Welcome back to our week-long look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the new status of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Remember, SPOILERS!
Today we are going to look at Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which will potentially be heavily affected by the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a slightly rocky start to the series, which left more than a few fans put off and wondering if the show would be able to sustain itself. When the series was announced as being a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), fans immediately thought of big budget crossovers and movie tie-ins, but the opening half of the season provided little in the way of Marvel connections, as the producers of the show played out a long con on the general public with the Deathlok origin story while we saw the construction of a few b-rate villains like Graviton and Blizzard.
As the show was obviously a spin-off of the hugely successful The Avengers, we were excited to see the tie-ins to the upcoming films of Marvel’s Phase Two, the first of which was Thor: The Dark World. Of course the movie came and went, and while Asgard has been featured a couple of times on the show, the tie-in to the film itself was incredibly weak. Now, the series has certainly started to pick up from the first half, which is largely due to J. August Richards and the Deathlok reveal, which showed us just how far-reaching the series and writers can be at times. This would come in handy as the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier loomed closer.
As the team tracked down ‘The Clairvoyant’ the issues between Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. increased, creating an untrustworthy tension on the show. In the last episode before The Winter Soldier, we saw a gathering of top brass S.H.I.E.L.D. agents like Coulson, Bill Paxton’s John Garrett, and Saffron Burrows’ Agent Victoria Hand. We also saw Titus Welliver’s Agent Blake (who first appeared in the Marvel One-Shot Item 47) and Maximiliano Hernandez as Agent Jasper Sitwell, who we had seen in the MCU a few times before on film, TV, and in the One-Shot, The Consultant. Something seemed off about the characters in the episode, and as the team finally confronted Deathlok and who they deemed to be The Clairvoyant (played by Brad Dourif), Coulson realized that their real enemy could only have been a top-level SHIELD agent. The team was then attacked by Agent Melinda May and set on a confrontation with Agent Hand.
Enter Captain America: The Winter Soldier, whose opening actually ties directly into a moment Jasper Sitwell had on the last episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Throughout the course of the film, we learn that S.H.I.E.L.D. had in fact been taken over by the criminal organization known as Hydra after the second World War, and has been infiltrated by a number of double agents who were looking to use Arnim Zola’s algorithm to locate and eliminate potential threats to Hydra. This algorithm might still play a role in the MCU, which we will discuss shortly. We learn that some key S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, including Coulson’s friend and high-ranking agent Jasper Sitwell, along with Redford’s Alexander Pierce and even Gary Shandling’s Senator Stern (who reprised his role from Iron Man 2 hilariously) were all Hydra men. Captain America, along with Nick Fury, Black Widow, Agent Hill, and the Falcon, are forced to take down both Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. by destroying their attack helicarriers and releasing all their secrets on the web.
This brings us back to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is set to experience its greatest connection to the MCU yet. Sure, we’ve seen Jaimie Alexander’s Sif, as well as Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson as Maria Hill and Nick Fury respectively, but the status quo of the MCU is set to change in a big way. Tonight marks the first episode since the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and we will see Coulson and his crew deal with these ramifications first-hand. Not only will Coulson’s agents need to face off against the Hydra-infested S.H.I.E.L.D., but all of their secrets are now available to anyone on the web, which is set to cause a number of issues that only Coulson and his crew can handle.
But what does it mean for the series? How can we have Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. without S.H.I.E.L.D.? Here is where the premise of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will really pay off in a big way, by further enforcing Coulson’s (and by extension his team) role as part of the connective tissue of the MCU. Where Captain America: The Winter Soldier laid the groundwork for the removal of S.H.I.E.L.D. and potentially set up Avengers: Age of Ultron (we’ll talk about that more later in the week), this allows Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to continue the story and further explore this dismantling of a corrupt S.H.I.E.L.D. We’ve seen comic style ads for the series lately that shows a final confrontation between Coulson’s crew and the Clairvoyant, and the final 6 episodes have been sub-titled with “Uprising”, which gives us an idea of where the show is heading.
Zola’s algorithm – which is far too interesting as a plot device to just disappear after The Winter Soldier – might still play a role in the series, as a means for Coulson and his crew to protect some of these potential threats/assets from Hydra, and possibly offer a new direction for the series in the second season, although the show has yet to be renewed. We can assume that Coulson, who has become untrustworthy of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a few episodes now, will take his crew off the grid and start rooting out the Hydra moles from his team and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. In general, potentially using the algorithm to add new Marvel elements to the series along the way. Obviously Sitwell met his demise in Cap 2 (we can assume), so a confrontation between Coulson and Sitwell probably won’t happen, but a recent turn by both Melinda May and Victoria Hand leaves Coulson and his team in a dangerous position.
Ever since Agent Hand was introduced, fans have been waiting for her to turn traitor, which would follow a similar storyline from her introduction in the comics during the Dark Reign event. Chances are May isn’t a Hydra traitor, and her slippery actions of late can probably be explained in a way that keeps her a part of the team. Ward is probably clean too, although his betrayal as a Hydra agent would certainly offer up some great story potential. However, if any of these agents should wind up betraying the team, thanks to the events of The Winter Soldier there may be a new member to fill the vacant spot left by a possible betrayer.
Maria Hill, who first appeared in The Avengers and featured on the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., was last seen out of work and at an interview with Stark Enterprises after assisting Captain America with taking down S.H.I.E.L.D. If Coulson and his crew were operating underground to help take down the remains of the infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. while hunting the Clairvoyant, adding Hill to the roster would certainly assist with that. With How I Met Your Mother over, Cobie Smulders might be available, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would greatly benefit from a high profile name on the series, which might even assist with the ratings situation. Hill and Coulson so far have had a very interesting relationship on screen, and it’s something fans of the characters would love to see explored further.
So what can we expect from the final 6 episodes? We know The Clairvoyant storyline will wrap up by the end of the season, and hopefully we can expect to learn more about Skye and just why the Clairvoyant, and in turn Hydra, wants her so badly. We can expect that the alien Kree body found a few episodes ago would be briefly touched upon, but that might also be setting up future connections with the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. And we can expect Coulson and his crew to start taking down S.H.I.E.L.D. under “Captain’s orders”, and possibly Nick Fury’s orders as well, who is set to appear again in the season finale. We can also hope to see more of Deathlok, and maybe even the arrival of another new Marvel hero to help build for a potential second season.
Tonight’s episode will make for a decidedly unique moment in TV history, as we see the first ramifications of the film impact on the world that continues to be explored in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with presumably lasting consequences to the team and the series. After all, Agents of Nothing doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, so we would expect a new S.H.I.E.L.D. to rise, with Coulson and Hill at the forefront of the new organization, all hopefully starting with tonight’s episode.
We will be back tomorrow to talk about some of the many villains we saw develop in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and just what they might mean for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What do you think is going to happen with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. now that there is no S.H.I.E.L.D.? Let us know in the comments section below!
Images: ABC, Disney, Marvel