Well, Well, here we are. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the number one movie in America and the shockwave it’s third act sends through the unified universe is affecting Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC. It’s unprecedented for something to happen at this level, though it has been previously discussed, specifically when Ron Howard was pitching his grand Dark Tower adaptation as three movies with TV series in-between to fill in the narrative gaps provided by flashback.
While Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fine film, the most interesting parts of it, culturally, are it’s place in the world’s biggest megafranchise. Yes, poor Harry Potter was dethroned by Captain America, poor Potter who kicked the sh*t out of James Bond and vaulted over Star Wars.
Marvel Cinematic Universe (9) - $2,463.3 billion Harry Potter (8) - $2,390.1 billion Star Wars (7) – $1,918.0 billion James Bond (24) - $1,912.8 billion Batman (8) $1,897.8 billion
It’s unprecedented how quickly Marvel assumes it’s faithful would see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Think about it, last night’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took place with Cap’s story simultaneously, meaning to enjoy the story in in’s proper order, Marvel was asking that you watch last Tuesday’s episode on ABC, Captain America: The Winter Soldier over the weekend and “Turn, Turn, Turn” this Tuesday. That’s a rigorous story schedule usually reserved for mini-series and Ken Burns documentaries.
I argued in an earlier column that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. [Ed. Marvelous Da7e #23], like Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, needed a hard turn during it’s first season. Something needed to break to reveal what the show was really about, since case-of-the-week, an-Asguadian-was-here plots were not cutting it. It appears I may have been correct in that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been building to to revelation that S.H.I.E.L.D. is the enemy of the series.
I cheered - CHEERED - when May revealed that each member of Coulson’s Team was chosen in case they had to turn on Coulson with all the Kree bio-tech coursing through him. I love the idea that Deathlok’s story line can be read as a lesser Winter Soldier - a good man in bad circumstances saved by evil HYDRA tech. I enjoy that Coulson’s team came across a HYDRA terrorist cell early on in the series thinking they were a remnant, but revealing that HYDRA collecting alien technology is the underlying backbone of the story that will bring us Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Basically, S.H.I.E.L.D. suddenly revealed that it was important and for people like me that parse through what’s happening in the megafranchise, the pieces were well laid through the entire series that HYDRA was in S.H.I.E.L.D. that alien technology was being stolen and combined with Extremis and that Nick Fury is totally aware the Kree have been to Earth. It’s almost congruent to the point that Captain America: The Winter Soldier fails for not addressing anything fantastical - aliens, Asguardians, Stark tech.
Which is the downside to knitting a series like this into a film series - the potential of the TV series to weigh on the movie. So someone like myself, who has been watching things in order and on schedule, can leave Captain America: The Winter Soldier feeling like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reached up into the stratosphere and pulled Captain America 2 down to its level.
Yeah, I said it: I don’t get why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is getting a pass considering it has the same plotting beats and overall wire structure as the critically-reviled Iron Man 2. I spout off the mouth on my podcast about it, only 2 beers in. If all these films and TV episodes are just chapters existing equal with post-credits scenes and Marvel One Shots, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is far from the most efficient or best made chapter in this story, it’s cool to see some action, but the kind of comics reader and movie goer that I am, I got more joy out of “All Hail The King” Mandarin short, because it clarified a character in an interesting way. It seems like the greatest story motion of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was changing the status quo in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which I know for a fact is NOT how they conceived it.
It’s a strange accusation for someone like me to make, I’d imagine, but considering the on-screen version of Captain America did all his character growth in Act 1 of a 2011 movie - to the point where his mourning was cut from Avengers and relegated to a scant 10 minutes in Cap 2 - it’s hard for me to invest in anyone that is going to start Avengers: Age of Ultron in the same place as they ended Avengers. Iron Man destroyed his suits, Thor is living in London, Captain America...told us we’d be exploring the Winter Soldier in May 2016. It ended up being a pleasant diversion, but it’s story purpose is going to benefit Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. more than the greater MCU. Even if I found myself enjoying a gymnastic-prone Cap taking down a S.H.I.E.L.D. Quinjet, it’s ultimately hollow, which is a shame.
So, turning to the thing that actually matters now: What happens to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
I propose something hitherto unprecedented to go along with the unprecedentedness of all this megafranchising: I think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should be “cancelled” on paper and re-booted with the same cast under and entirely different title. That title would be “Secret Warriors” if they’re going off the comics - the Secret Warriors comic line features Nick Fury secretly fighting bad guys during that period of time Normon Osborn turned S.H.I.E.L.D. into the evil H.A.M.M.E.R. However, marketing being what it is and the highly-probably inclusion of Maria Hill and Deathlok on a Season 2 team would make me guess that the show would do better titled as “Secret Avengers.”
We learned at the end of Cap 2 that S.H.I.E.L.D. is no longer an umbrella corporation for The Avengers, and we get to see the Avengers Tower, their new headquarters, stocked with the newest Stark Tech (which even S.H.I.E.L.D. buys because it’s literally THE BEST). Colbie Smulders is done with How I Met Your Mother and installed at the end of Cap 2 into Stark Industries, so without S.H.I.E.L.D. providing teched out planes for Coulson’s group, Maria Hill could take a James Bond’s Q-like position as well as being the hub for coordinating Fury’s operations in Europe with Coulson’s operations whereever.
Moreover, if the show is going to be this essential to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s going to suffer from viewers not wanting to engage with a series that they feel they have no background with. Fans, on the other hand, are already expected to watch ABC and go to the movies at the right times, so they’d seek out a new Marvel show regardless. The hidden benefit of re-titling and re-launching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as Secret Avengers is the audience that could be gained thinking this is a new show entirely, then it’s just the story’s responsibility to make them feel more welcome than we did the first half of this Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season.
I’m calling it now. Hell, I think I’m early enough that I’m CALLING FOR IT now: Cancel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., give the cast, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen Secret Avengers.
DO IT, JEPH LOEB.
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