Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D got off to a rough start with viewers, who tuned in to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe expand its franchise-crossing storyline and find out what happened to bring fan-favorite character Agent Coulson back to life, but were soon frustrated by a first season narrative that had to jog in place waiting for Captain America: The Winter Soldier to drop its big story twist. Still, reviews picked up in the second half and fans were generally much happier with season 2, which upped the series’ action quotient and engaged in impressive world-building for future Marvel movies.
Now, the series has been gifted with one of modern pop culture’s most prestigious backhanded compliments: A featured showing on Honest Trailers. The popular comedy series takes several affectionate swipes at “Law & Order: Super Victims Unit” in their latest release — which also spoils a bunch of the most recent season, so wait-and-bingers be warned.
As expected, the parody series has its share of fun with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s most frequent criticisms; from its convoluted storyline, B-list roster of Marvel guest stars and its uncomfortable position of being neither as popular as the Marvel movies but also not as well-reviewed as Daredevil or Jessica Jones. But they also get in more fandom-specific digs like the bizarre repetition of key phrases (“Protection,” “Protocol”) and the suspicion that more popular cameos and guest-characters are being held back due to rivalries within the various divisions of the Disney/Marvel machine. As the voiceover puts it: “When you really think about it, it’s kind of surprising its even as good as it is.”
Despite being perhaps permanently regarded as the awkward middle child of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has gradually (and a bit haphazardly) carved out a niche as one of the strangest corners of the mega-franchise. While the first season dealt largely with “monster of the week” storylines and one too many fake-outs about the true nature of Coulson’s resurrection, it managed to end on a high note via an extended tie-in to The Winter Soldier and a shocking villain-turn by one of the main characters. Season 2 hit the ground running with an action-heavy mystery story that added unexpected depth to the established characters and a bravura second-half that brought the first building blocks of The Inhumans into MCU continuity for the first time — an unexpected cosmic-scale twist that’s expanded in season 3.
Fans have also praised the welcome introduction of diverse characters from the franchise, including Chloe Bennett’s Skye (whose true identity as an obscure Marvel heroine was at one point the series’ longest-running secret), Ming-Na Wen’s lethal Agent Melinda May and J. August Richards as Deathlok. However, the series has also been criticized for its tendency to kill off black characters with alarming regularity, which Honest Trailers is all too happy to point out with an unfavorable comparison to a similar tendency of The Walking Dead. Many fans have also expressed impatience with the characters thus far having not made any appearances in the Marvel films, though some expected the Agents to be among the heroes joining the battle in thew two-part Infinity War movie.
Despite likely being Marvel’s most easily satirized property, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has remained a reliable ratings draw for ABC. While currently on winter break and being replaced (as in season 2) by the second season of Agent Carter, the series is expected to return and finish season 3 in March — which (if it follows the same trajectory as last season) should place the Agents on track to intersect in some fashion with the events of Captain America: Civil War.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns from its midseason hiatus on Tuesday, March 8 on ABC.