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Is ‘Uprising’ the Event that ‘Agents of SHIELD’ Needs?

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Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) Marvel Studios has struggled with its "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." series on ABC. While fans have held out due to the show's potential, viewership has dropped significantly since the show's pilot premiered last year. Now, ABC is advertising an "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." event called "Uprising" in the weeks leading up to the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

If "Uprising" proves popular, it could turn around the show that has managed to hold on to a faithful audience but has had trouble finding genuine success. Of course, it remains to be seen whether even a strong multi-episode event will be enough to win back viewers who had already given up on the show.

Before the uprising
Part of the problem that "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has had so far is one of pacing. Much of the first half of the season was spent setting up a few major events, and the plot segments that didn't build to those events seemed largely tacked on. It was clear that the show was trying to establish a larger overall plot while letting the individual episodes stand alone, but for the most part the main plot seemed to crawl and the individual episodes were largely hit or miss.

It seemed like things would picked up around the release of Thor: The Dark World, as the episode following the film's release was said to tie directly in to the aftermath of that movie. Unfortunately, the tie-in was in the form of references in the first few minutes of the episode followed by a story about an unrelated Asgardian character. While "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." takes place within the same universe as Marvel's cinematic releases, the show seemed largely segregated from both the films and Marvel's major characters.

A turning point?
After the mid-season finale's cliffhanger ending, the pace seemed to be picking up. Not only was the mystery surrounding Agent Coulson's death and return revealed, but J. August Richards' Mike Peterson was revealed to be the cinematic universe's version of the cybernetic assassin Deathlok. It seemed like the show might really have reached a turning point and that a lot of the questions that fans had would soon be answered.

Unfortunately, that's when the Winter Olympics occurred and the show took a few weeks off to avoid competing with the Games. This was a bit risky, since it not only had the potential to kill the momentum that the show was finally making, but it also ran the risk of fans becoming frustrated with on-again-off-again scheduling. After a slow first half of the season and a hiatus just a couple of episodes into the second half, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." would need to have a strong return to keep the momentum it was carrying.

Enter "Uprising."

The uprising begins
The first episode back after the hiatus was titled "T.A.H.I.T.I." and served up just what the show needed. It managed to recap just enough to remind viewers the situation that they'd been left, expanded on the mythology that had been established in recent episodes, and featured guest star Bill Paxton in a role that fit well within the episode. While there were a few points in the episode that might seem a bit questionable, the pacing established a sense of urgency and the ending of the episode left viewers with questions that are much more intriguing than the previous "make a vague statement that hints at something more" method used to set up future plot points.

The epilogue was well done, too, introducing a new villain that will be a major part of the next episode. Not only does the villain bring Jamie Alexander's Lady Sif to the show in one of the biggest tie-ins to the cinematic universe yet, but it also hints at other characters that could play a major role in a third "Thor" movie.

Will 'Uprising' work?
The next few episodes should be similar to "T.A.H.I.T.I.", giving the show a much closer feel to the cinematic universe than what the first half of the season offered. Given the timing and the name of the event, it will also likely tie in to Captain America: The Winter Soldier in some way (and the aftermath of that film will likely be felt in the series moving forward as well). Recent episodes have already dropped a few names related to Winter Soldier, so it seems that the next tie-in to a movie release will be much more fulfilling than the last one.

That said, it still might take a while for "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." to regain its audience. Provided that future episodes maintain the quality of the most recent ones, word of mouth and marketing will likely bring about a bump in ratings. If the show goes back to the slower pacing and scattered plotting from the first half of the season, though, then fans who decided to give it a second chance might disappear for good.

Read/Post Comments (13) | Recommend This Article (1)

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  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 11:00 AM, chicagorob wrote:

    The show's pacing and universe tie-ins have improved tremendously. But there is still a problem with some of the characters, especially the younger agents. They are either insipid and timid or overly rebelious and cocky.

    That dynamic would work well back at Sunnyvale High, but not so well on a SHIELD special team. Coulson, still the cool underestimated superhero and May as the Black Widow clone are both great. But their relations with the rest of the team makes it feel like their helping the kids through their apprenticeship program and not handling dangerous misions.

