Hello, my name is Jamie and I’m here to convince you to watch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s not an exaggeration when I say this is the best and most criminally underrated show on network television. My hope is that if you clicked this article, you’ve never seen the show or gave up on it way too early. My other hope is that I can convince you to give it another shot.
In the Beginning
In 2013, Marvel was five years into the ever-growing success of the MCU. The summer marked the beginning of “Phase Two” with Iron Man 3 and the continued expansion of the universe meant an obvious next step: a television series. This was exciting, because there would finally be room to allow these stories to breath and grow, rather than packing 50 years of a character’s history into a two-hour movie.
The decision to focus on S.H.I.E.L.D., the secret intelligence agency that deals with otherworldly and superhuman threats, was the perfect place to start. A large organization would leave room for new characters, movie characters, and classic comic characters to come together without it ever feeling overcrowded or gimmicky. Thanks to fan favorite, Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), movie fans already had an idea of what the agency was all about.
The excitement only grew when it was announced that Coulson, who died tragically in 2012’s The Avengers, would be the show’s lead. Coulson’s murder sparked outrage and an entire “Coulson Lives” campaign, which set the internet ablaze. The widespread love for Coulson proved that there was plenty of audience to continue his story, so Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was born.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D begins with the creation of Coulson’s new team: First, there’s Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), a lethal and seemingly stern agent who left the field after a tragic incident.
Next, FitzSimmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge), the genius science team who work in perfect simpatico despite their young age and inexperience in the field.
Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), an agent whose unmatched skill is weighed down by his inability to work with others.
Finally, Skye (Chloe Bennet), a hacker from the streets whose mysterious past will intrigue any comic die-hards (hint: her name isn’t Skye anymore).
Over the years, the show has added many other characters, including Mack (Henry Simmons), the brawny yet gentle mechanic with a strict moral compass, and Yo-Yo (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), an inhuman with a strong will and passionate heart. After five seasons, the group’s dynamics continue to change, but the “team is family” mentality never waivers.
Cast and Crew
The recurring theme of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, onscreen and off, is family. The show was created by one of the greatest families of the genre: the Whedons. Soon after directing The Avengers, Joss Whedon directed the pilot episode of the series. Despite this early appearance behind the camera and the fact that he’s credited as an Executive Producer, the show is actually helmed by his brother and sister-in-law, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.
The couple’s vision is extremely reminiscent of the early days of Joss’ work, especially the character dynamics on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, they’ve completely stepped out of his shadow and made this show their own. To add to the family feel of it all, Maurissa’s brother, Kevin Tancharoen, has directed 12 episodes of the series.
In addition to being run by an actual family, the cast and crew have created their own family dynamic on set. They genuinely seem to love each other, their job, and their fans. Personally, I have met them all and can attest to this fact. Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to moderate their 100th episode panel in Los Angeles, and I spent the leading hours in my own corner of the green room, observing as they casually entered, one by one, each being greeted with pure love and admiration by their castmates.
In these few short hours, I learned that Ming-Na Wen is nothing like her austere, silent character: she radiates joy with her infectious laugh and warm presence. Clark Gregg, on the other hand, is exactly like Coulson: he’s their fearless leader and a big ‘ol nerd, who takes the time to care for everyone on his team. Everyone else falls somewhere in-between, making them all a perfectly in-sync team, onscreen and off. Knowing this makes what they create together even more special.
Early Response and Steady Improvement
Unfortunately, the show didn’t garner the initial response Marvel or ABC was hoping for. The first few episodes didn’t provide that right-out-of-the-gate punch that had become the MCU norm. However, there is a grave misconception that the entire first season is unwatchable.
In truth, there are a few bumpy episodes early on, but even the rare times the plot fails, the character exploration shines. There is no episode that is inadmissible. As the first season progressed, it only became more enticing. In addition to the amazing series regulars, the first season featured guest appearances by Jaimie Alexander, Patton Oswalt, Bill Paxton, and even Nick Fury himself: Samuel L. Jackson. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, the character growth and shocking twists should do it.
Even if the first season doesn’t captivate you, each season only gets better, a rarity in television today. Honestly, of the most disappointing things about the lack of love for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is how much it’s overshadowed by the big-budget Marvel shows on Netflix. With few exceptions, each individual Defenders series had a wildly successful first season and then disappointed with season two. Why do these shows, which are in a constant state of decline, get the marketing and hype when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the only one that’s outdoing itself every season?
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