Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Season 1 Ep 1 (TV Show Review)

So it has finally happened. There were rumblings about it for a long, long time and then things finally began to click together earlier this year and peaked around San Diego Comic Con, when we started getting teasers and trailers for Marvel’s first live-action series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As someone who enjoyed The Avengers and is a big of fan of Joss Whedon’s Buffy, Angel and Firefly (and also Serenity, of course), this was really good news for me. I don’t know if Marvel has ever had a live-action series before (I seriously doubt they did), but this was clearly a big area where they were lacking when compared to DC, who’ve had several successful live-action series before, such as Smallville and the ongoing Arrow which is coming back soon for a second season.

Now, Marvel can finally lay claim to the big ticket and say that “year, we are doing it, and we are doing it good, and we are doing it no one has done before”. And I agree. The first episode of the brand-new show was fairly solid, and I think it had the right mix of everything to hook in a viewer and get them to come back for more next week.

Agents of SHIELD Logo 0001The show is set at some point after the Battle of New York, as seen in The Avengers. The world finally knew, without doubt, that there gifted people out there, superheroes, and that they lived among us. The world also now knows about aliens, and that these aliens are most definitely not friendly, not when they bring in an army through an interdimensional portal and lay waste to a city like New York. SHIELD’s job since has been to initiate a massive cover-up, keeping everything under wraps because the whole playing field has changed, whether it is technology or biology or anything really. The show casts SHIELD and its agents as the good guys and girls, the hidden watchmen and protectors. And I kind of like that whole idea.

Of course, the biggest elephant in the room when it comes to this show is Agent Coulson, who is fantastically played by actor Clark Gregg, who has been playing the character in all of the Marvel movies thus far. Coulson died during the events of The Avengers, murdered by Loki while the Trickster God was fleeing the SHIELD Helicarrier. Coulson’s death was used by Director Nick Fury to galvanize the heroes to work as a team, to lay down their differences and work together. And the show brings him back. There is an explanation offered as to how he really survived getting his guts punched through with an alien staff, but there are doubts cast on the story only a few short minutes later. It made for an interesting, subtle side-plot and all I can say is that it leaves the whole question unanswered. Until we get The Avengers: Ultron on screens in a couple years, I doubt we are going to see that question resolved, because the revelations are going to have a huge impact on the heroes, especially with Iron Man, who has had the strongest bond with Coulson.

In the first episode, we see a lot of things happening. We get introduced to a full cast of brand-new characters, who are assisted by Gregg’s Coulson and Cobie Smulders’ Agent Maria Hill. As far as I can tell, as someone who reads very little Marvel, Maria Hill is the only character from the comics to make the transition to this series. Coulson was a character created for the movies and thus he is technically not a comic book character. All the other characters are new and they are fresh, and thus they come without any baggage from years on years of comic book continuity. Joss Whedon, the main man on the project gives everybody something. Comic book fans have the entire show premise and Maria Hill to latch on to. Movie fans have Coulson and Hill and all the little references that are sprinkled in the story (and dialogue). New viewers have all these new characters who are making their debut with the series, characters who might one day, no doubt depending on the show’s success, even transition to the movies.

The acting by the entire cast is fairly spot on. Gregg and Smulders are on top form here. The latter only gets to do a small cameo in the pilot, but it is quite clear that she will be a recurring character, given that she seems to be in the same position here as Samuel L. Jackson is in the movies, the head honcho of SHIELD. Hill is Fury’s second-in-command and in that respect, it makes sense that she’d show up every now and then, more so since Cobie Smulders is no stranger to the television format, having given some really incredible and fun performances in How I Met Your Mother, a show that I loved. Its great to see her back on the small screen.

J. August Richards, an Angel veteran also delivers a nice performance as a hero in trouble who’s on the run from all sorts of people. As much Smulders, its great to see Richards back in action. I really enjoyed his character and his performance on Angel, especially once the fantastic Amy Acker joined the cast. He is an actor who can really get into the intensity of the character and he delivers a great outing here. Given how the episode ends, I wonder if his character may make a come-back at some point. I’d like that.

Ming-Na Wen as Agent Melinda May also gets some really cool moments. There is a heavy implication that she has a bit of professional history with Coulson, which apparently led to her giving up field ops for a desk job, and I liked that angle. Its not touched on beyond a small handful of moments, but its definitely set up to become a bigger part of the show’s ongoing narrative I think. And Agent Ward, played by Brett Dalton, remarks on her joining Coulson’s new team, which gives the idea that Melinda May used to be a top field agent. So I’d love to see that subplot explored fully as the show goes on.

Agents of SHIELD Cast 0001

Rounding out the rest of the cast as Chloe Bennet as Skye, Elizabeth Henstridge as Agent Jemma Simmons and Ian DeCaestecker as Agent Leo Fitz. Skye was a really interesting character, a hacker and an internet… activist who is obsessed with the idea of superheroes and manages to hunt down Richards’ Michael Peterson. Her arc in the episode was fairly decent, and given that she is shown on the promo images with the rest of the cast, its quite clear that she’s going to be a series regular. Definitely good. Simmons and Fitz are Coulson’s tech/sciences experts and they make a really good duo, bouncing ideas off each other and with a really interesting inter-dynamic that hints at them having been a part of SHIELD for a while.

Ultimately, the episode gives a lot of glimpses and teasers for future series. It has a slight pacing problem, but I think in the main that Joss Whedon and team have given a fairly solid pilot. I wasn’t expecting excellence here, or anything mind-blowing. I wanted to see something grounded, something non-flashy, and the episode delivers on that.

I’ll definitely be tuning in next week for the second episode!

Posted on September 26, 2013, in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Completely agree — a solid opener. Love seeing Ming-na Wen again!

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  2. Nice post AJ, as usual. But, as a Marvel fan, I can say that there have been several live action tv-shows on Marvel characters (I can’t say if they’re all produced by Marvel, but they play in the Marvel Universe):

    Spidey Super Stories 1974–1977
    The Amazing Spider-Man 1977–1979
    The Incredible Hulk 1977–1982
    Spider-Man 1978–1979
    Night Man 1997–1999
    Mutant X 2001–2004
    Blade: The Series 2006

    Off course these aren’t the big budget series from nowadays, but I thought that a list would be handy with this article.

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    • Thanks for covering my oversight, Dominick! Now I gotta check out these shows. By the way, Mutant X isn’t a Marvel show by any means, IIRC. Its an original setting isn’t it?

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      • Mutant X was Marvel’s answer to the success of the X-men trilogy from 20th Century Fox. They wanted a piece of the cake, so to say, and created indeed a new franchise with Mutant X. They got a lawsuit on their hands by 20th Century Fox (they came to a mutual agreement).
        So Mutant X is a true Marvel series (produced by Avi Arad and Marvel) but with one difference to the other shows: the tv-series came before the comic.

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  3. I think this is one of those moments where we’re going to have to disagree again AJ 😉

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