Has S.H.I.E.L.D. Found Itself Yet? Marvel Exec Jeph Loeb Answers That and Other Burning Qs

Agents of SHIELD SpoilersNow that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a greater sense of its medium-term destiny — having been picked up for a full 22-episode season — the ABC drama can better map out its freshman run.

As executive producer Jeph Loeb, who’s also the Head of Marvel Television, told TVLine Saturday at New York Comic-Con, “We didn’t know until 48 hours ago if we were going to have 22 episodes, or 13, or eight. But once you know that, you can exhale and not so much take your time but explore things in much greater detail. It enables us to sit down and take a look at each of the characters and give them their due.”

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After all, Loeb notes, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team’s confluence of distinct personalities and how they work (or sometimes don’t) together is a main driver of the narrative. “What we’ve tried to do is build stories that come from character and not so much from plot,” he attests. “The real question is: How are our characters going to react to whatever it is that we’re doing?”

Among the things S.H.I.E.L.D. thus far has been doing: A gifted “hero” was contained, a mysterious object was sought and a human asset was protected. And there are still other manner of missions to come.

“One of the things that’s fun about the show is we’re going to be doing all different kinds of missions and episodes and tones,” Loeb shares. “We’ve talked a lot about four groups, one which is the gifted, where we deal with people who have abilities; one of which is alien; one which is more tech-based, and sometimes the tech may be alien or tied into someone who’s gifted; and the episode airing this week lives in the world of espionage, the world of S.H.I.E.L.D. And what’s wonderful about these characters is that they can play in all those different places because they all have different viewpoints.”

Of course, at least two of the characters are embarking on these missions while harboring secrets, even unwittingly. “Certainly one of the big overarching stories is what happened to Coulson and how could he be there,” having died in the Avengers movie. Might the elite agent start to pick up on clues that his seeming resurrection involved more than the “magical place” of Tahiti? “He’s a pretty smart guy,” Loeb smiles. “Let’s see where it takes us.”

Noob “consultant” Skye, meanwhile, is covertly in cahoots withAgents of SHIELD Skye Rising Tide, whose agenda runs counter to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s own. But is the hive of hacktivists indeed Season 1’s big bad, or is there a greater evil ahead? “[Rising Tide] certainly will offer complications. Episode 5, in particular, will start to focus in more on that,” Loeb previews. “[The Big Bad] may be them, or it may be something else that delivers a smackdown. But there is something coming.”

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Perhaps the most burning question about ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D., as it dives into its full season, is whether viewers have yet laid eyes on the actual show. After all, many a showrunner will admit that after basically “repeating the pilot” for the first few episodes of a maiden run, at a network’s urging, their true vision will have yet to crystallize on screen.

To that, Loeb says, “Certainly the second episode was intended to be very much like ‘The Pilot, Part 2,’ because it was really the first time [the characters] could all work together and see who they are. Very much in the same kind of way that the audience is getting to know these characters, these characters are getting to know each other as well. That is the mission.

“I think the show is absolutely getting better as we go — and we hope the audience feels that way as well,” he continues. “We’ve absolutely found the show; the idea is to keep watching. It’s very much like a roller coaster. You’ve got to go up the hill before you start coming down the hill at 100 miles-per-hour.”

Want more scoop on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. courts says:

    Considering how the personalities of the character match with the Stargate team tropes, I wish they had matched them up instead. The show seems like it would be stronger with more of a focus on Melinda May leading.

  2. While it has a long way to go, I like where the show is going. The classic dark ending last week was nice, and signs of Coulson coming back “wrong” is a taste of something very meaty later on this season.

    • Badpenny says:

      As I have said elsewhere, I do not believe Coulson is “wrong.” I think he was intentionally acting incompetent in order to draw May out of her shell. By seeming unable to do combat field work well Coulson is forcing May to face her demons and be who she’s supposed to be. If Coulson seemed quite competent May wouldn’t need to go into the field.

      • Alan says:

        i could see it being a bit of both actually. maybe there is something not quite right about coulson but not quite as bad as he is playing it up.

