Disney+ has changed Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. for me
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. (AoS) had a lot of ups and downs in its seven season run but more often than not it was engaging, endearing and entertaining. It gave us a glimpse into the wider world of the MCU (or so we thought) and had some truly stellar character performances. The Netflix shows were(mostly) the same. Then there was the limited series The Inhumans... What a mess. None of them ever got a true connection with the MCU and now we know they all fall outside the main MCU timeline. With the release of WandaVision earlier this year and continuing up to What If..., we begin to see what the small-screen versions of the main MCU timeline truly are and the barest outline of things to come.
It isn't whether AoS is canon or not that bothers me. It's the difference in quality between it and the newer shows. There are episodes here and there that, while they may not match the budget or effects of the Disney+(D+) shows, certainly match the acting and directing quality. The first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones have episodes like that was well. As a whole, the visual, aesthetic and storytelling qualities of the D+ shows are so much better than their predecessors that I wonder if I can watch those series as a whole again.
--Spoiler warning for any Marvel related shows previously mentioned and maybe a few I haven't mentioned like Loki and Falcon and The Winter Soldier!--
As much as I loved following along most every week with Phil Coulson's ragtag band of agents, I don't think I want to do it again. The problem is, there's too much filler. The first season alone is a roller-coaster of quality. There are payoffs for episodes that seemed like fluff, (Ward jumping to save Simmons comes immediately to mind) and plenty of character development, which is great. The problem is twofold: First, it's usually a small payoff. Second, there are plenty of episodes that even when bundled with their payoffs, don't amount to much (the ice kid floats to mind). Having to sit through 35 minutes of fluff for 7 minutes of heaven is still sitting through 35 minutes of fluff about 100 times out of 123.
Juxtapose that against the anime-esque, condensed storytelling of the D+ shows like Loki. It's fantastic. I'm sure a few eyebrows just raised when I say anime is condensed. As great as Dragonball Z and both Naruto series are(they number the hundreds of episodes), my favorites have seasons that are only 6-12 episodes long (FLCL and Konosuba to name a few) and more are 24-26 to spin their yarn(Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo to name a few more). The D+ shows essentially amount to watching a six-hour movie in one-hour chunks. The Netflix shows did this to a degree with shorter seasons lengths and some intense acting and directing. The hallway fight in Daredevil is phenomenal and Charlie Cox portrayal as both Matt Murdock and Daredevil is incredible.
Even the (mostly)higher-quality Netflix shows pale in comparison to the sheer scale, grandeur and weirdness of the D+ shows. When I look back at AoS now, even the best arcs take around 12 episodes when 6 would do. I don't fault the show. It will always hold a special place in my heart. Fitz-Simmons emotional journey brought me to tears on several occasions. Watching Skye become Daisy become Quake was inspiring. Seeing the mystery of Coulson's resurrection unfold was epic. Wards turn blew me away the first time through and even now I think it's one of the best payoffs in TV. I only wonder what it would have looked like if seen over three six-episode seasons. I guess what I'm really trying to say is that when I look at AoS now compared to D+ it looks closer to Inhumans than Falcon and the Winter Soldier.