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

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.

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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?

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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).

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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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