February 05, 2015
Family Film (TV) Blogging: Agents of Shield
Posted by Christine Hurt

The line between television shows and films as a form has been blurred since HBO started making movies and episodic series.  Watching the Golden Globes, I wondered whether the category "television" was now a catch-all for anything that didn't qualify as a feature film.  (Under Academy Award rules, this means over 40 minutes, shown in a particular format at a "commercial movie theater" for the first time to the public for seven consecutive days in L.A. County).  So, any "movie" that appears for the first time on pay cable, subscription cable, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. is "made-for-television," and any series appearing on similar outlets is also "television."  ABC's Agents of Shield blurs the lines even further by creating a parallel story line for a television series with a subset of the same characters undergoing a parallel story arc in the Marvel Avengers movies (the "Marvel Cinematic Universe").  Impressively, if you watched the series in real time, the events in Captain America Winter Soldier are experienced by the characters in AOS on television the week the movie is released.  That's fairly impressive.

The series premiered in September 2013, and I have to say that our family just missed it.  But recently it appeared on Netflix, and my 13 year-old and I just finished Season 2.  We agree it was worth the binge-watching!  

The series picks up after the events in the movie The Avengers -- the "Battle of New York" has taken place and the Avenger heroes are well-known and action-figured.  The events of Iron Man 3  have also taken place by the first episode, and references to events in Thor:  The Dark World appear somewhat contemporaneously with the events of that movie.  Of course, as we all know, Phil Coulson died in The Avengers, so we need a backstory to explain how he is very much alive.  This backstory will actually become the building block of the master plot of Season 1.  Unfortunately, none of the Avengers know that he is alive, so we will not see any of the six main Marvel superheroes on the show.  Other characters, Maria Hill, Nick Fury, the Asgaardian who loves Thor, and the guy who turns out to be Hydra, show up later.

The basic premise is that because of his service and death, Phil gets a tricked-out super spy plane and a sports car to use to continue S.H.I.E.L.D. operations.  He has a team that includes FitzSimmons (two genius scientists, Fitz and Simmons), a pilot/operations agent (Melinda May, a zen-like warrior), a loner operations agent (Grant Ward), and eventually a computer hacker (Skye, no last name).  They must learn how to work together as a team, blah, blah, blah.  Together, they fight various battles, including an ongoing conflict with a secret organization called Centipede financed by an evil corporation Cybertek.  Centipede is trying to create an army of super soldiers using the serum made famous in Iron Man 3.  Spoilers below.

Probably the most awesome television trick since ER broadcast live is how AOS had the events of the show's season enders parallel the rise of Hydra in Winter Soldier.  As Hydra takes over S.H.I.E.L.D. at headquarters in D.C. with only Captain America, Falcon and Black Widow to save it, Hydra takes over Coulson's plane and its other bases.  Friends we had grown to love were revealed as Hydra.  The S.H.I.E.L.D. team learns that Nick Fury has died, as per the movie.  This was pretty awesome.

We have not watched Season 2 yet, but Season 1 ends with Nick Fury leaving Coulson to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D. from scratch.  What will be interesting is how much Avengers:  Age of Ultron will rely on viewer knowledge of the events of Season 2 as background.  The new movie will premiere around the time of the season ender, so it could be awesome if there was some dovetailing.

Obviously, demand for new content from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is almost insatiable (and not just at my house).  AOS is an ingenious way to keep fans happy in between expensive summer blockbusters.  AOS can't be a cheap show to make, though, because there are plenty of special effects.  (Though there is one flying car scene that looked like a primitive Chitty Chitty Bang Bang clip.)  All in all, we loved AOS and can't wait to watch Season 2.  Interestingly, though it is on "television," it is fairly gory -- much more like the darker Iron Man movies than the lighter Captain America ones.  

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