Agents of SHIELD – upping the continuity game

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I don’t normally blog on a Saturday, but last night I caught up on Agents of SHIELD. And I have to say, Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, I bow down before your superior program-making skills.

I’m not saying that Agents of SHIELD is a flawless work of genius. I’m not saying that every line of dialogue, every moment of acting, sparkles with the dark brilliance of Damages or The Wire. But the way they connected the show together with Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best example of cross-property continuity I’ve ever seen.

Do I see tentacles underneath those wings?
Do I see tentacles underneath those wings?

Usually when TV shows share a universe the connections consist of cameos and small references, maybe a crossover plotline that emerges for a couple of episodes and then fades into the background. Agents of SHIELD has gone further than this. It has taken the plot, events and themes of The Winter Soldier, created a pair of episodes that run alongside that film, and emerged transformed. The dynamic of the program has been fundamentally changed in a way that makes it far more interesting. The fallout from Cap 2 is being explored in a way there was no time for on screen. It all makes sense, both in-world and aesthetically. And it’s been done not only in crossing over TV shows, but in crossing over with cinema, a more challenging and as far as I’m aware unprecedented approach to media.

What was previously an adventure-of-the-week action show has been turned into something darker, more twisted, more tense. It’s the same shift in world view that The Winter Soldier brings to Cap’s big screen outings, and that is presumably going to play into the next round of Marvel films. It can be read as a reflection of and comment on changes in comic books since Marvel’s early days.

It’s a glorious thing.

If you’re not watching Agents of SHIELD, consider giving it a go. Like all the best genre TV (Babylon 5, Farscape, Buffy) there’s far more going on here than you might realise at first glance.

13 thoughts on “Agents of SHIELD – upping the continuity game”

  1. I just managed to see Cap last night, but I was already watching SHIELD (on a delay via Hulu), and it was interesting to see just how much more in-depth the show got about the infiltration of the organization than the movie did. Like, in the movie you see some top brass who’ve taken a turn, and security forces, but the show has training facilities and actual friends compromised, plus successful fighting-back. (Well…somewhat.) Definitely a good extension to the movie’s events. Looking forward to the next!

    1. This is a big part of what I like about tying them together – it feels like it adds depth to both. I suppose it’s part of why shared comic book universes are also so popular – the sense of a detailed world that you get.

    1. It’s a shame. Reading that article made me realise that there were better things they could have done with the series so far that would have naturally built to this. Here’s hoping that, now they’ve got past this roadblock, they can commit to a properly tense spy story.

  2. I am watching and enjoying AoS but am in total ignorance of anything else in the Marvel-verse. I found what seemed to be an Asgard intrusion hard to swallow at first as it meant I had to adjust my perceptions of the world SHIELD is working in. Clearly my loss for being so ignorant! Have yet to see the latest episode.

  3. LOVE Agents of Shield and I wasn’t a Marvel fan going in. Never seen Captain America & Co., but plan to now. My husband and I shook our heads for days over Ward and his betrayal! Great TV!

    1. If you haven’t already then try looking up the Marvel one-shots on YouTube. I think they started out as DVD extras, and they’re mostly just five minute shorts, but they include appearances by Agent Coulson and agent Bald-dude-whose-name-I’ve-briefly-forgotten. There’s some fun stuff in there, and they flesh out the universe some more.

  4. Hi Andrew, the cross-property continuity is one of the things I love about the Marvel properties of late. I’m so glad that they took so much care in world-building and integrating all of the characters. I find myself looking forward to seeing how they are going to handle Guardians of the Galaxy in all of this.

    1. It’s great to see, isn’t it? So much cleverness, and it makes the world more engaging. I’m also intrigued to see how Guardians will fit in – the trailer makes it look so much fun, and though this sort of space romp is a new direction for these films I have faith in the fact that they’ll make it fit naturally.

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