Pilot Perception: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ABC in the U.S. and CTV in Canada, Tuesdays at 8/7c

The Pedigree: S.H.I.E.L.D. comes from Marvel and Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy), who executive produces with Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen (Dollhouse), Jeffrey Bell (Angel), and Jeph Loeb (Heroes). The pilot was written by the Whedons and Tancharoen and directed by Joss Whedon.

The Cast & How You Know Them: The show stars Clark Gregg (The Avengers, The West Wing), Ming-Na Wen (ER, Eureka), Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln), Chloe Bennet (Nashville), Iain De Caestecker (The Fades), and Elizabeth Henstridge (The Thompsons).

The Premise: The show follows Agent Phil Coulson (from The Avengers) as he assembles a S.H.I.E.L.D. team of agents to investigate weird happenings and protect humanity.

A Taste:

What Works: The concept here is intriguing: once people know that superheroes, aliens, and more are real, the world changes and someone – S.H.I.E.L.D. – has to be in charge of protecting people and dealing with it all. The show is based on my favorite dynamic – a group of talented, damaged people coming together to save the world – and the team members themselves all seem to have the potential to be interesting. They all have secrets and/or backstories that I’d like to learn more about. (Clark Gregg as Coulson is great as always, of course.) Overall, it seems that this set-up, if executed correctly, could allow for a good blend between a weekly procedural element and the development of an ongoing mythology.

What Doesn’t: This was a very flashy pilot, which makes it fun to watch but also makes it harder to guess what later episodes will be like, since the scale will almost necessarily need to be reduced due to budget and time constraints. Anything this ambitious could either go very right or very wrong. There’s also a fine line to walk between throwing in enough references to other Marvel properties to make fans happy and doing so much of that that the show seems like a pastiche that never really stands on its own. It’s natural for there to be lots of callbacks and exposition in the pilot, as everything gets established, and hopefully that will be toned down just a bit going forward. That contributed to my general feeling that the writing felt like a jigsaw – while there were lots of good one-liners, the various bits didn’t always fit together terribly well.

Our Favorite Line: “With great power comes . . . a ton of weird crap that you are not prepared to deal with.”

You Might Like This if you like . . . oh, come on. Everyone knows what this is. But yes, if you like The Avengers and other recent Marvel movies, and/or Joss Whedon’s previous TV shows, this will probably be right up your alley.

If You’re Interested: Catch up on the first episode on Hulu, the ABC site, or the CTV site. Then set your DVR for next Tuesday at 8/7c for episode two.

(Photo courtesy of ABC.)

3 thoughts on “Pilot Perception: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

  1. There were a few things that jarred, for example lines about fans in general and women in particular – but otherwise I really enjoyed the pilot, and am hoping that the things I found less than stellar will improve. Definitely has oomph, great existing characters and intriguing new characters, as well as a premise that really works for me!

  2. I really *wanted* to like this, but I found my attention wandering an awful lot. I love Agent Coulson – who doesn’t? – but I found every other character they introduced abrasive rather than edgy.

    Oh, and the super’s expository speech – “you told us we just had to be MEN!” – just made me roll my eyes. OK, we get it, Whedon, the economy is crap and the little guy is getting lost in the shuffle. Please stop whacking me in the head with that particular brick.

    I’ll keep trying, because you really can’t judge a series by the pilot, but on balance I found it disappointing.

  3. Pretty much Torchwood doing that one episode of Fringe with human bombs. The last scene with Lola was clearly a ripoff of an homage to inspired by the last scene of Back to the Future, but at least hacker chick only looks exactly like Eliza Dushku and is not actually her.

    A little muddled for a pilot, but it might all make more sense over time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *