I originally watched the first three of four episodes of Agents of SHIELD when it aired on television, and I just couldn’t get into it. But once I’d watched Captain America: Winter Soldier I had a growing desire to watch the show to experience the larger cinematic universe of Marvel. As a result Hubster and I recently binge watched season 1, here’s what I thought of it.
The show follows the missions of Agent Coulson and a new SHIELD team he has put together in the aftermath of The Avengers. They investigate strange phenomenons and people with special abilities, with the show’s events eventually tying into the events in Captain America 2.
I think I’m being kind when I say this had a slow start. On watching those first couple of episodes again I found them weak and cartoonish. The tone just didn’t sit right with me. As the season continued the tone matured and it struck me that what was kind of happening was that the tone was changing from one that matched The Avengers to one that matched Captain America 2, two very different movies in tone and nature. By the end I thoroughly enjoyed the season and would recommend it to others with a mention to stick through the first 6 episodes, it will get better.
Monster of the Week – no mutants allowed
The show format starts in a vaguely monster of the week format, that we might expect from Joss Wedon. Background stories become more prominent story archs as this develops into a more complex show – bringing it slowly in line with the Marvel cinematic universe in events and tone.
One thing is noticeably absent from the monster roster – mutants. The main baddy throughout the series, before their revelation as part of Hydra is a shady group of followers of a mysterious bad guy The Clairvoyant. Their goal is to track down people with special abilities to experiment on them in an effort to further their research into their own version of what is essentially the super soldier serum, known as Project Centipede. These people with special abilities are easily accepted as part of a world now known to include super humans, gods and millionaire play boy philanthropists. The elephant in the room the whole time is the fact that these people are arguably mutants, which of course they cannot be as the X-Men are owned by Fox, not Marvel Studios. It is a small but weirdly niggling point, which I assume will be resolved next season or in the Age of Ultron, given it’s inclusion of mutants Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.
We need to talk about TAHITI
As the show continues, it becomes darker and much more complex, not least the revelation of Coulson’s return to the world of the living. Prior to the beginning of the season the last we had seen of Coulson was his sad (but inspirational) death in The Avengers. All season we are leading up to the explanation for this, a revelation to Coulson as much as it is to the audience. And it’s pretty shocking. Coulson was correct in thinking he went to Tahiti, only not the magical holiday destination! Actually TAHITI is a secret project using alien tech and body parts for experimentation and via these methods Coulson is revived. To drive home quite how otherworldly, and horrific the procedure is, we are treated to a scene of Coulson being operated on whilst conscious. A mechanical operator whizzes quickly over his exposed brain repairing synapses, whilst Coulson repeats over and over “please let me die”. An intriguing, brave and horrific move.
The Rise of Hydra
We already know from Captain America 2 the revelation that Hydra has infiltrated SHEILD and worn it as a mask since its inception. The show itself aired in time with the movie, with the intention that the audience would watch Captain America 2 between two of the episodes. The season could have been timed to end with Captain America 2, but instead it continues, setting up the continuation into not only season 2 but into the further Marvel movies.
This is a brave move, as it is essentially the allowing of the weight of a block buster movie storyline to be carried on the shoulders of a TV show. And it works, in fact I got the continuation of the Marvel universe fix that I was craving after watching Captain America 2. This is very much indicative of the ambitious plans so far in fruition and continuing on in the wider Marvel universe, that has been building up in a complex series of layers since Iron Man was committed to film.
What is interesting is how the show enables the Marvel universe to delve further into the events that have unfolded in this way. This includes a fun and long awaited appearance from Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in the finale. The season ended with questions to be answered in season 2 and likely in the wider Marvel universe.
What happens next for SHIELD, dissolved in Captain America 2, but set up at the end of season 1 to be revived by now Director Coulson at the request of Nick Fury. How will it step out from under Hydra’s shadow, and how will all it all tie back in again to the cinematic universe?
Possibly the biggest remaining mystery is Skye. We discover early in the season that her interest in SHIELD is about her discovering more about her past. We find out towards the end of the season that she is a 084, an object (or in this case person) of unknown origin. The connotation being that she is some way dangerous – she was supposedly orphaned when a catastrophe destroyed her village. In the season finale we discover her father is alive. But what does that mean? We’re yet to find out. There have been a lot of theories floating around the internet since the 084 revelation. Personally I wonder if this could be the introduction of the Inhumans to the Marvel cinematic universe.
The Inhumans are essentially a race of humans descended from primitive Homo Sapiens who were genetically modified millions of years ago by the Kree during the Kree-Skrull War in an effort to create a group of mutant soldiers. The experiments, though successful were eventually abandoned and the Inhumans formed their own secluded society of Attilan. In 2013’s Infinity the Inhumans deploy a mist that causes those with Inhuman DNA to become actively Inhuman –developing powers and possibly changing physically – including Kamala Khan, the new Ms Marvel.
Aside from the fact that this could go to explain the not-mutants of the show, possibly including Skye, it would also make sense in the bigger scheme of the Marvel cinematic universe. Thanos’s son is revealed to be Inhuman in Infinity and Infinity itself is set in the aftermath of The Age of Ultron, linking together a lot of possible future threads. It could perhaps also go to explain Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in the upcoming Avengers 2. It may not be likely that they will be referred to as the mutants they are, but some explanation may be required and if so, Inhuman could fit.
In the end, I really enjoyed this show. It had a stumbling start, and even later in the season it occasionally roams into the cartoonish. But all of that is left behind when it finds its correct tone. Once Hydra reveals itself it becomes unmissable, and on occasion shocking. I already knew Ward’s duplicity from spoilers before getting to that point in the show, however it is no less shocking or violent when it happens.
This is a great show by the end and I especially recommend it to those who want to get their fix of the Marvel cinematic universe outside of the movies.