Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may be on its mid-season break, but this week, fans got a surprise in the form of Slingshot, a digital series focusing on Elena “Yo-Yo” Rodriguez. The six-episode series follows Elena as she reexamines her commitment to S.H.I.E.L.D. All of the episodes are available for free on YouTube, and you can get through all six episodes in under 30 min. So check out Slingshot and then come right back here as we recap the highlights of the series.
A Perfect Bridge
One of the main strengths of Slingshot is that it works perfectly as a bridge between seasons three and four. Phil Coulson has just stepped down as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he and new partner “Mack” Mackenzie begin their field deployment aboard Zephyr One. Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons are thinking about moving in together. Melinda May is working under Coulson’s successor, Director Jeffrey Mace. And Daisy Johnson has left S.H.I.E.L.D. to begin her one-woman vigilante crusade in the wake of Lincoln Campbell‘s death.
Even though the entire main cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has guest roles on Slingshot, they don’t take attention away from Elena Rodriguez’s mission. The episodes are three to six minutes long, and each one has Elena interact with only a few of her fellow agents at a time. That way, Slingshot keeps its primary focus on Elena, only including those interactions when they make sense.
As a result, Slingshot is a great prelude to season four, offering touchstones that set up the series’ current storylines. Elena and Mack are slowly getting closer, with Mack inviting Elena out to dinner. (Turtle speed, Mr. Turtleman — but it’s better than nothing.) We also find out how Elena begins secretly working with Daisy, even though the latter is no longer part of S.H.I.E.L.D. Overall, Slingshot does an excellent job of telling one specific chapter in the series’ progression while staying focused on Elena.
A Larger Role for Yo-Yo
With Slingshot, actress Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Elena Rodriguez) becomes the first woman of color to headline a series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The series effectively draws upon Elena’s Colombian heritage and personal values by pitting her against Colonel Victor Ramon. Ramon is the corrupt Colombian police officer who killed Elena’s cousin, Francisco, back in season three’s “Bouncing Back.” Elena must choose between signing the Sokovia Accords (and adhering to its slow, bureaucratic structure) or getting justice for her cousin’s death.
What makes Slingshot work so well is that it isn’t overly ambitious. Season one’s total runtime is approximately 25 min, not including the end credit sequences. That’s half the amount of footage as a regular Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode. The series maintains a tight focus because that’s what it needs to do. Yet, at the same time, the series doesn’t tackle a huge storyline that wouldn’t wrap up within 25 min. On the production side, season one also features some up-and-coming creative talent, since it uses several first-time directors.
Hopefully, Slingshot is a sign that Marvel will continue to provide minority characters with more screen time. The web series offers an ideal structure to test out how supporting characters like Elena fare as protagonists. In the case of Slingshot, the result is a huge success.
Other Observations from Slingshot
- Before Elena signs the Sokovia Accords, Phil Coulson gives her a S.H.I.E.L.D. commemorative pin from the agency’s founding in the 1940s. The pin once belonged to Agent Peggy Carter herself. Coulson tells Elena, “You’re not just giving something up. You’re joining a team.” In the present, Elena fittingly passes the pin on to Daisy, given that Daisy has just rejoined S.H.I.E.L.D.
- When Coulson cleans out his office, he takes along the ax that Mack once used to chop off his arm. Within Coulson’s wares, there’s also a photo of the eminent Stan Lee. I guess that counts as Lee’s cameo in this particular Marvel project.
- Besides super-strength, it looks like Jeffrey Mace’s superpower is being late.
- If the weapon that Victor Ramon steals looks familiar, that’s because it’s the Peruvian 0-8-4. We last saw the alien weapon at the end of season one, when Coulson used it to vanquish John Garrett.
- Ramon sells the 0-8-4 to the Watchdogs, who have basically become Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s new Hydra. I’ve written in previous recaps that the Watchdogs don’t quite feel like credible antagonists because their exact scope is unclear. Like Hydra, the Watchdogs now seem to have near-unlimited resources and funding. Hopefully, the series will do a better job of examining the Watchdogs after the mid-season break.
With the release of Slingshot, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally on its mid-season break. New episodes resume on Jan. 10, 2017, so come back in the new year for our next Recap and Reaction! Until then, spend the holidays with family and friends. And do make sure that Aida hasn’t replaced any of them with Life-Model Decoys.