What can we expect from Joss Whedon’s S.H.I.E.L.D.?

Feature Rachael Kates 30 Aug 2012 - 08:34

Rachael ponders the kind of cast, crew, characters, style, budget and canon we can expect to see in Joss Whedon’s S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot…

This article contains a spoiler for The Avengers (2012).

In the wake of signing a three year with Marvel during which he'll write and direct the upcoming sequel to The Avengers, Joss Whedon has also been green-lit for a S.H.I.E.L.D. TV pilot by ABC. Leaving aside the fact that I'm all atwitter at the very notion of Whedon coming back to TV in any way, shape, or form – the fact that a Marvel show is finally getting its fair shake in primetime is something many of us have good reason to get excited about.

With still nearly a year away from Iron Man 3 though, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot little more than a thumbs-up and a whisper at this stage, there’s plenty to send us into speculation overdrive…

1) What kind of S.H.I.E.L.D. are we going to see? 

S.H.I.E.L.D. canon reaches back to the 1960s and has the story runs to show for it. It’s fair to assume that a television spin-off would reach towards the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but aside from that, there’s plenty of scope for Whedon and co. to choose from.

The origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. were written during the Cold War and took notes from the spy culture of the time. More recent titles such as the 2010 run of the S.H.I.E.L.D. comic dug into an occult history of the organization while the Civil War drew the agency into the political conflict of the Superhero Registration Act.

Additionally, S.H.I.E.L.D. has appeared in almost all of the Marvel heroes' lives in some form or another, leaving the options endless. Can we expect this to be completely new material or are we going to see a reinvention of the more classic arcs?

2) Who are our main characters? 

There are more than enough Avengers to choose from. Between Classic, West Coast, New, and Young Avengers, the creative team behind the pilot can essentially stick their hand into the superhero grab bag and pull out whatever their hand hits first. It leaves us to wonder who - aside from the assumed presence of Nick Fury and Maria Hill - we'll be following as our heroes?

Are Hawkeye and the Black Widow going to feature or will the focus be on other less prominent but key S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel like Jasper Sitwell and Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird?

And of course I'm holding my breath in regards to Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson. Yes, I know, I saw The Avengers, but I refuse to give up there. No one is really dead until we see a body and even then, it's not a sure thing. This principle is especially true in the Whedonverse and only increased by the presence of comic book logic and history. If our favorite deadpan agent can turn up in Ultimate Spider-Man, why not the new S.H.I.E.L.D. show?

3) What kind of show is it going to be? 

Just because we're looking at an hour long drama doesn’t mean we know much of anything beyond "Ooh Helicarrier" and "Man, Nick Fury really rocks that eye-patch." There are more ways to do a drama than there is time to ponder them, so one of our many questions is: what will our format look like?

Is it going to be procedural – like a Criminal Minds with Marvel agents? They are technically law enforcement after all. On the other hand, this a world full of superheroes so will we get a freak-of-the-week episodic format à la early Supernatural and Fringe or will it be one linear story, a single narrative unto itself like Game of Thrones?

I'm hoping for a fully-fledged jump into the world of S.H.I.E.L.D. with a clear direction, but until we know more about Whedon's actual level of involvement it will be hard to guess as so much of it depends on who's at the helm, which brings us to the next question…

4) Which Whedonverse alumni can we expect to see? 

After all, the man is notorious for reusing cast and crew. Granted his recycling habit is nothing compared to, say, Aaron Sorkin's, but Whedon’s certainly a writer/director who knows who he likes and sticks with what works. So who is going to end up on the project?

Production wise – we know that Jed Whedon and his wife Maurissa Tancharoen are going to be taking point but it takes more than two people to fill a writers room. Who else could step in? Whoever ends up involved in this is going to set the tone of the of the show, and so far the minds we have on the job gave us Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

That's not to mention cast. Even Chris Hemsworth is technically a Whedonverse repeater if you include his turn in The Cabin in the Woods, (filmed before Thor but held up due to MGM’s financial struggles). Personally, I'm betting money that Amy Acker and Felicia Day each show up at least once before the end of season one even if they aren’t in the main cast. Dream returners for me would include Summer Glau, Franz Kranz, James Marsters (as anyone really, but fingers crossed for a villain), and Mark Sheppard because after his turns on Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural and Doctor Who, the man has proved that he should be in everything.

(And seeing as the Uncharted pic doesn’t look as though it’s happening any time soon, surely Nathan Fillion could squeeze in an appearance, too – Ed).

5) What kind of budget will there be? 

Though money isn't the most interesting thing to be pondering, for a project like S.H.I.E.L.D., the amount of cash poured into production value can be the difference between the MCU believability we’ve come to expect and the gloriously awful CGI of a SyFy original. On the other hand, one of the factors in Firefly's untimely end was how expensive it was. Finding the happy medium between pulling off the show and not making something too fantastic to afford seems like it will be key and with all the experience the Whedon camp has had with this particular stumbling block, my expectations are fairly high.

