Arrow vs. Agents of SHIELD

We’ve been catching up on Arrow and Agents of SHIELD. And there are some interesting comparisons between the two. To be expected, I suppose, given they are both TV shows from comic universes.

In particular, season 2 of Arrow is matching up interestingly to season 1 of Agents of SHIELD. The world by this point has been laid out in both cases, either in the Marvel Phase 1 movies, or else in Arrow season 1. So they’re not dealing with an origin anymore – they’re expanding on the world, working with their heroes, creating the larger world of villains.

So I will look at a strong similarity, a strong difference, and then a similar potential they both have – to tie in to their larger comic universes. Spoilers to follow for Arrow and Agents of SHIELD!

Super Soldier Villains

So, it’s a fascinating thing. Both shows are dealing with super-serums being used to make super-soldier bad guys. An interesting way to build a larger super-powered world. Because both are starting from worlds where there are normal humans – and then, they see something new. Something powerful.

And, like is argued in The Dark Knight, once you have superheroes, the supervillains are sure to come out of the wood-works.

Rather than dealing with the big-bads every week, though, a TV show has to have smaller footsoldiers for your everyday fights, and apparently the solution for that is super soldiers. Because normal guys are only interesting to watch for so long on a superhero show, apparently.

Centipede, the combined Gamma Radiation, Extremis, Captain-America-Serum combination, is an interesting combination of the whole movie enterprise, a combination of crazy power to make unstoppable men. So who do they capture, as we head into the winter break? They capture Agent Coulson. Why? Because he’s died and come back? Is this their goal for their super-soldiers – immortality or invulnerability?

And the Mirakuru, the old WWII serum – much like the basis of Centipede from WWII – is creating enemies. The Church of Blood, it seems, from DC lore. So who do they have in custody? No one. There’s a superhero on the case – so they’re losing right now.

Also, in both shows, the good guys have someone who has been injected with the bad-guy serum. In Arrow, it’s the guy who has wanted to be a hero for so long – who will likely be a good man because of it, and help out. Roy. In Agents of SHIELD, it’s a man from the Pilot, who nearly exploded with Extremis, and who has been working on harnessing it. However, he’s just a man – and he gave up Coulson. Now, has he lived? After all, Extremis… he was only in an explosion, right?

New Characters Vs. Known Quantities

So, this all leads into a discussion of the big difference between the two plots. One is tapping into its comic heritage, and one is trying to keep a distance.

In Agents of SHIELD, they are working largely with new quantities, new villains. New as opposed to the comics. They’re taking the things from the movies, be that Chitari technology or the serums that make up Centipede, and are creating new issues for them. A new villain group. Not Roxxon, or AIM, or Hydra, or some element that is both known about from the comics and even known about from the movies.

The villain Graviton seems to have been created, who I guess is a thing (looked him up), but has not reappeared, and a super-battle has yet to happen. That’s most of it. Otherwise, things are happening to new characters, from new threats, and they’re having to be really creative to not use things from the comics.

In Arrow, on the other hand, part of the joy has been seeing them introduce bit by bit from the comics. First, of course, the title character, and other than Huntress, Deadshot, and Malcolm Merlyn, and maybe the other characters around Green Arrow, they didn’t do much from the comics. Well, okay, that’s more than in Agents of SHIELD so far… Now this season, we’re getting much more. The Church of Blood. The League of Assassins and Ra’s al Ghul. Black Canary. Solomon Grundy. And now, The Flash.

When they started quoting the Solomon Grundy rhyme, in particular, I was taken aback. With both Solomon Grundy and Ra’s al Ghul, there are ideas of immortality to be explored, which are logical as the sort of science a villainy person would explore. And hey, Merlyn didn’t die… so what’s up with that?

Then again, Coulson didn’t die either… What’s up with Coulson? My working theory? He’s the Vision. Except, to be that, they would have to be referencing the comics…

The Potential: A Larger Comic Universe

You know, there’s all this talk about DC pulling off a larger comic universe. The Justice League. And they’re trying to do it, it seems, in the movies, in Batman vs. Superman, or whatever they’re going to call it. But is this the best way to do it?

From what they have going on right now, I would love to see that combined universe growing up from Arrow. We have Arrow, fighting crime in Starling City. We may have The Flash in Central City. Add a Batman show in Gotham, Superman in Metropolis… Then you just need someone interesting to pull them together. Enter Wonder Woman, right?

The possibility is there. Heck, they could combine the two, and do a reverse Marvel Phase 1, working their movie universe together with Arrow. You would have to decide where and when the events of Man of Steel happen – that’s not something you overlook, the crazy gravity-shaping alien attack like that. But still, it could be done.

Meanwhile, in the Marvel ‘verse, I’ve mentioned before that I think Agents of SHIELD is a perfect place to work in some of the elements that we know are going to come up in the films – be that Infinity Gems or characters – and right now, I can see a main way. They have introduced a villain by name and reputation only – the Clairvoyant.

Someone who sees the future, while a technological or just reputation sort of description for the character could be made… it could be a great way to introduce magic, as well. Magic, that they will have to introduce at some point – if they really are going to include Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch into the mix.

Scarlet Witch, who they made sure to recently announce is a confirmed character who has been cast for Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. Confirmed, because they have her filming on Agents of SHIELD? Introducing her, to combat the Clairvoyant? It would be fun.

