It’s finally here. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is here to grace our screens with its presence and it’s pretty much the biggest thing in town this season in terms of general buzz and wonderment. Of course, there is a lot riding on S.H.I.E.L.D for many different parties, whether it be Joss Whedon’s return to television, Disney and Marvel hoping to use this show as a possible bridge between summer movie seasons, or just the general wishes of the public for more quality basic programming rather than cable getting the bulk of the good shows. I am happy to say that on the majority of those points the “Pilot” manages to nail in spades. While there are few hiccups along the way, S.H.I.E.L.D manages to lay a solid bedrock for a fun and interesting show that will hopefully gain the audience that it deserves. So let’s dive in and explore.
Pilots are themselves are very hard to review as they very structured in order to create a solid universe, but at the same time create enough mystery that we want to keep coming back to the show week after week. Of course S.H.I.E.L.D has many different built-in mysteries thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the big one being of course Agent Coulson’s (played wonderfully as always by Clark Gregg) miraculous survival. Of course the biggest question will be answered over the course of the first hour, but subtle hints and references are dropped to the larger mystery at hand. There are smaller more interesting mysteries throughout plot, but the main focus is on Coulson putting together a team of mismatched agents, known as Level 7, in order to protect the world from evil, and the team learning to become a family.
Luckily, Whedon manages to make make the best use of all of these characters, as each of the mains comes to symbolize some of the best characteristics of Whedon’s previous works. Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) is basically Zoe from Firefly if she had never met Wash, Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) seem to have been given the excitement and joy of early Willow and Xander, Skye (Chloe Bennet) is part Kaylee and part Topher, and finally Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) anti-social like Simon and badass like River. Each of these characters in and of themselves could feel like recycled copies of better works, but it is thanks to Whedon’s writing that they feel like completely fleshed out characters. The natural awkwardness between Ward, Fitz, and Simmons is probably one of the best scenes in the entire pilot as it plays out much like that first introduction of Simon to the crew of the Serenity. It was occasionally off putting that Fitz and Simmons were so overly perky in some situations, but that is what helps to make the techies so fun.
I think if anything, the main problem I had while watching the pilot is that I feel that is very heavily dependent on an understanding of the MCU as a whole. The whole plot surrounding J. August Richards’ character, as well as the idea of the Rising Tide, were both seeming heavily influenced by Marvel movies. A viewer does not understand the ins and outs of the MCU and is just tuning in to the show for it to be another procedural, may be confused or disappointed. For example, if someone had not seen the Iron Man 3 this summer, they would not understand what Extremis is. This may in fact turn out to be a show where you have Wikipedia open constantly to just keep up on all of the continuity and lingo. The show will hopefully build up its own universe as time goes on and not rely so heavily on the Marvel cinematic universe for all of its major plot points.
I would have to say the one thing that amazed me about watching the show was how beautifully it was shot. It felt as if I was watching a Marvel movie on the small screen, from the color palette to the action. Each moment was nearly as grandiose as watching The Avengers. I can’t say that this show is a must watch for everyone, but it definitely has its audience, and what that audience will need to do is spread the word and keep bringing in new viewers.
Overall a very enjoyable episode.
Final Grade B
+Whedon’s dialogue flows beautifully
+Sets up a lot of fun case of the week material
-Very reliant on the source material
-Feels as if it has not made up it’s own universe yet
-I am gonna call The Rising Tide as being some sort of Hydra offshoot. The insignia and color scheme are just to close for it not to be either a misdirect or just another link to the Marvel Universe.
-Whedon cameos from Ron Glass. Colbie Smulders, and J August Richards. I have my smart money on Fillion poppin up just to be Fillion.