Review: ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Pilot
After tackling the biggest ensemble in cinema history with The Avengers and parring things back with the Bard in Much Ado About Nothing the legendary Joss Whedon returns to television and the Marvel universe with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. To say that this has piqued the interest of the geek population would be saying something very obvious. Whedon has been the man behind some of the most popular mainstream and cult shows in history and he masterfully juggled the superhero team on the big screen. We also get the return of Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, undoubtably one of the coolest things in the Marvel cinematic universe. Now that the pilot has aired we can take our first look. The result? Muddled.
Although the character of Coulson is one of the biggest draw cards for the series, there’s something disappointing about him being resurrected. I’ve long been of the opinion that the constant reviving of dead comic book characters cheapens the character deaths, and we’re now at the point we it’s assumed that any comic character getting offed will return at one point or another. Coulson’s death was a major turning point for the characters in The Avengers. It brought the team together to strike back, and the reveal that his death was faked (in a very poorly explained way) diminishes the impact of his death in the movie. After glossing over the ‘faked death’ routine it is revealed that there’s something more mysterious afoot. But this leads to another problem.
It is the job of pilot episode to draw us in, but it also has to ground the viewer in the fictional world. Almost everything in the pilot relies on a mystery that will be revealed at some point in the future (a tactic that backfired on Firefly). The resurrection of Coulson – to be revealed. Why Agent May doesn’t want to work in the field – to be revealed. There is an endless stream of questions being asked but very few answers. There’s no reason why some of these mysterious couldn’t have been introduced in later episodes, and instead focus on a good stand alone story for the first episode.
The cast is made up of a team of secret agents who each bring their own unique skill to the table. Although this is a pilot episode we wind up not knowing much about them at all. Compared to the phenomenal pilot episode of Firefly that laid out nine new characters and gave each of them a clear cut personality and a part in the overall dynamic. Aside from the already established Coulson there’s little to be said about this crew. There’s the snarky pilot who is mysterious. Two science types who are goofy, a computer hacker who is goofy and an action man who is snarky. With one exception (Skye) I can’t recall their names.
I’ve been spinning out a number of issues with the episode here but these are problems with the pilot episode as a pilot rather than issues that will affect the overall show. The performances are all universally good with the newbies standing solidly alongside the veterans. The design is good even though it’s automatically put alongside the mega-budgeted movie. Action and humour is both solid and, yes, there are some good mysterious to be revealed. As an introduction it’s a wobbly episode. Rather than feeling pumped for the next episode we’re left wondering if they can get their footing and deliver the quality we expected for such a pedigree. Let’s give it time.
On a smaller spoiler, there’s a character at the centre of the episode is looks every bit like Luke ‘Power Man’ Cage. I’d gotten excited about him being featured, but it wasn’t him. Bah.
I disagree wholeheartedly about creating mysteries and unanswered questions in a pilot episode. It creates a reason for the viewer to come back and learn more. If you give us nothing to wonder about, why should we return?
And just because Firefly got cancelled before all its mysteries were discovered doesn’t mean we should include no early mysteries in anything. I mean, how cool was it at the end of Battlestar Galactica’s first episode, when Boomer showed up among the Cylons!?! I was like, “WTF, this ain’t my momma’s Battlestar Galactica!” LOL And that worked for them for 4 seasons.
I was hugely happy when the hint was dropped that there was more to Coulson’s ‘resurrection’ than it seemed. I would have been super-annoyed if they’d left it at that lame explanation he offered. As you point out, Coulson’s death was huge for the MCU – and it deserves to percolate in our minds for a good long while. I hope they trickle out that info over a period of time, personally.
Totally agree with you.. after watching the pilot there are SO many questions I can’t wait to get answered.. As good as Firefly is/was – This has Marvel in it’s corner with a HUGE fan base so I doubt it will have the same fate.
I see where you’re coming from–I said some similar things in my review. I do hope more background stuff is explained and the characters are more thoroughly explored (and I hope I don’t find Skye so annoying in future episodes), but I really could see this show going somewhere. I will remain optimistic.
Life model decoy?
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I haven’t seen the show yet, but I wanted to let you know that you use the word “mysterious” when it should be “mysteries.” Sorry, minor nitpick, but it threw me off.
I am optimistic about this show, but I do agree with most of your complaints except for the one relating to Coulson’s death. I actually like the idea of it being sort of a mystery as to how exactly Coulson is alive. Maybe that’s because there are a plethora of reasons in the comic book universe at Marvel’s disposal to explain his return. I’m excited to see which one they eventually choose.
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I’m looking forward to the next episode. The pilot didn’t excite me as much as I hoped, I think that’s because as you mentioned we don’t really know a lot about the characters. I think it has potential though, roll on Friday night!
We certainly hope to be proven wrong.