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.

Agents of SHIELD toys

The computer effects of Iron Man were rubbish.

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’m only kinda sure they were all in the show.

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.

Agents of SHIELD Luke Cage