The DC Television Universe

Continuing this week’s theme of DC superheros (read this, this and this), today I’d like to talk about the DC Television Universe. Because this coming television season, we’re going to be treated to a plethora of superhero-inspired television – and it’s not just from Marvel. Indeed, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took its sweet time to get its momentum, whilst DC’s offering, in the form of the CW’s Arrow, had a riveting second season with a welcomed mid-season teaser of their upcoming offering, The Flash.

So what exactly is on offer next season? Along with Arrow season 3, we’ve got Barry Allen’s standalone debut as the Flash in, you guessed it, CW’s The Flash. This show and Arrow will be tightly integrated into what could potentially be a television universe – a rather unique idea considering the current surge in shared arcs for big-budget features by the studios. We’ll get to this later, though. The other offerings are Gotham, an origins tale of sorts for the villains of the Batman world. Incidentally, Bruce Wayne won’t be prominently featured in this series; it’ll revolve around a young Commissioner Gordon and seems like a crime-noir tale, rather than a vigilante/superhero one like Arrow.

Gotham isn’t going to integrate with Arrow and Flash. It’s a standalone series. But with the tightly-connected arcs of Arrow and Flash, here’s what I’m hoping for: that this is just the beginning of a much wider, richer television universe. One where other DC characters (perhaps minor ones) begin to populate the world. Arrow has proven that DC can make a decent television series with their properties. And with an established fan base for the show, there’s an existing market that would be eager to consume more of this world.

What’s interesting to see is how these shows react to the emerging DC Cinematic Universe. Will we see Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow join the Justice League alongside Ben Affleck’s Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman? I, for one, would welcome this. I think it’d be awesome to see these minor JL characters fight the bad guys alongside these superstars.

We’ll most likely find out how the current television universe fits into what seems like a rather comprehensive cinematic universe from DC, at this month’s San Diego Comic Con.

Along with The Flash getting his own show, and interacting with the Arrow universe, I’d like to see a Nightwing series adaptation. Arrow, Flash and Nighwing could form a potent triad of heroes that cement the DC flag in a medium fast-outpacing the cinematic facet of the entertainment world.

Next season will be the reign of the superhero series. Based on how it fares with audiences, we could very well be on the brink of seeing the television landscape becoming saturated with the superhero obsession much like what’s currently happening in film.

Can Agents of SHIELD stand on its own?

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

I’ve written before about my impressions on the latest turns in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. It started off excruciatingly slow, with the mission-a-week plots becoming repetitive and boring. But now we all know that this was simply a ruse, a setup of layering in anticipation for the tentpole movie that is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. itself began following the aftermath of the “Battle of New York” which happened in The Avengers. So essentially, this series revolves around these major Marvel movies. My question, then, is can Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. stand on its own? It took a major picture like The Winter Soldier to reignite the fires of the show, and the last few episodes of Season 1 are indeed explosive and riveting. But that’s mainly because they’re running off the momentum of the film’s events.

Marvel has the opportunity to revolutionise the television aspect of comic book adaptations, similar to how they changed the game with their Cinematic Universe and the Avengers films. Could Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. become a major Marvel property like the films it supports? Or is it merely relegated to the support-side, to maintaining fan interest in the studio between the major films?

If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues this trajectory of just augmenting, and not significantly impacting, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then I fear that the momentum of this show will surely decline to the point of non-existence, that the show will return to its Season 1 beginnings…

Screenrant had an interesting post about the possibility of Season 2, and how the creators plan to close-off this current season:

THR spoke with writers and executive producers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon about the “growing pains” (Whedon’s words) of the series, the response from fans and critics and the plan going forward now that they are preparing to shoot the season finale. Are the planning for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2?

“Tancharoen: We have a board going right now. We just don’t have a season two yet. But we are planning on it and at the end of season one, we are tying a lot of things up as well as teeing things up for a possible season two.”

If season one is the all fans see of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., will the finale wrap things up nicely to ensure the story feels complete?

“Whedon: No, you’d be so desperate to see another season and you’d be sad. It’ll definitely be a satisfying season finale but we definitely are teeing up stuff to come.”

So, if they end up with a second season, there is great opportunity to really establish this show as a major player in the overall MCU. With Joss Whedon at the helm of Marvel’s Phase 2, and his involvement in the creation of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. the TV show, we could potentially have a more tightly-integrated television and film experience. I, for one, look forward to seeing characters like Skye, Fitz and Simmons appearing in a major Marvel film. Conversely, Marvel Studios has the opportunity to cement Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as another impactful asset in their overall MCU. Let’s hope that #ItsAllConnected will continue into a season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Phase 2 of the Marvel movies.

Let’s Talk About S.H.I.E.L.D.

WARNING: SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS POST.

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I wasn’t an ardent fan of Marvel movies. I preferred the dramatic “seriousness” of the Nolan-era DC films and actually enjoyed Man of Steel. Iron Man and Avengers were O.K. when it came to Marvel, but Captain America: The First Avenger remained my favourite Marvel film of the MCU – probably because I liked the setting; that was an interesting era to have a superhero film set in.

When it came to television, again I preferred DC’s Arrow to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Like many, I thought that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lacked the gravitas or substance that would afford it continued watchability. Those “missions a week” setups became tired after the third episode, and the fact that the creators were not drawing from such a wealth of material that is the extended MCU made me lose interest in this series.

That was until I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier. My entire conception of the MCU changed.

I have recently become a big fan of Marvel, and of the direction the MCU is headed in. Marvel has been known as the studio with the massive special-effects laden films with little story, but right now, they are doing things with the art of storytelling that have perhaps never been done before. Things that are innovative and extremely compelling.

I, along with many others, was very wrong in dismissing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a show that wasn’t connecting well with the extended MCU. Because all along, Marvel was playing us, subtly having the entire universe linked, setting up events for a massive reveal in Winter Soldier and the subsequent episode Turn, Turn, Turn from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Dissolving S.H.I.E.L.D. is probably the best thing Marvel could do to ensure their universe moves forward. Now we have some serious disarray that can really disorient our characters, leading to infinite possibilities of where things could go. Proper conflict. We, just like the characters on the show, don’t know who to trust. Having Hydra infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. at its inception means that there are some deep questions about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s actions of the past, and the justification thereof.

Having a tentpole movie introducing the Hydra threat shows the large-scale catastrophe caused, and then the following episode on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings things into perspective on a smaller, more intimate scale – of just how these events have impacted the unassuming operatives of S.H.I.E.L.D. – ordinary humans without superpowers to defend themselves (albeit badass fighting skills). This is truly innovative storytelling, where we get to experience a major event from different angles on different formats so close to each other.

This is what I think many fans expected going in to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s this specific move that has made the slow-burn of the first half of Season 1 worth the arduous watch,

The way I see this, S.H.I.E.L.D. is central to everything that is currently happening in the MCU. This entity is the pivot point upon which Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the extended MCU have been held precariously, and with Hydra’s re-emergence, that balance has been broken and the two have cascaded into each other – just the thing us viewers have been aching to see for so long now.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally the Marvel show I want to watch – it doesn’t just have flash-bang-action, but a genuine storyline that is compelling and that makes it a strong force within the broader arc, actually able to hold its weight with the larger films that surround it.

Agent Ward’s actions in the cliffhanger at the end of Turn, Turn, Turn, and the use of the Hydra logo instead of the S.H.I.E.L.D. one to end-off the episode, leave so many questions that, coupled with the conclusion in Winter Soldier, makes us as the audience actually feel like a character in the MCU.

I can’t wait to see what they’re up to next.

Well played, Marvel. Well played indeed.