Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hit the gates last year full of momentum from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but perhaps too high on expectations. Inside of the shared universe, it faced stiff competition to meet the same level as the blockbuster movies while still maintaining the distinctly different world of television. In a certain sense, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. resembled something like an expansion draft for a professional sports team. There was the well-known though not as gifted veteran (Coulson) and a group of mostly unknowns. The story line was nothing special, especially in the televised world where we get movie-like experiences on a weekly basis from a number of television series (think Breaking Bad) and the production value while impressive from a television series, was still not what we expected coming from the Avengers or Iron Man. There were some notable guests stars, but to go back to the expansion team analogy, this is more akin to the new team advertising for other team’s stars rather that its own. With the news that Adrianne Palicki is joining the group (on a part-time basis for now) as the relatively well-known character Mockingbird, this signifies something else. To continue with the analogy, Palicki/Mockingbird is like the first signing of a major free agent.
There are two aspects to this signing, as it relates first to Palicki and then to Mockingbird. Palicki is well enough known to fans of television, though she has never really had a breakout role. Perhaps she is better known to comic fans as being the star of the never aired Wonder Woman series, which never got past a failed pilot. While comic fans can have a tendency to be overly picky in some regards, they also tend to stay loyal to actors and actresses who willingly portray themselves in roles that others might think to be too “geeky”. In the realms of comics, sci-fi and fantasy, otherwise unknown names like Alan Tudyk or Summer Glau elicit at least recognition and more likely fandom (in this case because of their association with Firefly/Serenity). Palicki is likely not to that level of cult status, but she is well known due to Wonder Woman as well as appearances on Smallville and in G.I. Joe.
While this might perhaps bode well for her acceptance as an actress in the series, there is also the consideration of the character Mockingbird. One might be able to argue that Phil Coulson is kind of a member of the Avengers (at least as much as Jarvis is) but Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to have been lacking a bit in superhero star power. Mockingbird is by no means an A-list member of Marvel, but what she does bring is a degree of relevance and credibility which has been lacking in the series. She is after all the first real Avenger from the comics to make it into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a semi-regular.
This could mean more for the future of the Cinematic Universe as well. While it has not really been explored as of yet, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and other television series (such as the new Agent Carter series) have the potential to act as feeders for the films. One of the criticisms of the Avengers (and granted there were only a few) is that the team was primarily a boys’ club. It likely will be mostly for the second installment of the series as well, though with the addition of the Scarlet Witch to help balance things out a bit. With the upcoming Ant-Man film, it seems likely that the Wasp will also be joining the team. Might the same fate await Mockingbird? Unlike some actors or actresses that don’t tend to stray too far from either television or film, Palicki is at least somewhat of a crossover actress, having done both television and film to some degree. With the established credibility of Mockingbird as an Avengers character as well as eliminating the need for a background story (thanks to her appearance in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), she might be a perfect fit for a third Avengers movie, taking the total of female characters to four (unless we see Carol Danvers or Jennifer Walters at some point), and it might be done through the subtle addition of the characters into the shared universe.
Doing so helps not only the films but the television shows. At the moment Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems light years away from a film like Guardians of the Galaxy, but with a bridge between the two, it allows the films to bring the shows to their level. It might give fans of the show some hope, as well as providing a jumping on point for the more casual fans of the movie, all by way of a B-list actress and a mostly forgotten character.