As the ratings for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continued to fall and critics (including TV Guide and The Huffington Post) labeled the ABC program for being the fall season's "biggest disappointment," we looked into what the decision-makers behind the series planned to do after the holiday break to turn things around. From the words of series executive producer Jeffrey Bell and Jeph Loeb, Head of Marvel's TV division, viewers were told to be patient and that there's "a plan" in place, one that would make the show "feel more Marvel." They referred to deeper stories connected to the films and more characters from Marvel Comics.
This week's episode "Seeds" - the 12th in the season - offered an origin story for Blizzard, a character from the books, and next week Stan Lee will be making a special appearance. We also just found out that Bill Paxton will be joining Agents of SHIELD with a four-episode arc as another important character from the comics so it's clear Marvel is making every effort to boost interest and connections to the source material - especially since it was officially announced today that Jaimie Alexander will also be making a guest appearance as Lady Sif, coming to Earth from Asgard after the events of Thor: The Dark World.
The first time Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. attempted to hype up a direct tie-in with the films came with the episode "The Well" where Coulson and co. encountered an old Asgardian hiding on Earth. While the episode did well to flesh out some of its core characters, the episode represented some of the larger issues with the show and its lack of ambition (or ability) to truly synergize with the films or take advantage of the source material. In the end, the episode really didn't have much to do with Asgard or Thor at all and the alien character and his artifact/weapon could have been replaced with any made-up original character.
Marvel has a second chance to make up for that missed opportunity in episode 15, an episode that's very intentionally tied into the February home video release of Thor: The Dark World. This time around, an actual character from the films is showing up - another Asgardian. Lady Sif, according to Marvel's announcement, is on a "very specific mission" to Earth in this episode but no further information is currently available. Since the events of Thor 2 have already taken place, meaning Thor is living here on Earth with Jane Foster, we can only assume Sif is here to meet up with him, perhaps send him a message about Loki?
We're already trying to piece together what would put Sif in contact with Agent Coulson's team. Perhaps her mission to earth has something to do with the mystery about Skye's character that we learned more about in last week's episode? Much like Coulson's backstory requires some fleshing out to determine why he must be kept alive (read our new Coulson theories here) and why he's so important to the leaders of S.H.I.E.L.D., viewers were tossed another mystery regarding the hacker with a heart who was recruited by Coulson in the pilot.
The idea of Alexander popping up on the program is a nice one, but it raises the question of whether or not Chris Hemsworth - and the bigger stories of the movies - will as well. We can't see Hemsworth or Natalie Portman making an appearance which again hearkens back to the bigger issue. Why would Sif come to Earth but not see Thor? Will Sif know Coulson is alive before Thor? Or is that an potential surprise for viewers? What mission is Sif on and does it tie into upcoming events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Or will this be another throwaway episode that doesn't have lasting implications for the franchise? Will she wear her Asgardian armor?
Let us know your thoughts and theories!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns Tuesday, February 4th @8pm on ABC.
Thor: The Dark World releases on 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray and DVD February 25th.
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