I've said it many times and I'll say it again, you could argue for days on end on which is better, Arrow or The Flash. So I won't get that debate started. However, there is a clear division in better product when it comes to the two CW programs and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
All three shows have had its ups and downs and for the most part its formulaic. A.O.S. was just boring and inconsequential until Captain America: The Winter Soldier changed that and made things have weight, it added suspense. Arrow and [The Flash](series:1068303) pick up once we know who our villain of the season is (though I'm in the small minority that thinks Arrow has been interesting since the end of the first episode of the current season, but, whatever).
Recently, both the CW shows have really picked up and feel like things are getting big. On [Arrow](series:720988), everything is coming down around Oliver and Team Arrow is needed to be at its strongest. For The Flash, all of the mysteries are all coming undone and the consequences of these discoveries are beginning to be felt. A.O.S....doesn't really have much in terms of good story going for it.
The best parts of the show, I find, are the material with Skye. It's what has gelled the series together so far very well. Not only is her character better, but she actually is bringing something to the story and has brought upon an amazing turn-of-events that is the discovery of [The Inhumans](movie:910490) and Terrigenesis. The Inhuman material made everything from the discovery of the Diviner up through Episode 14, "Love in the Time of Hydra" really interesting. Everything else was kind of eh, with the stuff between Mockingbird and Hunter just coming and going and FitzSimmons just sort of being there for the sake of being there.
There's a clear difference between the two groups, though. The CW shows run in their own universe, as in, they'll never come in contact with the movies as many fans would have hoped. Obviously, A.O.S. operates in the MCU and the effects of it are occasionally felt, as in the case of H.Y.D.R.A. doing things and Lady Sif making a cameo every now and again. Herein is where the problem exists.
Because of the fact that the CW shows operate in their own little realm, it's extremely clear that the writers are free to basically do whatever they want with the characters given to them. And it has paid of big time. Who would have given a crap about a character like Deadshot or Cisco Ramone if it weren't for the liberties the writers were able to take because the higher-ups don't need to follow the continuity of the movie? Sure, we can't see characters like Batman or Superman, but, haven't we seen enough of them already? How much more could they bring to a story? If anything, they would keep the focus away from the Arrow and the Flash. Cameos are fun, but are meant to be just cameos, and never overshadow our main characters.
The clear establishment of the two shows working in unison to create a cause and effect relationship between the two has allowed them to do so many things that didn't really seem possible before. It's the same producers and writers that are making the show so it's very easy for them to keep routine continuity in check. Not only that, but the shows run a day apart. If something big happens, it'll only be a matter of time until we feel it in the sister show.
Sadly, I don't think that Agents of SHIELD has that same luck. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the fact that the movies have an impact on the show. It makes things feel very connected and keeps everything fresh for the most part. But, then there are times (like now) where it really just feels like the show is meandering around nothing while waiting for "Age of Ultron" to premiere before making its big move. The same thing happened last year, but that only worked because nobody knew what was going to happen in Cap 2. The same cannot be said for "Age of Ultron," where we know a significant amount of information about the movie and how it is going to eventually affect the MCU, undoubtedly leading us into (*groans*) "Civil War." That's like saying "The events in Cap 2 are going to lead the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D." Uh...thanks?
But this is a discussion for another day.
My point is that A.O.S. had a great thing going for it with its focus on the Inhumans. It felt like it was its own show, and had occassional little lines thrown in to remind us that this was a part of the MCU. That's fine, but, we haven't had anything regarding the MCU on Earth in the movies since Cap 2. So, yeah, the show did have to stand on its own and that was when it was at its most innovative. Only when it was directly effected by the MCU was it at its best.
Think back to the other times it tied into the movies. The Extremis material? That was lame. The Thor 2 tie-in? Extremely boring. But when S.H.I.E.L.D. was directly affected? That's what I'm talking about. And then...well it had to find its own groove without the backing of the movies. Okay, so, why not focus on Skye and explore the whole new world that her character opens?
And then grind to a halt right as things get interesting by introducing "another S.H.I.E.L.D." I've seen many people online say that this material adds tension but I have to respectfully disagree. I find the material with Gonzales to be extremely boring. His character is trying to be Nick Fury-lite in that he has to go along with the mission and will not falter from the mission. Plus, what's the point? If the main story of the season is meant to be the Inhumans, then why bring in the other S.H.I.E.L.D.? Why bring on a whole other set of characters when we're beginning to learn more about a whole new RACE of beings? Making Mockingbird and Mack become "villains but not really" came right out of nowhere. Mockingbird was already cleared as a good guy and she even said that she'd been working for Coulson the whole time she was in with H.Y.D.R.A.
