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TV

How The Inhumans Should’ve Started

The first three episodes of The Inhumans have aired (the fourth is tonight), and they are…not great.  I’m no pessimist, and I’ll probably keep watching, but I have a LOT of thoughts on what went wrong, and how it could’ve been fixed.

Why Inhumans couldn’t be a movie

I actually agree with Marvel that The Inhumans shouldn’t be a movie.  They already caught lightning in a bottle with Guardians of the Galaxy.  Taking a group nobody knows and making them a huge hit may not have worked again.  Plus, you’ve already introduced the idea of Inhumans on TV via Agents of SHIELD.  Why give up that synergy?  It’s one place where Marvel could look to DC for inspiration.  A lot of the fun with the DC TV universe right now is how they can intermingle at will.  Wally West can pop in on Legends of Tomorrow, Felicity can slide into The Flash.  Use that.

Rushed it

“…”  -Black Bolt’s best line of the series

It seems clear to me that the background strive between Marvel’s TV and movie arm had a huge negative effect on The Inhumans.  What we ended up with was a movie-length story stretched to fit 8 TV episodes.  We have no reason to care about the Royal Family.  You can’t even tell whether or not Maximus is in the wrong.  That might work as an action movie where you just keep up a breakneck pace, but for 8 TV hours, nope.

Should’ve been SHIELD

If it were me, I would’ve gone ahead and made this part of Agents of SHIELD.  They had some great success with story arcs last season, and that could’ve worked well here.  You can even start building things the same way.  Triton comes to Earth to rescue an Inhuman, but instead of finding some babe in the woods, it’s Daisy.  I mean, it’s unclear how many times Black Bolt has sent people to Earth to rescue Nuhumans.  Has he really never encountered someone aware of the whole Inhuman society that happened?  How did he find out about Nuhumans, period? Those things break down the more you think about them.  If you bring SHIELD into the mix, you can build from a stronger base.  Maybe the Royal Family team with Coulson/Daisy to help the Nuhumans escape from a shadowy organization that’s hunting them.  You can then build Maximus’s betrayal out over the whole episode arc.  It would also give you time to show just WHY Black Bolt’s rule is a good one.  Because brutal caste systems aren’t usually something we’re supposed to root for.

Marvel missed big with The Inhumans.  On the plus side, the characters exist now in the MCU (albeit the TV branch).  Even if their show is cancelled, there’s no reason they can’t appear further.  In the mean time, read Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward’s Black Bolt series.

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Review TV

Pilot Season – The Gifted

The Gifted is a new X-Men-adjacent show on Fox, which I will explain momentarily, and it’s pretty awesome.  It’s almost too bad for Marvel that The Inhumans release around the same time, because it’s not even a contest as to which is better.

“Adjacent”

The first question with most comic book adaptations nowadays is what does it connect to.  The short answer so far for The Gifted is, nothing really.  It exists in an alternate universe where “something” has happened that has caused both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to disappear.  The rest of the mutants are just trying to stay alive, with the government actively hunting down any mutant that uses their powers and “threatens public safety”.  More than any property since X-Men: The Animated Series, they truly show a world where mutants are hated and feared.

The Story

The Gifted follows Reed and Kate Strucker, and their mutant children Andy and Lauren.  After an event that outs Andy and Lauren as mutants (Lauren knew and had been hiding her abilities), the family has to go on the run.  A major complicating factor is the fact that Reed is a prosecutor that focuses on mutant cases.  That doesn’t exactly make him a trusted figure in the mutant community.

What Works

They have a great set of actors, save maybe for the young man playing Andy (Percy Hynes White).  However, he’s got time to grow into the role.  Stephen Moyer (late of True Blood) and Amy Acker (Angel, Person of Interest) are very good as the parents, expertly showing the stress and conflict of people who had been comfortable in a life, now thrust into something very different.  The mutants are solid so far, with a mix of new characters for the show and familiar faces from the comics.  This includes Emma Dumont as Lorna Dane/Polaris, Jamie Chung as Clarice Ferguson/Blink, and Blair Redford as John Proudstar/Thunderbird.

What Doesn’t

Like I said, not sold on Andy but there’s time to grow.  Lorna’s story leans heavily on prison cliches but I’m still interested to see what happens.

Where We Go From Here

The next episode has already aired, and continues the solid presentation of this version of the X-Men universe.  They’ve nailed ‘hated and feared’ much better than the movies, and The Gifted should continue being more accessible than Legion.  I’m all in.

