Fall TV Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

20130511061034!Agents_of_SHIELD_logoI’ll be honest. I was all prepared to bash this series. Being the Marvel-ite that I am, I just knew this show would be a colossal debacle, further alienating true comic book fans in an effort to gain widespread appeal. I just knew it. But then I watched the pilot. And I adjusted my thinking.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been playing up its connection to Marvel’s big screen blockbuster The Avengers in the run-up to its premiere, and that was a clever tactic for bridging that gap. This show is pretty much setup at the fallout from what occurred in the movie. Now the public knows about S.H.I.E.L.D. People know that humans aren’t the only beings in the universe. And it is clear that “the extraordinary” that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been working so hard to hide is now out in the open.

ABC’s official website describes the show as such:

Clark Gregg reprises his role of Agent Phil Coulson from Marvel’s feature films, as he assembles a small, highly select group of Agents from the worldwide law-enforcement organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Together they investigate the new, the strange, and the unknown across the globe, protecting the ordinary from the extraordinary.

And that is a pretty apt, if bland, summary of what occurs in the pilot. This “highly select” team that is put together consists of Agent Grant Ward (highly trained in combat and espionage), Agent Melinda May (expert pilot and martial artist), Agent Leo Fitz (brilliant engineer), Agent Jemma Simmons (genius bio-chemist), and new recruit Skye (computer hacker). Each of the team members has his or her own specialty, yet they each clearly have a weakness or issue in their past that is sure to pop up in the future.

The characters that rise above the rest are Agent Coulson (of course), Agent Melinda May, and newbie Skye. Ming-Na Wen does a stellar job of taking what is really scant source material and dialogue for Agent May and somehow forging a complicated, believable, and endearing character with depth. Chloe Bennet brings a smart fangirl sensibility to the hero world, and the show does a great job of playing her off of Agent Coulson.

On the flip-side of that coin, the other characters remain as question marks. Agent Ward, though quite competent in his job, doesn’t seem like much more than necessary muscle. And the “Fitz/Simmons” duo, though playful and ripe for chuckles, has little exposure other than as plot devices, so who knows how those characters will play out over the course of the season.

If you are a true Marvel Comics fan, there were plenty of easter eggs there for you to find (feel free to shout them out in the comments section below), and there are strong ties to other movies in the Marvel MCU stable. The show definitely does a great job of bringing that Cineplex feel to a weekly drama.

The problem is that trying to cram all of that back story, character development, and any semblance of a plot into a one hour drama is heavy lifting. This pilot episode is bursting at the seams with information and dialogue, so it is a lot to take in. Whereas that works for a show like Scandal, it was more overwhelming showcased here. But now that there is a baseline established for the show, I expect the pacing to drop just a notch and not overload our senses every week. If they take the time to develop each storyline within the subsequent episodes, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could be a real winner.

PROS:

  • Agent Coulson’s trademark personality
  • Sharp writing
  • Near movie-level cinematics
  • Solid mythology foundation

CONS:

  • Breakneck pacing
  • Too much mythology, not enough plot
  • Doesn’t feel groundbreaking or innovative

We’re rating this one “too early to call.” Though I have all the faith in the world that Joss Whedon and his team don’t have the capacity to mess this one up, there just wasn’t enough “there” there to make a true judgment.

If you somehow missed the show (it television’s highest-rated premiere in nearly 4 years), ABC is airing it again on Thursday.

Did you catch the premiere? How would you rate Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

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Daren W. Jackson

Co-Founder/Editor
Daren is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. He's a writer, music connoisseur, and comic book geek who spends his free time working on his novel and other short stories.

2 Responses

  1. Connie says:

    “The problem is that trying to cram all of that back story, character development, and any semblance of a plot into a one hour drama is heavy lifting. This pilot episode is bursting at the seams with information and dialogue, so it is a lot to take in. Whereas that works for a show like Scandal, it was more overwhelming showcased here. But now that there is a baseline established for the show, I expect the pacing to drop just a notch and not overload our senses every week. ” I agree with all of this. There was SO much work to be done in the pilot, that the true tone and actual plot of the episode gets lost. Most of that is probably just pilot-fatigue and I agree and hope that it will be better soon to come. Actually I’d give this a few episodes, as a typical Joss show (not JJ as you mentioned, he’s got a show later in the season I want to check out, but this is a Whedon family production) really begins to hit its stride around episode 6. (Evidenced with his last TV show, Dollhouse.) I agree that it’s kind of early for even diehard Marvel and/or Whedon fans to tell, but I’m glad the ratings were good enough to give us plenty of time to discover what direction it will take, no worries it will be cancelled before it finds its way.

  2. Daren W. Jackson says:

    Thanks for the comment and for checking me on the JJ/Joss mix-up (what kind of nerd am I? )

    I agree with everything your said. A Whedon production always takes a few episodes to fully materialize. The only difference here is that the viewership is so large (and the source material so buzzy) that people will probably stick around long enough to make it a mainstay. Here’s to hoping that this show’s success leads to more action/adventure on network TV.