As Fall TV series swoop back onto television sets, the hit show “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” remains one of the most highly anticipated. “S.H.I.E.L.D.” debuted in 2013, and initially received a lukewarm critical reception, despite excellent execution. From the onset, it was clear that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was biding its time, building to a crescendo that intertwined with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). That’s exactly what happened in season one, with a massive twist significantly impacting the MCU.
Taking place after the events of “The Avengers,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate, or S.H.I.E.L.D. During the inaugural season, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” brought back fan-favorite Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who died during “The Avengers,” but was revived by S.H.I.E.L.D., a major plotline of the series.
Taking Coulson from the MCU, Marvel established a strong group of supporting agents, including Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), Skye (Chloe Bennet), Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), and Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker). “S.H.I.E.L.D.” evolved as an offshoot of the MCU, allowing the Marvel Universe to continue weekly on the small screen. From the beginning, there’s been an inherent link with the Cinematic Universe, and even the tagline “it’s all connected.” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” truly embodied this mantra, with the first episode featuring Project Extremis, as seen in “Iron Man 3.”
Throughout the series, Marvel featured a crossover episode with each major film. Episode “The Well,” directed by Jonathan Frakes (famous for his portrayal of William T. Riker on the “Star Trek: The Next Generation”), dealt with the aftermath of “Thor: The Dark World.” One of the most momentous, and critically acclaimed, “S.H.I.E.L.D.” shows came in tandem with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” The “Winter Soldier” crossover proved that the long-term vision of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was truly linked to the MCU, and until that point had actually been building to the epic shock in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
However, while still connected, “S.H.I.E.L.D.” seems to have drifted from its original incarnation as a Marvel Cinematic Union companion. The current storyline follows the Inhumans (Mutants), and is clearly setting up the forthcoming Marvel Civil War. Yet after “Winter Soldier,” the TV-film relationship hasn’t felt as strong, and it’s even becoming confusing. Several characters from the MCU lent their talents in guest spots like Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander, currently starring in hit NBC series “Blindspot”), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and even Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
It was Coulson’s death that united the Avengers, but since his death and resurrection, there’s been no mention of Coulson. S.H.I.E.L.D. crumbled during “Winter Soldier,” but Maria Hill and Nick Fury have still had appearances in the MCU, notably in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Where in all of this, has Coulson been, and when is he, if ever, returning to the MCU? During Phase One, he was an integral part of the Marvel Universe, but since his demise, he’s yet to make an appearance, or even send word that he’s alive. Considering his role as catalyst in kickstarting the Avengers Initiative, it’s strange, and seems unlikely.
Reportedly, the film cast was “cross” because of the TV series, as reported by Chris Tilly in an April 27 2015 article on IGN. Unfortunately, there’s really not a satisfactory explanation. Yes, S.H.I.E.L.D. is underground and in hiding, but if (spoiler alert) Nick Fury can appear at the end of “Age of Ultron” in a massive helicarrier, surely it’s permissible to admit that Coulson’s alive, and re-unite “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” with the MCU. “S.H.I.E.L.D.” has been at its finest when the MCU connection remains strong, so hopefully the gaping plothole of Coulson’s absence in the MCU, seen or mentioned, will be rectified. Still, season 2 featured the always amazing Klye Maclachlan in a delightfully zany supporting role as Calvin Zabo. It is time to re-introduce Coulson to the MCU? No, it’s past time.
“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” season 3 debuts Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 9 PM on ABC.