Do you remember the first appearance of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Back before the agency was tracking down heavenly hammers and gamma-irradiated scientists, Director Nick Fury was keeping tabs on any potential superheroes, namely a mysterious, metal-armored flying man.
Agent Phil Coulson spent his time in 2008's Iron Man trying to just get a word in with Tony Stark, culminating in our first look at S.H.I.E.L.D. tactics.
That's what S.H.I.E.L.D. used to be: limitless funding, highly developed tech and a collection of "I can do what I want" badges.
With the recent fourth season premiere of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we've been introduced to a post-Sokovia Accords S.H.I.E.L.D. In fact, AoS is showing a more exact picture of what the Accords entail than what was mentioned in Captain America: Civil War. Lets take a look at the three biggest changes brought upon our favorite black ops team.
1) A New, More Restrictive System
- Pros: The government can now answer for everything S.H.I.E.L.D. does
- Cons: Too much bureaucratic red tape, teams not able to work as efficiently, people not able to play to their strengths, lack of flexibility and speed when timing is critical
While Coulson and May waited to meet with the new Director in Episode 2, we were hit with several classic government-agency stereotypes. On top of the quip about the break room "looking like it was decorated by someone who needs to unclench" (a jab at standard government facility layout), propaganda posters adorn the walls and the formerly busy, ever-flowing hallways of the base are marred by security checkpoints and guards.
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As for the team itself, the splitting up of May, FitzSimmons, Mack and Coulson was a strategic maneuver. May mentions that she and the others have become heads of different departments, while Simmons reveals her rapid rise to a higher clearance level was born out of distrust and fear of the new system and a desire to work her way to the top to maintain some control for her old teammates. This new S.H.I.E.L.D. has tightened its grip on its members, eliminating the unsanctioned missions and seamless interdepartmental relations that often saved lives in the past. No longer can they take off at a moment's notice; now they have to hop through miles of red tape and paperwork just to get a standard recon mission cleared. The next step up the ladder is the man in charge of the new regime: Director Jeffrey Mace.
2) A Public Relations Smile In A Suit
- Pros: He's great for PR for S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Cons: More than likely has ulterior motives, has absolutely no clue how to actually run S.H.I.E.L.D., is little more than a figurehead, no longer has unlimited funding, but funding that is tightly controlled
S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new head is an all-American cutout. Jeffrey Mace's winning smile, broad shoulders, and disarmingly good-natured attitude are the perfect ingredients for regaining the public trust in an agency that didn't detect the horrific organization known as Hydra growing within its own ranks. Mace is essential to winning that battle: He clearly states during his meeting with May and Coulson that public relations are his most important concern, and he invokes hokey, corporate mantras like "A team that trusts is a team that triumphs."
He doesn't possess the benefits Coulson enjoyed as Director, namely the boundless budget and a high level of involvement with operations. Mace cannot be the "tip of the spear" that Coulson was; it is more important for him to have plausible deniability of missions than to serve as the primary coordinator. The role of Director has moved from primarily functional to primarily political, and it's all due to the weight that now rests on the shoulders of S.H.I.E.L.D.
3) A Watchful Eye
- Pros: The public will breathe more easily
- Cons: Clueless government officials sticking their noses where it doesn't belong, skilled agents wasting time playing babysitter, not able to keep everything from the government's prying eyes like it once did, harder for S.H.I.E.L.D. to do its job in general
Once a well-kept secret, the former SSR base S.H.I.E.L.D. now calls home has become public knowledge. Steve Rogers was opposed to the Sokovia Accords primarily because they required heroes to answer to higher powers. Since they were passed, S.H.I.E.L.D. has become subject to instruction and scrutiny by the United Nations and the American government. The second episode includes several looks at a tour of the base taking place for a delegation from Congress.
As the UN now provides the funding for S.H.I.E.L.D., and Congress publicly supports the agency's return, both institutions have plenty of reason to be concerned with every aspect of it. The reason that many former benefits and practices of S.H.I.E.L.D. are missing is because it has become swamped in bureaucracy. Performance is now evaluated by the world. Coulson and his team no longer work in the darkness; they're out in the open, and in a much more tricky and dangerous world than before.
Do you think we'll ever see the old S.H.I.E.L.D. again? Can Coulson survive the new order? Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading!