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By Emily Holland · September 26, 2013
Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) is back with a highly-trained crime fighting team in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC. With the current superhero craze still going strong, it was only a matter of time before Marvel brought a live-action series to the world of television.
Nothing, in my opinion, can top The Avengers. Not only was it a huge blockbuster, but it was also just plain fun to watch, and re-watch, and re-watch for a third time (don’t judge). And now with Iron Man 3 dominating this past summer and the prospect of Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: Winter Soldier, it seems that Marvel can do no wrong. But they also have big shoes to fill, which made me skeptical about their migration into live-action television. Thankfully, the pilot left me hopeful and excited to see how the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will progress.
The plot of the show, thus far, is nothing too complicated. Agent Coulson, after returning from his injury and near-death, is assembling a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to combat a terrorist group known as “Rising Tide” and find anyone with hidden superpowers. The group is a rag-tag collection of agents, but the episode, despite having an hour time slot, did not give enough background information to really grasp what each member brought to the team or even why Coulson would pick them, especially after Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) objected to every agent he chose. This first episode chose to bring in all of these elements at once, with agents working to thwart Rising Tide while also trying to locate a super-human who was proving to be dangerous. At times, it felt like way too much plot for the pilot, but it always calmed back down and ended with a nice lead into the next episode.
The show did an excellent job connecting to the pre-existing Marvel universe. Quick one-liners and mentions were just enough to reward the die-hard Avengers fans without being too polarizing to viewers who haven’t seen every Marvel movie. The small details, such as a super-power serum containing some of the same stuff that turned Gwyneth Paltrow into a red-hot badass in Iron Man 3, really elevated the script for me. It was like a scavenger hunt for references.
That being said, I think the pilot definitely needed a little bit more background information, again, to appeal to the wider audience. Purely referencing the “battle of New York” isn’t going to make sense to someone who hasn’t seen The Avengers or the newest Iron Man film. Hopefully a little bit of plot expansion and explanation in future episodes will fill in the few missing details.
And, of course, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., like any Joss Whedon production, wouldn’t be complete without the classic Whedon-esque humor. The pilot was full of jokes that made sure the audience knew they were watching a Marvel production and not another crime show. At some points, the material was intense or heavy, with quite a few intense fight scenes and moral dilemmas. The little one-liners kept the mood lighthearted, much like all of the other Marvel films.
It was nice to see the show not take itself too seriously, although the expectations are very high. I will say that I was equally impressed with the overall production value of the show; it looks and feels like the superhero movies we’ve grown to love.
As the season continues, I’d love to see more character development and less intense and involved plotlines, at least while the characters are still unknown. Once the characters, other than our beloved Agent Coulson, are well introduced, the plot can take over. Thankfully, Coulson is there to ground not only the team, but also the viewers, to whom he is a familiar and welcome face.