    They need to up the ante, not only in the long term building stories, but in the abilities, strengths and confidences of the characters we're suppose to be rooting for. At this point, a couple of the kids could be killed off and the show would actually improve.

    I didn't miss Skye at all in "T.A.H.I.T.I.", which is not a good sign for the character. Sure, she's the "outsider brought in to explain SHIELD stuff to so the audience can follow along", but her character is almost superfluous and and fast becoming an unnecessary point of conflict. That is, except when she disagrees with everyone about SHIELD protoccol, without really knowing what's going on.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 12:10 PM, AcuraT wrote:

    Simply put, this show needs more people to watch, and right now, its ratings have tanked big time. For this past Tuesday: Agents of SHIELD, dropping half of a point, brought a series low 1.7 rating with adults 18-49. The Goldbergs (1.6 adults) held even, but Trophy Wife (0.8 adults) fell to a low as well. Mind Games (0.6 adults) fell off a cliff in its second week, dropping half a point from its modest opening. ABC averaged a 1.2 rating among adults 18-49 and 3.6 million viewers.

    So a show a fraction of its cost, the Goldbergs, gets the virtually the same rating as a show that costs nearly four times as much. Guess what? SHEILD is gone unless it gets back above a 2.0 at least. IMOH.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 1:55 PM, hectoruno wrote:

    The delay really hurt the show. They did not even put out reruns. It looked like Mindgames replaced Agents of Shield. Some people may have thought the show was already canceled. With the exception of an email I saw no indication the show was back on.

    Of course it had bad numbers. They did not hype up the return at all. It was so long ago I forgot that Skye was shot.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 2:18 PM, Aldirick wrote:

    I think the one thing that people are forgetting is that there is a man involved who is so invested in the Marvel Universe that he knows what will happen for the next three years. Joss Whedon, yes that guy, you know, wrote comics for Marvel before Disney bought them out, made this movie that grossed more money than anyone ever imagined. Ya that guy. What people forget about Whedon is that he takes his time to build the story, to let you see the happening from the prospective of the characters first then expands the world around them and what you see.

    I see three things that will likely happen in the next few weeks. 1) Sky tries to deal with her 'resurrection' and the lengths that the team went to for her. 2) Coleson is going to start asking questions, what was that blue thing? What the hell did they really do to me? and, What is SHIELD going to do to us for taking out that asset facility? 3) I see Uprising as the tie in to Winter Soldier, there is going to be a revolt within SHIELD of some type, one that puts Nick Fury in danger. This is not going to start fast, it will build up and the show will be the perfect platform for it.

    As has been noted in all of Whedon's shows and movies, actions taken, no matter the cause or the rightness of them, have consequences. Those consequences are what will bring the people back, was saving Skye worth it? that is why they will come back to the show.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 2:48 PM, Croaxleigh wrote:

    Aldirick: Whedon is involved, but only as a producer/general overseer. His brother's the showrunner, and there may be limits to what Joss can tell him based on contractual obligations (as Disney/Marvel has been fairly tight-lipped about what's going on with the Marvel universe even with actors and others who are part of that universe.) I do think that you're right about the event building up to "Winter Soldier," however, and I hope that the show does deal with the consequences of various actions (and the fallout from "Winter Soldier" much more than it did in the "Thor" sequel.)

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 3:34 PM, msorrentino wrote:

    Personally, I love the show and the characters. The real problem is the pacing, it seems that the writers are writing the show as if it were a comic book, one storyline broken up across a dozen issues. However, while that might work well with comics (a point to be argued), but not TV shows. If they want Agents of SHIELD to be a success I think they should take a page out of Doctor Who's play book. Which is to say, don't over do the connective tissue between episodes. In Doctor Who, they build up major plots with minor details. In season 5 for example, the ongoing plot element was the cracks in the skin of the universe. While they played a major role in the first episode of the season, afterward they became the equivalent of a cameo. They appeared to the audience, but were left unknown to the characters until half way through the season. When the Doctor finally figures out what's up, the audience find themselves at the finale episode of the season. In addition, with Steven Moffat's run on Doctor Who, he successfully pulled off the cliffhanger ending with each season. The last episode of the season would present the Doctor with a new mystery which would integral to the following season. In fact, plot elements that Steven Moffat introduced in the first episode of season 5 and onward tied together nicely in the finale episode featuring Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor.

