Why Is ABC's AGENTS OF SHIELD Doomed to Fail?

Clark Gregg and Jaimie Alexander in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Well, it had to come up sooner or later.  ABC's (AKA, Disney, Marvel) Agents of SHIELD, is still slipping in the TV ratings. This week's latest episode fell 19% below it's previously low rated episode.  And I'm not surprised, considering that our "heroes" ended up killing two innocent men in their efforts to save one of their own.  What a dichotomy of character.  But also, be it as it may, how this show was handled in the front half of the season, I don't blame people for not tuning out.

And as far as the ratings decline, the only people they have to blame for it is themselves.


When it was first announced that ABC will have a series based around Agent Coulson's character, the world was afire with anticipation.  They got more excited to hear that Joss Whedon was going to be the executive producer.

But no one stopped to think about it and why Agents of SHIELD was doomed.


First off, it sounded pretty cool that Whedon will exec produce something on TV again, but effectively he did the JJ Abrams thing... started a show and moved on, leaving the series in the hands of a trusted writing team.  (In his defense, Whedon is busy building a billion dollar movie sequel.)

We all had big hopes, but guess what, this is not Buffy or Angel.  This is a show that had a great start, and then was handed off, with canned outlines in place for writers to follow to write their stories within, it showed, and the series was left to flounder.

The things that went wrong and are wrong, are on many different levels.

-Agents of SHIELD, as they said and pitched, is about humans in special circumstances.  And that's the problem. It's not the superheroes that people paid money for at the theater to see.  SHIELD is the background squad that showed up here and there in each movie.  They were the B-team and the executives making tough calls.

-The mystique that was Agent Coulson has been ripped asunder.  We have seen him at his darkest and weakest, destroying that mysterious bravado we've always seen him with.  What's there left for us to ponder about him in the movies?

-Then there was the "dropped hints" about how Coulson was still alive.

My god, could you get any more childish in how that mystery was handled?  Every episode during the front half of the season, we kept getting clobbered with innuendos the size of an elephant, two or three times an episode.

It felt like ABC did not trust you, the viewer, to grasp the mystery and go with it.  No, you had to be slapped with it repeatedly. It felt like those sitcom laugh tracks, where they are triggered to TELL YOU when to laugh.

That was the worst of it.

-The writing was crazy simplistic at times.  In some episodes there were some situations so thinly developed, I felt like I could go to my local elementary school and find a better developed story from a kid in the sandbox.  In one episode, we had a huge secondary story of two guys out to steal a power source, from an evil group.  We never met them, we never heard from them, but they had threatened the world.  But all we saw were our two heroes, killing them and getting the goods back. And that was that.

-Rather than having the whole world as their oyster for primary story lines, we're chasing bad guys using Extremis tech.  That and now there's a psychic trying to discover how Coulson is alive.  A PSYCHIC!  (Raise your hand if you think Bill Paxton might be this Clairvoyant!)

Why not work on stories that had relevance to the movies?  SHIELD was always involved in one way or another with most of the Marvel movie plots, so I don't see why we can't see that involvement now.

-Last night (in reference to when I first penned this draft) we finally saw how they started working on saving Coulson.  How convoluted could you get, using what looked like a dead alien's body to provide juicy goo to save humans lives.

Why so convoluted a story line?  SHIELD is farming dead alien bodies?  They're now killing their own to save one of their own?

In explaining Coulson's survival, ABC had LMD's at their disposal as a story tool?  Many fans all expected that?  And then, in what appears to be a huge contradiction of character and story, Coulson goes off the grid by killing two innocent men to save Skye.  Woo boy, wth are they going with this?  And I presume, after leveling an entire mountain, there might not have been more aliens or innocents involved.  THIS WAS an act of treason that Coulson, his team, and Paxton's character just decided to pull off.  All with a light air of brevity.

-I wish they could have spruced up the bait with more and bigger heroes, despite what I suspect to be contract limitations.  There are so many B and C-grade characters they could have pulled in.  SHIELD could have been working in the background of the aftermath of skirmishes that The Fantastic Four, X-Men, Spider-Man or any other character could have left behind.  But instead, we're given, what almost amounts to another "secret police procedural."


As it stands, the show has improved but to what end?

We're still chasing Coulson's mystery, but not being beseiged by stupid and obvious clues.  We now have a few primary bad guys in the picture, and we're getting a known movie character showing up.  But they lost the majority of their viewers, and I suspect they're not returning.

ABC wasted the resources they've had, skipping over the obvious nuances that should have been there to begin with.  The world of Marvel and its cast of characters.

So the question many ponder, is what will ABC do with this potential marketing machine of theirs?

Many suspected that Agents of SHIELD was going to be used to connect TV to the movie world.  But that's not been done so well.  And verbal references to the movie characters or events, is a weakening tactic that is not connecting anything to anything.

I'd like to see this show crank up it's obvious roots and connections.  I'd like to see BETTER effects employed.  And I'd like to see Serenity or Dr. Horrible make a guest appearance in some rudimentary fashion, since Whedon's name is on it.

Whoa... SHIELD versus Dr. Horrible.  Now THAT would be an episode to catch!

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