Can Joss Whedon Make A S.H.I.E.L.D. TV Show Where They’re The Good Guys?

That Joss Whedon is going to be co-creating a S.H.I.E.L.D. show for Marvel TV and ABC is an intriguing proposition, beyond the general excitement that comes from the idea of a new show from the man behind Buffy and Firefly, never mind the Avengers movie. Why so intriguing, you may ask? Well, because for once, Whedon is going to have to look at things from the point of view of the authorities.

It may sound strange to say, but Whedon has traditionally been an anti-authority storyteller. Think of the characters at the heart of his various projects through the years: In each and every case, they’ve always been underdogs of some kind, and often started off as somewhat powerless tools of the powers-that-be (Literally, in the case of Dollhouse), and the overall arc of each world that he’s created has been to empower those powerless characters and change the status quo in terms of the distribution of power, whether in societal terms (Buffy) or political (Firefly and Serenity).

Whedon’s point of view consistently seems suspicious if not downright dismissive of traditional authority figures; it’s a recurring theme throughout Buffy, where not only is the gender balance is challenged, but every authority establishment is revealed to be harboring corruption and/or inept, in either case making life difficult for our hero, whether its high school, the Watchers’ Council or even higher powers up to and including the Slayer power itself. Over in Angel, meanwhile, we have a firm of lawyers that are literally working for evil, while Firefly‘s entire purpose is to glamorize the lawbreakers who recognize that the system is corrupt as they answer to a higher moral authority.

Or look at Cabin In The Woods or Dollhouse, both stories in which regular folk are treated as less-than-people by those with power in the name of… scientific progress? A better life for those who can afford it? Either way, there’s a purposeful commentary on the abuses of power in both stories that is unavoidable. Whedon, it seems, doesn’t like The Man.

(This distrust of authority even makes it into Avengers; think about the shadowy people in charge of the movie S.H.I.E.L.D. that Nick Fury butts heads with, who were willing to sacrifice everyone in New York in order to end the threat of the alien invasion. I wonder if they’ll be a big thing in the television version?)

All of this makes the idea of Whedon pursuing S.H.I.E.L.D. as a long form concern so unexpected, and so interesting; in the Marvel Universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. is The Man that Whedon normally rails against. While it’d be possible that he’s planning on detourning the concept of the series so that it remains an ultimately untrustworthy organization with a few good eggs inside working to improve it, I’d like to see him try to work against type and show what it’s like being the people in charge and not trying to screw everyone else over. It may be counter-intuitive (I feel as if we’re programmed on some level to distrust the system, not embrace it, like that), but I’m genuinely curious to see whether Whedon and cohorts could manage to tell a long-form story in which there’s no reversal of expectation or power exchange, but instead, a more traditional set up where the good guys are in charge and trying to keep the world safe for everyone else.

After all, wasn’t that ultimately the theme of Avengers, once you get down to it…?

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Comments

  • http://profiles.google.com/bmiddleton2 Brian Middleton Jr

    In the article itself, you pretty much lay out how to make SHIELD sympathetic.  The same way they did in the movie, having them be under a board of shadowy figures #clonehigh.

    When you say that, “for once, Whedon will have to” seems slightly inflammatory. 

  • A_Nominus

    of course by “shadowy figures” we mean the U.N.

  • Lyle

    I wonder how Whedon will do SHIELD also, and thought you made some interesting points.
    The thing is, SHIELD was created during a time when the government was more trusted and spies were seen as heroic characters, and SHIELD was modeled after Man from UNCLE. Still, even when people started questioning the government, Nick Fury himself and his inner circle were incorruptible and fighting against not just HYDRA, but whatever corruption existed within the government or within SHIELD itself. I have been recently annoyed by cartoons that have portrayed Nick Fury as an underhanded schemer such as in the Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon, simply because he is a spy and that’s what we think of spies now, though I guess the Ultimate version of Nick Fury can be blamed on this.
    This makes me wonder who the main characters of this show will be, since it cannot be Nick Fury, since I can’t imagine that Samuel L. Jackson would ever be in a weekly series, or Maria Hill, since Cobie Smulders is kind of busy with ‘How I Met Your Mother’, and Agent Coulson is dead (sorry if I spoiled that for anyone). But, that made me realize who the main character could be and how that could fit into Whedon’s world view. What if the main character was Mockingbird? The idea of Mockingbird is that she was a young agent who discovered that there was corruption within SHIELD, and she was not sure who she could trust, so created the Mockingbird identity to fight against it.
    I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough, though. 

  • stealthwise

    Just have several field agents who suspect a mass conspiracy, generated when Nick Fury disappears and Maria Hill (or another agent, if they can’t get Cobey Smulders from HIMYM) takes control.  Simple.

  • Rsjbbjsr

    Of course he can…he is a writer….

  • Dswynne1

     Well, you can always have the SHIELD vs. HYDYRA/AIM/etc. scenario.  I would introduce Quartermain and other well-known figures in SHIELD, like Dum-Dum and others.  They could be a part of another part of SHIELD.

  • Dswynne1

     Oh, you can always include low-level heroes in the mix, like “Heroes for Higher” and “Marvel Knights” in the mix.

  • matt

    I think it may make the most sense to set the show in the past when shield was first created. That way the writers can almost go wild with stories without having to worry about the movies drastically affecting the show

  • http://www.facebook.com/popcast Matthew ‘Matt’ Moore

    Just don’t get to attached to the various characters, I love Whedon, but he loves killing off characters =)

  • Leewan17

    Just watch alias, that should give you the formula you need for a good shield tv show. Remember Shield isn’t just bang bang slap on hand cuffs. It’s also a lot of espionage, double agents, and back stabbing. What would be awesome is if Jessica Drew or Bobbi Morris make appearances.

