Marvel ‘Captain America’ Tie-In Overpowers ‘Agents of SHIELD’

Marvel's 'Captain America' Tie-In Overpowers 'Agents

Although the producers of “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” have said this was the plan from the beginning, the Marvel overlords – and their interwoven cinematic universe – have done the ABC series no favors by trying to accommodate the studio’s theatrical blockbusters and incorporating those events into the episodic drama.

Tuesday’s episode (and Spoiler Alert if you haven’t watched, or seen the latest “Captain America” sequel) sought to pick up where the movie subtitled “The Winter Soldier” left off. And since the movie essentially decimated the government organization known as SHIELD, that left the show to take a rather sharp turn, and the promos promising a “game-changing” episode.

Until now, “SHIELD” has primarily been constructed as a villain-of-the-week procedural with a mythological component, as Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his rather bland team of operatives go about neutralizing a different threat each week. There was also the nagging matter of why Coulson – conspicuously killed in “The Avengers” – isn’t dead, the resolution of which wasn’t particularly convincing, but once he was cast that was almost a foregone conclusion.

The problem is the series has to do a lot of business between the movies. And trying to keep working the show into that broader framework occasionally left “Agents of SHIELD” feeling like the writers were killing time between whatever second- or third-tier Marvel characters they were able to borrow. OK, so comic-book nerds might get a kick out of it, but one suspects relatively few viewers went gaga over the inclusion of Lady Sif.

To their credit, the producers have upgraded the cast with some savvy recurring additions, including Bill Paxton, Saffron Burrows and J. August Richards (although again, even having grown up reading the comics, there was some head-scratching to recall exactly who Deathlok is).

Ultimately, “Agents of SHIELD” was always just a way to try turbo-charging a sort of “Mission: Impossible” reboot with all of Marvel’s brand equity and marketing muscle. But these latest moves have taken a show that already was underperforming ratings-wise given the network and studio’s investment and seemingly made it less accessible, not more.

Tuesday’s episode did feature copious amounts of action, but the whole “Who’s with Hydra?” mystery – exposing a key member of Coulson’s team as a traitor – didn’t feel like a “game-changer” so much as an excuse to spend the rest of the season trying to hunt down Hydra operatives, albeit with a touch more intrigue.

Producing a successful TV show is challenging enough. Doing it with all the contortions “Agents of SHIELD” must face – starting with seamless integration into the widely spaced movies that anchor the Marvel universe – is the kind of Herculean feat this show hasn’t consistently exhibited the creative power to handle.

When one of the characters asked near the end, “What are we planning to do next?,” Coulson’s terse response was, “Survive.” Strategically speaking, the simplicity of that plan made as much sense as anything “Agents of SHIELD’s” latest twists could muster.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 53

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. nate says:

    The agents of shield is one of the best shows on television. It integrates perfectly with the recent movies. They are planning way ahead and I love that. I hope they build a movie empire out of marvel universe. The possibilities are endless

  2. Brad says:

    Both the biggest strength and the biggest flaw of the Marvel ‘universe’ is just that, that they work so hard to overlap the various products they are pushing with overlapping characters and tie ins. It is sometimes effective, but just as often feels really forced and self-serving, and it often comes out more serving the branding of the master Marvel product line than serving the interests of the story of any particular movie or show. They are close to staggering on their own success.

  3. Carla says:

    I believe this series is more geared to those who can follow a complex and twisting story line. It may be mentally exhausting for those who have stopped watching. Our family has found it riveting from episode 1. We really enjoy discussing the connections and twists that flow throughout the series episodes and major films. It’s also entertaining to see who saw what coming and which parts totally take us by surprise. Impressive continuity on the part of everyone involved in the production of AOS!

  4. Neal S says:

    I think the show is pretty awesome, and while it started out “slow”, it was still just as good as any other sci fi comic book type adventure show. The latest few episodes are freaking CRAZY and have me running to online forums to discuss them. The ward reveal was totally shocking, at least until that episode where I saw it coming a bit (cause I knew it wasn’t May).

