On Agents of SHIELD, Coulson’s Big Reveal, and Story Arcs

agents of shield agent coulson marvel clark gregg inhumans kree story arcs review analysis rewrite

So, Agents of SHIELD. 

I watched the show each week, more or less. It was… variable for the first few months, but after a while it did pick up in quality. Certainly, by the end, it had gotten quite good. Not perfect, admittedly, but quite good.

But! I think that it could have been better. Obviously. I am arrogant like this, and believe everything could be done better if it was done my way. (It could be)

Here, specifically, I’m thinking about something which occurred in the closing scenes of the finale episode, so… spoilers, I suppose, possibly. I left this a while to make sure that wouldn’t be an issue, but it’s always possible.

Right then, final scenes. They tried to set up some twists and turns for the next series, with little cliffhanger moments. It got a little bit too convoluted for my liking, to be honest – I think they would have been better off ending on the ‘hero shot’ of the team together in the plane, but whatever, suspense is fine.

One of the scenes stood out a little bit, and it got me thinking. Essentially, it implies that Coulson has gone crazy, and it’s meant to be a big moment. I have a screenshot, look.

agents of shield season 1 beginning of the end cliffhanger alien writing kree inhumans agent phil coulson clark gregg

Basically, these patterns that he’s drawing indicates he’s not of sound mind. We know this because earlier in the episode someone else was drawing them, and they were very clearly not of sound mind.

But what I’m wondering is if there was a better way to present this and to seed it into the series.

You know how some people doodle idly? Just scribbling, that sort of thing? Well, I’m thinking maybe Coulson could have been doing that throughout the series.

In a scene where he’s in a meeting maybe, he’s just drawing those patterns. Just talking to people, doodling, scribbling. It’d be presented as a sort of character tic, and it wouldn’t even look very weird; the other characters wouldn’t think a great deal of it, and nor would the audience. It wouldn’t even have to have that much attention drawn to it; he wouldn’t have to do it every episode, maybe just every so often.

That would probably give this reveal a bigger impact then, because it’s got more significance. It has the weight of Coulson’s actions over the series carried upon it.

(Although having said that I’d have changed the actual reveal. Rather than showing Coulson drawing on the wall, I’d have May or Fitzsimmons doing inventory, looking at the identical drawings that Garrett did, and then putting two and two together – realising Coulson had been crazy since the start. Your cliffhanger would then be their realisation. The fact the audience would share this realisation would serve to strengthen it, methinks)

What this then lead me to thinking about was story arcs as a whole though, and particularly in this show.

Story arcs can be quite difficult to pull off properly, I think. The sort of ‘build up to a reveal’ kind anyway, with foreshadowing and linking to things. You can kinda see that here, in SHIELD. It doesn’t always work; they head in certain directions, and twist in ways that don’t always seem thought out. Little details get left behind along the way, and things aren’t always clear what the idea was.

Still they made a pretty good stab at it. It’s hard to tell exactly how planned out it was, because it did stumble a bit. Planning definitely helps with these things, especially in a show where there’s lots of different writers. You can sort of see in Doctor Who, where they only planned out the ‘architecture’ of the arc, where it kinda falls down a bit in places. (A shame really, because if the arc of Matt Smith’s last few years had been tightened up a bit, it’d probably be remembered as one of the best parts of 50 years of television)

It’s probably safer to lean more towards the subtle mentions kind of thing, like Bad Wolf in Doctor Who’s first year. That paid off, and it worked, and it was never at the expense of anything else.

I think if (when!) I work in television, on a long-running TV show, I’d want to at least try the more complex plotted arc, where everything is intricate and well thought out. It’d take a lot of planning though. And I wonder if, depending on how it’s presented, it would actually work for an audience. Maybe you’d lose interest. Or, hopefully, you’d better sustain interest over a long time.

This got a bit rambly, didn’t it? Whatever.

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