So for those of you who braved a ‘midnight’ showing of Captain America: The Winter Solider Thursday evening, are in a part of the world where it opened previously, and/or are just the type to read spoilers online, you know Marvel just wasn’t blowing smoke up our collective fanboy asses when they said the film is a game-changer.
Yes, we’re talking SPOILERS (for The Winter Soldier and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) from here on out.
As of the Captain’s skirmish with secret elements within the security/intelligence/spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. in the new film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is certainly a very different place … the lynchpin of the whole damn thing since Iron Man no longer exists. It was dismantled because the Hydra infiltration ran too deep.
But here’s the thing – the MCU ‘game change’ won’t really be felt for some time on the big screen. August’s Guardian of the Galaxy presumably mostly occurs outside the literal sphere of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s influence, which leaves fans having to wait until May 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron for the immediate aftermath/follow-up…
…orrrrrrrr they can tune into ABC next Tuesday night at 8pm.
Ye-ah, the now utter lack of a S.H.I.E.L.D. in the MCU just might have a significant effect on a weekly TV series called Marvel’s Freakin’ Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and keep reading for some ideas on how).
Lest any viewers think the show won’t be tackling this development head on, Marvel has already sent a clear signal The Winter Soldier is very synced up with TV series. In this past Tuesday’s new episode “The End of the Beginning,” reoccurring movie and TV player Agent Sitwell exits the episode, making direct reference to his appearance in the opening action sequence of The Winter Soldier, which leads to his very key status throughout the film. And at the end of the episode, a scene from the film - Fury’s disastrous first meeting with the Winter Soldier - was shown not just as a promo, but narratively, as if it was an actual scene from the show.
While the TV show sits in the sidecar of the Marvel movie motorcycle, it’s been made plain the film and TV series’ timelines are parallel, which only makes it a matter of a few episodes (or less) until there's no longer anyone signing Coulson and his team’s paychecks or paying for fill-ups for "the Bus."
What’s not clear at the moment is how soon the titular agents will have to deal with being free agents. The official descriptions of the next two episodes, “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Providence” do make reference to the team finding themselves with rogue status, however. And here they are:
"Turn, Turn, Turn - Coulson and his team find themselves without anyone they can trust, only to discover that they are trapped with a traitor in their midst."
"Providence - With Colonel Glenn Talbot now on their trail, Coulson and his team seek refuge in the last place anyone would look, where they begin to uncover S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most dangerous secrets - secrets that could destroy them all."
Since Talbot is identified by Marvel has an Air Force Colonel, it’s possible that we’re already looking at the immediate after effects of The Winter Soldier. Since S.H.I.E.L.D. no longer exists, if Coulson’s team is still operating and trying to solve the mystery of who the season one big bad “the Clairvoyant” is, the existing U.S. military would certainly be trying to bring a rogue field team from a defunct, infiltrated intelligence agency down or in.
It’s also possible the events of the next two episodes occur before the climax of The Winter Soldier and is simply a contained continuation of the show’s own current storyline.
That all said, this week’s episode strongly implied that rather than a psychic, the Clairvoyant is/was a high-level S.H.I.E.L.D. operative with intelligence on the team members.
The episode left you with the impression Agent Hand was the new top suspect but we gotta tell you, Bill Paxton’s Agent Garrett was being conspicuously (suspiciously?) genial the entire episode as the identity of the Clairvoyant became the focal point.
Whether or not Hand or Garrett or whoever the traitor will be is eventually revealed to have ties with Hydra tying it all into one big nice bow remains to be seen – but also remember this, all the marketing for the second half of the season has been accompanied by the twitter-friendly hashtag #ItsAllConnected.
Either which way, Coulson and his team will be joining the ranks of the 6.7% unemployed sooner or later, and if there is a season 2, how the series continues in the new Marvel status quo will certainly be an issue occupying the minds of its fans.
And we’ll have some thoughts on how the series could continue in a moment.
First of all, despite what’s perceived to be the disappointing evolution of its ratings, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still one of overall-ratings-challenged ABC’s better performing shows. While its lack of a second season renewal at this stage in the game raises some questions, we’re going to bet that the Disney/ABC/Marvel Studios power trio will be looking at the opportunity The Winter Soldier presents in breathing new life into the series. Getting the viewers who sampled the premiere and early episodes in stronger numbers, and who maybe bled off during the course of the first 16 episodes, to give it another look is certainly within their grasp.
And what better time to announce the show’s renewal and creative retooling than when The Winter Soldier is basking it the glow of box office dominance?
So assuming a second season, how exactly does the show go on?
We’re going to give it a shot, and the key is taking things back to the literal and figurative beginning – Howard and Tony Stark – one a co-founder of what would become S.H.I.E.L.D. and one the character that started and in many ways is still the centerpiece of the whole MCU.
Nick Fury, now fully realizing how rotten to the core S.H.I.E.L.D. always was, knows that while it’s officially dismantled, there are still secret S.H.I.E.L.D. labs, storage facilities, watch lists, safe houses, mole programs, and all manner of potentially dangerous threats still operating or no longer being overseen, and he’ll require a field team to serve as “cleaners.” Do we know of anyone who could serve as a small but trained group he knows he can trust and can tell all the S.H.I.E.L.D. secrets only he knows to that would be tasked with tying and tidying up all the loose ends, while he continues to follow his new Hydra leads in Europe?
But a team like that needs series funding, right? You don’t hop around on a giant cargo plane without a least an open line of credit somewhere.
Cue multi-billionaire Tony Stark, who - perhaps even believing himself to be out of the superhero game following Iron Man 3 - also feels a responsibility to clean up the mess his father helped start.
Now, for those of you who have seen the film, remember the closing montage that included a brief, perhaps even tacked-on shot of Cobie Smulders' Agent Hill sitting in a Stark Industries personnel office, presumably there interviewing for a job?
Well, in a perfect fit of timing, Hill and Smulders are both looking for work, so she gets brought in season 2 as a regular or regularly reoccurring character, who in the public eye is a high-level Stark employee, but who is in fact the secret Director of Fury and Stark’s new, secret S.H.I.E.L.D. start-up – an organization created to right the wrongs of the old S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep their old secrets old secrets.
Maybe this is even their chance to even change the acronym to stand for Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate, as it does in the comics.
Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr. willing, ABC and Marvel could even dream about using the occasion of the current filming of Age of Ultron to convince the pair to shoot an establishing scene for the season 2 premiere, in which Stark learns Coulson is alive, Stark and Fury conspire to create their new, secret-private version of S.H.I.E.L.D. led by Hill, who in turns sends Coulson and his team off on their first new clean-up mission.
Or in other words a crossover, relaunch event.
C’mon, tell us that doesn’t sound exactly like Marvel?