    And Skye is super hot.

    I think Ultron is Skye, or Coulson himself. Probably Skye, cause they might have done something to Coulson to counter act the alien bio agent, but Skye was just given it directly.

  5. Georgie says:

    Hmm, you know, people use to watch tv and movies to be entertained. I suppose we’re in the age reason (sarcasm), that every little thing needs to be analyzed, and if the time lines aren’t perfect or plausible, then the Monday night quarterbacking begins. I guess everyone has forgotten that this is entertainment, not real life. Y’all need to get a hobby and not take life, tv, or movies so seriously. It must really suck to not just shut down and enjoy something.

  6. Mr. T says:

    First, let me just say that I think that a lot of people had a different expectations of what this show as supposed to be. This is Agents of SHIELD, not Avengers 1.5. We are not going to see major super heros or the big stars from the movies making regular appearances. This is supposed to show the inner workings of the orginization. I’ll agree that the show was pretty slow moving, and all of the breaks didn’t help (damn, Sochi), but once you realize that CA2 was going to have such a major impact to the show, you kind of understand why it tool them this long to get here. Those who have given up on the show or listen to critics like this are missing out.

  7. Sam says:

    I’m sorry but you’re issues are completely illogical. You’re complaining about Deathlok being a B-rated villain from the comics and yet tons of other people criticize the show for not enough involvement in the Marvel universe. It would be weird for the Agents of SHIELD to never actually go up against anyone else from the comics. And then if you only want the interesting people how on earth would that rationally work? Its not like you could throw Loki into a TV episode. They are such different mediums. I think the show is doing wonderfully at being its own thing but also logically existing in the Marvel universe where the movies impact it and it impacts the movies. The only ratings issue here is the same ratings issue with every network. PEOPLE ARE WATCHING ONLINE! Networks need to get with the times. Putting your show on HULU 8 days after it airs does nothing for anyone. People who watch Hulu as an in between can never actually catch up to the show to watch on TV. People who only watch TV online are left with ridiculous wait times. And those of us that no better find the episode free online and thus give the show no credit for advertisements. There needs a system update.

  8. jay says:

    From reading this article and having never read this author prior, I get the impression this author is a run of the mill critic who fulfills the stereotypical definition of “critic”. I.e. someone who considers himself holding a higher standard than the “masses” when really his views are pompous and snooty. This is the same type of person who would never consider a blockbuster movie for an Oscar. I say boo sir.

  9. jacques strappe says:

    So when do ratings actually equate to quality in television? SHIELD works for me just fine. In fact, it is my favorite new show. Not too over the top crazy each week with, super heroes in skin tight lyrcra, alien death ray explosions galore or new variations on the demon from hell, For me, SHIELD blends just the right amount of fantasy and procedural realism, performed by good looking people who honestly act as well as any actors do in a 1 billion dollar + Marvel movie hit. The network television universe is littered with tons of one and two season science fiction/fantasy casualties over the years. If SHIELD can maintain its groove and last beyond two seasons, it should be considered a monster hit. For those of us who follow the business of television ratings, it is worth noting that even though post airdate DVR ratings are essentially overlooked by advertisers, SHIELD consistently lands in the top 10, if not the top 5 shows each week with the highest Live +7 Day DVR ratings in the most important demo, 18-49. SHIELD has absolutely not dropped off the radar of fan boys since its debut. Like many shows nowadays other than sports and special events, the DVR makes live viewing an option and not necessarily the preferred option.

  10. Hugh Caley says:

    I am an unapologetic marvel fanboi, and all of the things you mention simply make the series better, as far as I’m concerned. I was deeply afraid that AofS would simply be another pale television version of a comic book, but its really growing into something worthy now. I hope they keep it up.

