Written by: David McInerney
Ever since the Marvel superhero film, “Iron Man” was released in 2008, a huge, expansive universe was born, spawning other Marvel superhero films including “Thor”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Doctor Strange”, “Ant-Man”, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, and the 2012 box office phenomenon, “The Avengers”. After the success of “The Avengers”, Marvel Entertainment entered discussions with ABC to bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe to television. And a year later, “Agents of SHIELD” had officially begun production. This ABC television series, which is currently on its fourth season, revolves around SHIELD agent Phil Coulson, who was supposedly killed by Loki in “The Avengers”, but comes back to life through a painful procedure and leads a small team of SHIELD agents in solving mysterious cases.
One of the best things about “Agents of SHIELD” is that it ties in very well with the Avengers universe. Some episodes feature cameo appearances from film characters such as Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders, “The Avengers” and Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, “Iron Man”, “Iron Man 2”, “The Avengers” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell, “Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, and ABC’s “Agent Carter”), and Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander, “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World). But the most important aspect about this show is how it all ties in with the universe set up by the Avengers films. The pilot episode aired 4 months after the “Avengers” follow-up, “Iron Man 3”. Chronologically, within this universe, this takes place months after the events of “Iron Man 3”. They even borrowed elements from that film, like the use of “Extremis.” There was also a tie-in with “Thor: The Dark World” 2 months later, but that was only featured in one episode, but the show takes an extremely dark turn when it is revealed that the terrorist organization, HYDRA, has infiltrated SHIELD, as was revealed in 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. It is at this point where we realize that the universe of the Marvel films, and the universe set up by Agents of SHIELD, are all connected. In other words, the course of the television show is greatly affected by the events of the films.
For example, in “The Winter Soldier”, a supercomputer preserving the consciousness of a HYDRA scientist from World War II, reveals to Captain America and Black Widow that HYDRA has secretly operated within SHIELD’s ranks, with the objective of making humanity willing to surrender its freedom in exchange for security. One of these HYDRA operatives being one of Agent Coulson’s own teammates, Grant Ward. Soon after Agent Ward betrays the team, things become even worse for SHIELD as a whole.
Not only did “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” have a great impact on the series, but “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Captain America: Civil War” greatly changed the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even on television. After the events of “Civil War”, the Sokovia Accords are now law. The Sokovia Accords provide regulation and frame-working for the military/law enforcement deployment of enhanced individuals, particularly those working for private organizations. This law applies to the Inhumans, which we shall talk about shortly.
But HYDRA is not the only problem that SHIELD has to face. Since seasons 3 and 4, superpowered beings known as Inhumans have begun to play a huge role in the series. Inhumans are somewhat similar to X-Men’s mutants. When the Inhumans are brought up in Agents of SHIELD, this raises questions of race and discrimination. This is what makes the Inhumans similar to the mutants from Fox’s X-Men. In the X-Men films, ordinary humans are starting to become afraid of mutants and what they are capable of, and mutants are often discriminated. The same applies with the Inhumans towards the end of Season 2 and the beginning of Season 3. In the very first episode of Season 3, titled “Laws of Nature,” an alien substance called Terrigen was released into the Earth’s ecosystem, turning certain people into Inhumans. There is a dormant gene in certain individuals that is activated by the Terrigen. The ATCU (Advanced Threat Containment Unit) is then brought in to deal with the rise of Inhumans, and lock them up, seeing that they are threats to the country. And because of this, Inhumans are often discriminated against. The following link shows a clip of Agent Daisy Johnson explaining what Inhumans are. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23kzl4wWUFI)
SHIELD has offered to protect the Inhumans by setting up a team called the Secret Warriors. One of these Inhumans being a member of Coulson’s team, Daisy Johnson, who was referred to as Skye in Season 1, and up to the halfway point of Season 2. But the issue with Inhumans only gets worse when the United Nations passes the Sokovia Accords as law. In the episode “Emancipation”, which follows the events of Captain America: Civil War, General Glenn Talbot, an ally of SHIELD, begins talking with Coulson about registering the Inhumans for the Sokovia Accords, but Coulson is strongly opposed and wants to keep his Secret Warriors of Inhumans anonymous, creating conflict between SHIELD and the United Nations. It was this same law that divided the Avengers, resulting in a Civil War. Agents of SHIELD is currently on its fourth season, and it still explores the depths of the Inhuman race, and how the world is learning to respect Inhumans, despite the Sokovia Accords. The new director of SHIELD is seen to be an Inhuman, but it is later revealed that he was faking it, using serums to give him super strength. SHIELD is now facing issues with Life Model Decoys, androids created by scientist Holden Radcliffe, while still struggling with Inhumans during the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War.
Not very many television shows taking place in universes started by Hollywood films stay connected to the original source material. One such example is with the TV programs, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Rebels”. However, “Star Trek” began as a television program. But those other television programs don’t connect to the original source material as well as “Agents of SHIELD” does. Before this show aired, SHIELD had been a big part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since “Iron Man”, “Thor” and “The Avengers”. But with “Agents of SHIELD” we get to explore SHIELD even more, with active SHIELD operatives doing their own jobs while the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy do theirs. But the show truly becomes connected to the universe of the films after the events of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, where HYDRA secretly worked within its ranks, and decimated SHIELD as an organization. In other words, “The Winter Soldier” changed SHIELD forever, both in the films and on TV as well, even going so far as revealing that a member of Phil Coulson’s team is a traitor working for HYDRA. This created a dark twist for the show as a whole. Eventually, the problem with HYDRA was neutralized, and the SHIELD agents now face another problem. With the rise of Inhumans, the United Nations wants to try to control these enhanced individuals through the Sokovia Accords, which were established in “Captain America: Civil War”. Even to this day, the Marvel universe keeps expanding, with all its new entries when it comes to films and television episodes, including individual series on Netflix, where the universe expands to Harlem and Hell’s Kitchen. Who knows what might happen during “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, or “Thor: Ragnarok”, or “Avengers: Infinity War”? But either way, “Agents of SHIELD” is a great way to catch yourself up on all things Marvel.