    This is what Agents of SHILED has to do, create intriguing mysteries that propel the series forward. Since, the beginning of the series the only mystery that has only partially been answered is the one regarding Coulson's resurrection. They have since introduced new mysteries most of which have gone more or less unanswered such as "Who/what is Skye exactly?", "Who is the Clairvoyant?" and with the previous episode "Who/what is the blue guy in the tank?". They should introduce only one mystery at a time, like Doctor Who. They should use the resolution of the first mystery to lead directly into the next. They did do this with Project Centipede and the Clairvoyant. However, that was the only time when solving one mystery lead Coulson's team into another.

    I understand that they want to tie the series into the events of Cap 2, but honestly I think that is part of what has hurt the series. The series would have done better if Marvel and ABC had released it on Netflix two weeks before the release of Cap 2. That would have given fans enough time to watch the entire series and see how it ties in, without giving to much away about Cap 2 which would come out in two weeks. While leaving fans curious about the unsolved mysterious surrounding Skye and Coulson. Marvel and ABC should also do a Netflix series with J. August Richards as Deathlok.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 3:35 PM, msorrentino wrote:

    ^ in the second paragraph that's supposed to say "Agents of SHIELD", not "Agents of SHILED" :(

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 5:11 PM, Richardragan wrote:

    I want to see more of Deathlok i realy enjoyed reading his books back in the 70's .The Captain America tie in will be cool lets have a Gaurdians of the Galaxy tie in too that would be realy cool ....

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 8:45 PM, Croaxleigh wrote:

    Richardragan: The preview that ABC released for "Uprising" showed a glimpse of more Deathlok, so you should get your wish sooner rather than later. It'll be interesting to see where they take the character, since out of the cast so far he has the most potential to appear in a future Marvel/Avengers film (since most of the rest of the team would be better suited to cameo appearances.) It would be really interesting to see Deathlok be recruited to help fight Thanos, for instance (and might fall at least somewhat within the realm of possibility, given how Joss Whedon likes working with actors he's worked with before; J. August Richards wouldn't even be the first "Angel" alum to appear in an Avengers film.)

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 10:18 AM, sniperboy wrote:

    After the events in the Captain American: Winter Solider movie EVERYTHING in the Agents of Shield television show will change.

    Remember this quote...

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 10:23 AM, hjames wrote:

    If they want this show to work they need to watch a few episodes of Arrow and see how a show of this type is done!

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 7:30 PM, msorrentino wrote:

    @hjames Agents of SHIELD however, isn't the same type of show as Arrow and I hate it when people compare the two. Arrow is about a superhero living in a world of emerging superheroes. Agents of SHIELD is about the ordinary guy living in the world of the extraordinary and learning to deal with each new threat that arises. What they do have to do is improve the pacing and ironically the best way to do that is to not try so hard to make it tie in with the movies (I'm looking at you Cap 2). Yes, they have to acknowledge the events happening around them, but that doesn't mean having the season villain (The Clairvoyant) being connected to the villain of Cap 2, by doing so they prolong painfully so a storyline that could have been wrapped up within ten episodes. As I said in my earlier post, if Marvel wanted the season' finale to tie in with the release of Cap 2, then they should have released the entire season on Netflix ~2 weeks before Cap 2 came out.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2014, at 1:20 PM, Leonidas04 wrote:

    What HJames is saying that AOS should mimic how the Arrow writers create urgency, develop their characters' chemistry, create high stakes, maintain fast pacing, and weave the comic universe into stories weekly. He does not mean literally copy Arrow of course. Actually, all high quality TV shows do the things I metioned. Game of Thrones is masterful at it with practically NO superpowered beings.

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John Casteele

John Casteele is a freelance writer, editor, and occasional web cartoonist. He prefers long-term investments, largely in retail, medical, and tech.

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