Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Pilot” Review

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Agent Coulson returns from the not-quite-dead to form a crack team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to combat a mysterious new group known as Rising Tide. Meanwhile, a single father by the name of Mike Peterson has gained super-strength via Iron Man 3‘s Extremis serum. After rescuing a woman from an exploding building, he is approached by hacker/super-hero groupie Skye, who tries to get him to go public and avoid being “disappeared” by S.H.I.E.L.D..

Aside from all that Marvelly goodness, I showed up for one thing and one thing only – Mr. Joss Whedon. It’s been too damn long since he has had a TV series on the air and too damn long since I got to hear “Grr…Arrgh” at the end of an hour. You kids have no idea how happy that makes me.

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The plot is a little too case-of-the-week for my liking, and having not seen Iron Man 3, I was left ever-so-slightly in the dark. That said, it was certainly a good advertisement for what the series has to offer, and I’m definitely sold. I think there’s more than enough merit on its own that even people unfamiliar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe can enjoy it. There’s certainly hints of some ongoing mysteries, such as the exact circumstances of Agent Coulson’s current state of not being dead, who’s behind Rising Tide, who’s shooting people full of super serum, and what on Earth is the Code 084 Coulson received at the end? You know, before his car turned into a hoverthing like the motherfucking DeLorean at the end of Back to the Future and everyone rolled their eyes collectively. Oh, Joss. All of Whedon’s trademark quirk and wit are present in spades. The dialogue was really the high-point of the night, particularly from Agent Coulson’s mouth as he makes his grand entrance.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. looks extremely  good. It’s not quite on the level of what one of Marvel’s cinematic offerings could provide, but it’s pretty damn close. The visual effects and cinematography are first-rate, and kind of makes me wish Joss had had that Marvel money while making Buffy.  The story isn’t jaw-dropping, but it rolls along at a good clip without feeling rushed. The action sequences are fast-paced and a ton of fun, while the dialogue scenes are given the time to breathe that they deserve.

The cast is somewhat hit-and-miss thus far. Agent Ward seems to be a little on the generic action-man side, although he got to have some fun after a mishap with some truth serum. I haven’t seen Ming-Na Wen in much of anything since she annoyed the hell out of me in her ER days. She’s not bad here, but again, her character’s a little flat beyond the ability to deliver Whedon snark and kick people in the face. Skye fulfills one of Joss’s very favorite character archetypes – the geeky, slightly loopy geek girl, just like Willow, Fred, and Kaylee before her. Chloe Bennett pulls it off well and doesn’t make too much of a meal out of it. Rounding out the cast are Leo Fitz and Gemma Simmons, our resident bio/tech geeks. For some people, I think their adorkable, Harry Potter-referencing banter might cross the line into being slightly too twee, but so far, they’re okay in my book. J. August Richards, who Whedonites will remember as Gunn from Angel, might deliver the best performance of the night as a super-powered, unstable, and down-on-his-luck father. True to Whedon form, this character is just as much about struggling to make a living and provide for his kid as he is about being super-strong. Firefly alum Ron Glass makes a small cameo, as does Cobie Smulders as her Avengers character Maria Hill.

This is only the first episode, of course, and I’m sure we’ll learn more about them as we go on, filling in the details of the more roughly drawn archetypes we’re given here. I hope. In someone else’s hands, I might be a little worried, but given Joss Whedon’s track record and the fertile ground Marvel and Mutant Enemy have given themselves to work with, I think we’re off to a good start. I had a lot of fun with it, and I don’t think I’ve had such a big, shit-eating grin on my face during an hour of television in a long, long time. Definitely tune in, and let’s hope ABC doesn’t do to Joss what Fox did.

Rating Banner 4