Thoughts on the direction that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 could take – #itsallconnected 2.0
*** SPOILER FREE: This posting will be spoiler free – so feel free to read safely with the knowledge that if you haven’t seen the series or the season 3 finale, I won’t ruin any of it for you. ***
I have one, and only one, must-watch live network TV show, and that is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D which is currently broadcast Tuesday evenings on ABC. It is no secret that I am a fan of the Marvel comics and the cinematic universe. I have written other blog entries reviewing the Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War and Netflix’s Daredevil Season One, gave Ant-Man and Jessica Jones best of 2015 status, as well as an article and a web comic about the candidates during the Spider-Man casting, and a deconstruction of how doom and gloom and the perpetual search for grittier comic book film adaptions of family friendly books is ruining comics to film adaptions. Needless to say, I love the topic of comics being adapted to film and TV with all of my heart. Upon watching the finale to season 3 of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D last night, I had a ton of ideas and thoughts about the future of the series (which has already been renewed for a 4th season!), and I thought I’d take a small break from my Full Moon love fest to share some of the better ideas with the universe.
What is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Marvel’s AoS (which is how it will be abbreviated for the rest of this post) is a television series that follows Agent Coulson, who was originally introduced in Iron Man and then subsequently murdered by Loki in the Avengers, as he assembles an elite team of agents together to track down extraordinary incidents around the world. Most of the time Coulson’s team finds themselves at odds with super powered individuals, spy organizations, and occasionally on adventures on another planet across the universe. As mentioned beforehand, Coulson was killed in action during the events of the Avengers, and AoS picks up after Director Nick Fury has gone through extreme measures to bring Coulson back from the dead. Coulson’s return is kept a secret from all but a handful of high-level people within S.H.I.E.L.D., with Fury keeping even the Avengers out of the loop. Now back from the dead, Coulson is a changed man, but still a highly capable agent. Along for the ride at the beginning of the show are the following: Agent Melinda May, a seasoned veteran with a storied past of remarkable violence that makes her reluctant to return to field work. Agent Grant Ward, an agent that comes highly recommended as an exceptionally capable field operative who unfortunately does not work well with a team. Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons, two genius level scientists that have always worked together since going to the academy, they are best friends and inventive life savers. Along the way they pick up Sky, a hacker that successfully hacks S.H.I.E.L.D.’s network, which impresses Coulson so much that he recruits her to train to become an agent. As the seasons progress, Coulson’s team and his responsibilities grow as he is challenged to overcome the ever growing list of earth changing villains and organizations that keep popping up ever since the heroes formed up to create the Avengers. Season 3 ended with a lot of possibilities for the future of the team. Again, I won’t spoil what happened, but the vague explanation is that the AoS team has a new status quo that is wide open to introducing new characters, threats, and opportunities to tell vastly different stories than what has been seen in the first three seasons.
Straight from the desk of Director Llama:
First – It’s time to introduce a completely new threat/villain organization. Over the last three years the agents have primarily been fighting against Hydra (as introduced in the Captain America film series) and dealing with the fallout from the introduction of the Inhumans (powered individuals). Season four offers a great opportunity to introduce a whole new threat to the planet. Here’s a couple ideas for where I’d like to see the series go with regards to the big bad/little bad:
- A.I.M. – Advanced Idea Mechanics as the big bad: Originally started as a think tank of brilliant scientists that were attempting obtain the power to overthrow the world’s government by the use of advanced technology. The idea of A.I.M. was introduced in Iron Man 3 with Aldrich Killian’s Extremis program. The potential here is huge, as there a ton of characters that could be introduced: Andrew Forson, Monica Rappaccini, George Tarleton, George Clinton (not the master of funk, this one is a scientist supreme), and many more. Also, A.I.M. has employed a council of high-profile characters including: Graviton, Mentallo, Yelena Bolova (Black Widow program), Superia, and Taskmaster. Bringing A.I.M. in as the villain could open the door to a proper spy vs. spy arc, as well as a wealth of technological problems for the agents to overcome, like the Super Adaptoid, the Cosmic Cube, and eventually the murderous mastermind M.O.D.O.K.
- Wrecking Crew as the little bad: The Wrecking Crew is a small group of super powered criminals consisting of Bulldozer, Piledriver, Thunderball, and Wrecker. Each of them is incredibly powerful as they were granted godly powers by Karnilla of Asgard, and have been able to defeat many top tier heroes within the Marvel comics universe. The Wrecking Crew are a formidable team to be certain. The potential for having them hatch a scheme, or perhaps be introduced as a variation of the Thunderbolts would be intriguing and fun to watch. Depending on how far the rabbit hole could go, you could have the Wrecking Crew be controlled by the Hood (a villain that uses magically enchanted gear to give himself supernatural abilities). The possibilities are endless as they would pose a threat too big for human agents to handle, but a good fight for any Inhumans aligned with S.H.I.E.L.D.
