Spoilers from CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. follow.
If you’ve seen CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, you know the film drastically changed the landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ever since Nick Fury showed up at the end of IRON MAN and introduced the Avengers Initiative, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel’s love of acronyms were the strings that tied the Marvel universe together.
Now, that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been destroyed, thanks to a decades long and irreversible infiltration by HYDRA, that leaves a massive, gaping void in the MCU, and in particular…kind of throws Marvel’s first foray into TV, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. into flux. The show is called AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. for Phil Coulson’s sake. But considering AOS’ struggles with mediocrity over its first season, the bombastic events of the excellent WINTER SOLDIER offer a rare opportunity for a show to completely reimagine itself, to reboot, to revitalize itself with an eager and massive audience. Starting tonight, we’ll start to see what Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Jeffrey Bell and company have planned. Hopefully it involves something this wonderful:
David already chronicled what he thinks might happen over the season’s final 6 episodes, and what he WANTS to happen going forward in this awesome post. What follows are a bunch of ideas for season 2 that WON’T HAPPEN, that are too crazy, too nonsensical, and (some) too awesome, to happen, with new show titles to boot.
1. AGENTS OF THE ASTRAL PLANE
One of the more amazing nuggets in a movie bursting with greatness (CAP 2), was that Jasper Sitwell mentions Stephen Strange as an enemy of HYDRA while being interrogated by Cap and Black Widow.
This means Dr. Strange is happening. It’s as inevitable as my diabetes. To which I say:
While Dr. Strange deserves his own film, and has the highest upside of any other Marvel character yet untapped…this TV reboot wouldn’t preclude a film franchise from happening.
Judging from Sitwell’s reveal, Strange is an enemy of HYDRA, and therefore, probably an ally of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the aftermath to come. Imagine Victoria Hand, or the Clairvoyant, or the member of the team that betrays Coulson and his crew (who could also be the Clairvoyant), has them in his/her grasp, ready to end this vagabond group of misfits, once and for all. In this scenario, the Clairvoyant may as well be Dormammu.
Enter Dr. Strange, a fun spell, and a trip to the Astral Plane, where Ward, May, Coulson, Skye, Fitz and Simmons (or whomever is still alive) regroup, learn the Mystic Arts, and pop in and out to take down the remaining heads of HYDRA, or the new threat to public safety. It’d be awesomeawful, with Wong along for comic relief and casual racism.
2. AGENTS OF UPS
In a move purely out of crazy obvious cross-promotion, the only division of S.H.I.E.L.D. that remains after CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is that of “logistics.”
It’s a tough transition to make, but Coulson proves adept at leading a group of delivery men and women that ALWAYS gets their packages out in time, and to the right people. May’s pilot skills translate beautifully to the open road. Skye creates a new shipping system that revolutionizes the industry, and cripples FED EX (a front for HYDRA). It’s all a First Class time, until Christmas 2014, when the Clairvoyant (revealed as Heat Miser), threatens to ruin Christmas, by destroying UPS’ new logistics algorithm. FitzSimmons prove worthy of a littleReindeer Games, but the power and temptation proves too great, as we incur a Dark Willow type situation that doesn’t get resolved until Easter.
3. AGENTS OF LOLA
It’s clear the best character in AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been Phil Coulson’s precious flying red car Lola.
Victoria Hand and HYDRA manage to destroy almost everyone (Lola only seats two passengers comfortably, after all) and everything, but not LOLA. Coulson manages to escape, with maybe one or two other survivors, zooming off in Lola.
In a show that can only be described as HERBIE: FULLY LOADED meets FAST & THE FURIOUS, Lola proves to have as acerbic a wit as Jarvis, but with far more explosive weaponry (and many a tank of NOS). Amid the innumerable car chases, races and death defying stunts, Skye and Simmons jostle for shotgun (and Coulson’s fatherly affections).
4. AGENTS OF STARK INDUSTRIES
At the end of CAPTAIN AMERICA 2, Maria Hill rebounds nicely from losing her job at S.H.I.E.L.D., by interviewing for a job at Stark Industries. This seems to hint that Tony Stark and Stark Tower will be the new base of operations for whatever is left of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Avengers.