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Review TV

Pilot Season – The Inhumans

I’ve watched the two episodes of Marvel’s new show, The Inhumans, and I’m reminded very strongly of season one of Agents of SHIELD.  With a little of the lackluster parts of Iron Fist thrown in for good measure.  It’s not great, but there is the tiniest of hope in me still that it can get there.

The Basics

Inhumans, in case you aren’t a comics fan or caught up on Agents of SHIELD, are humans who are descended from ancestors who were experimented on by the Kree long ago.  When exposed to a material called Terrigen, they mutat–*Fox kicks in the door*–er, transform in some way.  Some gain cool powers, some might just get a minor change, like a tail or cat ears.  The Inhuman royal family lives on the moon in the city of Attilan, where a rigid caste system somehow keeps the population limited…?  It’s honestly a bit unclear.

The Family

You have Black Bolt, the silent King, who has a voice that can shatter mountains, and Queen Medusa, whose can control her long super-strong hair.  Medusa’s sister, Crystal, can control the four classical elements (earth, fire, water, air).  Gorgon has hooves.  Karnak sees the flaw in all things – he’s one of my favorite Inhumans.  Triton is the acquatic member of the family.  Maximus is Black Bolt’s brother, and seems so far to have no powers from his Terrigenesis (though if they follow the comics that may not be the case).  He thinks the Inhumans belong on Earth.

What Works

They do the best they can with the costumes.  Like most shows, they don’t like covering the heads of anyone expected to emote, and that’s going to be double for Black Bolt, who can’t speak without destroying people.  I’m curious about where they are going with this, which is enough to get me watching the next episode.  I like Ken Leung as Karnak, and Iwan Rheon is good as Maximus.

What Doesn’t

The CGI is lacking for sure.  They seem to have improved Medusa’s hair somewhat, but then they work around that anyway.  Lockjaw is cute but never seems to inhabit the scene, and he’s sidelined too.  A lot of the rest of the acting is subpar, though the dialogue given to them doesn’t help.  My hope is that it improves as you get past the pilot but it’s a Scott Buck show.  There was a lot of exposition to get through, but it’s done as just static infodumps.  Even those would be okay, but the dialogue is clunky.

Where We Go From Here

I was able to make it through the early bits of Agents of SHIELD because I liked some of the characters, and was curious about the mystery of Coulson’s return.  There’s less of an “in” here because you haven’t met any of these people before.  It’s a short season so I’m probably in for the rest (especially with a Kevin Tanchareon-directed episode coming up) but I wouldn’t blame anybody who bailed.

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Review TV

TV Review – Amazon’s The Tick Season One

I mentioned this when I talked about the pilot episode, that it amazes me that The Tick keeps getting chances.  The latest show, on Amazon, is the third time the hero has appeared on our screens.  Not bad for a hero that was created a mascot for a comic book shop.  The comics that came from that, and the original 3 seasons of cartoons on Fox helped launch creator Ben Edlund’s career.  He’s written, produced and directed some of nerd-dom’s favorite projects, including Supernatural, Angel, Firefly, the Venture Brothers and more.

Branding is power.  – The Terror

This version of The Tick is a bit darker and dare I say grittier than the previous televised versions, while at the same time skewering dark and gritty comic shows.  The Tick himself doesn’t know who exactly he is, other than being The Tick.  Arthur, too, has some mental issues stemming from a traumatic childhood.  He saw The Terror kill both his father and his favorite heroes.  So yeah, pretty dark, but don’t worry – there’s plenty of the trademark humor to be had.  They even manage to make product placement funny, with the The Terror intoning “Alexa, play ominous music!” at one point.  They parody Superman and the Punisher (who’s been a frequent target of Edlund’s in the previous Tick incarnations), and there’s even a giant naked guy just wandering around.  Ms. Lint, one of the primary villains, still lives with her ex and the relationship definitely recalls the American Maid/Die Fledermaus interplay.

If there’s a negative, it’s that the humor may not be for everyone.  The show definitely leans into the absurdist nature of universes populated by talking super-dogs and hundred year old villains.  It’s also a bit jarring to see the level of violence in a show about The Tick.  The suit looks terrible in the pilot episode, but that was fixed for the rest of the series (and doesn’t pass uncommented).

I had some trepidation about this but by the end I was fully on board.  Peter Serafinowicz is a great Tick, Griffin Newman and Valorie Curry work well as Arthur and Dot, and the rest of the ensemble do their part.

