'Agents of SHIELD' doesn't need more Marvel

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"Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" had a lot of pressure on it as a freshman drama, and its first season got off to a somewhat rocky start. Though the fall finale proved that the series is ready for some serious forward momentum, the show's got a long way to go to prove itself as one of the best of the 2013-14 season.

The problems with "Agents of SHIELD" lie in its lack of a clear direction and character development, not in its lack of connection to the Marvel Universe. However, in an interview with Comic Book Resources, executive producer Jeffrey Bell says that the series is going to get a bigger dosage of the Marvel comics going forward.

"I would say, in general, I think fans will experience the episodes as being a bit more 'Marvel,'" he says. "I think we're always looking to find characters either from the Marvel movie universe or the comic universe that fans would recognize. I think bringing the tension and suspense of the movies is something that we're looking to do as our characters become more confident. ... I think on a few levels, fans will feel it's moving a bit more in the Marvel direction."

There has been a lot of focus in Season 1 about the way that "Agents of SHIELD" fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With this project, more than the movies, is an opportunity for the series to cram in as many Marvel Comics nods as Disney wants. From Nick Fury's appearance to the "Thor: The Dark World" crossover episode to the introductions of Victoria Hand and Graviton, "Agents of SHIELD" has been pretty Marvel-ous already.

But more Marvel is not what the show needs. In fact, a focus on the need to add more Marvel to "Agents of SHIELD" could create more problems than solutions. Since it doesn't yet feel like the core characters on the ABC drama have fully clicked with audiences, the focus should be on that instead of having this continue to be a puzzle piece that connects all the necessary parts of the Marvel universe.

While adding more Marvel elements to "Agents of SHIELD" is welcome and should happen gradually, that should not be the focus of the show going forward. The series needs to find a way to stand on its own legs, and it still hasn't yet. The fact that people are still waiting for Iron Man or Captain America or even Hawkeye and Black Widow to show up on the show proves that adding too much Marvel will just be a distraction for viewers. "Agents of SHIELD" needs to create its own story first before taking threads from too many other ones.

Fortunately the show is already doing a good job of starting to narrow its vision. In episode 10, "The Bridge," several extraneous storylines came together. With Coulson now in Centipede's control and that organization delving into the mystery of his death and rebirth, Big Questions are soon to be answered (or so ABC has implied). And with every episode, characters like Ward and Skye and FitzSimmons are coming into their own more, making the show feel more like a standalone project and less like connective tissue. Honestly, we like the show best when it's just being itself.

Please, powers-that-be at ABC, Marvel and Disney, don't lose sight of the fact that a good story comes before a project acting as nerd bait. While introducing more Marvel characters in "Agents of SHIELD" likely translates into selling more comic books and action figures, the focus in this show should just be on it being a great TV series. Too often have the first 10 episodes of Season 1 just felt like fan service. It's time for people to stop tuning in in the hopes of seeing a new surprise Marvel character and instead be tuning in because they want to see what going to happen next with Coulson's team.

"Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" returns from its holiday break at 8 p.m. Jan. 7 on ABC.

Photo/Video credit: ABC