Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a pretty strong premiere (in terms of ratings); however, a very vocal section of the Marvel Universe fan base have been very critical of Avengers director Joss Whedon’s S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot – and based on polling in our own review, even those who enjoyed the premiere episode nonetheless believe there is room for some considerable improvement.

Always the helpful bridge-builders, we thought we could identify four ways that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can improve itself in nice, succinct (and relatively quick) fashion.

Read on and see if you agree with our picks – and feel free to make your own in the comment section below.

So far, it seems that one of the criticisms about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is that the characters are too cliched and vanilla – in all meanings of the latter word. Not a problem: The great thing about teams is that there are a lot of bodies – and more than a few of them can be sacrificed. And we all know that Whedon loves to (sort of) kill characters off…

TIP: Don’t hold on to any weak links. If the fanbase isn’t warming to a character within a few episodes – be it snarky blogger Skye (Chloe Bennet) or snarky agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) – then take him/her out of the equation for good.

Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) seem to be fan-approved, so there’s already a foundation there. And it’s fortunate that Marvel went with relative unknowns for the younger cast: we won’t feel much loss if (when?) they’re gone.

Making a TV pilot is like throwing sand into a colander and sifting it out until you discover a few gems buried within. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. threw a lot of things in that colander – and a lot of characters, to boot. Right now it looks like only one or two of them (maybe three) are going to shine, but that’s okay: great TV shows have been made from less.

Don’t want to kill off or write off characters like Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) or Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge)? Fine. Have them take a cue from Q in James Bond and give them a little cameo scene every now and again to present new gadgets (and limited banter) to our agents. Meanwhile, Agent May is intriguing – let’s spend more time focused on her!

TIP: There is foreground and background to play with, so don’t spread the show too thin. Focus on the top players and go deeper into their stories; create more restricted lanes for the other players (or just lose them entirely).  

Look, with every slide it is seeming more and more clear that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is in need of a re-tooled cast. It’s not just the actors – or the characters, for that matter. It’s actually a combination of both.

From the early marketing it was clear there was a problem: Nothing about the S.H.I.E.L.D. team seemed that interesting. Or badass. Or believable. Or diverse. It was all Disney/ABC-brand family-friendly blandness. In a world where character-centric cable shows have seized the zeitgeist, bland and forgettable characters are a death-knell for a TV series.

TIP: When you pull some weak links out, you better replace them with something that’s actually better – something more interesting, badass, believable AND diverse. This is the Marvel Universe; plenty of great characters (superheroes or S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents) already exist in canon, and if you’re going to create new ones, give us characters with more imagination behind them, instead of a cast assembled from a demographics analysis printout.

Right now, people are saying that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. feels like Avengers  with weaker characters and much lower action potential. It’s easy to see from the pilot how Marvel could’ve indeed been going for that Avengers tone and feel to the show – but perhaps that was a misstep. Maybe a change in approach to the material would fix many problems at once – the writing, characters and overall tone of the show being some of the big ones.

TIP: This is an ultra-secret espionage organization; give us a show with more espionage edge to it, rather than trying to emulate the superhero high-fantasy adventure of Avengers – with non-super, non-fantastical characters. There is a way to make AoS a little more like Alias24, Strikeback or Homeland and still retain that coveted family-friendly brand. The show needs to sharpen its claws a bit. Better characters and storylines will flow from that.

Based on our Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiere review and podcast discussion of the show, it’s safe to say that around the Screen Rant bullpen there is a feeling that there is potential in the show – potential we want to see realized into the best possible show Marvel can deliver to fans.

Clearly a pilot is only a test run – which is why both fans and critics alike are eager to see what comes next in Marvel’s big spinoff show. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode 2 evidences clear smoothing of some of these rough edges, maybe we can tuck our list away… for now.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays @8pm on ABC.

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