Second – #itsallconnected – so connect already! Repeatedly throughout the first season, Jeph Loeb (Executive Vice President of Marvel Television and creator of Teen Wolf!) said that it was “all connected” during a time when each of the episodes felt like stand alone stories with no narrative thread linking them together. As the second half of the first season took off, it became clear that Mr. Loeb was indeed telling the truth as it was all connected and it was super awesome! Since then, the narrative focus for both season two and three have shown more easily recognizable signs of continuity, which is great. On occasion, we’d get treated to an Easter egg from one of the Marvel Studios films, and twice Lady Sif (a brave warrior from the Thor films) made an appearance on the show. It was clear that the film and the TV universes were one and the same, however; that connection has been minimal at most junctions. A mention of something that happened in a movie, or a name drop of an Avengers character here and there, and most of the time that’s about it. It’s time for Marvel to connect the TV shows (AoS, Daredevil, Jessica Jones) and the Marvel Studios films in a meaningful way that shows synergy and rewards the loyal viewer. Here’s a few ideas of how that could work:
- Let Schrodinger’s Cat out of the bag: Let the Avengers know that Coulson is alive, and that a version of S.H.I.E.L.D. that could be a powerful ally for them still exists. Especially when you consider that Infinity War is coming in 2018 and Marvel is going to need all hands on deck to handle the cosmic might of Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet. This might also be an excellent time to introduce S.W.O.R.D., but that’s a much deeper conversation. Back on point, it would be easy for Nick Fury to arrange a private meeting with Captain America and Iron Man to announce Coulson’s return and to introduce his team as an asset. It’s time for Coulson to be back on the big screen, and to bring his team with him.
- Bring in a few more reoccurring characters: Clearly, it would be great to have Nick Fury return for an episode or two, as he has already appeared in multiple episodes during the first season. Maria Hill has also appeared in both the movies and AoS, and having her back would be tremendously fun. Deathlok is another character that I would be delighted to see come back for a multi-episode mini-arc. Bobbi and Hunter are still on the lam, but would definitely make for an amazing cameo in an episode. On top of that, it would be easy to bring in Martin Freeman’s character Everett K. Ross from the Joint Counter Terrorism Center, or Emily Van Camp’s character Sharon Carter formerly of S.H.I.E.L.D. and now with the C.I.A., both of which are prominently featured in Captain America: Civil War. There are a lot of opportunities to bring in more spies and non-super powered figures from the Marvel Studios films that I would like to see happen to help with the connective tissue between the TV and Film properties.
- Connect the TV shows: How awesome would it be for Daredevil to make a one off appearance on AoS? Or for that matter, for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage to join the team for an impromptu mission? It would be super awesome, that’s how awesome it would be! I understand that each show is trying to be its own unique property, and that they are trying not to rely heavily on the guest star of the week mentality. I get all of that. The thing is, in order for it to be all connected, it has to connect at some point. Daredevil frequently teams up with all manner of different characters in the comic books. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones become Avengers in the comics and fight shoulder to shoulder alongside the likes of Captain America and Iron Man. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal to have them appear as a one off on AoS, or for Coulson and gang to appear on one of their shows. It’s all connected, so let it connect!
- The Giant Pink Elephant in the Room: It has to happen sooner or later. This ties directly back into the Schrodinger’s Cat argument. At some point in the near future a hero needs to figure out that Coulson is alive, and that should lead directly to a top tier member of the Avengers making an appearance on AoS. It could be anybody on the team, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, War Machine, Vision, literally any member of the Avengers would be an amazing choice. Bottom line, it needs to happen soon to help again with the connective tissue, but also to reward the viewers who have watched 13 movies and over a hundred hours of TV shows that are supposedly all connected. Connect the TV shows with the movies and vice versa Marvel, they can’t exist in a vacuum separated from each other forever.
Third – go more intimate with the characters and with the larger narrative. We’ve seen extinction level threats and world altering acts happen on AoS in the last 3 seasons. I’d like to see the team take it back a notch, become closer as team, build better partnerships, and to have more bonding moments. Some of my absolute favorite moments on AoS has not been the action or the big story, it’s been the way the characters have connected and earned each other’s trust and respect. A lot of that has been worn down by a lot of different events. It’s time to build it back up. Have members of the team have down time, with a b-story in the episode being what they did to have fun and/or to bond. Have an agent take a personal day to handle a personal matter. Give us all new reasons to love these tremendously entertaining characters that you have created. Frankly, the same goes for the larger story line. Don’t be afraid to go smaller. Make the conflict a political thriller, or a deep spy game with a new player (perhaps A.I.M?). They don’t all have to involve global domination and world changing events, sometimes the plot could simply be about swapping out key members of congress to control policy and sway global politics. In the end, I would like to see a more sophisticated villain organization with smaller yet potentially hugely damaging consequences.
Fourth and final idea – more super powers and super powered people. ‘Nuff said. I won’t make a huge ordeal over this point as it is quite simple: there are 6000 plus characters in the Marvel Comics. Find a few that haven’t been introduced yet and them in as new heroes and villains for the show. The creative team on AoS has done an excellent job of ramping up the super powered characters via the introduction of the Inhumans, and all I am asking is for them to keep up the good work and bring the viewers some more fun and unique powered characters to watch on the small screen (and maybe one day on the big screen too!).
I’m very happy with where AoS is creatively at this point, and the finale for season three has left the agents in the enviable position of having wide open possibilities. My suggestions today are just that, suggestions. They are ideas of where I think the show could be going, or at the very least where it would be fun for the show to go. Regardless of what I think might or could happen, I’ll be excited to see where the creative team takes the agents come this fall when AoS returns for its fourth season.
Also, if Jeph Loeb, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, or Jeffrey Bell read this: A) Thanks for creating such a fantastic show, and B) If you need a good writer with solid ideas and a love for screenwriting, drop me a line at Packy – Head Llama, I’d love to send you all some writing samples and/or join the writing team for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Also, Fitz is undeniably the best…