasons. Just kidding, but I wouldn’t consider this a joss wheedon show he seems to be little more then the executive producer

    • Cdrbly327

      Then = chronological… “…little more then (little less)…”
      Then = comparison… “…little more than an executive producer.” Please fix use of english when the crux of the article is about bad writing.

      • http://comatosecomic.net/ Wally Nguyen

        You mean “than”

        • Guest

          Who cares? what are you five?

          • http://comatosecomic.net/ Wally Nguyen

            Most five-year-olds don’t know enough about grammar to care.

      • http://delusionallosers.wordpress.com/ Anthony Donovan Stokes

        Do you search the internet looking for grammatical errors? Like seriously I’m sure you can find a better use of your time. Or maybe not.

  • Romelle Bradford

    Some of these suggestions aren’t good. Although I like the idea of more Sam Jackson, having him in on a recurring role would be just like adding superheroes. It would take away from the show and yes purpose. I would like more cameos from other marvel movie persons. Maybe not even that so much but more of origins of comic characters. I thought the idea of the first episode with Extremis was a good idea cause of iron man 3. I also liked the episode with Gravaton because we know he’s a figure in the marvel universe. Things like that are the strength behind the show IMO. Origins of “b-lister” villians and heroes that we say, “hey, that’s so and so’s powers!” Or “hey, doesn’t he become..” is cool to me.

    But I do agree the cast should be cut down. I wish the could just merge the two brainiacs and hacker into one person (being the hacker body lol).

    Would love to see a Pepper Potts cameo considering how somewhat close she and Colson were.

  • Eric

    This would be awesome!

    “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 ofAgents 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. “

  • Vos_L

    “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.” Yeah, but keep in mind that comic book fans are only slightly behind Star Wars fans in terms of the most nitpicky group of complainers on the planet. Star Wars fans constantly gripe about everything from the movies to the games to the comics and yet they continue to spend money on all things Star Wars, lol. Also, these early episodes were already filmed so it’s not like they can just immediately change things up due to reaction and feedback. It will be further into the season before we’re able to see any real significant changes. However, I do think they need more appearances by Nick Fury and Maria Hill (her schedule ought to be freeing up once HIMYM finishes up). I don’t think they need superheroes constantly running around, per se, as that defeats the purpose of the show, but they could add 1 to the team that has worked for SHIELD like Jessica Drew or Mockingbird to liven things up and send Fitz/Simmons back to the lab and then mix in cameos from superheroes, particularly ones that have SHIELD tie-ins like Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Cap.

    • merwanor

      I would love such cameos, but I bet they are expensive.

  • Ash Simp

    Season 2 should have a lot more involvement from SHIELD simply because Cap 2 looks like it will be showing a lot of SHIELD. The Winter Soldier could be a SHIELD film by the sounds of it, so after that Agents could become a part of something a lot b8gger than this tiny group, which would be a good chance for the deaths of at least 2 members of the current line up.

  • Pachilles

    Coulson isn’t really the Coulson he appears to be. It’s in the subtle hints of a larger story arc, along with other subtle larger story arcs. The writers are leaving too much to the final episodes of the season (and maybe expected following seasons and/or movie tie-ins), and not enough on the current episodes. Don’t judge a series on the first few episodes, as they are still trying to get their flow… including what they want tied into the movies. That being said, I agree with ‘more Fury’ and adding some secondary superheroes to the cast (cameo or full-time).

    • Wes Dodge

      But then he can’t go with the internet hate bandwagon.

      • HolyFranchiseBatman!

        I’m not going with the internet hate bandwagon. I’ve watched five episodes of the show, that’s more than enough for me to make up my own mind that there are major problems.

        • Wes Dodge

          So by that logic, Buffy was terrible, as were Lost, House, Simpsons, and other series that didn’t pick up til midway through the first season.

          • HolyFranchiseBatman!

            Care to point out where I said it was a terrible show? The whole point of this article is to suggest that things need to change in order to prevent it from becoming a terrible show.

