Can ABC Save 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' After All?

I recently discussed how Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) ABC network was having problems with the Avengers spin-off "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," due in part to how segregated the show seems from the cinematic universe that Marvel Studios has built. The lack of "Marvel"-ness seems especially obvious when compared to shows such as the CW's "Arrow," which is based on one of Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) DC Comics characters. While "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has largely relied on more generic threats and occasional name-dropping to tie it in to the larger Marvel universe, "Arrow" features appearances by a number of DC heroes and villains.

It seems that ABC has more planned for "Agents" than just a few one-off references and a cameo by Samuel L. Jackson yelling about goldfish. Recently announced plans show that ABC is building toward more interaction with the Marvel universe at large, and possibly may be dropping hints about the future of Marvel Studios' films as well.

Spoilers ahead
The most recent episode of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." introduced Donnie Gill, the alter ego of the Marvel villain Blizzard. Similar to the previous introduction of Gravaton, the episode focused on Gill as a non-powered character and granted him cryogenic powers near the end (potentially foreshadowing him as a villain later in the series). It turns out that Gill was only the first of several Marvel characters planned for the second half of season one, however.

Feb. 4 will see the continuation of J. August Richard's storyline, which began in the series pilot. When his character Mike Peterson was last seen, he had been captured by the recurring antagonist Centipede. According to executive producer Jeffery Bell, Peterson will be transformed into the cybernetic assassin Deathlok; this is significant as the character not only has a 40-year history in the comics, but almost made it to the big screen in a stand-alone film as well. Though the film has generally been considered dead for a few years now, if the character proves popular then it's always possible that Marvel could revive it with Richard in the lead.

Also coming to "Agents" is a direct crossover with the "Thor" films. Jaimie Alexander will reprise her role as Lady Sif in the 15th episode of the season, coming to Earth to track down an Asgardian named Lorelei. This could give viewers a hint of what to expect in a potential third "Thor" film, as in the comics Lorelei is the sister of Amora (better known as the "Thor" villainess The Enchantress, a major character that is expected to show up sooner or later as a film antagonist.)

Will it work?
While "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." isn't strictly a "superhero" show in that it doesn't follow the exploits of costumed heroes, many fans have been disappointed in how little the show deals with known characters given the number of heroes and villains in the Marvel universe. The inclusion of several Marvel characters in the second half of season one could be a move toward the vision many had for the series based on early hype: a weekly view of the Marvel universe from the point of view of those who have to keep it under control.

The transformation of Mike Peterson into Deathlok, combined with the teasing of villains such as Graviton and Blizzard, shows that "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is playing a long game with its storytelling. With Bell's statement on Deathlok revealing that the transformation was planned from the introduction of the character, it gives us a glimpse at how far in advance the studio is planning some of its plot twists. This isn't necessarily a good thing, however.

Most of the episodes of "Agents" are designed to be self-contained, with larger story arcs looping through them. If not handled well, this can lead to pieces of the story arcs feeling bolted on or out of place in the context of the episodes that they appear in. Worse yet, it can make the individual episode plots seem like filler designed to stretch out the story arcs across the season. Balancing these two aspects will become more important as more of the Marvel universe at large begins showing up in "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

There's hope yet
Though viewership has declined significantly since the show's pilot brought in more than 12 million viewers, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." seems to have found a core audience by this point with between 6 million and 7 million viewers each episode. If ABC and Marvel Studios can begin fleshing out the groundwork they've been putting down and using the show to expand on the cinematic universe that appears on film, then the show might just be getting started.

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Read/Post Comments (22) | Recommend This Article (12)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 8:52 PM, sksharp1113 wrote:

    I Like the Agents of Shield and I don’t miss an episode. But I feel they should change it to another night were there not competing with N.C.I.S. I feel if they aired it on Monday or latter in the week they would get a better fan base.

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 8:54 PM, thranduilXloki wrote:

    what, the show needs is loki guest starring.

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 9:04 PM, anth1225 wrote:

    I think we'll find Marvel's version of storytelling will yield more satisfying results than the quick, fast food, mentality of immediate gratification.

