The way Marvel has connected its movie universe to its assortment of TV shows has varied throughout the years. The debut season of Agents of SHIELD even featured cameos from Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and direct links to both The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World. Since then though, the ABC series has slowly but surely been distancing itself from the main story thread. Age of Ultron barely left a dent in the show’s plot, as Agents of SHIELD took its own path in expanding on the Inhumans. And then along came Civil War.
In the initial run-up to the newest Captain America movie, Agents gave no evidence that they would even acknowledge the events of the film. The last episode before the premiere date was entirely Inhuman-centric, with no mention of either Tony Stark or Steve Rogers. Of course you certainly can’t blame ABC for taking the series in a different direction. Leaning too hard on the movie-verse to drive your story severely limits the potential of any standalone show, and the budget required to bring A-list stars like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans on for cameo appearances would be astronomical. That being said, the return to the fold post-Civil War we got was more than welcomed.
The first episode following the premiere went as follows: The U.S. government comes down on SHIELD, demanding they register all their “enhanced humans,” in keeping with the recently-signed Sokovia Accords. It echoes back to the comic books, where the central conflict of Cap and Iron Man’s feud was the “Super-Human Registration Act,” requiring all heroes to unmask and make their names public. In the show, Phil Coulson and company refuse the order, while running an elaborate scheme to solve their own Inhuman problem.
The episode marked an interesting turning point for Agents of SHIELD, as it reconnected with the MCU for the first time since Thor 2 released in theaters. For a long time, the show had kept the films at arm’s length, allowing it ample time to grow and develop its own various characters and plot threads. By the time Civil War came into the mix, the reintegration was seamless: SHIELD had super-powered agents to protect, and the Sokovia Accords demanded they make themselves known to the world. It’s important for that connection to not feel forced, and Agents delivered on that in spades.
Moving forward, it remains to be seen how or if that connection will strengthen. The series has its own non-MCU-related issues to deal with right now as it is, facing a destructive force that could level the entire planet. Meanwhile, the next movie on the docket for Marvel is Doctor Strange, featuring a story that takes place largely off the map from any of our current characters. The time between Civil War and the next major even in the MCU in turn gives Agents time to dig back into its own story, without depending on the lifeblood of the franchise in theaters. And with Agent Carter no longer around, all eyes will be fixed on what remains of Marvel on network television.
In the meantime, Agents of SHIELD has its own narrative to focus on now. Civil War came out for its bow on ABC, and will likely be followed by the movies slinking back into the background of the show, only to resurface for the next major chapter (probably Infinity War). This is all without digging into whether ABC will try to connect to the quasi-planned Inhumans movie, which would represent the strongest connection to the films the show has in its arsenal. Whatever the plan is from here, there’s no denying the quality of the latest crossover between Marvel’s movies and TV franchises.
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