Let’s take a moment and reminisce on all the mistakes that Marvel made with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it first debuted.
Trust, me I’m going somewhere with this, it’ll just take a minute to get there.
Flush with success after The Avengers shattered box office records and made more money than anyone thought it was possible for a single movie to make, Marvel Television somewhat overenthusiastically decided that what they needed was a TV version of the same thing.
The studio poured money into the show, sending the cast and crew to exotic locations, and even springing for Samuel L Jackson’s fee to recreate his iconic Iron Man cameo on the show’s main set.
As it turned out, though, Marvel Television had misjudged what audiences liked about The Avengers. They’d thought that the cheapest star they could afford, Clark Gregg, would be enough to make their show feel like a natural evolution of the movie franchise.
They were wrong. Turns out, very few people had gone to see The Avengers because Phil Coulson might be in it. They’d wanted to see Iron Man fight Thor while Captain America stood around being patriotic and comparing Tom Hiddleston to Hitler.
Very soon, it became apparent that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was not an adequate replacement for genuine Avengers action, and the lengths that the show went to during its first season in order to try and connect to the movies was utterly laughable.
Perhaps the best point (or worst, depending on your point of view) is an episode in which Coulson and his crew arrive in London just after Thor’s finished fighting an Elven Doctor Who. There’s a lot of “Whoop, we just missed Thor, sure wish he’d stuck around,” which was utter garbage to watch.
So what’s all this got to do with the new X-Men television show?
Showrunner Matt Nix is, it seems, going out of his way to avoid an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. situation. The last thing he wants is for his show to have a large X-Men shaped hole in the middle, as characters tiptoe around the mysterious absence of Professor X and his associates, which is caused by James McAvoy being too busy to want to bother with the show.
According to Nix, the show’s plot is specifically designed to keep the action as far away from Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters as possible, in order to avoid a situation where the writers have to find a logical explanation as to why the show’s characters don’t just call the X-Men.
“It’s sort of designed to side-step questions like, ‘Where is Wolverine?' There is a certain amount of those characters that I can use and I’m using some of those. Other characters I’m inventing but everything is invented with a nod to the existing mythology.”
This decision to invent the main characters in this show also helps Nix out of another big challenge that comes with developing a TV show based on the X-Men: Marvel has been deliberately trying to blueball Fox by refusing to create new characters for the studio to use.
Fox has the rights to any character that debuts in an X-Men comic book, so Marvel’s logical approach has been to stop creating new characters that’ll instantly get snapped up by their rivals.
Instead, Matt Nix is pretty much forced to invent new characters out of thin air, as Fox won’t let him waste any of the good characters on his rinky-dink TV show.
The first new character has been cast, as Fox has announced that Blair Redford, of Switched at Birth fame, will play “the strong-headed Native American leader of the underground network”.
His character’s name will be Sam. No dumb codenames here.
At least, not yet.
It remains to be seen whether or not Matt Nix will succeed in avoiding the same pitfalls that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. blundered through in the show’s early days. Granted, with time, Marvel’s show found its stride, so there is hope that things will work out.
If anything else, though, it’ll be nice to have a show set in the same universe as its movie counterparts, that doesn’t constantly leave audiences question why the main superhero doesn’t just show up and tear some dude’s head off.