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Review TV

TV Review – The Defenders

With only 8 episodes, I was able to make it through The Defenders over the weekend, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It’s not perfect, and does run into some of the same problems as the previous Netflix shows.  Despite that, there are plenty of really enjoyable bits.

The basics behind The Defenders

The Defenders brings together all the principal players from the Netflix Marvel shows to take on the Hand once and for all.  But it takes some time to do so, starting out by giving us a glimpse of where each character is at the start.  Matt (Daredevil) is trying to live a non-super life, doing pro bono work.  Jessica Jones is avoiding work altogether despite Marcus and Trish trying to get her back in the game.  They are unsuccessful until she gets a strange call after turning down what she thinks is a typical cheating husband job.  Luke Cage is sprung from prison legally, thanks in part to Foggy Nelson.  Danny Rand is hunting the Hand across the globe, but is told they are up to shenanigans in New York.  This sets all our heroes on the path to their first meetings.

What works

We’ve been waiting forever to see some of these characters meet, and for the most part, it’s great fun.  Finally, there are people who roll their eyes at all of Danny’s “I’ve got to focus my chi, brah” antics.  Jessica’s double-takes every time Matt is in costume are worth it, too.  The action is a lot better than in Iron Fist.  Sigourney Weaver is a boss.  Claire is so good it hurts.  The combat, for the most part, works and showcases the different fighting styles.

What doesn’t

There’s a bit of shoehorning as far as “let’s have these characters meet to set up the future”.  There’s a severe lack of ninjas thanks to the updated origin of the Hand.  (vague spoiler) They sort of repeat the surprise villain death that happened in Luke Cage (end vague spoiler).  While I love the interplay between all the characters, they sit and talk just a hair too much.  While the fight scenes are better in general, they are poorly lit.

What’s next

I won’t spoil things, but there’s a pretty huge Daredevil-related cliffhanger, and the show leaves the rest of the Defenders in a much different place.  I feel like we got a worthy finish to what was started way back in Daredevil’s first season, and hopefully the forthcoming seasons can build on it in an interesting way.  If you’d like to know more about what may be coming, try these books:

 

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TV

How to Fix Iron Fist in Season Two

Note: potential spoilers if you’re not caught up on the Marvel Netflix shows.

I talked about Iron Fist‘s first season already, but I’d like to look ahead to the future of the character beyond his next appearance in the Defenders.  Barring something crazy in the upcoming Defenders season, we currently have Danny as the Iron Fist, but only barely.  He can’t summon his chi to both fists at once, can’t keep it there long, and had to be taught how to heal someone and restore his chi reserves by a dude from the Hand.  And (super spoiler alert) he tries to head back to K’un Lun, and it ain’t there, so no way for the Thunderer to maybe give him the pointers he needs.  There’s a fix for this, and it’s straight from the comics:  The Book of the Iron Fist.

Iron Fist: It's Chi

A perfect solution, right?  This would be easily adaptable to TV, though they’d have to shift things to avoid doubling down on the white savior trope.  See, in the comics, the guy that gives Danny the book?  Orson Randall, the previous Iron Fist, also a white dude.  Marvel could easily tweak this, but they could’ve done it with Danny and didn’t, so my hopes aren’t high.  Still, I loved the story, and it heavily involves characters we already know such as Davos and Crane Mother.  It also gets Danny to his full strength, meaning you can amp up the threats he and the Defenders/Heroes for Hire/what have you face in the future.  It’s a no-brainer to me.

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TV

Legend of Korra, Five Years Later

Five years ago, The Legend of Korra first aired on Nickelodeon in the US, as a sequel series to the much-beloved Avatar: The Last Airbender.  While not the critical smash that A:TLA was, for me Korra stands up well as an amazing piece of storytelling, with gorgeous visuals to boot.

In case you’re not familiar with either series, the world of Avatar takes cues from ancient Indian, Asian and various indigenous cultures around the world.  The twist is, some people are born with the ability to ‘bend’ earth, fire, air or water, and there is always one Avatar that can learn to bend all four.  When the Avatar dies, their spirit is reincarnated to the next nation in a cycle (in the same order of elements above).  As you might guess, A:TLA follow an airbender Avatar (Aang), and The Legend of Korra follows his immediate successor, Korra who is a waterbender.

