[WARNING: Spoilers for 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Episodes 2 & 3 Below]
After premiering to more than 12 million viewers, the ratings for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. dropped significantly in its second episode, causing a mild panic for fans who want to see the series evolve and the newly introduced characters grow. Fortunately, the ratings for the third episode, "The Asset," dipped only slightly from the second and, perhaps more importantly, it seemed to steer the story in a positive and fan-friendly direction.
With many fans clamoring for appearances from recognizable villains and beloved heroes following the mixed reviews of the pilot, the show's producers surprised fans by including a Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) cameo in the final moments of episode two. Then in this week's episode, the series teased the introduction of its first super villain in another "end tag" (sort of like the post-credits sequence of the TV world), which it plans to continue to use in an effort to build more interest from episode to episode.
In an interview with Comic Book Resources before the premiere of "The Asset," Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. writer Jeffrey Bell said that each episode of the series from here on out will include a "tag," which is designed to entice viewers to return each week.
According to Bell:
"Part of our storytelling on this show is going to be a tag every week. We need people to know about that. The show ends, the S.H.I.E.L.D. eagle comes up, there are nine hours of commercials because it's TV, and then before we go to the next show, we're almost always going to have another minute, minute and a half of something, and those will be different from week to week."
Another purpose of the tag is to ensure that viewers stay tuned in until the very end of the episode. Bell noted that not every tag will tease future events, but that some will reveal more about the current episode. He also pointed out that tags are something all Marvel productions use, so the show's efforts are also to stay in line with the trend.
"One of the things we want people to know is, 'Stick around for the tag.' Having a special one like we did early is also to tell you, 'Pay attention to that.' I know when 'Iron Man' did that after all the credits, a lot of the people left and didn't know they should have stayed. Now you watch a Marvel movie, and everybody stays until the end. We're going to be doing that, and we want people to know. Sometimes it'll be funny, sometimes it'll be a mythology thing, sometimes it'll be a self-contained thing, or an extra little reveal about something that was in the episode."
Episode 3's tag certainly did a good job of building some interest, as it teased the introduction of the Marvel villain Graviton with a simple shot inside a secret vault where the agency is storing a mysterious element called "Gravitonium." After an agent removes a numerical label from the vault door, we then see the hand of Dr. Franklin Hall - who had been sucked into the matter earlier in the episode - reach out from the globular mass, which of course indicates that he will soon become Graviton, as he did in the comics.
Marvel fans will likely be thrilled by the prospect of seeing the first major baddie from the comics on the show, while other viewers could be more compelled to find out what will happen next week because of episode 3's tag. It's hard to know if these tags will increase viewership numbers, but they could at least help stabilize them.
Of course, there are many criticisms of the new Marvel show other than the lack of familiar faces. Many fans and critics feel some of the main characters are bland and need to be further developed, which is a concern the show's producers seem to already be addressing.
We're still holding out hope that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will make a significant contribution to the overall Marvel live-action mythos, so we, like all of you, will be interested to see how the story and characters take shape.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 with “Eye-Spy” @8pm on ABC.
Source: Comic Book Resources