I know what I hope to see, but everyone wants something different so in the end, all the speculation in the world boils down to what you want. What expectations do you have for this small-screen glimpse into the Marvel universe? To the comments section! 

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I really don't see Nick Fury being a big part of this show: your choices are to use Jackson sparingly (eg one scene in one episode each season) or just recast him and add him to the main characters. Recasting would bea horrible idea, so I'd hope they mostly keep him out of the show - no sense damaging the MCU too much.

As for Maria Hill, I could see that happening. Surely HIMYM can't have too long left to run, so even if she's too busy for season 1 they could add her to the main cast later on.

Agent Coulson seems pretty likely to me - Clark Gregg is not a big actor, so may well be up forthe regular TV gig. And his "death" in The Avengers was ambiguous to put it mildly.

Anyway, time for my wild speculation...
- Jessica Jones would be an obvious "introductory"character to enter this world: a teen girl (hmm, Whedony) who gets involved with Shield (her involvement could be linked to the Chitauri invasion in The Avengers).
- So: standard characters for a show like this: the innocent newcomer (Jessica Jones perhaps), the goofy nice guy (think Xander or Wash), the cute geeky girl (Felicia Day please!), the wise guide (Coulson...), the bitch-with-a-heart-of-gold (Maria Hill perhaps)
- Villains: a combination of humans using Chitauri stuff, and some less-notable villains. It might be cool to allude to Thanos pulling the strings though
- Storylines: season 1 could play with the world coping with the event of The Avengers. Subsequent seasons could deal with SHIELD history, the multiverse etc. the multiverse could be particularly fun

Joss has suggested this will be fairly stand-alone but I think it will be a great way to introduce minor supporting characters who don't warrant thier own film. It should also help avoid overcrowding of plot & characters in the main MCU films like what happened in 'Iron Man 2'

If they plan to bring back Coulson they should set the pilot before 'The Avengers'. We can then have Coulson (to please the fan-boys) but without robbing The Avengers of it's central emotional moment.

The next episode/series could then be set after 'The Avengers' with S.H.I.E.L.D dealing with the aftermath of all the events of that film...

I'm expecting relatively small actors, possibly unknowns, playing the main characters. I think they'll look at signing another contract with the stars of the films that says they'll star in an episode and cameo in another each season. Unfortunately, that would probably include Nick Fury. Coulson would be lovely to have, and I'm sure Whedon knows it too, maybe season 1 could be the lead up to the Avengers? Coulson could play a hand off role to whoever would be in charge after that? Maria Hill may not be in it, and if she is, she may not be played by Smulders, due to her contractual obligations to CBS. The production cost may go along with how many episodes they make a season. If it's a standard 20+ they're going to be pushed and squeezed, especially for the first season. If they go for a more realistic 10-16 they'll probably be able to hit the screen with 2-3 million an episode (maybe 1-2m in season 1). If they're shooting on the helicarrier sets, they already have those built so that saves them some money right there. Thing is, I'd love some cameos from the big stars but I wouldn't want them to run the show when they walked in. If it's about new characters (to the screen) then let them run it. Plus, it'd be lovely if the cameos went both ways, and we saw the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in future Marvel films. This is another good reason to have Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Elektra and even X-Men to come back in house at Marvel so the crossover potential could be enormous. I wouldn't mind at all if the studios themselves held onto the properties, but as long as there could be crossovers (or even nods!) I'd be happy.

A possible point that I may have forgotten about... what about the new live action Hulk show? Has that signed to a network yet? For some reason I had ABC attached to it. If so, I don't imagine Ruffalo would be doing that, so if these two shows were to come together at any point the MCU might take a hit! But still, the crossover potential is super!

I can see Fury being in the pilot, and maybe the odd appearance in season finale's. Maybe they could use some of the films budgets and so leading up to each film we'll have a few iron man or cap centric episodes. (E.G. out of costume cameos in the vain of the credit tags) As for Coulson, I'm not completely averse to a ressurection, but I'd like to have his death sit for a little while, which wouldn't rule out flashbacks. It would be great to see a parralel thread leading up to Stark's first appearance, maybe akin to Fury's Big Week.
Definitely want Sitwell as a lead, is Morris the other agent in Item 47? If so, I'd be well up for that. They made a good buddy team.
Of course, what I'd really like is for Fury to be a semi regular. Surely this isn't too out there these days. I mean, what does Fury have to do? Argue with the Shadow Council, order his agents to do something when they come to him for a decission and thats about it. Well, we can dream!

I think it'll be something like "Item 47" with "the baddie of the week" and bigger background arc. Whedon is really good at balacing those things.

As far as actors go, I'm sure Whedon's regulars will be there. About
Cobie Smulders - "HIMYM" creators have said that they will want the show to go on after this season and I don't see the ratings dropping to the cancellation level any time soon. The only way I see the show ending after this season is, if the actors will want out (for example Jason Segel has rather successful movie career). Maybe at some point "SHIELD" will bring Maria Hill in as regular (after "HIMYM" is finished), but I'm sure she won't be part of the core team at first.

