Playing the Long Game

Show: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season one and Season two Episodes 1-19
Stars: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Brett Dalton, Nick Blood, Henry Simmons, Adrianne Palicki, B.J. Britt, Ruth Negga, J. August Richards

I have talked about in past entries how the movies haven’t really dealt with the consequences of the Battle of New York outside of the trauma it has caused our heroes. There was death and destruction everywhere from an alien attack and a bunch of people with super powers save them. How does the rest of the world deal with this and how does this change how the world will react to more super powered people? Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. helps to show how the public image of supers is dealt with and the subsequent cleanup of big events.

The show started off focused on six different people who could represent different factions of S.H.I.E.L.D. Phil Coulson (Gregg) and Melinda May (Wen) represent the management levels, Leo Fitz (De Casetecker) and Jemma Simmons (Henstridge) represent the science divisions, Grant Ward (Dalton) gives us the operations department, and Skye (Bennet) is the new person representing the audience so everyone else can explain what is going on to her/us.

The beginning of AOS does start off slow and mostly just deals with the day to day, but this is important to show. I enjoyed these episodes, they created a connection between me and the characters. Obviously they could only focus on the original six characters on the Bus, but they are our baseline for how things work. Episodes like #7 “The Hub” or #12 “Seeds,” we get to see the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D. ops and training. There was its own story it had to tell about the resurrection of Coulson and the mysterious Centipede program and Cybertech. Eventually these story lines converge with the main story of the Hydra takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D.

When The Winter Soldier blows things to hell, we need to see the damage it does to the people who have dedicated their lives to the organization otherwise it is just another big government fuck up. At the end of the movie we only see a hand full of people in S.H.I.E.L.D. (most of them are the highest level) and they have ways of moving on. But most of those who were a part of S.H.I.E.L.D. who were not Hydra didn’t have anywhere else to go. With our original six characters, the Hydra/S.H.I.E.L.D. reveal hits the hardest for Coulson and May. Fitz, Simmons, and Sky are young and had not been agents for too long (Skye had her badge for about a day), but Coulson and May had spent pretty much all of their adult lives as agents. They had sacrificed families and pieces of their soul to S.H.I.E.L.D. In episode 18 “Providence”, they recognize their fear the sacrifices were made to something nefarious, made them feel as if they did lose their souls completely, and they need answers. In episode 20 “Nothing Personal”, revealing Ward as a Hydra agent felt like a knife to the heart for the whole team and gives us one instance of the betrayal many people suffered.

My theory about Iron Man 3, The Dark World, The Winter Soldier, and AOS are within the same close timeline. I think very shortly after the events of Iron Man 3, the big attack in Greenwich, England by Malekith happened so quickly, none of the other Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. could get there in time to help with the fight, and Tony Stark destroyed all of his suits. Before the attack in Greenwich happened, Darcy makes the remark that S.H.I.E.L.D. is not calling her back. Those at S.H.I.E.L.D. working for Hydra did not make any attempts to help in hopes whatever is happening will take out Thor. I think the subsequent attack and Thor’s victory alerted Fury to a possible breach in his agency. In AOS episode 8 “The Well,” the team cleans up after the attack and deals with the ensuing fallout with the public. The timeline between that episode and #16 “End of the Beginning,” is maybe a couple of weeks. It gives enough time for Fury to start making contingency plans he puts in place to save himself and then get to the starting point of both AOS # 16 and The Winter Soldier. My theory is full of holes and could totally be way off, but it is my train of thought at this time.

Season two is where AOS starts to play the long game with the whole of the MCU. In October of 2014 Marvel announced several films that will be released thru 2019, two of them are Captain America: Civil War and The Inhumans. Civil War is pretty easily explained, it will be hero on hero conflict, but the Inhumans are a set of characters not known by those of us who are not reading the comics. AOS started to drop indications about Skye and Reyna (Negga) being something different than human in season one episode 21 “Ragtag,” but it was not explained what that could be on screen. When the Inhumans movie was announced and the hints the mysterious writing haunting Coulson (due to the drug/Kree blood he was given to resurrect him) was Kree in nature, this was the MCUs’ way of showing AOS is really working to be the connecting line between movies as well as telling its own stories. In season two episode 9 “…Ye Who Enter Here,” Skye finally learns about what she is and we as the audience get a quick lesson on what Inhumans are. In episode 11 “Aftershocks” we see Reyna turns into something quite horrible looking and was suffering painfully. I personally think it is karma for all the horrible things she did to others and the deaths she caused in order to achieve Terrigenesis.

There is also a plot line running throughout this season showing how the fallout of Hydra is S.H.I.E.L.D. is working its way into the events that setup Civil War. In episodes 14 “Love in the Time of Hydra” and 15 “One Door Closes,” we find out that Bobbi (Palicki) and Mack (Simmons) are revealed to be a part of a different S.H.I.E.L.D. team that is looking to take over Coulson’s team and run things their way. This different S.H.I.E.L.D. want things to be run democratically and to have more transparency. The argument made by Edward James Olmos’ Agent Gonzales about how Fury’s needs for extreme secrecy are what allowed Hydra to infiltrate itself into S.H.I.E.L.D. is compelling. The fact that the producers are allowing us to doubt Coulson and his ability to lead S.H.I.E.L.D. is what makes the show more interesting. Both sides have their valid reasons why they should run S.H.I.E.L.D. the way they want to, and those same arguments are going to be made in Civil War as to why powered persons should or should not work for the government.

This last episode, #19 “The Dirty Half Dozen,” ended with a teaser of Rayna having a vision of Loki’s scepter causing trouble, metal men (Ultron and his robot friends) taking over the world, and the events are going to change every ones lives. Sounds wonderfully ominous and is going to make the last few episodes of AOS very interesting. Coulson also talks to Maria Hill and lets her know where the scepter is, that Theta protocol is ready, and it is time for The Avengers to be released in theaters here in the US. Remember in episode 16 “Afterlife” Gonzales tells May about Theta, Fury (before his “death”) and now Coulson were building a base for powered people and they needed to find out why. I think Theta is just the next step for the Avengers Initiative and they are going to show up more in future movies.

After Ultron I will be able to talk more about the theories I have about the long game AOS is playing in the universe. I will be posting a spoliery review of Ultron possibly on Tuesday and I hope to see you all back here to geek out together! Till then fellow dwellers in Nerdom.

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About Nerdling

The Nerdling has an unhealthy obsession with books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars. She finds hockey to be the best sport in the world (Go Dallas Stars!) and is working on her first novel, but mostly glowers at a blank screen. You can find her on Twitter @nerdlingstale on Facebook @NerdlingTales or Instagram @nerdling_tales

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