The “Fallout” Episodes

When an art medium combines with another art medium, or two properties with a medium combine in some way, this is referred to as a “crossover”.  It’s something that is often seen in comic books (i.e. the DC/Marvel amalgam run in the mid-late 90’s) and sometimes in television (the Pretender/Profiler universe, episodes between various NCIS, CSI, and Law and Order shows, and the Arrow/Flash crossover in season two of Arrow in preparation for the airing of the Flash pilot later in 2014).  It’s very rare however to see movies and television do this, that is until the advent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s weekly television extension Agent of SHIELD.  Earlier this season, audiences saw two “crossover” episodes where aspects of Asgard and the events and characters of Thor:  The Dark World played a role in the show.  Nevertheless, in recent weeks, the show has tired something slightly different.  While tempted to call them “additional crossover” episodes linked to the events of the most recent Marvel Studios silver screen release, I’ve chosen to call the something different:  “fallout episodes”.

Two weeks ago Captain America:  The Winter Solider released to theaters (which I’ve already reviewed).  A post-Avengers adventure for Captain America, Black Widow, and Nick Fury, the film has a 1970’s political thriller vibe to it, cemented by the role played by veteran actor Robert Redford.  One of the characters in the film, Agent Jasper Sitwell, has appeared in a handful of episodes of Agents of SHIELD – including the episodes that aired two days before the release of The Winter Solider – and this is purposely done to link the show to the film; to show that all these films operate in the same shared universe as the show does (in addition to appearances this season from Jackson’s Nick Fury and Smulder’s Agent Maria Hill from Avengers).

The most recent episodes of the show explore what happens after the events of The Winter Solider, events that change a large portion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – including Agents of SHIELD – by altering the very nature of what SHIELD is.  This altering of SHIELD shakes the team, as “true” allegiances and purposes are revealed alongside the identity of the Clairvoyant.  Few things illustrate this more than the “crisis of faith” that Phil Coulson seems to be experiencing – a crisis I predicted after the pilot episode – not unlike the one Black Widow has in the Avengers and continues into The Winter Solider; both face a crisis of faith and  purpose that affects their identity.

While Black Widow is seeking redemption, Phil Coulson seeks answers.  He’s given his entire adult life to SHIELD, having been recruited personally by Fury out of high school, and was at peace with his sacrifice in the Avengers because he believed in both SHIELD’s mission and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, knowing his death would be the catalyst for their assembly.  All of that is called into question now that SHIELD’s true nature has been revealed.  Coulson struggles with the realization that his life’s purpose has been undermined, his efforts used for evil.  He’s the closest Marvel personification of Harvey Dent’s words in The Dark Knight:  “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”.  Agent Coulson – the heart of SHIELD – died a hero, but was resurrected in time to see SHIELD – and a respected friend – exposed as the villain.  Does this negate his sacrifice?  Does this rob him of a sense of self worth and purpose having – unknowingly – worked to further evil when all he wanted was to be like his hero, Steve Rogers, and part of something good that was larger than himself?  This is his crisis of faith, faith in SHIELD, this is his search.  Interestingly, there’s been little indication that he knew he’d be brought back after the events in the Avengers, so a further crisis is possible when he reconnects with Fury and asks more questions about “Tahiti” and why Fury didn’t trust Coulson 2.0; a reckoning which will likely happen by season’s end.

While the fallout of these episodes is shown to affect the rest of Coulson’s team less, it’s only because they don’t know what the audience knows: the identity of the traitor on their team.  As the season wraps up in the coming weeks, expect this knowledge to shatter their bonds and cause them to question the mission in the same way Coulson has in the post-Winter Solider episodes.

Will these revelations strengthen the team’s faith in SHIELD (or at least those who remain loyal to SHIELD) or cause a further decaying of the agency – and it’s agents – charged with fighting evil?  All heroes go through valleys of crisis on their journey, and how they act and react in the midst is what defines who they are.  As Agent Coulson said in an earlier episode, “The world is full of lies, evil, pain, and death; you can’t hide from it, you can only face it.  The question is, when you face it, how do you respond; who do you become?”  Coulson’s team is facing that evil up close and personal in a way they never expected; what will it forge them into?  For now, one thing is certain:  Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD will return.

Posted on by Aaron in Uncategorized

About Aaron

Author, Speaker, and Super Nerd. Aaron Welty speaks and writes regularly connecting the dots of life, faith, and science fiction. Originally from Michigan, he now lives and works in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

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