            Like I said in the article, I know that there are people who enjoy S.H.I.E.L.D., and I wish I was one of them, but frankly it’s been sub-standard so far and I expect better from Marvel Studios.

            Those shows addressed their problems, and they picked up. Hopefully S.H.I.E.L.D. will too, but if it continues on the way it’s going, it’s going to start bleeding viewers and frankly it deserves to, based upon what we’ve been served up so far.

  • Wes Dodge

    Nick Fury lies. That’s why Coulson isn’t really dead. They had the tech to secure Hulk and Loki, they had the tech to make a freakin helicarrier, don’t you think they can stop a man from dying from a puncture wound? We can do that with our current medical technology, much less with SHIELDs access.

  • Greifie

    Doesn’t need saving… carry on.

  • iammine

    The dream sequence is far too over done, so is the season/series never happened. I truely hope it doesn’t go that way. As far as Coulson living cheapens the avengers people need to get over it. Seriously its Marvel they always figure out a way to bring a character back. COLOSSUS anyone? Frankly in my opinion Colossus sacrifcing himself was far more pivitol. And with all the unbelievable tech that universe has is it really so difficult to believe Coulson could survive?

  • gbfromsea

    How about bringing in “Gary” from Alphas. I loved that show and am still pissed at the SciFi channel for cancelling it.

  • ItsComics

    What you call “bland characters” I see as slowly revealing the characters’ background by teasing with vague tidbits. The subtle hints about Skye, and Agent May and the possibility that Coulson is a clone or some kind of android have made couple of the episodes better on the second viewing.

    give it a chance. remember the first season of Seinfeld or The Simpsons?

  • Nate Rhoden

    The writing being bland as hell is my number one gripe right now.
    Skye’s recently released back story doesn’t give me much hope either; it seems bland and melodramatic and overdone… she’s not a good enough actress for me to want to see her fake cry. Give her a definitive reason to fight (her parents being terrible people, and her needing to make up for it, for example).
    Add some character to the characters. Fitz and Simmons arguing with each other should be a rule (almost like a guy with a split personality) all the time should be a rule , which I frankly assumed would be the bit when they introduced both of them as a single character. Why isn’t one a crazy Frankenstein-esque “If we can, we should!” while the other tries to apply morality, or some similarly interesting duality? Because, so far, they both make me want to kill myself with their lack of conflict.
    I agree that someone Ward knows needs to die FAST and ugly, and he needs to start losing control somehow, because between him and Coulson, I can’t handle the dead stare.
    Speaking of Coulson, you need to either bring in some caricatures for him to play off of or lose him; he’s a secondary character by nature, trying to make him a main will kill any show.

  • Sare Kumagai

    Only morons judge a Joss show in the first five episodes of the first season. You obviously know nothing about anything and should not be permitted to share your work online.

    • HolyFranchiseBatman!

      I’m sorry, but I’m not enough of a Joss Whedon fanboy to give those five episodes a pass just because Whedon’s name is in the credits.

      When do you judge a Joss Whedon show? When it gets good? Or when it gets cancelled? Sorry, but I take shows an episode at a time, and those five episodes have ranged from absolutely dreadful to mediocre at best.

      Like I say in the article, I hope it picks up, but that doesn’t take away from the fact it’s had an awful start.

      • Sare Kumagai

        What do you think now?

        • HolyFranchiseBatman!

          I thought a couple of the episodes had picked up, but it’s still far from good in my opinion. I’m trying my best to stick with the show but it’s getting harder each week.

    • Ben Frank

      Are you seriously defending this garbage?

  • merwanor

    Season 1 of Star Trek The Next Generation was not very good, but still people stuck with it and it is one of the best sci fi shows ever amde. Do people have so little patience these days that they can’t give a show at least a season or two before they drop it?

    And btw, I enjoy the show so far, sure it needs some work, especially on the other cast members besides The Cavalry and Coulson. But I think it is a fun show, and it has potential, and I am sure it will get better, it just needs some time.