Coulson and company are looking at unemployment just like the rest of America (and Cobie Smulder’s schedule is free after the end of HIMYM), and their only option? A billion dollar company run by the world’s favorite superhero. Bummer, right? In this workplace comedy modeled after THE OFFICE, Phil Coulson and Maria Hill would butt heads (and bump uglies), while teaching Melinda May to work spreadsheets. Ward could try to take Happy’s job as bodyguard. Fitz and Simmons will fit right in with Tony and his group of eccentric inventors, as Simmons falls in love with Jarvis’s sultry voice (who will then turn into Vision, creating a love triangle with Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch). Skye can hack, or whatever.
Think the last season of ANGEL, without Spike, a robotic Gunn, and none of the fun. The season premiere will open with this frightful image, and the rest of the year we will be figuring out how we got to this point (spoilers: bad shellfish):
5. AGENTS OF HYDRA
If you can’t beat ’em, join them. Season 1 of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a very ALIAS-like vibe, with Coulson perhaps unwittingly HELPING the bad guys, working for SD-6. Perhaps, so discouraged and disillusioned by SHIELD, the aura of order and compliance to HYDRA is exactly what the doctor ordered. Ward will follow anybody, after all.
Or, maybe Coulson’s team doesn’t just have one traitor. Maybe THEY’RE ALL EVIL, unwittingly keeping it a secret from one another because they didn’t know whom to trust.
Once the shit hits the fan, they realize they all Hail (From) Hydra, and we find out that Victoria Hand normally dyes her hair GREEN, for she’s really Madam Hydra, as they prepare for the sordid events unfurling in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.
We learn the history of HYDRA, with flashback episodes to Dr. Arnim Zola, the Winter Soldier, and how they shaped awful events of the past. HYDRA was behind Watergate, the JFK Assassination, the Moon Landing, every single conspiracy you’ve ever wanted to believe, including the mysteries of what is in McDonald’s Fish Filet.
We can also get Bob, Agent of Hydra, in there for much-needed comic relief:
Alternatively: the show could be retitled AGENTS OF H.A.M.M.E.R., where we learn that Victoria Hand was manipulated by HYDRA, or thought Coulson’s team was HYDRA, but she’s really just a hard ass with questionable morals. In other words, she’s exactly the leader Coulson’s team needs in the terrifying vacuum left behind by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s absence, as she starts H.A.M.M.E.R., the newest acronym everyone will be talking about, a shiny fancy new espionage and law enforcement group formed to replace S.H.I.E.L.D. The organization is created and run by Norman Osborn in the comics, but who needs that asshole?
Anyways, SOME of Coulson’s squad decides to join Hand (May, Simmons), where others side with Coulson (Fitz, Skye, Ward’s dead or split in half), splintering off on their own, setting up an escalating feud between the two factions.
6. FUTURE AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
In “Seeds,” Fitz and Simmons returned to their roots at the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy, where their academic exploits and their big beautiful brains are revered. After Coulson and his squad of over-matched spies get murdered by Victoria Hand, the Clairvoyant or an explosive Bill Paxton quip, we’re forced to go backwards in Season 2, with a prequel series.
Fitz and Simmons are adorable, the nerdy will-they, won’t they’s of the show. In the JEDI ACADEMY/MONSTERS UNIVERSITY inspired FAOS, we get their “meet cute,” as Fitz accidentally zaps her with one of his experimental weapons, and gets caught repeatedly creeping on her with his weird spy orbs. But Simmons likes the attention.
We learn where Ward’s personality disappeared to, as Bill Paxton’s Agent Garrett brings him under his wing, absorbing all humor and personality from his muscular protege’s body, since no one can compete with Bill Paxton.
Melinda May is in full blown Cavalry mode, only taking breaks to share the sheets with a sexually frustrated Agent Coulson, who can’t seem to get an erection after he discovers the world is a place where the Incredible Hulk and Thor is real, and really just wants to complete his Captain America trading card collection.
