Are Agents of SHIELD Inhumans Hurting the Show?

Have these controversial characters been driving off viewers?

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD

ABC’s Agents of SHIELD is well into its third season now, and has picked up where season two left off: establishing the Inhumans as a force within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite not being able to use the Inhumans royal family or most of the other major characters from the comics, the show has based a number of third season plotlines on the Inhumans and the search for new Inhumans who are awakening due to events in the season two finale.

While there are a lot of potentially interesting storylines that could involve the Agents of SHIELD Inhumans, some fans are complaining that the show is spending too much time dealing with them instead of more recognizable Marvel villains who traditionally would be in SHIELD’s way. This is compounded by the fact that the Inhumans movie isn’t scheduled to come out until 2019, assuming that you don’t believe rumors that it has been cancelled.

Is this focus on the Inhumans dragging the show down?

Terrigen Fallout

Skye, aka Daisy Johnson, was the first Agents of SHIELD Inhuman

Skye, aka Daisy Johnson, was the first Agents of SHIELD Inhuman

The season two Agents of SHIELD finale introduced wild Terrigen into the world, though in a different manner than the Terrigen bomb that was featured in the comics. Season three picked up a few months later, with new Inhumans appearing in the world and SHIELD trying to locate and assess them before a sinister mystery group makes them disappear. At the time, it seemed like a fairly solid start to the season and tried to answer questions about the fallout of season two.

The Inhuman quest seems to be the main plotline for the new season. Agent Daisy Johnson (formerly Skye) is leading a new Inhuman taskforce known as the Secret Warriors (which begins with her being the only member), while comics villain Lash seems to be the big bad of the season. Other plotlines have emerged, but they are largely secondary to the Inhumans drive. This isn’t bad in theory, since it does provide a central theme to tie the season together.

The problem is that the whole Inhumans plot in Agents of SHIELD seems to be progressing too quickly. Projections within the show state that the Terrigen could spread around the world in as little as 18 months, meaning that all of the latent Inhumans in the world might be awakening by the beginning of 2017. Even if the Inhumans film hadn’t been pushed back from its original 2018 release date, it seems like this timeline might spoil the “hidden world” feeling that the Inhumans have always enjoyed by flooding the world with Inhumans before the royal family is ever introduced.

Too Much, Too Soon?

Agents of SHIELD Inhumans

Fortunately, Marvel seems to be stepping back a little with its focus on the Agents of SHIELD Inhumans. Last week’s “4,722 Hours” returned to a previous plot point from earlier in the season, revealing more about the portal that swallowed up Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and her time on the other side. This certainly isn’t the end of the Inhumans story, but it shows that Marvel isn’t going to focus solely on the Inhumans arc for the entire season.

Most likely, the season’s structure will be similar to that of season one; the first part of the season will establish plot elements that will fuel the end of the season. The big difference is that this season of Agents of SHIELD won’t have a film like Captain America: The Winter Soldier to provide it with a major turning point that ties in with the plot. Instead, the season’s culmination will likely rely on self-contained plotting as SHIELD (and possibly other groups such as HYDRA) faces off against the big bad. Given that it’s unlikely that the big bad of the season will change from the current Inhuman antagonist Lash, all of the sometimes overwhelming Inhuman focus now is a necessary evil to ensure that the finale works out the way the studio wants.

Spinning Off the Agents of SHIELD Inhumans

Agents of SHIELD Inhumans

Of course, it’s also possible that Marvel is setting the stage for Inhumans to appear elsewhere instead of just on Agents of SHIELD. Rumors have been circulating for months that Marvel is considering a Ms. Marvel TV show; the character is an Inhuman in the comics, so its possible that much of her backstory will be set up in this season of SHIELD. There could also be other Inhuman appearances in upcoming Marvel movies, allowing the race to hit the big screen before the Inhumans movie actually arrives.

Some may scoff at the idea of Inhumans appearing in the movies before the Inhumans movie, but it could be a way of introducing bits of the royal family lore to moviegoing audiences who don’t watch Agents of SHIELD. It would also allow for superpowered characters without the need for Fox’s “mutant” license (an option that has been speculated on before.) It may also explain recent comments saying that the events of Agents of SHIELD would start affecting the movies more in the future… the release of Terrigen into the world on Agents of SHIELD could be a catalyst for a few heroes (or villains) to gain their powers.

Right now this is largely just speculation, of course. Still, it’s likely that the current focus on Inhumans is leading to some sort of a payoff in the long term instead of just being the latest obsession of Marvel TV.