TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ep101 “Pilot”
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the first step for Marvel in the TV realm. After successfully conquering the multiplexes with Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and The Avengers, Marvel Studios now moves onto the small screen, where there are certainly more risks than on the big screen. With Joss Whedon writing and directing the pilot episode, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of hype surrounding this series. After all the hype, how does Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. stack up in the fall TV lineup?
Pretty good. Pretty, pretty, good.
S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) is called out of active field duty to assist Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) in ongoing investigations into the new “superheroes” that keep popping up in the wake of the battle of New York seen in The Avengers. The pilot’s main story beat this week is Coulson’s team tracking down the hacker behind “The Rising Tide”, an online site that’s been leaking important documents right under S.H.I.E.L.D.’s nose. The hacker, named Skye (and played by Chloe Bennet), is also tied to a new “superhero” running through the country, who has connections with a certain Marvel Studios film that came out this past May.
I’ll say it right now: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s pilot episode didn’t blow me away. That’s not to say it’s not a good pilot episode, or that it’s a giant pile of crap. However, it didn’t really “wow” me, which was a little disappointing. There’s a lot of set up in the episode, from introducing us to a whole new set of characters, explaining the purpose for the team, and getting around the fact that agent Phil Coulson, you know, died in Avengers. The latter is explained in a way that screams “life model decoy”, the classic S.H.I.E.L.D. robot decoy plot device used by Nick Fury (and seemingly everyone else) in the Marvel comics universe.
With all of the setup in the pilot, is there any time for punching? Unfortunately, not really. After an excellent opening fight sequence between Ward and some goons, the action level drops considerably. Hopefully this is changed for future episodes, as I was extremely impressed by the fight choreography in the opening, and was hoping for at least one more scene along those lines in the episode.
Another small complaint I have with the pilot will probably sound like sacrilege as a Whedon fan: there was too much quipping.
Hold on. Put down your pitchforks, and let me explain: every character can’t be the wise ass. Sure, there’s room for funny lines and moments, but there were times where I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was going a little too far. I love Joss Whedon just as much as you all do, but like Marvel comic writer Brian Michael Bendis, there are times where too much quippy banter is too much, and can make it seem like every character sounds the same. There were scenes in this pilot that were guilty of this, but I did love Coulson’s line after he emerges from the dark corner of the S.H.I.E.L.D. briefing room. As long as the show runners can balance the quips we should be fine, but this episode made me a little nervous about future episodes of the show.
Clark Gregg looks like he’s having a blast playing Coulson again, and I’ll admit I had my doubts that Coulson could carry his own show. After being so fun in such small doses in the past Marvel movies, I wondered if the magic would be lost if he was put into the spotlight. Thankfully he’s extremely entertaining in the lead role, and deftly balances the shifts in tone that Joss Whedon’s script bounces through. Relative newcomers Dalton and Bennett are also good in their roles, but I can already get the feeling that some of the other agents on Coulson’s team (like Melinda May’s Ming-Na Wen) might get pushed to the back burner as the show progresses.
Despite my misgivings, I still enjoyed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; I just wish I had enjoyed it more. I wanted to LOVE it, but in the end I ended up just liking it. I still flip out inside when references to Stark Tower, Thor, and the Hulk are referenced, but I was hoping for a little more from the pilot then what I got. I think a lot of this can be attributed to the fact that the trailers and promos for this series were all comprised of scenes from the pilot. After seeing so much promotional material for this series, by the time I saw the first episode I felt like I had already watched it. I completely understand wanting to keep some secrecy behind the series, but I really feel like there was nothing to be “wowed” by when I finally saw the episode.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is off to a good start, but it’s not the superhero show I was expecting. It may be because we’re being introduced to a whole new set of characters (with the exception of Coulson), or that it’s hard for my brain to differentiate the difference between Marvel films and TV, where the budgets will be significantly smaller. In any event, S.H.I.E.L.D. is already a monster hit for ABC, and if it leads to some other established Marvel heroes getting a prime time spot, then I’m all for it.
Level 7 Clearance out of 10