I continue to be impressed with the massive turn around in quality on display lately in regards to Marvel's "Agents of Shield." What began as a plotless, unbalanced weekly commercial for Thor 2 and meandered around aimlessly for half a season has, suddenly become the show I most look forward to watching every week. Not because it's the best show on TV; it is very far from it, but because of the sudden feeling that, indeed, what is happening on the small screen is relevant to what happens, a few times a year, on the large one.
For those who care, THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD, both for Agents and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If you haven't seen all of the former thus far or the latter, then DO NOT READ FURTHER...
Still here? Okay.
CA:WS was good. It wasn't great, ending up a bit more nonsensical than anyone is willing to let on, but it was entertaining, and the actors were all in a groove, the writing was snappy, and the action was visceral and as real as you can get for a movie about an Encino Man style supersoldier from World War II. The big thing, the bold thing, was the central reveal: HYDRA, the villainous Nazi organization from the first Captain America, has been hiding inside SHIELD since the very beginning. It's an interesting step, as far as the franchise is concerned, changing the landscape in a big way. But the interesting parts were going on over at ABC, four days after Winter Soldier's release, when the film's ending was spoiled at the conclusion of that weeks episode of AOS. It's as if the movie was an episode of the show, essential viewing, dramatically changing the course of the series.
This is unprecedented. And, the effect is that now, every episode of AOS feels like a continuation of the movie. It feels like I don't have to wait for the sequel. I get to watch it every week. The immediate fallout of the film is being directly handled on television, literally the week it premiered. I think that's pretty cool.
It helps that it's also given the show all the form, character depth, and weight it was lacking before. The HYDRA reveal finally gives the show the big-bad antagonist it so desperately needed, albeit one that's a bit nebulous at the moment, made their least interesting character, Agent Ward, suddenly the most deserving of my attention. I even don't hate Skye anymore. As much. But, it also means something about the show's production.
This is why the show was terrible. They had to wait for the movie for the show, proper, to begin, and that was a dozen episodes in. They were spinning their wheels. Which makes the early parts of the season seem like even more of a cash grab, inflating their movies with a cheap, unnecessary show. Now it feels necessary, but I'm left wondering why they wasted everyone's time with everything that preceded this turn. Surely they could have made a better show, one not in danger of being cancelled (Although not really. Disney pays the bills over at ABC.), if they didn't have to write around a distinct product written and created by entirely different people.
This is a really cool experiment in multi-platform storytelling. If it goes on another year, it will be fascinating to see if they continue to blur the line between essential and non-essential viewing, further mimicking the world of Comics from which all these IP's spring. Remember, there are four limited run series coming to Netflix starting next year, featuring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, before having them all join up a-la the Avengers for a limited run team up called The Defenders. How long will it be before only us nerds can keep track? Are we already there?
Can't wait for Guardians of the Galaxy. Talking space raccoons and sentient alien trees. That's entertainment.