With a strong four-season run, Marvel’s first foray into television, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might be facing an uncertain future. Ratings have not been quite what people hoped for and it puts the show’s future in a questionable light. This scenario creates a rather interesting new question for the Marvel Cinematic Universe moving forward. Unlike Agent Carter, which was canceled after two seasons, the characters of this show exist in the current timeline. If the show is canceled, where will these characters and the now officially in-universe resurrected organization end up?
Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson is at the center of this dilemma. A character that appeared originally in Iron Man back in 2008, the show was created around his resurrection. Spending the first season to uncover the way he came back from the dead, we are now pondering what will happen to him after the end of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. There are potential theories of what could be done with him. On the one side, many hope to see him return to the films to see how the Avengers react to his resurrection. The other side could be him becoming the Nick Fury of the TV division. Having Coulson as a liaison between various shows that take place in the MCU. Maybe all of these characters could carry similar roles, as they act as part of S.H.I.E.L.D. publically.
There are some behind-the-scenes hints at what might happen following a cancellation of the show. ABC is already adding a new Marvel show with the upcoming The Inhumans, which is co-produced by IMAX. Even though the concept of Inhumans was introduced in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it was confirmed that the show will not be a spin-off. The Inhumans will focus on the Royal Family that still lives undetected. This lead to some believing the show would be canceled and replaced by the new one. Yet, Channing Dungey, the ABC chief, did offer some insight into the future of Marvel on ABC in a recent interview. She stated that she is very “bullish” when it came to S.H.I.E.L.D. and future endeavors. This means they would want both shows to air simultaneously to benefit from the synergy. It does shine some hope for a future of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D beyond the fourth season.
The ratings show a different picture, as the dropping viewership does not help motivate viewers. Many articles stating at the “new lows” and “likely canceled” pushes forward a rather dark note on the show’s future. Fans will get depressed as sadly the TV viewership ratings depend on a very old system known as Nielsen viewers. Those with a Nielsen box at home must follow specific instructions and spend their time to watch a show so that it counts. While live ratings are down, it is making quite an impression in DVR numbers, sometimes even doubling its initial ratings.
Without considering all these elements, as it is nothing more than speculation, let’s consider what would happen if the show ended. A question was if there is a future for these characters past this specific show and there might be a hint at recent changes from comics and TV that could hint at what future could be expected. One element that dominated the third season was the “Secret Warriors” subplot that never truly came together outside of one episode. In an interview with Jeff Bell, the man behind the Marvel TV series, it was hinted at that they wanted a slow build up towards the Secret Warriors becoming a full-fledged team. This aspect could already be a considerable hint at what we can expect.
Anyone following the comics might have noticed that Secret Warriors is being brought back as part of an Inhumans line-up. The leader of the team is Daisy Johnson, who is an important character on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and is portrayed by Chloe Bennet. The timing could not be more perfect, as with that plotline still being part of the show, it would be a natural continuation. With the upcoming The Inhumans show also in production, it would further establish the need for the ABC broadcasts shows to support the inhuman aspect of the MCU.
Secret Warriors are part of S.H.I.E.L.D. but were postponed since the events of last season. Daisy is about to sign the Sokovia Accords and with the Avengers split apart after Captain America: Civil War, the organization will need its own response team. Taking this into consideration, it would make sense to have the main cast persistent of the Warrior members with the original main cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. acting as a supporting cast. Coulson could be the mentor figure for Daisy alongside Mack as moral support. Mace still acts as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fitz-Simmons act as the scientific backing of the team.
Furthermore, spin-offs are not a new concept for ABC. Recently, S.H.I.E.L.D. got a digital spin-off for Slingshot, who is played by Natalia Cordova-Buckley and ABC passed on a Most Wanted show that would have featured Nick Blood’s Lance Hunter and Adrianne Palicki’s Bobbi Morse. This show also highlighted an issue of characters leaving S.H.I.E.L.D. without knowing if the viewers will get a chance to see them again. With the Inhuman connection, it makes sense to continue with a Secret Warriors show that would also feature a recurring cast from S.H.I.E.L.D. It also would give the audience a stronger focus on powered individuals, which was a common complaint when S.H.I.E.L.D. started in its first season. If ABC is looking for a way to keep the show and try anew with its ratings, it seems like the perfect starting off point for a new direction.