Right away, the new series made sure to show us how different Korra herself would be from Aang.  Aang had started out as a reluctant hero – he had run away from the Avatar responsibility, she dove in head-first.  Aang had been contemplative and looked to solve problems peacefully first.  Korra would often punch first and ask questions later.  In fact, it’s one of Korra’s central issues she has to overcome, as that sort of personality is diametrically opposed to airbending principles.  Throughout the first season (Book One: Air), Korra struggles to connect with her spiritual self, butting heads with Aang’s son Tenzin as he tries to teach her to airbend.  It’s very parental, and it’s something most tweens and teens can relate to.  In fact, if there’s one thing that seemed to bother some fans that grew up with Aang, it’s that the new show definitely skewed older with the issues that were tackled.

One of my favorite things Legend of Korra did was realistically advance the world from the previous show.  On Avatar: The Last Airbender, we saw the beginnings of industrialization.  There were rudimentary mechanized vehicles and ships, and it would’ve been easy for the show to just stick with that, but they went full industrial revolution in Republic City.  The problems facing the world also matured.  Book One’s villain, Amon, made you take a hard look at how you treat the ‘others’ in your life, especially when you have more power than they do.  Book Three and Four swung the pendulum between chaos and order, showing how bad things can be at both ends of the spectrum.

I am the solution – Amon

Another aspect I love about Legend of Korra is how the relationships grow over time.  Sure, it starts out with typical teen angsty love triangles, but it ends with a some amazing friendships and even a same-sex couple that goes about as far as Nickelodeon would let them.  And that develops over years, by overturning the media tendency to have women be rivals for the affections of whatever men happen to be around.  Korra and Asami have every reason to dislike each other, but end up close friends, and finally more.

Legend of Korra does what any sequel or continuation should do – it deepens the lore, pays homage to the past but isn’t beholden to it, and only serves to improve the Avatar legend.  If you never gave Korra a shot, you owe it to yourself to try it now.  The first three books (seasons) are available on Amazon Prime for free though you do need to buy Book Four (which is totally worth it).

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Review TV

TV Review – Iron Fist

I finished Marvel’s latest Netflix series, Iron Fist over the weekend, and I have a lot of mixed feelings.  I became a fan of Danny Rand fairly late, having read the Brubaker/Fraction/Swierczynski/Foreman Immortal Iron Fist series after loving Fraction/Aja’s Hawkeye and Brubaker’s Cap run.  That series pushed a lot of my buttons, since I loved the old Kung Fu TV show (and even the sequel series), martial arts TV and movies in general, and the greater Marvel universe as a whole.

Having said that, as an adult I now know that the set up for Kung Fu and similar media is problematic.  There was talk that Iron Fist might subvert the source material’s issues by casting an Asian man as Danny, but Marvel played it safe.  Having seen the guy they were considering (Lewis Tan), I wish they’d taken the chance but here we are.  I’m not going to hammer them on this point (as many other reviewers and pundits have done so eloquently) but for a company that has led the way in so many other ways with the explosion of comic book media, it’s perplexing that they are going to lag behind on something like this.

Let’s move on to the show itself.  The story revolves around Danny Rand, long thought dead after his parents’ plane went down en route to China.  Secretly raised by warrior monks, Danny is trained to be a living weapon, able to channel his Chi into his fists (or fist, singular, so far) to become…well, I’ll let Roy Thomas tell you:

Iron Fist badassery

Comics!  Anyway, Danny returns to New York City and attempts to restart his life there – trying to get Rand Enterprise back, reintroducing himself to Ward and Joy Meachum (childhood friends/frenemies and the children of his father’s business partner, Harold), pestering dojo leader Colleen Wing, and generally making a nuisance of himself.  The earliest episodes felt the weakest to me.  I don’t think Finn Jones as Danny Rand was all that strong at the emotional aspects, though perhaps those directors were not pulling in a strong performance from him.  The action is weakest in these episodes as well, though Jessica Henwick as Colleen shows a bit of skill.  Still, I found myself most interested in Harold Meachum (yeah, he’s not dead) and his manipulation of events.

And make no mistake, Danny is very easily manipulated.  Despite numerous times this causes him trouble, he repeatedly trusts someone right after they do something somewhat nice for him, or just because it’s a person he knew in the past.  This despite the fact that one of the reasons he left his post – he’s supposed to be guarding the entrance to his mystical adopted home of K’un-Lun while it’s open – was he didn’t want to be a tool used by others.  I think they wanted to show how naive Danny is, with half of his youth spent apart from our society, but he seems to integrate himself back in fairly easily otherwise so it doesn’t quite work.