  11. rjbailey says:

    Reblogged this on Locating Frankenstein's Brain and commented:
    Everybody’s entitled to their own opinions, I guess. ^_^

  12. steven tatum says:

    The road to Avengers 2 now goes thru AOS….the hunt for Hydra will be done on AOS season 2. Here is my reasoning for all of this :
    1. at the end of Capt America 2, Anita Hill is working for Stark Enterprises, Tony KNOWS she is a SHIELD agent (not like Black Widow), and she KNOWS that Nick fury is alive. she will be the contact for Fury and Capt America to Tony Stark.
    2. Coulson is the glue that brought them together , what better to bring them together again than finding out he is alive. Lady Sif told him about Thor missing him. If Thor can see life on Earth then he would KNOW that Coulson is alive. even if Thor could not then Hermidall would be able to and he definitely alert Thor of this
    3. There is NO movies slated for realease between now and and Avengers 2 that can tie this situation with HYDRA up. GOG will have it hands full trying to cover Avengers 3
    4. They will able to tell more about how Ultron comes to life…..remember Ward has the hard will all the things that they found. I dont think Ward has gone rogue because he was so devastated to see Garret as a Hydra that I think he want to bring them down form the inside.
    5. Nick needs a team that he can trust and that team is Coulson and AOS. Fury will explain this before the end of this season

  13. Eric says:

    With more appearances from Fury and Hill, this show has so much potential. You don’t need the big guys to make it work. I would love to see them work Sharon Carter in plus maybe even piggyback on flashbacks from when Peggy Carter battled HYDRA..this could level set on how we ended up where we are..potential is endless now for the writers..

  14. Nick says:

    “Until now”? Have you even been watching? They’ve clearly been building toward something all along, and the early episodes were simply to establish a certain dynamic. If you don’t know who these characters are, it obviously doesn’t matter what’s happening to them now. I was devastated by the twist ending because I had become invested in that character, which happened because I watched every episode so far this season. Everyone I know who stuck it out has stopped the complaints, so I tend to think your reaction means you watched the first couple episodes and bailed out til now.

    • Ryan Metzger says:

      Although you don’t know me, I actually have stuck it out and keep giving it chances since the Pilot aired. I am doing this because, in my opinion, to truly evaluate a show you need to stick it out the entire season, and then do a final ‘binge-watch’ of the season as a whole to give a proper approval or disapproval of a show/season. I believe this because when you watch the season as a whole closely together you’ll more easily notice whether threads are placed strategically throughout an entire season creating a stronger meta-narrative or more on a kind of creative whim seemingly haphazardly from episode to episode. So far I’m still discouraged though. Yes they’ve been building toward something all along, but I’ve felted they’ve glossed over a little too much to be clear to the viewer all the different elements of the larger narrative. However, the season is now at that critical point where the final five episodes will make or break the season as a whole. And I will be watching with optimism as I finish watching the season and then watch the whole season again as whole. Until then we’re just viewing the pieces of a whole puzzle.
      On a side note, I really wish Joss Whedon would’ve been able to find time to write more episodes while besides the pilot, while working on Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s a bit misleading to call it his show.

  15. T. Kelly says:

    It bugs me that nowadays, a character is called “rather bland” unless they’re sticking a gun in someone’s face every five minutes, sleeping around, or doing something that might disqualify them as a good “role model”. Then they become “interesting”. Also, a quick Internet search of “Deathlok” would have saved you some head-scratching, but honestly, why not just let the show reveal the character for you. And enough with the “second- or third-tier Marvel characters” comments – note that Iron Man, Captain America and Thor were referred to as “B-list” heroes before their movies came out. What does it matter? Finally, stop trying to read the producer’s minds, when you can read one of any number of interviews they’ve given and find out exactly what they were thinking when they put this series together.

  16. Jason says:

    Show was slow , boring and with the exception of culson, not entertaining. The supporting cast were bland , very little action and just because you mention Thor or iron man once in a while doesnt give it street cred. Time to move on , next !!!!!!

  17. James H says:

    I think Mr. Lowry is totally wrong.

