In one month, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will branch into a new medium: television. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (to be referred to as Agents of SHIELD from here on) will be a canonical expansion of the MCU taking place after the events of The Avengers. The series’ creator is Avengers director Joss Whedon, the brilliant mind behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. If you haven’t seen those shows, go watch them on Netflix streaming right now. I’ll wait.
Weren’t those two of the best shows ever? Guess what: Agents of SHIELD has a perfect chance to be just as good. With Whedon at the helm, it will take a lot to screw this up. Here are five reasons you should be pumped for Agents of SHIELD.
5) “Case of the Week” Formula
If any other person were in charge of Agents of SHIELD, this would be a deathblow. Great TV series separate themselves from the mundane by breaking free of the “case of the week” style. Agents of SHIELD episodes will find the team faced with a new threat every week, and force them to work together to overcome it. Sounds boring. But look back at Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and see that same style used with phenomenal results.
Anybody can tell you a show is better when it focuses on characters more than plot. What makes Whedon special is his uncanny ability to use the plot to inform his characters. The plot isn’t just something that’s happening in the background while the characters deal with their totally separate personal issues. Often, it will seem like that is what he’s doing. But as the episodes progress, you see that Whedon (and his terrific writing staff) have been carefully crafting the plot to subtly relate to the characters’ current emotional problems. This elevated Buffy above just being “demon of the week,” and it should keep Agents of SHIELD above “supervillain of the week.”
4) Huge Ensemble of “Ordinary” People
Every show Whedon has created has featured a diverse ensemble cast. But no matter how large the main core of characters is, he never sells any individual short. You can find traces of archetypes here, but they are often much more layered than meets the eye (i.e. Jayne Cobb in Firefly, Rupert Giles from Buffy).
Agents of SHIELD has at least six main characters announced, and all of them are regular humans. No slayers, no demons, no superheroes: humans. While each agent will no doubt be at the top of their field, they will still just be ordinary people in a world of superbeings. Whedon will no doubt squeeze every ounce of drama out of that concept, which can lead us in any number of directions.
3) It Won’t Be Following Any Particular Comic Book
Every Marvel film has been based on a previously published comic book. Though not direct adaptations, they all take elements from numerous comics and re-work them to create a solid movie. But this still frequently draws the ire of fanboys and fangirls, who complain that the movie messed up a story that they loved.
Agents of SHIELD will not have that issue. While there are plans to occasionally bring familiar characters from Marvel to the show, the series will mostly follow original storylines derived from the MCU. We can believe this will cause lots of hinting at specific comics, but for the most part the show will stand alone. This will keep people from getting distracted by inconsistencies, and allow them to judge Agents of SHIELD as a singular entity. This also frees up Whedon and his staff to play with the characters as they see fit, whether it be creating new ones or killing off loved ones.
2) There’s No Really Good Sci-Fi on TV
Agents of SHIELD will air on ABC, which easily makes it one of the most promising shows on the basic networks. Just looking at CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, MY9, and the CW, there really aren’t any good sci-fi options around. Everything is either a sitcom, a police procedural, or a vanilla drama. Shows like Revolution and Under the Dome have been met with generally positive reviews, but haven’t exactly made a huge impact.
Sci-fi shows have generally not been accepted by audiences on basic channels since The X-Files ended in 2002. For every Fringe (a marginal success), there have been shows like Firefly, Dollhouse, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Jericho that didn’t get much of a chance. Agents of SHIELD will likely be Whedon’s first show to not get cancelled since Buffy and could very possible reinvigorate the sci-fi movement on these channels. It will boast the best of human and alien technology, while no doubt exploring possible other causes of superpowers.
1) This Can’t Be Stressed Enough: Joss. Whedon.
If you’ve read this far, you can see it’s no secret I’m an unabashed Whedonite. But I’m no pushover, and my praise of the man is justified by his work. I’ve watched all of his shows and movies and even though I can identify patterns in his writing, he still consistently surprises me. He never takes the easy way out and isn’t afraid to build up our hopes just so he can crush them without remorse. Rarely will you ever feel more betrayed and fulfilled at the exact same time. His universes are extremely well-thought out and easy to lose yourself in. You’ll find yourself loving characters even if they are the bad guys (actually, ESPECIALLY if they’re the bad guys). He just brings so much to the table, that Agents of SHIELD will be nothing like anything else on TV.