|Image Courtesy en.wikipedia.org|
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot feels like something of a proof-of-concept: Marvel Studios and ABC are interested in finding new and innovative ways to produce and present their content, and Slingshot offers a chance to see whether or not a short series (the runtime is less than a TV episode) fleshing out a side character is a viable option for presenting content.
Personally, I think the “gamble” most definitely paid off.
Slingshot tries to do a lot with very little. The number of characters is limited to those who have already appeared on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (plus a couple faceless thugs). The series focuses on Elena, a.k.a. “Yo-Yo,” who up to this point has been largely relegated to the background, thus effectively doubling her screen-time to-date and giving her much more of a central role. The plot is somewhat recycled from her introduction in season 3, though rather than a simple rehash it moves in a new direction—Ramon, the man who killed her cousin is now an arms dealer looking to bring a new weapon into America. The weapon Ramon is selling to the Watchdogs is recycled from season 1—it is pretty much the 0-8-4 Tesseract-powered weapon designed by Hydra for the Peruvian government. Even the effects are largely recycled from previous episodes; the most unique shot is when Yo-Yo races the energy bolt at the very end (which, admittedly, is something I don’t recall seeing from any other movie/series with a speedster—if I’m wrong, let me know).
For the most part, the series does accomplish its objective. Yo-Yo’s character feels much more defined after watching her headline her own 30-minute series than from her handful of background appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The plot of her attempt at revenge backfiring and Daisy needing to rescue her is engaging. I was concerned about how they would work this into the narrative with regard to relationships that have already further developed in season 4 (considering that this takes place between seasons 3 and 4), but they do a good job of working it into that chronology: the agents mistrust Mace even more at this moment; Fitz and Simmons are still working out the bugs with their relationship. The one relationship that I was expecting to see a little more out of was that of Mack and Yo-Yo, considering how rocky they seem at the beginning of the season.
One of my favorite bits in the series (I am a “shared universe junkie,” after all) is when Yo-Yo is signing the Accords and Mace lays out exactly what the alternative is: either she signs the Accords or he calls Secretary Ross who has her thrown into the Raft for the foreseeable future. In Captain America: Civil War, the Avengers were given the option of signing or retiring; clearly Inhumans aren’t quite popular or famous enough to require that level of tact.
Just about everything in the series worked well. The plotting was very tight. Character interactions were natural. Action sequences were fun. There were a couple lines of dialogue that felt a little ham-fisted, such as Ramon telling Yo-Yo that she’s the one abusing power, but for the most part everything fit together well. I really liked the dichotomy they created between positive and negative: everyone is excited for Yo-Yo to sign the Accords… except Yo-Yo herself; Fitz and Simmons think the new watch/communicator/GPS is so cool… but it’s really just another way for S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep tabs on her. To be completely honest, my biggest complaints were with the platform itself (and that could be on my end).
Unfortunately, my internet connection is terrible, so the video quality was awful for the entire series. I suspect that if I had a better connection it would have looked much better, but I would have appreciated if they made it available in a format similar to YouTube, rather than Netflix (though even Netflix usually has a better picture quality than this did).
All in all, I really enjoyed this series. I liked seeing Yo-Yo in more of a central role, considering that she is unlikely to get the opportunity in the regular series. The beginning of her “partnership” with Daisy was fun to explore. The action was good. And the added connective tissue is always nice.
I don’t know what Marvel TV and ABC will consider to be a level for this series to reach. I assume they will be tracking the views, and I assume they will not be expecting more than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s usual numbers for “live + 7” (live audience plus those who watch via DVR within 7 days). Personally, I would consider around half of that to be enough to make this a “success;” if it reaches the “live + 7” or exceeds it, I would actually start asking whether Slingshot has merit as an ABC series! If it reaches around half the “live + 7,” I would consider that an indication that people are interested in and want to watch additional content in the form of short series about lesser characters.
If this does succeed and Marvel and ABC decide to produce more of these digital series, what characters would you like to see? The most obvious answer is Deathlok, considering that we haven’t seen him in over a season. Daisy is another option, particularly if they use it to flesh out some of her time on the run, though I don’t think they will do that since Daisy is one of the 2 or 3 main characters. If they do not explore Mace’s background in the back half of the season, his Vienna experience would be an interesting digital series, but that will probably be explored in the series. If I had to pick another character/group that’s already established (in addition to Deathlok), I would make a digital series about Agent Blake and the Watchdogs: why are they so opposed to the Inhumans? The Watchdogs do have a connection to Senator Nadeer, so these questions may be answered in the second half of the season, but a digital series would help flesh out their history before then.
However, even more than existing characters, I think this would be a good way to introduce new heroes, particularly if they want to put together a new Secret Warriors team in the second half of the season. Eden Fesi, a.k.a. “Manifold,” was teased last season, so he could be given his own series. Druid would be an interesting addition, particularly after S.H.I.E.L.D.’s encounter with magic in the first half of the season. Beyond those two obvious options, I would also consider Phobos (incorporating the Greek pantheon into the MCU). Between those four characters (Deathlok, Manifold, Druid, and Phobos), I think they could find at least 1 or 2 to headline their own digital series.
Did you enjoy Slingshot? What other characters do think should get a digital series? Let me know in the comments!