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 9:59 PM, bkdlots wrote:

    Finally a awesome character in Deathlock.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 12:02 AM, Croaxleigh wrote:

    I'm pretty excited about Deathlok myself. Though his origin is changing a bit (as fits the story they're telling, which I have no problem with), the character has a lot of range if they're willing to play with it. I imagine that they'll be able to play up the existing characterization of Mike Peterson as well, since he's had a lot of issues so far feeling like he's letting his son down... now he'll have to deal with being a "monster" in his own eyes as well.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 2:13 AM, JForge wrote:

    I love Agents of Shield! To me, the lack of super heroes is what makes it great. A lot of normal humans (though very well trained) dealing with exceptional challenges. And I've come to like the characters for the most part. Still, I wouldn't complain if there were more appearances by the traditional comic characters/heroes/villains. But I like it as is. Hollywood comes up with so few TV shows that are worth watching, I'd hate to see this one get cancelled just because people QQ about "not enough superheroes!"

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 2:20 AM, monarchmike wrote:

    I have a hard time believing that this whole Deathlok transformation for Mike Peterson was planned from the very start. I thought it made sense as is that he was tied in to the Extremis program from Iron Man 3, and that itself was its direct tie to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After seeing the introductions of Graviton and Blizzard in their actual pre-villain Marvel identities of Dr. Franklin Hall and Donnie Gill, if Deathlok was planned from the beginning, surely they would have gone with the Luthor Manning or Michael Collins identity, or even better with the Jack Truman identity since that one was actually a SHIELD agent. This just seems like a knee-jerk reaction shoe-horned in to me. And I'm afraid J. August Richards is going to come off looking like a poor-man's version of Lee Thompson Young playing Cyborg on Smallville instead of the Deathlok the Demolisher we all know and love from the comics.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 8:55 AM, leobowdyo1 wrote:

    what the show really needs is to stop being a shill for the marvel universe ...they need to stop tieing in references to the the movies.

    I'm not suggesting that every episode needs to be filled with iron man or his ilk...nor am I suggesting that ShIeld needs tons of expensive CGI or special effects.

    Read the damn comic books people...SHIELD operates on it's own...yet you can't crank out this generic spy show and then label it MARVEL"S Shield...joe average will want the marvel effect he has come to expect from the movies..

    Take a page out of the "firefly" playbook..Joss didn't spend millions on sets or cgi..the show became a fan favorite for the writting/the characters/ the show had freaking heart.

    I really don't know what this pile of crap they call shield is...or what they are trying to do with all these "lost" dangling plot lines

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 9:06 AM, leobowdyo1 wrote:

    look at the difference between the two shows ( arrow and shield)...one is hott with the younger crowd/the female crowd and the other? probably slanted more towards older men?

    Shield not only needs a new time slot/day of the week...it needs a major overhaul.. I'm really surprised it didn't go " hunger games "...where the story revolves around a romance..with a very strong female lead..

    You'd get the young girls to watch/you'd get the older women to watch and more than likely you'd still get the older male audience to watch

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 9:41 AM, ponydriver1 wrote:

    I am tired of hearing that Shield isn’t good. And the writers keep trying to change things. They keep adding things and not seeing resolutions. This is Shield and when you have close to 50 years of history to deal with you can easily get lost in all the storylines.

    This is a reboot, be creative and as though as possible and keep it going. And to tall the critics a simple shut up your all out to lunch you expected something and didn’t get it. You who aren’t comic book fan expected to see the movies on the small screen every week.

    What you got instead is normal people doing extreme things to keep the common good. This is how real people would deal with extreme weird situation. Colson is a hard core agent that has proven to have a good heart. That isn’t found easily in real life or in the movies. This reflects on to the team and how they handle there mission.

    This shield team is a global clean up group that’s job is to take the really weird in the world and contain it if dangerous. This is the type of group that would be sent in to contain a new virus or make sure nothing bad happens if they find an 800 year crystal skull or 1 inch meteors that cause explosions that level 1200 feet of trees and not cause a fire.

