When you’re creating something as sprawling as Marvel’s superhero screen efforts, there are going to be inconsistencies. Still, it’s strange to see the lower prestige show Agents of SHIELD get something right that Netflix blockbuster Daredevil got wrong.
Season four of AoS and season two of Daredevil share a similar structure. Two plot strands are built up. One dominates the first half of the season. It’s then resolved and the other strand emerges to take centre stage. They sort of connect up in the end, but not in a massively substantial way. There’s some thematic resonance, but it’s a little strained.
Watching Daredevil, this left me disappointed by the payoff. Finishing AoS the other night, I felt satisfied. So how did the usually less impressive show get it right?
It might partly be about expectations. I expect great things from a Netflix Marvel show, with its high production values and careful approach to storytelling. AoS is more of a broadcast TV adventure-of-the-week phenomenon. Relatively speaking, it takes less effort to look impressive there.
But I don’t think it’s just that. I think that the writers on AoS also did a better job of managing my response to their story. They made it clear that a climax was coming for the Ghostrider story. They gave the follow-up arc with Aida higher stakes. They carefully and naturally made me care about that arc in advance. They gave it an interesting novelty, in the form of an alternate reality, that kept me engaged. And when they brought the plotlines back together, they did it in a way that made it feel important.
Daredevil is still a more powerful show, but in resolving these seasons AoS made better use of what it had and deserves credit for it.
Structure is important in storytelling, and sometimes the nuance of how you use it can make all the difference.