Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is a conundrum. It is a show that arrived on the scene with high expectations following the critical and box office success of its cinematic brothers in arms. Unfortunately, the show was slow out of the gates and experienced many stumbles in its first season.
Thankfully the show found some sort of groove in its second season and has been going from strength to strength ever since. Characters that once appeared one-dimensional and absent of any real texture, exited the show with real purpose and weight – looking at you Grant Ward.
Overarching subplots appear to be more cohesive, engaging and intriguing rather than simply emulating and feeding off scraps left in the wake of cinematic releases. And it is in this area of progression that Agents of SHIELD has put the big screen adventures to shame. Whilst films like Doctor Strange and Ant-Man purport to be nothing other than an updated version of Iron Man, SHIELD is doing fun things with Inhumans, Ghost Rider and Hive. For all the success Marvel is enjoying in cinemas, it is on the small screen that I find most enjoyment.
But that may be about to change.
Cutting Season 4 into 3 Story Arcs
What the showrunners of SHIELD, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon, have done is divide the season into concentrated stories. The first segment of season four has focused on Robbie Reyes aka Ghost Rider and it has been terrific. With Ghost Rider came a refreshingly dark tone that works incredibly well with SHIELD’s band of offbeat dark humour.
Whilst Tancharoen and Whedon have stated that season four will in fact be split into three parts, it is worrying to see that the second segment finds itself revolving around Life Model Decoys (LMDs).
Hasn’t Marvel already done the robot thing with Avengers: Age of Ultron?
LMDs are a staple in the Marvel Universe and a MacGuffin that has been used over numerous comic book arcs and issues. SHIELD hinted at their involvement in last season’s cliffhanger but with Aida (Mallory Jansen), the LMDs have arrived in the flesh.
Some audiences have taken extremely kindly to the thought of an LMD arc but I have to say that, personally, it’s extremely worrying. The first worry comes from something I said earlier; I come to Marvel television for innovation, not for rehash or fallout from the movies. Running with LMDs, whilst having characters consistently claim they’re not AIs, feels like Age of Ultron part two. Sure with television you get more time to explore morality, humanity and have identity mysteries akin to Battlestar Galactica and Westworld but it’s nothing new.
Can it follow the likes of Battlestar Galactica and Westworld?
Battlestar Galactica did it pretty well. Westworld is currently doing wonders with the concept and Ex Machina blew the whole sci-fi concept out of the water. What more can Agents of SHIELD offer? My worry is that it really can’t offer anything different and, as a result, will be hanging on the idea of mystery. The show will, for the foreseeable future, want us to guess who’s an LMD and who’s not and that’s going to get real old, real fast.
SHIELD needs better security
And here’s another thing: how many times will people who don’t appear to be who they are infiltrate SHIELD? Hydra did it on a global scale and now we may get the same thing with the LMDs, only on a more personal level.
Can the LMD storyline follow Ghost Rider’s and live up to expectations?
The other worry is both a complaint and a compliment. SHIELD began its fourth season with Ghost Rider and churned out 8 fantastically entertaining episodes. Will the LMD arc live up to that? Ghost Rider has lifted my expectations for the show incredibly high but I suspect that the LMD storyline will bring it crashing down.
Of course like any worry, the show could turn around and throw my qualms straight out of the window in favour of something actually progressive. Truthfully I should be giving SHIELD the benefit of the doubt as it has experience change on numerous occasions and come out of it all the better. I just have that niggling feeling that the LMD arc, much like its focus, is going to be packed with cold, calculated and unenjoyably mysterious television.