If you would have told me a few years ago that following the success of The Avengers, there would be a live-action television show based on the Marvel world, created by Joss Whedon, I would have laughed at you. But now, as the pilot aired last night, that is a reality. Coined as a show about “ordinary people in an extraordinary world,” Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hopes to showcase the normal people that deal with the aftermath of epic Marvel films such as Iron Man and The Avengers.
So is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a success?
Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is back in action, even though he was supposedly killed in The Avengers. He has been tasked to create a mobile unit of responders to scout and attempt to handle superhuman incidents around the globe. Already on the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, we meet veteran soldier Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen, Joy Luck Club, Stargate Universe) and dynamic science team duo Fitz and Simmons (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge). Serving as our gateway into this world are two characters: S.H.I.E.L.D. stealth operative Grant Ward who has been recruited onto this team (Brett Dalton) and cyberjournalist / hacker / my new celebrity crush Skye (Chloe Bennet).
In the pilot, we’re immediately thrown into the mix as both S.H.I.E.LD. and Skye, who runs an online superhero detective vlog, are looking for a hero (J. August Richards) who saved a woman from a burning building, who seems to have superpowers. However, as they soon find out, it’s more than that.
This show, on almost every level, reminds me of Joss Whedon’s other shows. It has Buffy the Vampire Slayer written all over it. Ragtag group of heroes, who are all interesting and unique, come together to fight a weekly villain. But the bonus here… is that it’s set in the same world that we all know and love of the Marvel heroes. Those are two distinct pros.
While this episode feels “piloty,” it does a solid job of introducing us to the team. It’s this team, though, that I’m most excited about. They all exhibit deep dark secrets and hidden pasts and the pilot cleverly drops little hints about where we might see these people go. There’s some especially interesting hints about Coulson and how he managed to survive the events of The Avengers. It’s a self-contained episode but definitely alludes to the bigger world.
And does it feel like a Marvel endeavor? I’d say yes. It lacks the scope of huge epic movies (probably because it also lacks the budget) but they did a solid job of incorporating Marvel elements without hitting us over the head with it. To understand the references, it’s smart to watch both The Avengers and Iron Man 3 before watching (to get the full effect, it’s definitely not required).
In terms of casting, veterans Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen carry the cast, as these two seem to handle these roles easily. They have much less to prove than the others in the relatively young and unknown cast. Gregg provides most of the comedic relief, while Wen provides some gravitas and seriousness. It’s a nice balance.
What doesn’t work?
This episode feels especially like two things. It feels like a pilot and it feels like television. Those are both to be expected but it could be a dramatic shift for fans of the movies. Introducing us to a handful of new characters is jarring but I expect the next few episodes will allow us to just watch the characters interact without the forceful exposition. And when I say it feels like television… The fight scenes are a little jumpy and some of the effects are hit and miss. It does however provide promise. There’s a lot of potential here but this episode was a little jarring.
This is a solid episode and creates a cool story that will run (hopefully) parallel to the major movies to be released in the next few years. And the “Monster of the Week” formula allows for tons of diversity and the ability to work in Marvel characters and storylines that wouldn’t work on the big screen. It’s hard to gauge on just one episode but I again want to emphasize promise. There’s a lot here and I hope it can deliver.