It's make or break time for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., now that the second half of its first season is fully underway. The episodes ahead promise to fully unravel the mystery of Agent Coulson's return from the dead, after last night's 'The Magical Place" (read our review) exposed at least part of that heavily (excessively?) built-up truth.
Additionally, there will be new super-powered villain conflicts, ordinary S.H.I.E.L.D. agent stories and narrative threads connected to Captain America: The Winter Soldier - which opens around the time that the show's first season will begin wrapping up - woven during the months ahead. Indeed, as under-whelming as the first half-season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was for many viewers (not everyone, of course), there is room for some important course-correction to unfold during the next 10-11 episodes.
THR has confirmed that Stan Lee will appear on an episode tentatively scheduled to air next month on February 4th, but what's interesting about the report is the implication that the Marvel legend (an executive producer on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) will be making more than his trademark winking cameo (see: every Marvel film he's ever appeared in).
Instead, Lee describes his future appearance on the show as a "big role," suggesting a guest star appearance on par with Peter MacNicol's as former Asgardian Berserker-turned Professor Elliott Randolph on the Thor: The Dark World tie-in episode, "The Well".
The thing is, though, whereas MacNicol is, well, a full-fledged actor, Lee tends to stick to one-note character cameos and has yet to prove that he can offer something with real depth - so the cynical assumption is that Lee's "big role" will be more of a publicity gimmick for the show than anything meaningful.
On the other hand, producer Jeffrey Bell previously teased that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will start to feel more like a Marvel product in the second half of its first season; that means "bringing the tension and suspense of the movies," but also bringing in characters and faces that the fans of the Marvel Cinematic (and Comic Book) Universe will recognize (see: Blizzard). In his own way, Lee is so recognizable nowadays that he fits that bill.
Then again, what many fans would really like to see are key MCU characters interwoven organically into the show's over-arching narrative (not just cheap cameos), and star Clark Gregg agrees; in fact, he indicated to Zap2it that he would like to see Paul Rudd as Ant-Man introduced on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., well before his big-screen debut in 2015.
On Rudd's casting in The World's End director Edgar Wright's Ant-Man movie, Gregg said:
"I love that idea. I love that idea. I think he's amazing and, for me, what's great about Marvel is the kind of outside the box casting that they've done, starting with Robert [Downey Jr.] who now seems so perfect, but I think was a little bit of a tough sell at the first moment," he says. "People who you don't associate initially with superhero movies is what works so well for Ant-Man, who's so smart and has an intellect."
Honestly, Rudd showing up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't sound like a terrible idea - the plausibility of that scenario aside, that is. Wright has hinted that his film might start not so long after Hank Pym (Rudd) acquires the Ant-Man suit, and having a non-powered Hank show up would fit with the "everyday hero" template of the series (maybe he and Fitz can become geek-bros or something).
There's also the obvious synergistic benefit of exposing millions of viewers who are less familiar with the Ant-Man character to Rudd's version - though, that could be a double-edged sword, if people aren't keen on how the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. writers handle the character. Be sure and let us know if you're interested in either the proposed Ant-Man appearance and/or the confirmed Stan Lee guest starring news, in the comments section.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns next Tuesday with “Seeds” @8pm on ABC.
Ant-Man opens in theaters on July 31st, 2015.