        • Ross Cooper says:

          What I got from last ep was that Coulson no longer had muscle memory, ostensibly a result of no longer having the same body as he had when he learned those skills.

    • lalaland2013 says:

      Coulson hasn’t come back ‘wrong’. If they’re following the Marvel canon, he’s hasn’t come back at all. I think they’re going the route of Life Model Decoy. Google it, it’s a S.H.I.E.L.D.-designed robot meant to be a body-double.

      If you saw the Avengers movie, there was a scene with Tony Stark ignoring a call from Coulson on his cell and he answered it by saying “You have reached the life model decoy of Tony Stark, please leave a message.” I always thought it was fishy that they threw that line into the movie, but I always just assumed that it would be the LMD that died in Avengers, not the real Coulson….. oh no, my geek is showing (blush)

      • Daniel says:

        That would make sense if it wasn’t for the whole situation where Coulson thinks he only died for a minute before coming back to life. If it was the LMD, why would he say that?
        Also, not to mention the whole “He really doesn’t know what happened to him?” line the scientist says to Maria in the pilot episode.
        If anything, I think the Coulson in the show is actually the LMD or something completely different has happened to him.

        • lalaland2013 says:

          Oh sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear. I think the real Coulson died in the Avengers, but they’re keeping his brain alive to control the LMD (who is the Coulson in the show)… because if memory serves, the real person still needs to control the actions of the LMD remotely. So in my head, I’m picturing a Source Code type of situation, so if you’ve seen that movie, you know what I’m getting at :)

      • Jack R says:

        Agree with this theory. It’s all LMD related. The only thing it doesn’t explain is how Coulson has the Decoy’s memories from the hellicarrier. So it might be the other way around. He might be an LMD now. We may discover Coulson ‘died’ years ago.. and Fury activates a new LMD whenever ‘Coulson’ is ‘killed.’ I think there are probable clues in the character dialogue and interaction from the Sam Jackson cameo.. But not sure what they point to.

        • lalaland2013 says:

          Because the LMD is only a body decoy, the human counterpart controls it remotely. So technically, it’s still Coulson (or his brain, at least). His consciousness powers the LMD, so if they just kept his brain alive and moved his consciousness to the LMD, he’s have no idea that he wasn’t his human self, and he’d still retain all his old memories…. damn, the geek is showing again LOL

      • Mark says:

        I like the Coulson character. If he’s some robot or something, I’ll quit watching.

        • Lo says:

          If Coulson is a Life Model Decoy, don’t worry. Technically, he’s still Coulson, he just doesn’t have a human body anymore, but the brain and consciousness are still his, powering the LMD. Don’t know if that makes you feel any better LOL

  3. Sadly, this show just isn’t very good, which is a shame because it’s Joss Whedon. I expect better from him.
    For one thing, the acting isn’t very good. Clark Gregg is a good actor, but leading man he is not. Melinda May SHOULD be a cool character, but Ming-Na Wen just isn’t bringing it. Skye is completely unappealing, which is not good because she’s supposed to be the audience surrogate character. Grant is dull as wood. The most appealing actor/character is Fitz, who’s like a nicer version of Dollhouse’s Topher.
    The writing is just not up to par with what I expect from Joss. I liked Dollhouse better at this point. The writing has been dumbed down to appeal to a mass audience, which has gotten rid of the little things that make Joss Whedon shows special.
    Finally, the score is obnoxious and intrusive. It undercuts the action in many scenes. Jokes/dialogue would land much better without it, and frankly, it’s just not fun to listen to.
    SHIELD is off my DVR. Maybe I’ll start watching if Season 2 refocuses around Maria Hill. It’s a shame that this show came at the expense of Doctor Horrible 2. Sadly, SHIELD just doesn’t live up to Joss’ standards.

    • Bored Now says:

      Y’know, if you were to try putting a few more “I think” and “in my opinion” type words in your comments you might come across less like you were speaking on behalf of the rest of the world with your subjective judgements. Just sayin’.