Whedon is very capable of doing a lot with small budget - 2nd season of "Dollhouse" was actually very cheap. Considering how great some of the effects of the new shows look (see for example "The Walking Dead") I think the average show's budget will be enough for a great show. I thought that "Firefly's" "big" budget was always more just an excuse than the reason - no one spoke about the budget being too big before the cancellation...

Enver Gjokaj to be cloned and play every character?

Let's see if Whedon can finally get a series to last longer than two seasons again!

Blonde Summer Glau as Bobbi Morse would be awesome..........

On the 'Cobie Smulders is still attached to HIMYM' thing: Isn't Robin in HIMYM suppossed to go on a world trip or something like that? I smell posibilities!

Guillermo Del Toro's 'Hulk' is still coming to ABC, possibly in 2013. But so far we know that show has zero to do with the MCU. Unfortunally.

Heck no! Yvonne Strahofski, please!

I would like to see the show focus on the SHIELD agents themselves, as opposed to bringing in superheroes.

I do enjoy 'How I met your mother' but I do think its time to finish the show, like you say, Jason Segel is doing really well with his movie career and Cobie Smulders would need to be a Shield full timer on the show.

Amy Acker, Nate Fillion, Alan Tudyk. Amy Acker, Nate Fillion, Alan Tudyk. Amy Acker, Nate Fillion, Alan Tudyk. Amy Acker, Nate Fillion, Alan Tudyk. Amy Acker, Nate Fillion, Alan Tudyk. Amy Acker, Nate Fillion, Alan Tudyk.

Please?

Right!! He's great, but it sucks that he's all but invisible since the end of Dollhouse. I recall a bit part on Person of Interest I believe, along with Amy Acker. He deserves better.

Yes. Good - let's run with this. Perhaps use some cast-off footage from the Avengers film to boost the visual flair, and deal with the Coulson isn't really dead thing in the TV series, before we get Avengers 2. Heck, use the TV show to bridge the gap between the two movies.

Coulson's just too good of a character to not keep running with. Though Whedon isn't afraid to kill off characters, it would be great to have Coulson back.

not to mention Avengers (he played the junior of the 2 NYPD cops Capt America gave orders to)

too right on the Mark Sheppard thing, whenever I see his name pop up in credits it always makes me very very happy!

He did? See what I mean about invisible?

:-)

The black widow just edged it in the Avengers for me. Watched it again the other night and she gets so many good lines and SJ is very good in the role. I'd love her to star in the TV show, but think it pretty much unlikely.

Whatever it focuses on, who ever's in it, Joss is back on TV, everything else is just sprinkles on a Whedon shaped cake.

I just hope stupid Rights issues and so on don't get in the way of what might be the best TV show for possibly decades.

By the way are the 5 answers above all pretty much 'no idea'? I didn't bother reading the wild speculation.

I think aside from a cameo in the pilot the big names are obviously not going to be showing up. As cool as Coulson is I hope they don't bring him back, it'd cheapen the character and I fear he may be best in small doses.
Fringe-ish would be a good template for the show. Bad guys over the course of the series wil be Hydra or AIM. They'll be battled each week by the best equipped C-Team available led by badass Agent Sharon Carter and backed up by in lab by Hank Pym. They can then be introduced into Avengers 2 w/o any origin nonsense.
As much as I'd like to Ms Marvel show up, I'd like the show powers-lite. Maybe have a storyarc leading up to a season finale meeting with Captain Marvel.

Absolutely. I saw the poster for Dollhouse before I saw the show (which as a reminder, featured Echo in the foreground with Victor and Sierra on either side behind her and I think Boyd, Topher and Adele were in it as well, and while I didn't examine it and memorise the people I didn't already recognise, I did see it. So when I saw the show I recognised Sierra, since Dichen Lachman has a unique look. However, the reveal (spoilers!) that Victor the Russian gangster was actually an active was a complete shock to me. Despite having looked right at him in the promo shot I did not connect Enver the Doll with Enver the Russian.

Just wanted to point out that Jeremy Renner is a Whedonverse repeater too, he was in Angel.

I would love to see Phil be a central part here. There's a good way to do it I'm sure and he'd be a great presence to help anchor the show, already has had prime time success in comedy and fans would love it.

I think they could Clark Gregg to play Coulson again. Has everyone completely forgotten about LMDs? The Coulson who died in the movie could have been an LMD. The problem though is that his death in The Avengers would mean significantly less...

Seconded, I've been genre-stalking him ever since he started setting 'Fire's :) Also Enver and Dichen would be good! Plus some new folk, I like seeing new folk.

My thoughts exactly (although I think I thought it over at I09!) I would go the other way though, Real Coulson really died, but they could have his decoy in as a regular, a la Data!

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