Chloe Bennet Credits Independence From The MCU For Agents Of SHIELD's Success

When you look at the history of how the Marvel Cinematic Universe came to be, the casting of Robert Downey Jr. was viewed as a very risky decision. And now we can't imagine anyone else but him as "Iron Man." It is undoubtedly one of Marvel Studios' greatest successes, and in the years to come, the growing interest in the MCU would help turn more niche comic book titles into megablockbuster hits ("Guardians of the Galaxy").

At this point, the MCU has essentially reached a point where its projects no longer need to prove themselves in order to be successful. "Iron Man" was, by all accounts, a miracle that led to Marvel Studios' domination. When we talk about surprises under the Marvel banner, especially given how quickly folks seemed to turn on it, I would argue that one of Marvel's greatest success stories is one that we don't really talk about as much.

As the first MCU venture outside the movies and a few One-Shot shorts, and prior to the Netflix shows, the ABC television spin-off "Agents of SHIELD" was Marvel's first big step into the world of interconnectivity outside the silver screen. I remember all the buzz surrounding the show involved two things: the resurrection of our beloved Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and the prospect of which Avenger was likely to show up each week.

Over seven seasons later, "Agents of SHIELD" showed that it had enough creativity to break free from its MCU constraints.

A series that built a Marvel legacy of its own

While we were all excited to see Coulson operating the superhuman agency from beyond the grave, "Agents of SHIELD" boasted quite the ensemble. New team members may have joined during its run, but Chloe Bennett was there from the beginning. Quake is one of the undeniable faces of the series.

In talking to Syfy Wire, Bennet recollected how most of the questions she had been asked during the press tour for season 1 mostly revolved around the potential guest stars. "The first season, really, all of our interview questions were about if we're going to get an appearance from Iron Man, or Captain America — just which Avenger will be visiting you guys," said Bennet.

After all, "Agents of SHIELD" was heavily marketed as a major extension of the MCU. The series wove its way into the aftermath of "Thor: The Dark World" and "Avengers: Age of Ultron." The most notable, however, was "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," where the show was not only flipped upside down, but one of its most likable team members was revealed as an undercover HYDRA agent all this time.

But the further it strayed from unreasonable expectations, the more "Agents of SHIELD" became its own thing. Viewers became accustomed to a new Marvel ensemble to follow in their adventures. "People have just spent so much time with these characters, and that's because we've had the most time," said Bennet.

Agents of SHIELD rewards longtime viewers

When you look at all the talent involved, it's easy to see why the folks who stuck around, myself included, grew to love these characters. Ming-Na Wen, Elizabeth Henstidge, Ian De Caestecker, Brett Dalton, Henry Simmons, and Natalia Córdova-Buckley, along with too many others to name, all play a significant role in making "Agents of SHIELD" feel like more than an MCU guinea pig.

Bennet believed that "Agents of SHIELD" had lasted so long that because it didn't need to rely on outside references to retain long standing interest in what the series was doing (via Syfy Wire):

"There are so many built-in jokes that, if you were watching it with someone who had never seen the show, you kind of realize, 'Well this is a Season 4 reference,' and 'This is a Season 6 reference.' It really rewards someone who has been with us since the beginning."

Each new season tried something wildly different, allowing its creative team to really have some fun playing around in the pulpy sandbox of Marvel comics. While I feel the series piqued in season 4, there's something to be said about a series that was initially discarded as low-budget superhero scraps coming out on top in its own way.

A notable standout from the Disney+ shows

In many ways, "Agents of SHIELD" is what the Disney+ shows have largely failed to be: television. Where most of them play like elongated movies, barring "She-Hulk: Attorney At Law," the ABC series is actually structured like a television series. The further the show strayed from being a one-night stand for Kevin Feige's projects, the more creative it would get.

It's wild to think how a show that a lot of folks discarded after half a season ran for 136 episodes across seven seasons, each carrying its own distinct identity. Season 4 is legitimately one of my favorite things Marvel has ever done. It already starts out strong with Gabriel Luna's Ghost Rider, before trapping its ensemble in an artificial framework where HYDRA won, showing a darker side to our team of heroes. Even Coulson makes a fiery pact with the Spirit of Vengeance. By the time we reach the end of the line, season 7 becomes a full-on time hopping adventure saga through the ghosts of SHIELD's past.

"Agents of SHIELD" is by no means prestige television, especially in comparison to the darker Netflix shows in their prime, but as an underappreciated extension of the MCU, it's well worth your time.

Seasons 1-7 of "Agents of SHIELD" is currently streaming on Disney+.