For the past five weeks, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been attempting to make the transition from fledgling series into an earnest entry in Marvel’s ever-growing universe. But with the release of the spectacular Captain America: The Winter Solider trailer – while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking a week off – one must begin to wonder if Marvel has accidentally put the coffin nail in their struggling television counter-part with but a mere trailer reveal.
Let’s get it out of the way now: The Captain America: The Winter Solider trailer – all 2:27 minutes of it – is a better episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. than all the aired episodes of the series combined. Of course, when it comes to watching minutes of a $150+ million production, there’s no way a television show budget can even compare. Not one bit.
This, however, is not what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should be worried about.
Throughout the Captain America: The Winter Solider trailer, viewers are finally able to see more of the inner-workings of Marvel’s secret agency which, from the point of view of the television series, has largely consisted of cramped office spaces, a generic computer lab and parking so scarce that Coulson has to park his sports car, Lola, in a plane. On the other hand, the S.H.I.E.L.D. depicted in the trailer is an impressive, awe-inspiring organization whose resources are on full display. Putting the theatrical vs. TV budgets debate aside, what the newly-released Cap 2 trailer unfortunately does is call into question the purpose of the Aos TV series – even more than audiences already have.
What we have so far is this: Agent Coulson – (formerly) S.H.I.E.L.D.’s top agent – is killed, brought back to life (somehow) and is “stuck” with a cast of misfits who don’t really do all that much and aren’t all that successful. In the 5 episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that have aired, there have been multiple accounts of inside information being leaked out, 2 supervillains created, 1 new girl leading an “important” mission, and 0 mysteries revealed during those never-ending plane rides. It seems, in part, that Coulson may have been given the most boring division of S.H.I.E.L.D. there is.
With a rag-tag group consisting of the silent one (Melinda May), the generic one (Grant Ward), the new one (Skye) and two “geeks” who are likely too talkative to make it onboard the Helicarrier, Coulson has been traveling the globe for seemingly no reason or purpose. Nothing, as of yet, has really come from any of the missions that they’ve been sent on, and Coulson is still making over-the-top references about how something is a bit off.
Then comes the Captain America: The Winter Solider trailer, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is shown as the powerful organization that it is – not just by its impressive arsenal of planes, vehicles and a Helicarrier, but by its intense dedication to the protection of the planet. This is what one can simply intuit from the trailer; no mysteries or over-the-top musical accompaniments are needed. Everyone and everything has a purpose, and there isn’t a single person running around wondering what they’re supposed to be doing, or making references to how important a specific mission is. If something is important, audiences – especially in today’s age – will know.
In short, what the Cap 2 trailer lacks in time to fully develop its characters and their story, it makes up with CGI and effects. Don’t know how impressive S.H.I.E.L.D. is? Watch the gigantic Helicarrier crash in to the earth. As a television show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cannot keep up in that way – and it isn’t, thankfully. What Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should be doing is taking the extended time provided – its version of a $150+ million budget – and tell intimate tales worth telling, or that are at least interesting, while actually making us feel like we are embedded in an actual top espionage agency dedicated to protecting the planet.
Right now, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a series with no soul or purpose, and there’s no number of supervillain origins that will change that. It’s a television show that exists because it need$ to. Instead of stretching the small cast and limited budget to the max with production tricks, viewers are met with unnecessary, over-reaching tales that make it absolutely obvious that you’re watching a superhero(-esque) series on a budget, on ABC at 8pm. But even if S.H.I.E.L.D. makes the necessary tweaks to finally earn its early season renewal, can it survive the upcoming onslaught of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
With Marvel already working on a film schedule that reaches far into the future, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. viewed as a sister-cousin to these tales, audiences are likely going to have a difficult time transitioning from the shock and awe that comes from the films to a television show that may or may not be struggling to find its way for that particular season.
Let’s jump ahead to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2015. The Avengers: Age of Ultron premieres shortly before the season 2 finale airs, but all mentions of what occurred in the film are compacted into a quick, insider mention so as to not turn off those who have not seen it yet. Now entering its third season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would not only have to combat all the normal television tropes of an aging series (keeping the story fresh, characters interesting and evolving, etc.), it would also have to incorporate the developments of the film universe in order to stay relevant.
On top of that, Batman vs. Superman will have already hit theaters (pulling attention toward two of the biggest superheroes in existence), and DC’s response to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Gotham – which will NOT carry the burden of being connected to DC’s Cinematic Universe – will (likely) be on the air as well. If Ben Affleck’s Batman rekindles interest in that character and his world, and Gotham‘s comic book police procedural format is a hit, what would Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. be then but a clear example of a good idea poorly executed?
Now, after taking a looking at where Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is and where it will be required to go in the future, it’s almost impossible to envision that the series will reach big heights without some heavy-handed help from ABC and Disney. And if it could – even with the help – is it worth it? Are the tales being told worth the time and money that’s being invested, from both the viewer and studio? So far, that answer is “no.”
Will that change? Only time will tell – but Coulson might be better off preparing for a retirement with his favorite cellist.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesday @8pm on ABC
Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier premieres April 4, 2014