[WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the latest season of Agents of SHIELD and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Tread with caution]
President John F. Kennedy said it best over fifty years ago: "we stand on the verge of a new frontier." And while he was talking about a new frontier of space exploration and cultural change, the entertainment industry today is on the verge of a new frontier in storytelling. Not only with the birth of the shared universe (currently being applied to not only Marvel and DC but also Star Wars and the classic Universal Monsters), but also with the boom of the television event series.
No longer are television shows expected to run as many as 22 episodes a year for multiple years, or as few as two to three episodes to be classified as a "mini series." Now you can have a series act as one long, singular storyline for 6-13 episodes for just the one time (or repeated as needed and/or demanded) and the television audience is just as committed and enthralled. Fox's 24 was recently resurrected with the event series 24: Live Another Day. Heroes is returning for the event series Heroes: Reborn and The X-Files is also making a return in event series form. Now, that's not to say all event series need to be resurrected forms of shows from television's past. CBS aired the original event series Hostages and, closer to home, Marvel and ABC had the 8 episode series Agent Carter.
Agent Carter has since been renewed for another go - not necessarily as a second season, but more accurately as just another event series for the same character. It's clear to see that the time of the event series is here. They are cheaper to produce as they don't require as many episodes, and the storylines can be more focused and direct since you don't need to flesh them out over 22+ episodes (which are often bogged down with multiple subplots and those damned filler episodes).
Marvel Studios (and parent company Disney) have achieved an incredible feat. What began with the release of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008 became the grand masterpiece of shared universe films in The Avengers. And it has since gotten bigger, better and more epic with the cosmic expansion in Guardians of the Galaxy and the recent blockbuster release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. The gigantic, innovative and ambitious plan doesn't stop there, though. Not only is Marvel dominating the box office with their shared universe films, but they have also expanded into television with Agents of SHIELD, the aforementioned Agent Carter and the digitally streaming Netflix powerhouse, Daredevil. As everyone likely reading this knows, Daredevil is, itself, simply the first in a series of Netflix shows that will see the likes of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and even (rumor has it) The Punisher joining forces in their own event series based on The Defenders.
But what can Marvel and their network television partner, ABC, do next?
Agents of SHIELD just got renewed for a third season, with Agent Carter coming back to bridge the winter hiatus, but Marvel fans demand more television programming. Especially with competitor DC and Warner Bros. really cornering that market with their ever increasing shared television universe. Arrow and spin-off series The Flash have been crushing the demographic and their next spin-off, Legends of Tomorrow, is set to equal those results. Also, if CBS's upcoming Supergirl and TNT's Titans serve as crossovers (as has been reported) then DC has an unstoppable juggernaut on its hands. How can Marvel compete with that when their only network television forays have been the mildly received SHIELD and Agent Carter?
Well, as director Phil Coulson would say:
Of course, I'm not talking about the team that has been dominating the box office as of late. I'm talking about the lesser known - yet equally effective - team that resides on the opposite side of the country from Avengers Tower.
THE WEST COAST AVENGERS
The Avengers can't be everywhere at once, so it made sense to Marvel decades ago to have an alternate team of Earth's mightiest heroes. Led by Hawkeye and Mockingbird, the team (like the east coast Avengers) featured an alternating roster of characters that often included the likes of Tigra, The Vision, Wonder Man, the US Agent, Iron Man (Jim Rhodes edition), Moon Knight, Firebird, Spider-Woman and so on and so forth.
Why would the West Coast Avengers be a necessary fit for the MCTVU? (See what I did there? The Marvel Cinematic Television Universe?)
Agents of SHIELD, although a decent show with plenty of appeal over the course of it's two seasons, has suffered from one major flaw over all others, and that's the lack of genuinely intriguing characters from the Marvel Universe. A superhero show without superheroes, as it was frequently and critically tagged in season one, was a tough enough sell, but it managed to hold its own after a while. That being said, it can't be denied that there's a huge disconnect from what audiences of the MCU have come to expect. Even the films have had a tough act to follow since The Avengers, which is why (I think, at least) the rather inaccurately named CAPTAIN AMERICA: Civil War seems to be essentially another Avengers movie rather than a direct follow up to The Winter Soldier.
The audience wants to see action, adventure and more than anything else...team ups! Agents of SHIELD is doing a fine enough job of giving the audience some additional programming throughout the movie-lull during fall and spring, and they have even introduced some more characters from the comics (though I could argue that they've been under utilized and, in some cases, misplaced for their potential as characters). However, in the grand scheme of the MCU, Agents of SHIELD is pretty much a glorified filler episode. It's there to keep you entertained, but it doesn't hold your attention as much as something more directly tied to the main story.
Agent Carter had a better approach in that it was an event series. It focused it's efforts on one story told over the course of 8 (mostly uninterrupted) episodes and it concluded that story. The problem I had with Agent Carter, though still a fairly enjoyable eight hours, was that it didn't do anything to serve the greater narrative. It was simply there to give more screen time to some of the supporting characters you enjoyed from Captain America: The First Avenger and drop some clever Easter eggs in your lap (such as Ivan Vanko's father working at Stark Enterprises).
So that brings us back to the crux of why the West Coast Avengers are the saving grace for Marvel and ABC's television foray. The key word here, when determining the success rate, is AVENGERS. It's what people want to see. It's incredibly unlikely that the West Coast Avengers will ever see the silver screen. As a concept it's too redundant to run alongside the current Avengers films. And if they ever alter the direction of those films following the end of its core actors' contracts then it will likely be as a launchpad for The New Avengers.
