Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1
Aired: September 24, 2013
Writer: Joss Whedon & Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen
Director: Joss Whedon
“There’s gods. And the rest of us, what are we? They’re giants. We’re what they step on.”
– Michael Peterson
In last week’s Fall TV Preview, I said this about Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “Joss Whedon can do no wrong in my book. And the cold-hearted bastard actually did something nice and brought back Agent Coulson for this show, so I have high hopes for it. Plus, it isn’t on Fox, so it has a good chance of getting renewed for multiple seasons.”
Joss Whedon has earned my trust. So have Marvel and Disney. Starting with the very first Iron Man movie, Marvel President Kevin Feige has had a vision of how to release these films to create a connected universe that fans care about. While DC Comics, on film and in their actual comics, seem to be struggling to keep up, Marvel has earned the trust of viewers through careful planning and solid execution.
So I’m cautiously optimistic for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That being said, I can’t say the pilot did much to hook me.
I love Agent Phil Coulson. Clark Gregg has made a meal out of what could have easily been a throw away role. He’s one of the characters I feel most connected to in this universe and his death in The Avengers really upset me. It’s nice to have him back leading the team. And it seems like they are turning the explanation into how he came back into a mystery that we will no doubt slowly unravel as the season progresses. Plus, having him refer to Loki as the “Asgard Mussolini” made the whole episode for me.
I was also really excited about the amount of screentime given to Cobie Smulders as Agent Hill. I’m not sure what her availability is for the season as a whole given that she is busy filming the final season of How I Met Your Mother, but hopefully she’ll be able to be a reoccurring presence. And hopefully she’ll join the cast full-time next year.
As much as it was nice to see some familiar faces on the small screen, I have to say that the rest of the cast hasn’t really hooked me yet. A lot of time was spent introducing us to Agent Ward, who I guess is supposed to be some kind of wild card lone wolf, but honestly his story and the performance of the guy playing him did absolutely nothing for me. I don’t think I could pick the actor who played him out of a line up at this point. He’s just another average white guy in a suit.
I felt a bit more of an attachment to Skye. She at least seems to have a bit more personality. But I’m still not completely sold on her either.
And the rest of the cast were relegated to the background, so I don’t really have a sense of them beyond the fact that the two tech people are stereotypically nerdy and the Asian driver/benched agent is stereotypically good at martial arts. I imagine they will all get fleshed out more in the coming weeks.
I did like the Michael Peterson story arc, though it felt a bit clunky at times. I loved the idea of Michael starting out the hero, then slowly becoming the villain after running out of options. Using Extremis, which is a central part of Iron Man 3, as the basis for the Centipede technology that gave Michael his powers was a nice way to connect this episode to the larger universe. (Similarly, I liked that the thing Agent Ward rescued from the safe at the start of the episode was a piece of Chitauri technology.) But I was a bit annoyed that Whedon and Company felt the need to spell out the hero to villain storyline with really clunky, insulting dialogue like “It’s an origin story” and “You’re the bad guy and I’m the hero.”
If I was going solely on this pilot, with no prior knowledge of this universe and no familiarity with Joss Whedon’s work, I’m not sure if it would there would have been enough here to bring me back for week two. But obviously, I trust the people involved and I do see the little glimmers of potential there. Hopefully it gels into a “Joss Whedon show” sooner rather than later and these new characters are all given a chance to shine.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.