Oh, Skye spends her time in that van a lot, maybe narrating the events a la DOOGIE HOWSER (or better yet, the technological soul of Arnim Zola narrating the events from her van). Riveting stuff, and if it doesn’t find an audience, it could go the GOTHAM route, and throw every famous hero into the SHIELD Academy BEFORE they become the heroes we know and love.
7. AGENT PEGGY CARTER
Since the awesome PEGGY CARTER one-shot materialized, rumors have swirled around a possible Peggy Carter TV show.
What we didn’t know was that Marvel Studios had planned all along for Hayley Atwell to take over for Coulson and his fuck ups once and for all after one season.
Following the “death” of Steve Rogers, Peggy Carter gets ushered into a fledgling little group called S.H.I.E.L.D. and becomes one of the founding members of the world’s most secretive and powerful organization. Joined by Dum Dum Dugan, his Howling Commandos and Howard Stark, we witness the origins of the divisive and mysterious organization.
Throw in the impossibly studio convoluted Invaders, the million different Captain America’s that tried to replace Steve Rogers over the years, and the seeds of Hydra’s rebellion, and you have the greatest show on the planet. Plus, we learn the truth behind Howard Stark’s death (he’s a Skrull), and get more Arnim Zola, who needs to be in every episode of every show on this list.
It’s pulpy, sexy, fun. MAD MEN meets ALIAS.
8. AGENTS OF S.K.Y.E.
Skye’s name is no accident. While it might’ve been evidence of a whimsical, hippie (but annoyingly upper class) mother…it’s more likely a code for her origin.
The sky. Space. She’s clearly an alien, yo, and by the end of season 1, Skye learns that she is KREE, and faced with either sticking around a world without S.H.I.E.L.D. and direction, the surviving members of Coulson’s pals decide to romp around in space with Skye, jettisoning us off into a galaxy far, far away, and the guardians who would protect it.
While we skirt around Peter Quill and the real GUARDIANS, we’re introduced to their swashbuckling, quirky world, and to the Nova Corps, Quasar, and Skye’s father…Mar-Vell. We learn that Skye’s been hidden from the Kree’s and the rest of the universe…because she’s the key to the galaxy, or something equally profound/ridiculous. In fact, she’s the basis for the Kree-Skrull War that explodes in Season 4.
Melinda May will admit to being jealous of her and Ward’s obvious affections in Season 3.
9. SECRET AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D./AGENTS OF FURY
Do we really believe that S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone forever? They’re just as persistent and as hard to get rid of as HYDRA and bed bugs, and Nick Fury doesn’t give up easily.
In the finale, after Coulson and the surviving members of his group defeat Hand and the threat of HYDRA (for this season), Nick Fury reveals himself to be alive (Sam Jackson will appear on the finale). There, he offers Coulson his next mission, should he choose to accept it: to start a top-secret, underground sect of S.H.I.E.L.D., operating with complete autonomy, globe-trotting around the world in the Bus and Lola, raiding out HYDRA and Centipede locations, while interacting with new threats, heroes, villains and powers.
It’s basically Secret Avengers, without the cool members of the team. But throw in Sif (as the Valkyrie counterpart), a redemptive Deathlok on the squad, maybe grab Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), and bring back Peter MacNicol as a liaison, and you have a legitimately awesome idea for season 2. You could even cover Secret War, without relying on Nick Fury to lead the charge.
That could happen. This is the crazy, unrealistic version:
I envision it like HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, where Coulson and his group are constantly on the run, or in hiding from the Clairvoyant, flitting from place to place, running into friend or foe, and uncovering heretofore undiscovered tenants of the Marvel Universe. Stay a week in Atlantis with Namor. Stay at a bed and breakfast in Wakanda and meet T’Challa. Hitchhike with Nomad (or Captain America, incognito following an assassination attempt in CAPTAIN AMERICA 3). Maybe we meet the new Ghost Rider. Or Punisher. Or introduce Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel. Shang-Chi. Man-Thing. Ka-Zar. Moon Knight. Hundreds of others. Coulson and his team are like Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town, discovering and uncovering every corner of the MU (within reason), and jotting it into their pokedex.