However, the West Coast Avengers are primed for television for a number of different reasons. Reason 1: the television medium eliminates the redundancy of the concept. Reason 2: it's mostly comprised of second and third tier Marvel characters who are best utilized in the television medium. And Reason 3: it brings that much needed Avengers title to ABC to secure a massive ratings boost.
So what Marvel characters would be in The West Coast Avengers and how would it tie into the MCU?
As the team leader it would be extremely difficult to do this without Hawkeye. Too far fetched, you say? Not at all. Jeremy Renner has actually expressed interest in guest starring on Agents of SHIELD and he clearly enjoys playing the character. He was off to a rough start with a back burnered introduction in The Avengers but he stepped up his game and was a power player in Age of Ultron. When we last left him he seemed to be semi-retired from The Avengers as he returned home to his family, but he's set to appear in Captain America: Civil War and I'm sure at least one of the Infinity War films is in his contract. So it's a safe bet that when called upon Agent Barton can make that trip out west.
Mockingbird, aka Bobbi Morse, aka Adrianne Palicki from Agents of SHIELD, is one of the co-founders of the West Coast Avengers. She was also Hawkeye's wife at the time (though that subplot is unlikely as both characters currently have significant others in the MCU). Mockingbird was hands down one of the best additions to SHIELD's second season and a reported spin-off apparently came and went in favor of keeping her on the core team. However, a side trip to California wouldn't be out of the question for a limited eight episode arc. And her involvement would definitely be a much needed boost for tying Agents of SHIELD to the overall MCU.
Wonder Man (aka Simon Williams) was a long-time core member of the West Coast Avengers. Originally granted superpowers in an experiment by Baron Zemo, Wonder Man began life as a bad guy but repents. That subplot would play heavily into these eight episodes as he acts as a mole within the team only to become a full fledged ally by its end (or possibly be killed off should Marvel decide to play it that way). His powers are unstable and require treatments, which would really play up the motivation for his subterfuge.
It was suggested on the Internet that the character Raina in Agents of SHIELD became Tigra after her transformation during the Inhumans storyline this past season. However, they never referred to her by that name, her powers that she developed weren't the same and her appearance was more porcupine like than feline. Also, she got killed off rather abruptly so that the actress could go on to be miscast as Tulip in AMC's Preacher series. So I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Raina wasn't Tigra and since she's also an original team member the series couldn't properly be done without her. Now, Agents of SHIELD did end it's second season with the cliffhanger that more Inhumans will soon be on the rise, so her origin can be slightly altered to tie in with that if they want.
John Walker (no...I'm not even kidding...his name is Johnny Walker...I can see that being a bit of banter) was given superpowers and turned in to the Super Patriot for a short time. He later became a replacement Captain America and eventually the U.S. Agent. His iconic black, white and red uniform is a discarded former Captain America uniform (Cap's SHIELD costume from The Winter Soldier, anyone?) U.S. Agent is a bit mentally unstable as he was developed to be the anti Cap. He's placed in the West Coast Avengers by the government to monitor them. I see a lot of potential there.
Lastly, as far as team members go for this bout, we come to Spider-Woman. Yes, I'm well aware that Jessica Drew was not the version of the character that appeared in the comics, however, she is both the original and current incarnation of the character so it would make the most sense to use her. That said, Sony might have their own plans for her as they were kicking around the idea of a female spin-off to their Spider-Man films. But with the new alliance they formed with Marvel it would be a smart bet to kick her over to the TV division until they've reestablished their credibility with the new Spider-Man reboot.
So we have the team that would comprise a first outing on television, but now begs the question:
WHO WOULD THEY FIGHT?!
Well, for that, we can actually (and quite conveniently) return to a couple of discarded characters from the first season of Agents of SHIELD (great for continuity!!!!)
Remember Dr. Franklin Hall from the third episode of Agents of SHIELD? He fell into his gravity machine after it went unstable and it was hinted that he was transformed into Graviton, one of the Avengers most frequent villains and (conveniently) one of the first villains that the West Coast Avengers squared off against. He was last seen at the end of season one in the possession of Ian Quinn and the two have not reemerged since. I think it's time, with the help of a bigger story and (hopefully) a bigger budget, to give Graviton his due.
And that then brings us to...
If you're going to bring back Graviton then you naturally have to bring back Ian Quinn to explain where he came from. Now, Quinn was kind of a wild card. He wasn't from the comics (that I know of) and he wasn't particularly interesting. So what do you do with him. Simply enough...you have him replace the character of Curtiss Jackson as the head of Power Broker, Inc. In the comics, Power Broker, Inc. was an evil organization that gave people superpowers and it would also be a great story set-up for how Wonder Man gets his powers (as Baron Zemo is slated to be in...and probably die in...Civil War).
And lastly, you can't have Power Broker, Inc. without...
DR. KARL MALUS
Dr. Malus is your stereotypical mad scientist and the one who did all the creepy science that gave people their powers. With a bit of an MCU update he'd be a great addition to this evil team...that is until Graviton gets pissed and probably kills him and Quinn before busting out for the climactic season finale battle. ALL SYSTEMS GO!
In conclusion, Marvel (I hope somebody from the top of the food chain is reading this) - I think The West Coast Avengers (or Avengers: West Coast) would be a great event series because it would give the audience what it wants (action, special effects and Avengers), it would give ABC what it wants (ratings) and it would give you what you want (power-mad global entertainment domination).
So what do you all think?