Cinematic Tie-in’s Give Agents of SHIELD New Life
ABC’s Agents of SHIELD is kind of awesome. There, I said it. It hasn’t always been so, but the show has been on a general upswing since Thor: The Dark World brought some Asgard-sized problems to Agent Coulson’s door. Even then, the show sort of meandered along until episodes began to delve into the mystery surrounding the Son of Coul’s trip to Tahiti following the events of the Avengers. But it’s really with the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and all the hoopla and consequences that follow, that AOS’s awesome knob got turned to eleven.
Now, let me be up front: spoilers will likely follow, though I intend to be as cagey as possible. Haven’t watched? Want to watch? Don’t read!
First, it must be acknowledged that the interface between the films and the TV show is awesome. If you watch the last episode to air before Cap 2’s release and chase the movie with the first episode to air afterwards, you’ve basically got a single, extended piece of glorious media. Even if the show had continued to suck, props would still be owed for the way they’ve attenuated the show to the film universe. This kind of integration between media streams is basically unprecedented so far as I know, and it is super compelling.
Watching Monday’s episode after having seen the Winter Soldier just a day earlier was a visceral experience. Anyone who has seen the film can attest: it’s an intense thriller, and it leaves the MCU at least as changed as the Avenger’s Battle for New York. AOS wasted no time to begin exploring the consequences of Hydra’s infiltration of SHIELD. No hesitation, or waiting for the lagging public to get to a theater, Coulson’s Scooby Gang had the script straight flipped on them, and it made for some kickass TV.
For the first time, AOS managed to surprise me with a plot twist. Ward, the sometimes-ragey-but-mostly-upright-boy-scout’s actions at the end of the last episode was not how I expected things to go down, to say the least. I’m definitely looking forward to figuring out if Ward is making some kind of play, or if he actually is a Hydra operative, and if we’re looking at a redemption storyline in the making, or if they’ll get really ballsy and put a bullet in him (and replace him with Agent Trip, because the Scooby Express needs some more color up in that shiz).
That said, I was significantly less surprised to learn that super-agent Melinda May was not the traitor she was made out to be before Cap 2 (since she’s quite obviously in lurve with Coulson, and also way too tiger mom to hurt her babies on the plane). Likewise, it was clear several episodes ago that Bill “midseason-addition-that-every-character-knows-to-be-super-reliable-and-ultra-trustworthy-and-therefore-the-source-of-sudden-yet-inevitable-betrayal” Paxton was ultimately a going to be a double agent—he’s had just the right amount of scuminess all along, and was clearly going to be the baddy. You could imagine him running Ops with Remulo and the rest of the tactical squad back in the day… Definitely a scumbag! Too bad Cap wasn’t around to give him a proper drubbing!
The coolest part of the last episode, however, is the way that it managed to contextualize some of the damage and fallout in the wake of the film. At the conclusion of the movie, we got some of that, but only what was in the immediate sphere of the protagonists. We see the Triskelion destroyed, Agent Hill seemingly interviewing at Stark Industries, Agent Romanov testifying before Congress, and Director Fury going to ground. What we don’t get to see are the agents who are not stationed in DC. AOS has made it much clearer that SHIELD is an organization with reach, and lots of operatives and bases around the globe. The Winter Soldier made me go ‘awwww, what’s Fury gonna do with himself?’ AOS made me go, ‘Whoa. Lots of people are really screwed.’ That is a win for the show.
So, I admit it: my first impressions were wrong. Well, not wrong—because the show was pretty bad to start—but the people who swore up and down it would turn around have been vindicated. Agents of Shield has turned around—so much so that I find myself anticipating the next episode (to co-star Patton Oswalt, which is just awesome). My only wish is for enough new episodes to carry me all the way into August and into the sweet embrace of the Guardians of the Galaxy… A guy can dream, right?