I know a lot of this sounds negative, but the show does pick up in the back half.  The action improves quite a bit.  I wasn’t surprised at all to see that the episode with one of my favorite fights (drunken boxing!) was directed by Kevin Tancharoen.  We get our requisite Claire Temple appearance, big reveals about the Hand, Madame Gao, Colleen Wing and Davos.  It DOES end on a pretty enormous cliffhanger, but Iron Fist perhaps suffers more than the previous Netflix/Marvel shows because it’s also pulling duty as the lead-in to the Defenders.

In the end, Iron Fist is probably a 3 out of 5.  Luke Cage (which I should probably re-watch and talk about here) is a notch above, and Jessica Jones and both seasons of Daredevil above that.  My next post will be a look ahead, at what the future should hold for Danny if there’s another Iron Fist season.

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Comics Review TV

Batman: The Animated Series – Robin’s Reckoning

Batman: The Animated Series was an amazing show, and there are a bunch of episodes that frequently adorn “Top x B:TAS Episodes” lists.  Robin’s Reckoning (in two parts) often rates highly on those lists, and on the 24th anniversary of the primetime premier of part 1, I’d like to take a deeper look.

Viewing the series now, as an adult, one of my favorite things is how they dealt with Robin.  Rather than show him as a kid, he’s a young man, college age, who is beginning to grow out of the ‘sidekick’ role.  Dick has his own opinions and life on B:TAS, and it provides a complexity and depth to the Bruce/Dick relationship you hadn’t seen in the non-comic book Batman adaptations to that point.

This was never more apparent than with the two-part episode Robin’s Reckoning, which premiered in prime time on February 7th and 14th, 1993.  Batman and Robin are busting up an extortion ring, but things get weird when Batman gets the boss’s name and quickly sidelines Robin.  Alfred and Dick search the name (Billy Marin) and discover that it’s an alias for Tony Zucco, the man who killed Dick’s parents.  From here on, the remainder of the episodes intersperse scenes from the past showing Robin’s origin (adapted from Detective Comics 38) and both Bruce and an enraged Dick hunting Zucco separately.

Much like how Heart of Ice redefined Mr. Freeze for the modern era, Robin’s Reckoning brings a then-40 year old origin up to date.  Bruce takes in this damaged kid, but doesn’t just start training him to fight.  It only happens when Bruce, who had been distant from his young ward while hunting Zucco as Batman, realizes that Dick Grayson has the same drive to do SOMETHING about the injustices life has dealt him.  It’s less “hey, kid sidekicks sell, amirite?” and more “here’s a young man who needs to channel these feelings in a better direction”.  You could actually imagine a kid sidekick working like this (though I hope Robin got a few years of training in before hitting the streets).

The episode finishes with one of Robin’s best moments in the whole series.  Batman is hurting, but just before Zucco can finish him off, Dick bursts onto the scene on his motorcycle, grabs Zucco and drags him to the harbor, ready to drop him to his death.  Bruce tries to talk him down:

Batman:  Robin! That’s enough, Robin!  You can’t allow your personal feelings to guide your actions.
Robin:  Stuff you, Batman!  You and your stone-cold heart!  You don’t know how I feel!  How could you…?

In one of the best moments in the series, Bruce doesn’t answer.  Dick realizes what he’s said and let’s the police take Zucco.  It’s a surprisingly emotional moment for a “kid’s cartoon”, one of many that elevated Batman: The Animated Series above its contemporaries.  Which says a LOT considering there were quite a few good cartoons in the early 90s.  Strong direction from Dick Sebast, great writing from Randy Rogel (who also contributed heavily to the Animaniacs, including many of the memorable songs), and of course outstanding voicework from Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester and the rest of the cast.  If you haven’t seen B:TAS in a while, today’s a great day to revisit it by watching it on Amazon Prime.  If you need a 30-day trial for Prime, click here.

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Review TV

TV Review – Voltron: Legendary Defender Season Two

If there was one thing that drove people nuts (in a good way) with season one of Voltron: Legendary Defender, it was the HUGE cliffhanger ending.  Surprise allies!  The lions scattered!  Everything is happening!  Thankfully, a second season just recently dropped that wastes no time in cleaning up the dangling threads.

Season two, without spoiling too much, is fantastic.  We really get a feel that Voltron truly is a defender of the whole universe with new locations and alien friends.  Character development is mostly limited to Shiro, Keith and Allura which is annoying if you are invested in Pidge’s story or want to know more about Hunk, but the increased focus makes the stories more impactful.  Also, I’m fairly certain that Pidge’s family will play into season three if and when it comes.