    Stop the critic being stupid and say it’s a good show like it is. So those that haven’t watched would take a look and like it.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 10:38 AM, Croaxleigh wrote:

    PonyDriver1: It seems kind of a big assumption that people who don't like the show aren't comic book fans. A lot of the people that I've seen complaining about it complain because they ARE comic book fans... they wanted a show that was definitively set in their favorite comic universe, and feel that the current show features characters who are a bit too generic and seem out of place in the sort of organization that SHIELD is.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 11:35 AM, keithfitness wrote:

    I noticed you didn't say anything about Stan "The Man" Lee will be on Agents of SHIELD. Saw it on Newsarama.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 11:36 AM, AcuraT wrote:

    One important point this article overlooks: For this time slot, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has outperformed other shows in this timeslot for ABC dating back over 5 years. Although the numbers are not fantastic, they are solid going up against huge NCIS on CBS. ABC has a solid stand with its #2 show in this slot, and it has not premiered a show on Tuesday this strong in quite some time. If the costs are not out of control, people can count on a second season if the ratings stay where they are.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 12:03 PM, greenhornet wrote:

    What is the Fool's fascination with this show? There is an article on Agents of Shield everyday! Is the Fool in bed with ABC? The show is undeserving of this kind of attention

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 12:26 PM, BayouMan64 wrote:

    I love the show; however, I usually watch it on-line due to work. But now, since I have Direct TV, I can no longer watch it. Why was this done? Ishould not have to contact Direct TV to carry ABC streaming. You have lost a true Marvel fan.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 1:59 PM, legacys7 wrote:

    The show to me is as boring as the remake of the television series, "V."

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 3:08 PM, mrmike64 wrote:

    Really? come on Marvel don't be so stingy with your super-heroes! I mean come on for a company that has thousands of characters why not trot out a few an episode ? you have the Inhumans ,Dr.Strange,Daredevil,Luke Cage,Falcon,Iron Fist,

    that's just a few off the top of my head . i have read Marvel books since about 1973 and think you are not seeing the full potential here of your show. where you could showcase the many different heroes or villains in the Marvel Universe and have people get to see the different characters of Marvel and maybe get an interest in their books or maybe get to know the character before being used in a movie.

    Anybody who has followed the avengers comic books would know that just about every hero or character in Marvel Universe has at one time been an Avenger

    heck members of the X-men ,Fantastic Four and even Spider man was an Avenger!

    Maybe start with an Intro to the Ant Man in upcoming episodes in advance of the movie being put out?

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 11:50 PM, Croaxleigh wrote:

    Keep in mind that Marvel has plans for most of the characters that you named. Dr. Strange is rumored to be one of the Phase Three films, and Inhumans is a favorite of Kevin Feige to become a film as well. Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist are tied up in the Netflix deal, while Falcon will be in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." There's no way that Marvel Studios would introduce the characters on a TV show before their current planned appearances. (Same goes with Ant-Man, but moreso; Marvel left him out of the "Avengers" movie at the request of Edgar Wright so he could be introduced in the feature film, so there's no chance that they'd then turn around and introduce him on TV.)

    "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." isn't about the superheroes, it's about individuals who have to share the world with those superheroes. Using too many of them would be just as bad as using too few... it would change the show from being about Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. team to being a "hero of the week" affair with the team (and S.H.I.E.L.D.) as an afterthought.

  • Report this Comment On January 27, 2014, at 8:00 AM, DEA wrote:

    so much they could do with this show to build and spin off characters into their own series. Daredevil (can perhaps un-Afleck him) Punisher, GhostRider (un-Cage him!) Deadpool.....There, 4 great properties that they already own that could end up with series or movies spun off.

  • Report this Comment On January 27, 2014, at 11:34 AM, Croaxleigh wrote:

    Daredevil's already getting a series... it's the first of the four Netflix series that will combine for a "Defenders" miniseries. They couldn't use Deadpool, though... Fox has the rights to that character.

  • Report this Comment On January 27, 2014, at 12:39 PM, chaburchak wrote:

    People keep saying "this is not a superhero show, it's about Coulson's team..." but that's precisely why they need to bring on some superheroes -- 'cause Coulson's team is BORING! And irritating too, especially Skye and the science wonder twins. It's like Whedon was trying to recreate the high school dynamic of Buffy rather than a crack covert spy team. I've watched (and winced through) every episode so far, but I've finally reached the tipping point...I don't even care if I Tivo the darned thing anymore...

  • Report this Comment On January 27, 2014, at 1:03 PM, indianman479 wrote:

    I have enjoyed this new series especially the way they have explained out Agent Coulson rise from the dead. Everyone who saw Avengers knows he was killed but for him to be back in the way the brought him back was pretty good. Now all they need to do is keep this series going and maybe have guest appearances from the Avengers or allies of the avengers working its way toward the next captain America move where we discover another person who was seen falling off a train is now alive again.

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