    The last suggestion was terrible, that is the worst way to twist the story.

    • HolyFranchiseBatman!

      You’re absolutely right on Star Trek: The Next Generation. But I’d sit through multiple repeat viewings of Encounter at Farpoint before I sat through the first two episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. again.

      And I agree it has bags of potential. That is part of the problem. It should have started good and become great, but instead it’s started dreadfully and without wholesale changes I can’t ever see it becoming great. Which is the real shame.

      And my last suggestion is tongue in cheek, the point being that if it doesn’t pick up, they should just forget it ever happened.

  • Daoofgeek

    First off, the dream sequence would be an absolutely terrible idea. Talk about a cop out (not a very good plot device and overused…maybe not as overused as the amnesia plot we see so often though ;-)

    With that said, I will agree with you that it’s been a hit and miss show (more miss for you, obviously) that can stand some improvements. Adding some superhero stuff and Fury would help a bit (as long as it’s presented correctly) as would killing the cast. Personally I do like Ward as well as the Fitz/Simmons duo though admittedly an argument could be made to pair the duo down to one.

    To your point of them crossing over to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this show is not here for the characters to do that, though I’d argue that Ward (like May) would do just fine in a cross over role.

    I really enjoy the show (the last episode was a very good one and best of the season) but admit there’s room for improvement though I will say, if you look at the history of genre shows, even the best of them had rocky first seasons. It’s a different time now, with faster results wanted so AoS does need to pick it up. But if “Girl in the Flower Dress” was an indication, we may be granted that wish.

  • momus

    Agent Coulson is an LMD robot – the real agent is dead.

  • Mike

    “Bring in the Superheroes” That’s why you’re not one of them who likes this show, you’re expecting superheroes because it says “Marvel”. I like this show because it doesn’t have superheroes, these are the behind the scenes guys, and I’m not talking about the guys who gets Tony Stark his coffee in the morning. This is what SHIELD is, not Nick Fury, not the Avengers, but agents like this.

    • HolyFranchiseBatman!

      They might be the behind-the-scenes guys, but they’re still boring, bland characters. The lack of superheroes isn’t why I don’t like the show… it’s because it’s been dull as hell so far.

      And if the show keeps losing hundreds of thousands of viewers each week, we’ll see how long it stays superhero free.

  • Jonathan Serota

    COULSON is DEAD. That’s a LMD LIFE MODEL DECOY, think I’m streching for comics lore. check AVENGERS dialogue line from Tony Stark to COULSON ” I’m sorry you’ve reached the LMD for TONY STARK, please leave a message” he’s a robot that doesn’t know he’s a robot. sounds like someone will be reprogramed by ultron into the VIsion to me.

    ALSO if SKYE isn’t JESSICA DREW then I’m crazy. SHe’s already a double triple agent she looksthe part. she’s searching for her parents who are obviously involved with something dirty (HYDRA) that got them redacted. by end of season one she gains her powers when she meets her parents and they conduct experiments on her just like in the comics. she doest want them, shield come in and saves her but born is SPIDER WOMAN.

    we really could use Mocking-Bird or Agent Bobbi Morse. intro her for a possible avengers meeting with hawk eye. Yes he has a relationship status with Black Widow, but see CAP 2 and that will transition from relationship between Cap and black widow to Black widow and WInter Soldier

  • JJ

    After the title there is a hint on what to expect from the show, it also points to where Marvel made a mistake. “An ABC Studios Production”.

  • Jim fowler

    I don’t know what you’re talking about I love this show. I look forward to it every week. The show isn’t about the superheroes. Ya maybe they could be sprinkled in but it’s about the agents. And the acts are working on the new bad ass movies. And I think the cast is good. They’re funny. Just because they’re new to marvel doesn’t mean their bad.

  • BacchusPlateau

    Agree totally with this article but I do know some friends who love this show just as it is. The actors and the scripts are awful in my humble opinion. I like the show theme…just make it more interesting please.

  • 00000

    People like to B!tch a lot.