    Not only was last night’s Agents of Shield by far the best episode of the series thus far (no large task, I grant you), but something that was very obvious was how the show has grown and evolved because of the criticisms of fans of the fans instead of people paid to watch TV. “This show should be more like Arrow”, said the fans, and the fight scenes were intense and engaging, with the type of cinema-quality staging and complexity which Arrow hangs it’s hat on. “Raise the stakes for Coulson and the team. They’re never really in any danger.” Done. “We want it to have more to do with the MCU”, they’ve cried, and Kevin Feige and the Disney brass have come through.

    I’m a DC/WB guy at heart, and the best news that could come from all of this is when General Zod’s arrival and the blackout from man of Steel are plot points of Arrow and The Flash on CW somewhere, no more than, 6 months out. And news trickled from WB via their President and David Goyer in the last 2 weeks that they, too, desire just that.

    Industry insiders and tv critics will say whatever they want, agendas and axes included, but this article was WAY off base, and that’s great news for The Fans, who are all that really matter.

  18. Husanak says:

    You really missed the point. The show so far has been a setup to power the Marvel story line forward. The next major Marvel movie doesn’t directly tie in…Avengers 2 is almost 2 years off. Agents will have a lot of story to work with going forward. This was by far there best episode… and the ratings for next week should see a massive bump. Hail Hydra.

    • Jason says:

      Avengers 2 is less than 13 months off. It opens in May of next year.

    • Ryan Metzger says:

      Speaking of which, I’m confused that Captain America occurs 2 years after Avengers, when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, the first season, has been occurring during the year after Avengers. Does this seem odd to anyone?

      • Jason says:

        It does seem odd, until you give it more thought and understand that the series is actually set when it aired. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is set after Iron Man 3; we know this because it came out after Iron Man 3 and they know about the Extremis stuff. Most of Iron Man 3 was set in December 2012, but it was being narrated as something that happened in the past and in a post movie scene we learn that Tony is telling the story to Bruce Banner which means the movie is actually being told in 2013. The actors have been saying in interviews that the new movies have been released in real time for the characters, which implies that the session where Tony is telling this story is May 2013. And this means, that similarly, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. most likely started in September 2013 and has continued into the present.

      • Michael says:

        Agents starts about a half to 1 year after Avengers. That is the time for Coulson’s recovery. The series takes place over the course of a year with time jumps between some episode leaving the end of the series at 1 and a half to 2 years after Avengers.

  19. Eric says:

    Disappointing POV. It’s obvious you are missing the boat here. The show did start off slow but it needed to build its own foundation away from the rest of the universe. Now it has its legs, they can start driving it like it was intended. The tie in was great and last night was incredible. I expected the HYDRA tie in from the movie and it didn’t disappoint. As for the Lady Sif comment, it was a great move. True comic book fans know crossovers always exist in the universe. Shield is no different. I am really into the Shield storyline and think CA2 made it even better… Good things to come. Have Fairh!

  20. Stephanie says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. I thought this was one of the most exciting things to happen on television in years. For me Agents of SHIELD did start slowly, but I stuck with it because I knew it would grow into something more, and it did. The fact that Marvel is now using the tv show to help audiences tap into a larger world (though I know this was always the plan) is innovative, not overwhelming. I’m beyond impressed with what they’ve done, and I can’t wait to see how the universe further expands into the upcoming Netflix shows as well as future films and potential spin-off tv shows. A comic book company just showed everyone else what you could do with tv when you start to think big.

  21. Eric says:

    Article author missed the boat and a good crossover.

  22. Andrew Burtt says:

    One man does not speak for all. If you have been following the show, as many of us have, they have been building up the story line since the early episodes of the season. There have been no “Villain of the week” though they have been introducing new cogs to the enemy each time. The build up has been incremental but exciting, and while the show itself started off kind of touch and go, it has gained much momentum. The characters, like any new show, take some time to develop, and the actors take time to get comfortable in their roles. I think this is one of the best “NEW” shows on tv, and one of the more interesting shows overall. It speaks to a wide and varied audience that many of the other shows do not, and it’s tie in with a block buster movie, only shows innovation and a broader mind in story telling. I really enjoyed last nights episode, and look forward to a second season.

