Agents of SHIELD
Speculating About Marvel's Agent Carter

Bob Chipman | 18 Jun 2014 12:00
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There's a lot we don't know about what happened to the "broader" Marvel Universe in the decades between Captain America crashing into the arctic and Mjolnir crashing into New Mexico: Did any superheroes and/or costumed-crimefighters embark on careers? Did any evil organizations pop up to fill the vacuum left by the (supposedly) dead HYDRA? Did any of the alien/otherworldly contacts hinted at on Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. take place? Did the mentally-unhinged 1950s Impostor Captain America turn up?

Interesting storylines all, at least in theory. But if all Agent Carter has to offer is winking Marvel Universe fanservice it's not going to work. Yeah, I'll be glad if period-appropriate Marvel villains land in the mix (Baron Zemo or the second, Soviet-affiliated Red Skull for example) or if Toby Jones shuffles through as the not-yet-digitized Arnim Zola. And it's almost a given that a few references to the history of S.H.I.E.L.D. itself, tied to season 2 events of Agents will crop up (wouldn't it be something if this is where we find out who or what G.H. is...)

But they'd better have more than that to tell, story-wise. Especially since making "we must found S.H.I.E.L.D.!" the main dramatic arc can easily backfire since we already know that S.H.I.E.L.D. ultimately rots from within and fails.

Marvel doesn't do anything without an eye on maybe doing something more. Agent Carter may be launching as a fill-in for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but it wouldn't be a Marvel project if there weren't at least rough ideas in place for how to expand Peggy's story into a more permanent series (or maybe a movie). Still, it's almost-definitely for the best that this initial series tell a complete story with a real ending - and not just because it'll make a nice contrast with Agents, which has apparently committed to being an infinite nesting-doll of mysteries within mysteries.

Don't get me wrong, mystery is good and long-term planning can be the best foundation for broader storytelling, but eventually you have to reach a "peak" and deliver. The Marvel movies have overall managed successfully to give each of their individual features a satisfying singular story while also building up the bigger world in the margins, but so far their TV work (which, to be fair, thus far includes only Agents,) has struggled in that regard. Obviously, I'd like to see Peggy Carter's adventures last a nice long time - but this first out is going to need a beginning, a middle and an end.

And with that, True Believers, we have successfully wrung the last possible drop of blood from the stone that is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. commentary and speculation. And with the series not set to return until fall, you'd think we'd have reached the end of this series of columns. Well... not quite.

Marvel Studios aren't the only ones capable of stretching out a premise by digging into the back catalogues. While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter are unique animals of the post-Avengers world, the Marvel Universe has a rich and surprising history of television productions - some well known, others fairly obscure - that have had a profound impact on the history of their comics and film projects.

So! Starting next week, this column will shift over to a weekly series of flashbacks to the history of Marvel Heroes on TV; a strange and exciting history featuring everything from the dizzying highs of the incredible Lou Ferrigno and Spider-Man's giant Japanese robot to the shameful lows of Captain America's plexiglass shield and a mugging, cigar-chomping David Hasslehoff - and for the rest of the summer (or however long it takes Marvel to start giving us actual new concrete Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. info) I'll be bringing it right to you, right here.

Stay tuned!

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