My fear is that the other S.H.I.E.L.D. has been brought on for the fallout of "Age of Ultron," and is supposed to be the televised spark for "Civil War." Even typing that feels stupid.
In the movies, yes, it's going to make sense that "Civil War" happens. Tony Stark will feel guilty about what he's done and will want to turn himself in and do whatever he can to stop the further destruction of Earth. Funny, since the whole reason he created Ultron WAS TO NULLIFY THE NEED FOR SUPER-HEROES. Ergh. Cap is going to side against him and blah blah blah Spider-Man or something. A.O.S. will, obviously, be effected by this, as no doubt our team is going to be split down the middle and going to have to choose a side. An interesting route to go about that would be to introduce more Inhumans and have them be targeted as a threat by the United States government, or some other government. And it would be at this point that you could introduce a "second" S.H.I.E.L.D.
This version of the organization would be there, funded by Tony Stark no doubt, to try and detain the Inhumans. And it would make sense in the grand scheme of things because they would be outed as Inhumans due to the fact that we would already know about [Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch](movie:1081109) (yes, I know Marvel hasn't technically called them Inhuman yet, but in "AXIS #6/7"--I can't remember, it was boring anyway--they changed their origin so that's a really stupid thing too) and their wondrous abilities. Boom. It falls right in place with the timeline of the MCU and doesn't waste our time with the interesting story we have now.
Because right now, I get significantly bored whenever they cut back to "the real S.H.I.E.L.D." because it feels completely inconsequential and random to what is really going on: Skye's training and Coulson's hunting for her. They could easily have written in a group of people that are hunting the Inhumans, like a mercenary group or possible some ancient nomads or something, which would heighten the tension further as Skye would be over in not-Atillan and Coulson's team would be in a race against the other group to find her rather than half the team twiddling their thumbs with a stupid box that has information that the audience probably knows about already or could learn about if they weren't wasting their freaking time with pointless flashbacks to how the "real S.H.I.E.L.D." was formed.
You know what two shows are using their time wisely, and even rectifying really boring plot threads? The two CW shows! Whereas before Laurel as the Canary felt random and forced, now she has come into her own character following the episode "Canaries" and is learning the hard way what it is to be a vigilante. The random bits and pieces of Firestorm was saw finally came to a head in the best two episodes of The Flash that resulted in a pretty sweet, and brief, team-up of Firestorm and the Flash. Not only that, but both shows also feature significantly menacing villains, complex main characters, and side-characters that we are emotionally attatched to because we don't have to focus on various different plot points that sometimes feel pointless.
A.O.S. doesn't seem to be going anywhere right now because it is waiting for "Age of Ultron" to finally come around to kick it back into gear and connect the dots with the rest of the MCU, when that never had to happen at all. The show was perfectly fine where it was. If anything, the consequences of "Age of Ultron" in A.O.S. don't have to be about "Civil War" or anything like that at all, it could rather be about a relief effort the team has to make showing us the tragedy of these super-beings that may-or-may-not be just like Skye to add some more tension to the group over how they should handle her should they reclaim her. Instead we have some stupid divided organization that comes right the heck out of nowhere to take twenty minutes of time that could be spent developing the history of the Inhumans and the heightening tension of Coulson's daring pursuit of Skye once again.
I have no doubt that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will find a way to cleverly tie in Marvel's biggest movie since 2012 and will end the season on a high-note. I will, however, abstain any high praises the show had about a month ago for the hard right turn we have taken into "why are focusing on these characters" and "what about the Inhumans?" Instead, those high praises will go back over to the CW shows as they are finding their focus and are about to hit their stride as they close out their seasons with major implications to follow, particularly in regards to The Flash in how time-travel will affect everything and on Arrow where the characters are making very scary life-threatening choices for the sake of their friends.
Marvel, you're confusing me with both your comics (what the heck even IS "Secret Wars" anyway?) and your television product. I pray that Daredevil and its ilk are like the Moon Knight in current comic books--in continuity, but not too related to muck up the plot from time to time.