      • rowan77 says:

        Wow. You’re taking his/her opinion a tad personal. Of course they are talking about their own subjective opinion and while it may not be the same as yours, it is no less valid. If they don’t want to watch the show, they don’t have to and they’re allowed (like you) to state their thoughts on the matter.

        I personally think the show hasn’t found it’s voice yet. It’s not Joss Whedon writing and running the show. It’s Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tachareon as show runners. They are not completely writing in Joss’s voice and the show is watered down from the snappy Whedon-y writing we are used to, likely to garner a wider audience. Shows at this stage are still finding themselves. Some people will leave. Some will stay and watch. I’m giving it more time. The pilot was awesome. The past couple of episodes are less so – but I’m willing to ride along as they work out the kinks.

        • Bored Now says:

          Not personally, exactly. I’m the last one to claim that I think AoS is perfect yet. I don’t think it even comes close for the moment, although I do believe it has a lot of potential. So I’m not against people having a similar opinion or even a totally negative one. The above comment though read to me as sounding particularly ‘my opinion is fact, that’s how it is and you all need to agree’ which is a pet peeve of mine.

    • bigdede says:

      I agree with every word you have said. I also took Shield off my DVR. All the characters are too dull to care about. Clark Gregg isn’t lead men material. Melinda May should be a cool character but she’s isn’t because she’s so dull. That’s the problem with the show, they don’t have the right actors. None of these actors have personality so they come off dull on screen. Clark is good but he’ better as the second lead. I was hoping they wrote this show more like Alias.

      • angel phinizee says:

        And this is where you made your mistake, you’re expecting a pure espionage show…this is a marvel comics show. and although it’s far from perfect, and i absolutely agree that it needs to tighten up…lose the cliched dialogue, and for the love of god, Wheldon..pick up the pace already!

        Note to Loeb: this is a marvel show based in context to the marvel universe..maybe having a marvel character as one of the team members wouldn’t hurt. there are plenty of b and c list characters that you can throw in. maybe it’s time to use one.

        also, stop being afraid to re introduce,HYDRA, AIm, or, (just to piss off Fox).the Hellfire Club.
        you’re using the title of Marvel’s agents of SHIELD..it’s time you reflect the universe you’re based in.

    • Patrick says:

      This isn’t a Joss Whedon show. He is one of the producers, but he has much, much less day to day involvement than he did on Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, etc. The persistent rumor is that he is doing some script doctor work for the show, which will show up later in the season.

      He did the Avengers, and it was huge, so Disney slapped his name on this to appeal to his fan base and the fans of the Avengers franchise. He said sure, because it meant a fairly large payday in return for not that much work. Basically, it was slightly more involved than a no-show producer credit. The show hasn’t lived up to expectations, so he is stepping back in to help. But his main focus is Age of Ultron, not this show.

      And, as we know from past experience, Joss doesn’t handle transfers of power all that well. As soon as he ever stepped away from Buffy or Angel, the quality of the show dipped precariously. Fans stuck it out because of investment in the characters/good will generated under Joss. But he isn’t great at picking people to handle the keys to the kingdom once he is out the door.

    • Ted says:

      We’re four episodes in and people are deciding they know what the show is and where it’s going? I used to think Fox was exceedingly rash to cancel Firefly, but they gave it eleven episodes, so I find myself now thinking they were not only reasonable but very, very generous.

    • brad says:

      Everyone needs to get off Joss Whedons’ d*ck. The Avengers was a great movie. It made a ton of money. And that’s great. But you can’t expect a TV show owned by Disney to be especially ground-breaking. His only succesful television show to go more than 1 season was Buffy. Angel limped along on Buffys popularity until it was also canceled. Everyone likes to bring up Firefly and Dollhouse as examples of his good work, but if they were any good or worth watching, they’d still be on TV. “In Whedon we trust” has become the most over-used line on sites just like this. Let the guy write movies, and keep his lackeys on TV duty.

  4. Apples says:

    I’m still finding the writing and acting clunky and wooden (apart from Coulson and May).

    Not sure how much longer I’ll stick with it. The only redeeming factor is that sometimes Whedon shows don’t hit their stride straight away in season 1.

  5. JoJo says:

    I think that each episode has been better than the last. While the pilot was relatively boring, these last couple of episodes have been much more interesting. We’ll see where they go from here. Also, it’s no secret that the “Big Bad” is going to be the scientist Coulson shot the floor out from under – he’s clearly still alive in the gravitonium cause he hand reached out from it. We haven’t seen the last of him yet.

  6. kd83954 says:

    I almost wish that it took the same route as Sleepy Hollow and had a 13-episode season. Less episodes, sure, but higher quality writing.

    • Drew says:

      The problem with that is, SHIELD just isn’t as strong as Sleepy Hollow. Sleepy Hollow has yet to have one bad episode or one unappealing character. SHIELD is really the opposite. They should probably do as many episodes as they can… while they can.

  7. Liz says:

    I wish networks didn’t do this 4 or more episodes at the beginning of a series where nothing happens, in an attempt to rope in new viewers while boring the ones you already have. Just dive right in.
    I’ll be sticking with SHIELD though. I have faith. And I like most of the characters (but a bit less Skye/Grant would be great)

  8. Abe Froman says:

    Jeph Loeb is a hack. His comic book work took a nose-dive, now this TV thing seems to be a bust. The guy needs to retire, he’s burned out.

  9. AngieD says:

    The only reason this show is still on my TiVo is because nothing else on Tuesday night’s appeals to me. So, I’m willing to hang in there for a couple more episodes….

  10. Mikael says:

    I think the show gets better each week, but I’ve been saying that they need to stop forcing Ward as the main character. He just can’t handle it and comes off too wooden. They should focus on Melinda May. She or Skye could be the equivalent to Alias’ Sydney Bristow, with Fitz/Simmons as the Marshall Flinkman. Sadly, Ward is no Vaughn. Joss has a habit of killing characters and I really wouldn’t mind him being killed and a better actor/character joining the show.

  11. Jack R says:

    So far it’s been more like Stargate.. I would love it if this show were more Season 1 of LOST (too late..) or even Season 1 of HEROES or Season 3 of Buffy,.. Still a chance for that. Playing it a little more quirky like early seasons of X-Files or Fringe wouldn’t hurt it either..

  12. Nicole says:

    Did a first three ep binge and I’m hating it but not loving it either. The plots of the standalone episodes don’t really hook hard enough and the only characters I care about are Coulson and Melinda May.

    I’m 99% certain that the audience is being lulled into feeling safe regarding Ward, Skye, Fitz, and Simmons with one or two of those four being shockingly killed off mid-season to kick start the real meaty arc of the show.

    I kind of like the premise of the show tackling the ‘non power enhanced’ human agents of SHIELD but I still feel like this show should’ve been a launch of the rise of a Marvel hero who starts human like say Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne or maybe SHIELD’S Abigail Brand and their rise through the ranks towards getting to play with the ‘A’ squad of the Avengers. Hank and Janet would’ve been a cool choice because by the time the tv series ended, they’d be prime candidates to be the ‘founding members’ of a second iteration of the Avengers for Avengers 3 if Marvel decided to phase out the alpha team of Avengers 1 and 2. I get Hank was out as a TV lead choice once the Ant-Man feature was greenlit, but SHIELD showcasing just Janet Van Dyne’s evolution to an Avenger would’ve given the show a great through-line with the payoff being she joins the feature franchise at series end.

    In any case, I’m still giving AOS a chance as I’m betting on what we’re seeing now being blown up by midseason and the show finding a new driving story for the back end.

  13. All great comments above, mostly constructive, which is the big tell – everyone wants to love the show.
    It just needs…something.

    Coulson is the link to the movies, but outside of him we don’t really have anything unless you take into account that Skye moment from ep 3 where she got to be awesome….until the dull as dishwater detective turned up to save her.

    Above all else in AoS, the character of Grant needs to go. Awful, awful character & the acting is woeful.

    I’d also argue the same of Ming Na – her character has all the indications of being tremendous, but I think at 50 years old she’s been mis-cast in the “bad-ass” role even if she does look great for her age. The days of Chun Li are far behind her.

