In Review: Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Pilot” Episode 1

Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Pilot” Episode 1, broadcast September 24, 2013

Written by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen

Directed by Joss Whedon

The episode begins with a down on this luck single dad, Mike Peterson, played exceptionally by J. August Richards, telling his son, who stares in awe at the Avengers action figures in a store window, that they’re a team and that dad will get a job soon. This tender moment is shattered when the top floor of a building behind them blows. Dad has his friend, a hot dog vender, watch his son as he checks to see if anyone in the building is hurt. Mike runs to the back of the building, unseen, and hears a female scream for help. He then creates hand and footholds in the wall with his own strength. He climbs up into the fire, finds the woman, and jumps out of the building with only his hoodie to hide his face. Unfortunately, Skye (Chloe Bennet) films the event with her cellphone and airs it on her truth-finding website. In Paris, Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) is on a mission to recover some hard core tech. There’s some nice gadgetry and a better than average television fight. He gets away with his mission accomplished and is debriefed by Avengers‘ Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). This leads to Agent Coulson’s return by the fantastic Clark Gregg. His return from the dead is quickly dismissed as Coulson wants Ward on a small team of agents to find supers before another power comes into play. Who this is isn’t explained, but I’m so hoping it’s AIM! The wonderful Ron Glass makes a cameo appearance (More please!) as Dr. Streiten, who tells Coulson his team has cleared their medicals, but he’d like Coulson to relax more before going into the field. Naturally Coulson refuses and leaves the room, leaving Streiten to say to Hill, “He doesn’t know, does he?” To which she replies, “He can never know.” And we go to our first commercial break, about 12 minutes into the program.

This was good in many ways. Dalton is the good man-of-action hunk who’d rather go solo than with a group, and has a terrific comedic scene with Bennet. There are hints of a romance, but that’s episodes away, if at all. Ming-Na Wen plays Agent Melinda May who’s got a hint of a backstory so far, provoking a response from Ward at her inclusion in the group. Wen doesn’t really get to do too much in this episode, but it’s only the pilot. Ian De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge play S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists Leo Fitz and Jemma Simons (Get it? “Fitzsimons”?–Sounds like one name for two people…I didn’t think it was all that funny either). Leo’s got a thick accent that took some time to get used to, and is the more traditional nerd of the pair. He runs some nifty tech that reappears later as shown in the closing previews. Jemma is fun, lost in the wonder of her character. She’s going to be the hit with the fanboys. She didn’t do too much, but her character’s fun personality lit up the screen. Bennet gets most of the funny lines as Skye, since she, like the viewer, is the outsider to this world of super government spies, and her reactions and delivery are good. Richards was the highlight, though. His character was completely relatable and his change as the episode went on drove the story. Outstanding. The effects, though few, were really well done. I enjoyed the final effect on the show the most, being a long time Marvel reader, I was waiting for it to happen once this “object” was first shown.

Were there any negatives? A longer premiere would have given more time for the other agents (May, Fitz, and Simons) to be more developed. Again, it’s only the pilot. The dialogue was a little cutesy at times just for the sake of banter. Again, first episode, so I can let it go for now. I thought Peterson’s son was cast aside often for the sake of the story. I know he was a device to garner sympathy, but if you blink you’ll miss him in the end. Plus Peterson seems to have forgotten his son in the end. I can write it off as what’s happening to him, but, still…I also got a little annoyed at everything with a S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on it. I thought this was a secret organization? Yes, it’s gone public since Avengers, but having a giant logo on your airplane doesn’t help. And on the bullhorn–really? All I could think of was “Now On Sale At Comic-Con!” Shades of Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs. You could make it a drinking game: Every time you see the logo…

The final line: A good beginning, but not stellar. It’s a pilot. It’s done. I’m at the “Now what?” phase. Characters and settings are established, let’s go! Overall grade: B

 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 89th graders English for 19 years. He’s since moved to a high school where he’s taught 9th grade and currently teaches 10th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.

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