Marc Buxton yesterday told the haters to back off. Today, he tells you what the maligned “Agents of SHIELD” is getting right.
Tonight, Marvel fans will witness the repercussions from “Thor: The” Dark World” on “Agents of SHIELD.” Just think that the film did not stop when the credits rolled, that the seismic shocks of Malekith’s invasion of England will be seen and felt on television just two weeks after the film’s premiere. With fans still buzzing, they get to enter the narrative once again and see how the rest of the world was affected by Thor and his conflict with the Dark Elves.
This is genre heaven, where the films fans love don’t have to end; threads and tendrils can reach beyond the films to create new story opportunities. Imagine a show set just days after Luke destroyed the Death Star.
This is “Agents of SHIELD.”
In order to make these potential stories mean anything, there has to be a compelling set of characters that fans will care about. “Agents of SHIELD” has done this to varying degrees of success. Most people seem to love Coulson and have embraced Agent May. There were some growing pains with Fitz and Simmons, but the last few episodes have made great strides into making them into a likeable duo. Skye and Agent Ward still need some work even though Skye’s backstory with her parents is intriguing.
The biggest fan complaint is the lack of previously established Marvel characters. Yes, Graviton has appeared (sort of) and Victoria Hand and Jasper Sitwell popped up last week, but fans are salivating for a mere mention of Moon Knight, or Baron Strucker, or anyone really. For the introduction of these characters to have meaning they cannot just appear in order to appear. There needs to be an organic story reason for them to show up, and they must have compelling and established characters to interact with.
Think of the well-handled introduction of Victoria Hand last week. She was interesting because she served as a foil to Phil Coulson. Her status as this foil does not work unless fans had a number of episodes to drink in Coulson, to understand his quirks and motivations, so his relationship with a comic book mainstay had weight. This show should not be an Easter egg hunt, but a jumping off point for Marvel characters to be introduced to a non-comic-book audience. These characters will show up when the story allows it. Fans must be patient with the show in order for it to reach a point where new and beloved characters can be organically introduced into the mix.
Marvel should be praised for their attention to story rather than fan service, for their desire to build a world driven by character — rather than using the show as a showcase for back-door pilots.
Like any new show, “Agents of SHIELD” has had its hiccups, but Marvel Studios has taken the complex challenge of building within an established mythology while creating compelling mysteries and likeable heroes.
“Agents of SHIELD” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.