Entering into its 3rd season this Fall, Agents of SHIELD has been Marvel’s grand TV experiment in expanding the boundaries of their cinematic universe. It’s one thing to pump out movie after movie featuring individual heroes, but it’s entirely another to extend that out into a full television series that doesn’t feature any title characters. The show that began with the crazy idea of giving fan favorite Phil Coulson a chance to spread his wings has since evolved into a full-blown hit. Naturally, the next step is to continue sub-dividing, in the form of a planned spin-off series, Marvel’s Most Wanted.
The original idea centered around Mockingbird, played by Adrienne Palicki, and her ex-husband Lance Hunter, a dynamic firmly established on Agents of SHIELD. After a brief period where it seemed as though the proposed show would die, it’s now managed to land a pilot order from ABC. The network insists that it’s not technically a spin-off, although that begs the question as to what they think it actually is instead. Two established characters from Agents are set to appear in a separate series that exists in the same universe as its predecessor; if that doesn’t constitute a “spin-off,” we’re not entirely sure what does.
Regardless of what you call it, Marvel’s Most Wanted comes at a time when Agents of SHIELD is set to change its tone dramatically. Its titular spy organization toppled in the first season concurrent with the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and its second year introduced the Inhumans, a super-powered group of quasi-humans each born with unique powers that definitely aren’t the X-Men. Season 2 closed out with a new directive: To scale SHIELD down into a smaller group of similarly powered agents, opening up the Secret Warriors storyline pulled straight from the comics.
Agents of SHIELD taking a decidedly more super-powered approach to its story leaves a void in the more spy-related aspects that make up its foundation. Part of the charm of the first season was that it featured a team of normal humans trying to exist in a world of demigods. It only makes sense that Marvel’s Most Wanted steps in to fill this vacuum. Its two main characters are super-spies that fit in more with the charm the first two seasons of Agents, and less with the more superhero-centric upcoming third season.
The rise of Marvel’s TV universe has been an interesting one to watch. Agent Carter, despite flagging ratings, was still a stellar take on the early years of SHIELD, back when it was still the Strategic Science Reserve (SSR). Simultaneously, it took on the misguided gender politics of the post-WWII workplace, led by the incomparable Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. With Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, and Marvel’s Most Wanted, we have three shows that balance each other out: The first focuses on new heroes we likely won’t see in the movie universe, the second on the origins of SHIELD itself, and the third on the espionage and intrigue that defined the early Marvel TV world.
Virtually every move Marvel Studios has made over the last few years has led to yet another incredible addition to their rich universe. If Marvel’s Most Wanted ends up flopping, it’ll represent the first profound miss for the studio since Iron Man 2. Needless to say, their record of success speaks for itself, giving us a fair amount of confidence in their ability to bring another spin-off series to life. The studio may soon find itself overextended, but until it does, we’ll be along to enjoy the ride.
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