The first season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a rocky ride, but producer Jeffrey Bell is here to explain why we should really give it another chance when it returns tonight.
Marvel’s flagship small-screen series debuted to fantastic numbers last season on ABC, then hemorrhaged almost half its viewership before finally gaining steam with its final arc heading into the season finale. The reason? The show was kind of spinning its wheels for most of year one, building up to the big HYDRA arc that crossed over with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Of course, we didn’t know that at the time (since they obviously had to keep the HYDRA stuff under wraps until the movie opened), but it doesn’t change the fact that three-fourths of season one was pretty dull. But all that changed with the final arc, and now the show is essentially going through a soft reboot in year two — and Bell promises the new-look version of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be a lot better than last season.
Check out some excerpts from Bell’s TV Guide Q&A about how things have changed now that Coulson (Clark Gregg) is tasked with rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. in the shadows on a shoestring budget:
Now that Coulson has been tasked with building a new S.H.I.E.L.D., how will this change the show?
Bell: Drastically. We are no longer this trillion-dollar international organization that can tap into every person's cell phone on the planet with fleets of heli-carriers. We are now truly the ragtag group of people who are hunted by the government, still hunted by HYDRA. They're not really funded. They have no jurisdiction anywhere. They can't go in and flash a S.H.I.E.L.D. badge. A lot of the cool tech because of that will be stripped away and because in ways, we're going to throw back to a simpler time. S.H.I.E.L.D. grew out of an organization called the SSR, which goes back to World War II and we think it's fun to sort of take S.H.I.E.L.D. to a simpler place, because if you're going to rebuild something you want to rebuild it from the ground up.
The show was criticized a lot at the beginning, in part because the agents had too much power. What was that criticism like knowing you had the HYDRA twist coming later?
Bell: That was our challenge last year. We knew HYDRA was in S.H.I.E.L.D. and we knew HYDRA was the Big Bad for our season. But we couldn't say what we called 'the H word' until after the movie came out. I think we found other ways to tell compelling stories, though it felt more standalone in the beginning. As it started to connect and as the pieces started coming together, I think it gained momentum. Our other challenge was we had these five new characters who had never existed in the Marvel universe before and getting people to know and care about them the way they do now. Sometimes that just takes a while.
What are the challenges and benefits to being so closely tied with the Marvel films?
Bell: The benefits far outweigh the challenges. The benefits are there are this incredibly rich universe that they've created that we get to play in. ... We try to put stuff in that the die-hard fan will love and enjoy but were not going to build a story on something who watch it on ABC won't understand. We're trying to balance that. And so there's a rich body of work for us to draw from. And really the only downside at all is that there are some times when there might be a character or something that we want to play with and they already have plans to play with that person. It's not just our football. It's their football and their field and their referees so if they want that, we understand it.
If you plan on checking out S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second season, and especially if you’re still on the fence about giving the small-screen corner of the Marvel universe a shot, we’d highly recommend you check out the full interview. Will you be watching?
(Via TV Guide)