When Marvel announced a television tie-in to their cinematic universe, they were embarking into uncharted territory. Though Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., from showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen (Dollhouse) and Jed Whedon (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), has seen its ups and downs throughout season 1, the show has hit a major upswing in the last run of episodes.
In a recent interview with CBM, Tancharoen and Whedon spoke about the challenges they faced in weaving Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (before and after the Captain America: The Winter Soldier reveal) and how they're approaching season 2.
One of the major aspects they wanted to highlight during season 1 was establishing the core cast of characters and building their relationships to each other within the team. The most recent run of episodes, though, has been crucial in terms of character development. As Whedon explains, the fallout from the Captain America: The Winter Soldier tie in episode (read our review) - the revelation that Hydra had completely infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. - has dramatically shaken up Coulson’s team and the entire foundation of S.H.I.E.L.D.
According to Whedon:
The standalone format that at the end of every episode you sort of reset, makes it feel like the stakes aren’t that high because you know at the end of the day everything is going to be tied up in a bow. In the last group of episodes of the season we reached a point where that was NOT happening. At any moment something terrible could happen.
Since the excitement and tension of the last few episodes hinged entirely on the Hydra reveal, it’s hard to imagine how Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could have finished their debut season on such a high note without Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Though the first 16 episodes existed within the same universe as the Marvel films, there can be no doubt now about the connection between Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the MCU.
However, Whedon points out that their show must be able to stand on its own, finding the appropriate balance of piggybacking off events of the Marvel films and exploring their own stories, characters, and mythos from the comics:
We don’t want to turn into an Easter egg farm; we still want to exist on our own and be our own property. Just as Iron Man exists separate from Thor but they can live in The Avengers together…
While the better part of its first season saw Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. barely connecting to the MCU, the recent turn of events shows that the series will fully embrace the overarching story built by Marvel Studios. With their films planned out through 2028, Marvel has a basic road map that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. must follow (to some degree), which gives the showrunners a whole slew of unprecedented problems:
Whedon: Existing in the same universe gives you these great opportunities, but it’s also hyper-complicated [laughs].
Tancharoen: It’s like a big puzzle that every part has to fit in to just so. There are certain things we can’t mention at this point and can’t touch at this point, as well as things that we can. When we CAN, it’s very exciting. But there are rules, a structure and an overall outline of how we lay out the universe over time.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is an experiment in creating parallel storylines - and weaving them together in a plausible and compelling manner - between a television series and film franchise that exists within the same shared universe. Though the ratings for the series have declined since the show’s record-breaking premiere, the last run of episodes has given viewers renewed faith that the show would be able to exist believably within, and build upon, the MCU.
Whether Tancharoen and Whedon will be able to maintain the momentum Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. demonstrated during the last run of episodes is a question that can only be answered by the show’s sophomore season.
Are you looking forward to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2? Let us know in the comments.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return to ABC in Fall 2014 on Tuesdays @9pm.