10. LIFE MODEL DECOYS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
Victoria Hand, Jasper Sitwell and the Clairvoyant manage to murder the crap out of Phil Coulson and his team.
But, this is the Marvel Universe, where no one stays dead.
Hand didn’t kill Life Model Decoys…she killed the real McCoy’s. But Coulson managed to create LMD’s for his entire team before her devastating/obvious betrayal.
The second season follows the life model decoys that survived and outlived their human counterparts. Universe-altering questions of humanity, and whether or not they deserve life, or even want it, is explored in the now moribund, existential series.
11. AGENTS OF A MAGICAL PLACE
After S.H.I.E.L.D. and everything Coulson has ever known has collapsed, he and his team are forced to go into hiding.
Because no one would expect them to go to the most obvious place, that’s exactly what Coulson’s cadre of “spies” do: they go to Tahiti. A magical place.
There, they have tropical drinks, sun tan, and undergo radical experiments with Book from FIREFLY.
Did I fall asleep? You will too.
12. AGENTS OF SHIELD
You think this is the same show. BUT THE ACRONYM IS NO MORE!
You know what this means?
The Clairvoyant isn’t Arnim Zola. It isn’t Bill Paxton or Hand, or May or any of the popular theories. No, the Clairvoyant is a nefarious time traveler (The Doctor?), who knows that Coulson’s team are the only people who can stop him…so instead of killing them when they were babies like a normal time traveler…he ships them off to…Medieval times!
I mean serious, Black Plague medieval times. Not Medieval Times. Ward finds the time change refreshing, the order of knighthood exactly what he always wanted, with Melinda May posing as his male squire, before enacting her vengeance.
13. AGENTS OF SUPERHUMAN REGISTRATION
One of the endings of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, involved the government questioning Black Widow, and threatening to arrest Natasha. It had the stink of the seeds of setting up the Superhuman Registration Act, an awful law enacted that forces all super powered humans to register with the government and relinquish their secret identities. It leads to a Civil War between heroes, fighting on either side, and sucked.
SMALLVILLE kind of did this arc before, X-MEN has done something similar, and it’s just the worst, and likely won’t ever happen, or shouldn’t. Until season 2 of AOS, as Coulson and his team go around the country, down “the list” of Assets, conscripting them to their service. Or else Deathlok kills them.
14. AGENTS OF THUNDERBOLTS
The THUNDERBOLTS are basically Marvel’s version of the SUICIDE SQUAD, a superhero team filled with reformed villains. ARROW’s been setting up a Suicide Squad in its second season (and who knows, might be planning a spin-off show), so it’d be pretty funny and fitting if Marvel stepped in and started the Thunderbolts Initiative in season 2 of AOS.
Redemption and the nature of heroism is a deep and profound theme often found in Joss Whedon’s work, and its the crux of the Thunderbolts team. Perhaps faced with the growing evils of Centipede/Hydra, Baron von Strucker, the Clairvoyant and whatever else is out there, that Maria Hill decides to enact the Thunderbolts Initiative, a decision buoyed by the successful rehabilitation of J. August Richards’ Deathlok in the final battle of season 1.
We’ve met Blizzard in “Seeds,” Radioactive Man in IRON MAN 3 (kinda), and most of the other “villains” in THUNDERBOLTS wouldn’t be stepping on the toes of any of their bigger franchises. Maybe Baron Zemo would, but I doubt we’ll be seeing a Masters of Evil group (unless Sony takes over). While Crossbones is likely planned for CAPTAIN AMERICA 3 (and a role in the Death of Captain America, been calling that since forever), he does have history with the Thunderbolts, and Frank Grillo isn’t too big for TV. There’s no shortage of people that have Thunderbolts ties, including Songbird, Nighthawk, Atlas, Swordsman, Penance and Paladin, that we wouldn’t have to delve into the Green Goblin, Bullseye, Venom and Deadpool’s of the world, that are untouchable and too big for TV even if they weren’t.