Yesterday it was announced that ABC would not renew Marvel’s Agent Carter for a third season and they decided to pass on the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff called Marvel’s Most Wanted. For those of us that have been paying attention, the writing for both of these series has been on the wall for months now. Agent Carter did not have very good numbers in its second season and Most Wanted has been losing steam from day one. ABC and Marvel seem to be keeping Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. around just so it can reach syndication and I assume it won’t last much longer than this. All of this is from a company that has made genre defining movies and Netflix series, so why is it struggling on television so much?
Two days ago The Hollywood Reporter posted an interview with Captain America: Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo. They talked about how bosses Kevin Feige and Ike Perlmutter clashed heads until Feige decided to report to Disney boss Alan Horn directly. “As THR reported, Feige’s frustrations with the notoriously frugal Perlmutter came to a head during the filming of Captain America: Civil War in 2015,” quoted the article. There have been rumors about Perlmutter for years. He seems to be under the impression that Marvel is the same company it was when it went bankrupt in 1996. It seems that Marvel has knee jerk reactions to many things because of their previous bankruptcy.
Ever since Feige and Perlmutter parted ways the rumor mill has not been positive. The Inhumans movie suddenly stalled and then was taken off of the schedule all together. Marvel television and Marvel movies have largely been unable to directly interact with each other. While this might work for Daredevil or Jessica Jones they make up for it by having self contained stories. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to do that this season but it still feels weighty. Agent Carter had a strong first season but it was barely renewed the first time and the second suffered from a ‘sophomore slump’ that it wasn’t able to recover from.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is probably the most inconsistent thing Marvel has made thus far. There hasn’t been a season that has been consistently good and the series has a bad habit of meandering. There weren’t a lot of people calling for a spinoff, but Marvel hastily wrote off two of the better characters in the series, Bobbi Morse (Adrianne Palicki) and Lance Hunter (Nick Blood), without waiting for a confirmation from ABC. To be fair Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. got the rug pulled out from under it three fourths of the way through its first season with the dismantling of S.H.I.E.L.D. The show has been trying to rebrand itself since by taking on the Inhumans as the show continues struggling to define itself.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be doing well since the split, and without Perlmutter penny pinching they could offer actors raises, bring on new and interesting talent and generally become “much healthier, happier” says Joe, paving the way for “really compelling choices.” Marvel television has had what is arguably the first failure that Marvel has had since it started this grand experiment back in 2008. Agent Carter spent most of May 12th treading on twitter as people mourn the loss of yet another amazing woman on the small screen. The divide between Marvel TV at ABC and the company seems to be getting worse. The Marvel Cinematic Universe won’t even acknowledge that Agent Phil Coulson is alive or that a version of S.H.I.E.L.D. exists. The Marvel universe is trying, to almost comical levels, to keep the TV and movie universes separate. Daredevil and Jessica Jones make up for it in quality but unfortunately Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.is only ‘pretty good’ at best.
Agent Carter and Most Wanted are two of the first casualties of the ongoing tensions within Marvel when it comes to the movie and television universes. While we don’t know what is in the future for Marvel television on the small screen (aside from the Cloak and Dagger series they are making at Freeform), unless the people in charge realize they don’t have to act like the Marvel that filed for bankruptcy in 1996 I don’t see it changing.
While the Civil War between Iron Man and Captain America might be over, it seems the one within Marvel itself rages on and I sadly expect there will be more casualties along the way.