Of course, if you do that right now – and introduce Quicksilver alongside his sister – that will be DC and Marvel introducing their two main super speed characters at the same time. Then I would have a new topic of comparison for these two shows, wouldn’t I?

Which show do you think is doing it better right now – Agents of SHIELD with its new plots and characters, or Arrow, tapping into known content in a new way? Let us know in the comments below!

11 responses to “Arrow vs. Agents of SHIELD

  1. Nice comparison! In my mind, Arrow is the stronger of the two shows, right now anyway. It’s great how they are bringing lore from the comics into its storylines. I can’t say I’m a know-it-all when it comes to either the DC or Marvel universes, but I definitely recognize more characters in Arrow than I do in S.H.I.E.L.D., and that’s pretty cool. That said, S.H.I.E.L.D. could be setting up for some interesting storytelling, but so far what its presented just isn’t *that* intriguing. I mean, when you think about the history (and present) of Marvel, why AREN’T they pulling from all that great stuff? It doesn’t make much sense; but maybe things’ll come around in season 2.


  2. Really nice article comparing two hot shows right now. In my opinion ‘Arrow’ is the better show right now- as it’s really established some legitimate threats for its heroes too deal with, while still alluding to bigger threats in the future.
    However ‘Agents of shield’ did a great job making Centipede the big overall story element this week- and they have a huge growing universe to link into, while arrow is still stand alone. And according to CW DC has no plans to change that.
    I’m just looking forward to the eventual reveal that Scarlett Witch brought Coulson back, and that would explain her Avengers status in Age of Ultron. (Just a guess tho)


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  6. It is hard to compare, because those are basically two very different shows.
    Arrow is about Oliver Queen. Everyone else is just gravitating around him.
    Shield is an ensemble show. Ideally all characters should be interesting and fleshed out.
    Arrow iscreating it’s own universe, and everything which comes after, will have to tie into the show if it wants to be part of said universe.
    Shield is tying into an already existing world.

    Thus said…Arrow was ahead for most of the time. More diverse and interesting characters. More compelling storylines. Thus said…Arrow really sucks at writing romance. Big time. And especially the second season was full of contrivances, which were very annoying. Also, the whole superpower angle doesn’t really fit that well into the show. It established a world in which super powers are based on special training, and I would have liked it better if they had kept it that way.

    Shield was way behind for a long, long time. The characters (with the exception of Coulson) were just there, and more or less out of the same mould. The tie-in aspect was not very convincing. Also, Shield existed in some sort of vacuum. Arrow constantly shows how the public reacts to the hood, but Shield was for a long time so isolated from everything, it totally defied its own premise to show the impact of Superhereos on normal people.

    Thus said, the show really picked up towards the end. The last episodes of season 1 suddenly fleshed out the characters quite nicely, it connected with the universe, and the show got into the habit of subverting Comic book expectations quite nicely. It also doesn’t get bogged down by badly written romantic relationships the way Arrow does.

    Interestingly Shield adjusted the cast to be more diverse, while Arrow is slowly killing off or writing out of the show everyone who isn’t young and white.

    I think the judgement is still out. If Arrow manages to cut loose all those annoying CW tropes, it might raise to the stars. If Shield manages to follow the path it has set in the last episodes before the season finale, it might catch up.


    • Agreed – Agents of SHIELD hit its stride late, and hit it hard. It ended so very strong… we’ll see if they can keep that up into season 2!

      Meanwhile with Arrow, it was interesting watching them spin The Flash out of it – I kept waiting for him (The Flash) to show back up and help save the day, reminding us he’s out there, and has a show coming. They didn’t do it – they kept the most super-powery person off the screen, to keep things a little more realistic. But with the show starting this fall, we’ll see how they keep that momentum going!

      By the end of the seasons, I was very happy with both shows, and am excited for the next season. I originally wrote this post at the halfway point, where the same could not be said!

      Thanks for stopping by!


      • To be fair, the first half of the first season of Arrow was a little bit questionable too…and then they added Felicity and everything clicked in place. Not because of the shipping, but because she provided a voice the show really, really needed. Thought it was never as weak and predictable as Shield was during the early episodes. They really should have done what Arrow did, using the time to really introduce the characters properly.


        • That, or they should have done what Holly suggested, and been a show that started mid-season. There would have been far less time before the explosive reveal, and they could have really narrowed it all in. Here’s a link to Holly’s thoughts on that:


          • Really good point….but then, they would have needed a little bit time to allow the audience to get to know the characters. Because if the audience doesn’t, the whole “who might be the traitor” arc has less of an impact.

            But there were numerous opportunities missed beforehand. They could have created an entire episode around the overgrown monster-puppy which is still on the rampage after the end of Thor 2. They could have done an episode or at least a scene related to the invention convention in Ironman (why not showing some people from the team visiting, geeking out over the invention while their true job is to take stock of what is shown? This seems to me like a believable job for a bunch of junior agents, and it would have been great to see the whole thing from this perspective).

            I am also not sold on the Skye-arc. Why exactly does she have to be something special? I would like her character way better if she weren’t, and her arc would be more about her moral struggle over the fact that she works for a secret organisation, which goes straight against her own ideals. She would have worked wonderfully as a critical voice – but then her involvement in the team is barely believable as it is.


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