    A SHIELD show could easily be away to get mockingbird on TV

  • FX

    Can’t do Dum Dum, since he was in the Captain America movie.

  • RunnerX13

    Didn’t Avengers already set up that SHEILD is already outside the, when he has Fury clash heads with government officials, i.e., his bosses?   

  • Demoncat4

    if nothing else he can always make shield secretly be run by hydra like in the  comics fans will see if joss can pull off a show where the authority figures he goes against in his other works are in charge.see if he can pull it off besides dismarvel execs will be  the ones calling the shots in the end 

  • Richardcasey

    I don’t know whether I agree with the central conceit of this article. The anti authoritarian thing is there, The Watcher’s Council in Buffy, The Alliance in Firefly, but i wouldn’t say it’s “a thing”: that said, S.H.I.E.L.D are an organization that does what it wants for the most part, the shadowy figures in The Avengers being the exception. I honestly don’t think this is going to be an issue, S.H.I.E.L.D is going to be what Whedon does best, a wise cracking group of individuals going up against a variety of off kilter villains and situations. THAT’S more of a signifier of Whedon’s Autership. 

  • Richardcasey

    Of course in the comics Dugan was like Fury, in as much as he too was WAY older than he looks thanks to some serum or other, so they COULD use Dum Dum. That said, i get the feeling they’re trying to keep the show and the films separate so it probably won’t happen. But Agent Woo? Abigail Brand? THAT is more like it.

  • Wayfarer073

     How about Jasper Sitwell, I have actually been enjoying his portrayal over in Winter Soldier.  Are they still going forward with the Mockingbird pilot on ABC Family?  If not, I could see her being a nice complement with Sitwell as her partner?

  • Jonah4287

    Ooh boy you guys are going into this way to much for a show that’ll get canceled after one season like his other shows. There’s a reason why they were canceled.

  • mastermold

     I highly doubt a show about S.H.I.E.L.D. will be simply about them as the “good guys”.

  • Jim H.

     You mean his ONE show out that got canceled after the first season, as opposed to the other three shows that went 2, 5, and 7 seasons?

  • Jonah4287

    They should have lasted one season but all in all they got canceled in the end 2 to 5 seasons for a show I nothing to be happy about those are failures as follows Buffy those last few seasons was stretching it. Garbage.

  • jrau18

    Is this even English? I can’t make heads or tails of what he’s saying.

  • http://twitter.com/KarlBlackstone Karl Blackstone

    It’s simple: place it in the past and have it be COULSON-focused. Introduce Quartermain, Sharon Carter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Travis.K.Fischer Travis Kyle Fischer

    The safe bet is that Joss will play the cast as a team of agents on the ground, trying to represent SHIELD in a positive way while occasionally encountering and rooting out corruption higher up the chain.

    It shouldn’t be too hard. After all, Stargate SG-1 spent a decade being a recruitment tool for the Air Force, but they had to deal with their fair share of corrupt higher-ups as well.

  • thesnappysneezer

    Stark and Banner didn’t trust Shield and ultimately convinced Steve not to either. Shield was presented as a flawed organization with some good eggs in there and whatever bad they did was fr a good cause. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61416806 Andrew Smith

    Though Neal McDonough has appeared in a few weekly TV programmes (Tin Man, Desperate Housewives). Maybe he’s still alive and kicking (infinity formula) in the present day?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61416806 Andrew Smith

    Daisy Johnson would be ideal as a Joss Whedon protagonist.

  • http://profiles.google.com/bbilenko Boris Bilenko

    Either way I can’t wait to see a Whedon show on TV… hopefully they won’t mess with the production order too much…

  • Phodyss

    Actually, the Avengers is about a clandestine, authoritarian organization run by “liars and killers” being leveraged for the greater good by a few good people in a position to do so at great risk to themselves.  You wonder throughout which side of this divide Fury will come down on, and ultimately he defies orders to nuke Manhattan and you know that he may be Director of SHIELD, but in his bones, he’s an Avenger.  

    The show will almost certainly follow a similar line writ small (on the level of a field office, presumably).  

    Sounds pretty Whedon-y to me…  e.g., Angel Season 5, Dollhouse…

  • West2507

    I like the idea of Mockingbird fighting corruption in SHIELD–weren’t they going to develop a “SHIELD Academy” type show about a teenage Mockingbird for ABC Family?

  • FredII

    They’re bringing back Bucky in the films, if they want to they can bring back Dugan.   Coulson says in the Avengers that lots of people tried to replicate the super soldier serum, which can be used as a back door on the infinity formula.

    Would be nice if we get Clay Quartermain in this Series, but given Weadon’s track record we are likely to get our Sharon Carter fix here (if they don’t put her in Winter Soldier).

     I do wonder if part of the series will involve, the Nick Fury vs. Shield concept of someone taking over Shield and Fury and his loyal team have to go underground, or even just a rise of Norman Osborn concept (I do believe the film rights do not include the T.V. rights to the character) or some other person taking control other than fury in the film.

    Here’s hoping they figure out a way to get Coulson’s identical twin Brother, also called Coulson inot the mix. 

  • http://technicalluddite.com/ Hannele Kormano

    You can catch a glimpse in the Buffy Season 8 comic book series – very much the Slayers in a position of control, trying to keep rogues in check, on a footing approaching the equal of the big bad in terms of reach, deployment, etc.

  • FredII

    Sounds like a great opportunity to put Victoria Hand into the Mix.

  • TalleySueNYC

    It’ll be easy–S.H.I.E.L.D. is already an “underdog,” “fighting against the man” agency.

    It’s just that *this* underdog is an agency, and “the man” is the larger bureaucracy and the politicians that try to manipulate it.

    Oh, it’s true that SHIELD ends up being “the man” to *other* underdogs, but it won’t be hard at all.