  23. Hawkvol07 says:

    FINALLY AOS !!!! Last week’s show really got my attention and last night knock me out!! Agents of Shield you finally hit a home run with the show. This was the best you have done thus far and it was explosive!! Great show last night!! Great tie in to the Winter Soldier!

  24. Guess you had to be a fan to enjoy it. Which I am…and you don’t seem to be.

  25. grahaa says:

    I thought the show had a slow start but I love the movie tie-ins and the latest one with Captain America…I thought was great. I think the show is doing good and I enjoy the extra Marvel moments between movies. I think the writer has something against Marvel.

  26. jACK says:

    Significance of Blue Oyster Cult…….Garrett is THE GRIM REAPER

  27. richieoc says:

    It’s getting better, but definitely not one of the best new shows. Hopefully next season we see a marked improvement.

  28. Anna says:

    It’s one of the best new shows. You clearly are missing out and watching blinded, or not following the show at all.

  29. Jason says:

    The guy who wrote this is clearly lacking in any kind of real knowledge of the show. It’s a great show and many many many people love it and I one of them. The way they tie in the movies is genius plus I like that they use the less heard of marvel characters because the MCU is so big it’s nice to see some other guys rather than the big dogs villains or otherwise.

    • kingleonidas04 says:

      Clearly the 12 million people who have stopped watching the show disagrees. Its clear the author is a professional and sees the same ratings/budget/production data that is readily available at many sources. Seems like most of the comments here are from fanboys/girls within the Marvel echochamber. I agree with the author and wonder if AOS can sustain itselft without a 300million dollar tie-in.
      AOS is the ONLY new on ABC that has not been renewed. Apparently for good reason. Disney execs may be close to pulling the cord if they dont see a significant ratings bump from last night. Facts are facts. Thats not my opinion. Its TV 101.

      • kingleonidas4 says:

        Correction: ABC has not officially announced renewals for 2014-15. My error. However, the advertising budget, production costs, Q scores, and ratings info is readily available for analysis.

      • Eric says:

        TV 101: ABC has yet to release anything around their 2014-15 schedule.

  30. I love Agents of Sheild! Its better than have the crap reality shows that the Networks keep forcing on us and telling us thats what we want to see. But I know because We like it, The Networks will probably cancel it. They’ve done it to several other shows I’ve watched in the past. :|

  31. Mark says:

    I’d say the most recent episode was the most exciting and surprising yet. Its an enjoyable show to look forward to during the week being delivered by an excellent caliber of professionals. I’m glad to read many others feel the same way despite blind reviews.

  32. Rob says:

    Honestly, this article is surprisingly (and disappointingly) off base. This was incredible and the fact a show can tie-in this deeply with a movie series is both new and exciting. And people are eating it up.

    Author is going to be alone on an island with this take. Ratings are bound to be climbing after this.

  33. shieldtv says:

    This article was clearly written without taking a look at how people actually reacted to the episode last night. Twitter went crazy as did chat rooms and forums all over the internet as viewers clambered to discuss the impact of what they’d just seen and share their enthusiasm. Even sites that are typically flooded with the worst of the negative “hard core comics fans” who have done nothing but complain the entire run of the series series are turning around in a big way and seeing for the first time what this show was always intended to be.

  34. Tal says:

    I think you’ve totally missed the fact that this entire series has been leading up to this point from the beginning and fans are LOVING the latest episodes, last night’s buzz was off the charts and I think they are doing things exactly the right way

  35. Bob says:

    You might want to take a look around the web. For a lot of people, the show fell off, and this tie-in seems to have reinvigorated their interest in the show. Of course they can’t always rely on the movies to keep interest in the show, but the direction the show has to head into now is more of an interesting show than it was where it started.

More TV News from Variety