The Problem With 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D."

by Kadeen Griffiths

If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is like the Six Flags that your parents took you to every summer and let you run around in until you were old enough to take yourself, then Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is like the kiddie pool they filled up for you in the backyard until you were old enough to drive yourself to the YMCA. Although it was one of the most heavily hyped shows of the fall season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has consistently underperformed ever since, failing to draw in a new audience and retaining avid comic book fans who mostly DVR it anyway. Showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen discussed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D 's past, present, and future with The Hollywood Reporter and it basically boiled down to admitting that the expectation of creating a Marvel movie every week was a hard one to live up to.

Well, duh. Tell us something we don't know. The thing about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is that it promised a lot of things that it just plain didn't deliver. It was led by a fan-favorite character whose death scene in The Avengers had people taking to Twitter to trend #COULSONLIVES. It featured a guest appearance from Cobie Smulders as Maria Ross in the pilot episode. It teased an episode taking place directly after Thor: The Dark World and dealing with the fallout of the plot. Essentially, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D promised to do a lot more than it actually ended up doing with any of the endless resources at its disposal.

Whendon and Tancharoen make it sound like the fans who sat down to see the latest Marvel project were expecting a multibillion dollar budget that would enable the kind of graphic fight scenes and explosions present in any movie in the MCU. "In the movies, everything happens on a much bigger scale," says Tancharoen. "And on our show we get to explore the details and the personal fallout the personal consequences of all the big things you see on the films."

And that's where their defense begins to fall apart. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D doesn't really do any of that. It is, as The Hollywood Reporter writes, "a procedural with a Marvel twist". Whedon and Tancharoen believe that they've moved past that as the show has found its footing going into the second half of the season, but more than halfway through a season is a long time to expect an audience to wait for you to get to the point. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has added absolutely nothing to the Marvel universe and done very little to compliment the movies. Even the episode taking place directly after Thor: The Dark World only mentioned the plot of the movie in a throwaway scene that acted as a setup for the actual plot of the episode. This seemed like an irrelevant side story compared to the movie tie-in episode the promos promised.

Then there was the highly publicized appearance of Lady Sif in "Yes Men" as she faced down her old opponent, the siren-like Asgardian Lorelei. If you were expecting an epic battle of feminine wits, then you were as disappointed as I was by the way Lorelei was used to drum up relationship drama between Melinda May and her young beau Grant Ward before being relatively easily defeated by Lady Sif. Even more disappointingly, Agent May and Lady Sif didn't have a single conversation that passed the Bechdel Test. In fact, they only had one conversation and it was almost entirely about men.

If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has done anything over the course of the season, it's taken huge steps backward to the point that only people who really love Marvel that can call it one of their favorite shows. The audience was never expecting a Marvel movie every week on the budget of a TV show. What they were expecting were well-developed characters and an intriguing storyline. That's what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has truly been failing to deliver by relying on ratings gimmicks and surprise guest appearances. Hopefully, the rest of the season will actually try to fix that or the season finale might end up being the series finale after all.

Image: ABC; Giphy