    I don’t mind Fitz-Simmons as much as I originally thought I would, aside from the silly Disney robots that probably eat into the budget a fair bit.

    Really like Nicole’s idea above of throwing Janet in there – it’s a very sensible option given the movie slate is full until Avengers 2.

    AoS would also be a great place to showcase minor heroes Marvel wants to get out there – I get that the show is supposed to be all about SHIELD, but if they haven’t signed the big league up for cameos or even full ep appearances then the show is gonna need something to keep pulling in an audience.

    The “what happened to Coulson” thing will only play so long before folks get bored.

  14. Alan says:

    gotta love the snap judgements of the internet. if we had the internet back then the original star trek wouldnt have lasted 10 minutes, same goes for the next generation or stargate sg1 or the x files or buffy.

    • Drew says:

      It’s been three episodes. That’s not really a snap judgement.

      Star Trek was canceled. Actually, so was Stargate SG1. The rallying fans were responsible for the movies and the spinoffs. The internet allows reactions to come in much sooner than before, but that doesn’t mean that people just watched shows without forming opinions back in the day. Can you know within three hours if you like a movie? Three chapters if you like a book?

      • Eddy says:

        Three – five – 10 episodes don’t provide enough show to make a decision – if Star Trek TOS and Star Trek TNG were on during the age of the internet neither of them would have a made it through 1 season and we wouldn’t have the shows that came after them as a result .. AoS needs some time to get its footing – as we geeks are all aware there is a ton of usable material in the Marvel universe – but I think some people are forgetting the non-geeks – yes there are a few of them – that need the slow uptake so they can get invested in the show and the characters.. I do agree they might need to do some cast adjustments as they go along .. but lets not burn the show – 4 episodes in …

      • movie freak says:

        You actually can tell within 3 hours if you Luke a movie considering most movies are on for less than 3 hours unless its an epic or a saga such tells 1 continual story throughout

  15. Jen says:

    Nood insinuates that she’s an idiot. Newb would be that she’s new and wants to learn.

  16. Sara says:

    Is anyone else having the issue that recording this show screws up your dvr on directv because its episodes run for an hour and one minute? It’s driving me crazy and knocks other things or of my queue!

    • Ed says:

      My DVR gives me the option of ending a recording early or late so I just tell it to end AoS 1 minute early. I basically miss the preview of the next weeks show.

  17. Joseph says:

    The scripts for SHIELD have been SUXR ,
    I might give it another chance but the early writing has been horrible , the wasted a great pilot concept on inept writers

  18. Amanda says:

    Agree wIith the comments above about SHIELD missing something. Maybe they’ll iron that out over the season. For me the key is to have less Skye and Grant and more of someone/anyone else. I don’t find either of them interesting and in most scenes they really bug me. Don’t know if it’s the actors, the writing or the characters, but I want to fast forward through their painful scenes. I personally enjoy Coulson and May. Fitz & Simmons are fine but not great. Maybe they should kill one of the main characters to set off a big story for the rest of the year. (Let me volunteer Grant) I’m sticking it out this season and see if it gets better, if not, then I’m removing it from my DVR. But, this show is nowhere as good as The Blacklist or Sleepy Hollow.

  19. Umlat1 says:

    For sure this show has a lot of potential but the characters are wafer thin, if they want to know how to do this right they need to buy box sets for Alias (1st 2 seasons only) Fringe, 24 and maybe start watching the Blacklist.

    The show should feel much more hi-tech, lots of gadgets and the least they can do is get them in shield uniforms, they need to speed up the pace considerably, the stakes feel so low I have difficulty caring.

    Also the art direction makes this show look like the A-Team its so hum-drum. Although this might seem like a lot of belly aching its because I want the show to be great and its pretty far from that at the moment

  20. Alamogirl says:

    I thought last week’s episode “The Asset” was a bit confusing. It wasn’t exciting at all.

  21. BringTheFunny says:

    I thought Eps 2 and 3 were cluncky but Ep 4 “Eye Spy” found its footing. For example there were a couple of jokes worthy of Whedon. If they can do more of that I will keep coming back.

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