Published in Speculative Faith on May 20, 2020.
It’s almost a miracle that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is returning for a seventh season on May 27. A little over a year after The Avengers brought together “Earth’s mightiest heroes” in 2012, cementing the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that had begun in 2008, this little show began as an attempt to give fans a low-level look at the more mundane goings-on in the vaunted world the movies had established.
Even though the show debuted to much fanfare, its ratings and viewership have declined consistently over the six seasons it has been on the air. It pains me to point this out because the best way I can describe Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is to say that the show is home for me. The world of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a place in which I am comfortable existing. It is a place I enjoy returning to again and again despite ever-present threats and danger. In that sense, it is on a level with the Narnia books, the Lord of the Rings movies, and the Dark Knight Trilogy—at least in my head. I never tire of spending time in a story in which skilled agents are “holding the line between the world and the much weirder world.”
I think that I am not alone. Despite steadily declining viewership numbers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a fiercely loyal following which has placed it in the top 0.03 percent of TV shows based on fan interaction with the show’s brand online—making it more popular than any of Marvel’s Netflix shows and most of DC’s television offerings. Despite its perceived disadvantages—inconsistent tie-ins to the larger MCU and never landing an appearance with any of the Avengers on air—Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the little show that could. And, as its storyline finally draws to a close (at least for now), I’ve been thinking about its enduring legacy and why the show persists.