I was literally on the edge of my seat during the finale battles, and though they couldn’t help themselves with a few more cliffhanger moments, there was a much more satisfying conclusion with season two.  I haven’t heard anything about a renewal, but if critical response is anything to judge by, I wouldn’t be surprised if they lock it up quick.

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Comics TV

The First Legend of Korra Comic, “Turf Wars”, Starts June 2017!

It was first announced that Korra’s adventures would continue in comics (much like Aang’s) last New York Comic-Con, but it’s taken until this one to get an update.  The new comic, titled “Turf Wars”, begins June of 2017.  The details:

This three-part graphic novel series is written by Nickelodeon TV series co-creator and executive producer Michael Dante DiMartino, drawn by Irene Koh (Batgirl, 1602, TMNT), with covers by Heather Campbell (Free Comic Book Day 2016: The Legend of Korra), and consultation by TV series co-creator and executive producer Bryan Konietzko.

Turf Wars begins with Korra and Asami leaving the spirit world and returning to Republic City only to find political hijinks and human vs. spirit conflict, as a pompous developer plans to turn the new spirit portal into an amusement park, potentially severing an already tumultuous connection with the spirits. In addition, the triads have realigned and are in a brutal brawl at the city’s borders where hundreds of evacuees have relocated.  In order to get through it all, Korra and Asami vow to look out for each other—but first, they’ve got to get better at being a team.
No information as to why Brittney Williams (who’s been great on Hellcat) isn’t the artist but Koh does great work.  I’m very curious to see if they will be showing more of the Korra/Asami relationship, which would be great to show some LGBTQ representation to younger readers.  The story sounds like classic Avatar, with a mix of serious and fun.  Can’t wait!  I’ll update the post when pre-orders show up at Amazon, or head to your local comics shop and pre-order there!
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Comics TV

Help Me Fix Agents of SHIELD

This is mostly in response to the article over at Heroic Hollywood, Is Marvel’s ‘Agents of SHIELD’ Really Any Good? so maybe check that first.

There was no one more excited by the concept of Agents of SHIELD than me, when it was first announced.  A Whedon-adjacent look at the more mundane aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, led by everyone’s favorite dead SHIELD agent?  Let’s roll!  The reality of the show has been, at times, middling however.  As Jon Negroni points out in the article above, rather than the show being must-see TV for Marvel movie fans, it’s mostly an afterthought.  The episode that tied in to Thor: The Dark World is the perfect metaphor for AoS, as the team were literally picking up the scraps left behind by one of the MCU’s movies.

Not that there hasn’t been some great stuff to enjoy along the way, but beyond the direct link to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, all that’s great about Agents of SHIELD is of their own making.  Brett Dalton’s Grant Ward bored us all to tears as generic SHIELD agent guy…until the HYDRA twist turned our understanding of him on it’s head.  The action directing has been a highlight also.  Really, the only thing that holds AoS back from being spoken of in the same breath as The Flash is the MCU.  The focus (more from the fans than anyone at ABC/Disney/Marvel) is on just how the show will tie-in to the upcoming movies.  “Hey look, Inhumans!” which is particularly rough since the Inhumans movie is now off the schedule, or Lorelei/Sif which is fun but not exactly something that’s going to grab the attention of the movie-goers or the casual TV viewer who sees the promos.

No, the biggest thing Agents of SHIELD could do to increase its quality is…stop worrying about the MCU!  There are signs of that this year, with the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider being a focus, but they need to really lean in to it.  There are plenty of characters that will never get a movie or a TV show, and you already HAVE a show that needs to fill 20+ hours a year.  And has a tendency to have some filler episodes of questionable quality.  Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of sifting through the rubble of the next MCU movie, Coulson and May went on an adventure with Jimmy Woo and Ken Hale?  Or, instead of holding out hope we see another Kree, we see Fitz and Simmons have to figure out how to help defeat the Wrecking Crew?  The Hood.  Shang-Chi.  Moon Knight.  Tombstone.  The Grim Reaper.  Taskmaster.  Most of these characters wouldn’t carry a series on their own (okay, maaaybe Moon Knight) but would work great as a 3-8 episode arc on AoS.

There are signs that AoS may be going down this path this year, with Ghost Rider and some of the other mystical stuff.  The real trick is getting the audience back that may have lost interest.  Is there anyone you’d like to see on the show, or any TV-friendly storylines you’d like them to tackle?