Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Pilot Episode" Recap

Agents of SHIELD cast photo

The highly anticipated Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series premiered to super impressive ratings. But is it must watch “event” television or an one-time fluke?

Continue Reading for a spoiler free review of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 1.

Clark Gregg returns as Agent Phil Coulson, the leader of an elite team of espionage and law enforcement S.H.I.E.L.D. agents tasked to deal with strange and superhuman threats from across the globe. The initial hour is a fast-paced, crowd pleasing action drama. While it doesn’t reach the emotional depths and high-octane thrills of J.J. Abram’s Alias pilot, it’s incredibly fun, entertaining and shows potential to be a solid series. S.H.I.E.L.D doesn’t break new ground in the genre but it’s good-natured accessibility appeals to a wide audience.

Directed and co-written by Joss Whedon (Avengers, Serenity), the pilot has his trademark sense of humor with characters often undercutting a serious moment with a playful witty remark. There aren’t any scenes that match the intensity and spectacle of the airplane wreckage from Lost’s pilot but the action sequences are competently and cleanly directed. A strong consistent element of the script is taking scenes in an unexpected direction which keeps the story engaging.

The easy to follow plot functions to introduce the main characters as Agent Coulson assembles his team and tracks down a “Hooded Hero” seen in an online viral video. At his core, the hooded hero (J. August Richards) is a relatable, everyday working class father trying to get by. He represents what the show is essentially about; that ordinary people who are often overlooked do matter and it’s what they do that counts, not the super powers.

The cast of non-super powered S.H.I.E.L.D. agents looks promising. Agent Coulson is a capable, take charge leader. He’s a little unorthodox, charismatic and by the way … don’t touch his car Lola. Agent Coulson’s “miraculous resurrection” is not as it seems which adds a mysterious layer to a fan favorite character.

Ming-Na Wen (Street Fighter, E.R.) plays kick-ass Melinda Mays. More intricate fight choreography in future episodes will help her authentically portray a martial arts expert. We first meet her as a S.H.I.E.L.D. office worker so it’ll be intriguing to find out how a renowned fighter ended up there.

A common device with pilot episodes is bringing in an outsider into the fold. Computer whiz, superhero fan girl and bubbly new recruit Skye (Chloe Bennet) is an amusing addition to the team. Skye is a proxy for the audience as she’s introduced into the world of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Brett Dalton as Agent Grant Ward is another POV character in the pilot. He’s a highly proficient super spy but not much of a team player. “Fitz-Simmons” (Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge) are the tech and life science geeks of the squad. They’re likable but don’t really stand out at this point other than their accents. Overall, there is good chemistry between the cast although Mays, Fitz, & Simmons didn’t get as much screen time as the others.

agents-shield-extremis

All of these characters are new to the Marvel Universe, with the exception of Agent Coulson who was originally introduced in 2008’s Iron Man. The writers have the creative freedom to explore and develop these characters without concerns about continuity or annoying comic book purists.

A strong component of CW’s Arrow, another comic related show, is generating excitement by using established characters & villains. How much Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will take from the comics remains to be seen but it is a cohesive part of the cinematic universe.

The events of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s takes place after Avenger’s Battle of New York and draws upon elements from other Marvel movies such as “extremis”. The pilot does a good job of quickly explaining this information so that viewers who haven’t watched any of the Marvel movies can enjoy the show on its own merits.

A flaw that is common with many sci-fiction fantasy shows is the overuse of super powers or inexplicable “science & tech” to resolve the primary conflict. This becomes a minor factor in this episode which can be a little troublesome for some viewers. But for those who can suspend their disbelief and embrace the implausible, the ending does pack some dramatic weight.

So how will Marvel’s cinematic universe look on a television budget and shooting schedule? Based on the pilot, the special effects hold up very well although some of the shots in the opening scene are noticeably green screened and filmed on a studio back lot.

Like the pilot which is partially set in Paris, each episode takes place in a different part of the world so the show will need more than an establishing shot to make the location believable. That said, the cinematography of the climactic confrontation in the pilot does a great job of showing off a visually impressive filming location.

The Verdict

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is off to a good start. The overall tone is fun, playful and energetic. And the cast looks promising. The pilot is a good template for future episodes. It’s going to be a solid hit for years to come.

Do you plan on watching S.H.I.E.L.D.? What is your favorite moment from the “Pilot”? Which parts of the show needs development?

 

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