Agents of SHIELD Review: Welcome to Level 7

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Allow me to start with an admission: I’m a HUGE Marvel fan. I have a picture of me and Stan Lee on my desk; I went to the Iron Man marathon this summer; I worked on, and have my name is in the credits, for two different Marvel games; and I own every Marvel hero movie released in the last six years on Blu-ray.

So you can imagine how excited I got when I heard they were working on a TV show about S.H.I.E.L.D. However, my excitement was matched by my confusion over how they were going to do a Marvel show without any of the main cast having super powers.

But apparently, Joss Whedon and Marvel anticipated this question from fans, as the preview for the pilot explained it all with one phrase: "not all heroes are super."

Agent Coulson Pic

Okay, on the surface it comes across a little cliche, and maybe it is. But that doesn't make it work any less. 

In a franchise where we’ve seen average men nearly crushed beneath the boots of gods and monsters like ants, it was surprisingly refreshing to see the world from the ant’s point of view. Even better was learning that the right combination of mere mortals could be a force to be reckoned with. 

Take Agent Phil Coulson. He has walked with gods and monsters, and while there is some question to how much this cost him, we know it was just short of his life (or maybe just beyond it). So he's the perfect man to put together a unit that might survive in the sea of titans.  

And what a team he assembles. Plain and simple, when all was said and done at the end of the hour, I loved it and wanted more! 

If ABC (and Marvel) can continue to deliver this show with the quality of writing, depth and acting that I saw in the pilot, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be with us for many years to come. 

Like an artist painting a picture that only they can see at first, Coulson masterfully crafted his team, using people like colors. Like Skye, a renegade hacker, who S.H.I.E.L.D. knows nothing about, (which is a helluva feat in the information age) mixed with a dash of lone wolf in the form of Grant Ward, who prefers to get things done solo. Drizzled on top of this is Fitzsimmons, or rather "Fitz" and "Simmons," who are CSI, SVU, and NCIS, all rolled up into two of the cutest nerds you will meet. Finally, for a splash of mystery, you have Melinda May, who has a working history with Coulson and her own demons to keep at bay. 

While each was strong on their own, Coulson saw their potential to be more. He noted their ability to "do some good." The very first case as a team brought them face to face with Michael Peterson, who was slowly losing control of an implant received from Project Centipede.

For Marvel fans, Coulson’s reference to the "Extremis" tech that Project Centipede used directly tied into Iron Man 3. I won’t go into details in case you haven’t made it to the theater to see it, just remember the name when you do!

Then the episode came back to my question of how you make a show about the average man in a world of super powers. This was beautifully addressed in depth when Michael went on his rant at the end about the dangers of walking with gods and giants. 

Then it hit me that the episode actually had a second underlying meaning to the message it was conveying. 

While it was literally speaking about the dangers of walking with gods and giants (Thor, Hulk, etc.) it was also a message about the state of things in the real world regarding the economy, bailouts and all the other things that we, the average citizen, have no control over.

After realizing this, I was getting a little worried that the message was getting too "preachy," but then Grant shot Michael in the head with a high-tech dart and everything continued forward.

As for my personal check list to be a true Marvel show, it needs at least three things:

As a Marvel show, I really wanted some actions scenes and I was rewarded. From the introduction of Grant as he recovered a Chitauri artifact in Paris, to Michael ripping parts of the information kiosk out of the ground while in the stand-off with Coulson, there was a good amount of action.

One of the things I enjoy most about Marvel hero movies (over the "other" franchised hero movies) is the way humor is worked in – and often. While Coulson may have had the majority of the really good lines in this episode, I think everyone on the team had a turn. Check out our Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Quotes for a full run down of our favorites. 

Finally, with great power, comes great mystery and Coulson’s team is no exception, even without super powers. Agent Hill’s cryptic comment about Coulson "never finding out," Melinda May’s reluctance to go into the field and Skye having removed herself from all public records are just sample of the mysteries that we will be unraveling as we go along.  

With my checklist more than satisfied, my attention is now turned to the next episode. I can’t count the number of shows that have had a great pilot, but then self-destructed on take-off of the regular series. 

Of course, with names like Joss Whedon and Greg Clarke attached to the series, I’m way less worried about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. than I am for any new shows on NBC or FOX. 

What do you think of the maiden voyage of the "crazy plane" (as Skye put it)? Are you catching a ride for the season, just to the next episode or pulling the rip-cord now?


Pilot Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (230 Votes)

Jim G. is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 Episode 1 Quotes

Hill: Then New York was invaded by aliens, and they were beaten back by among others, a giant green monster, a costumed hero from the 40s, and a god.
Ward: I don't think Thor is technically a god
Hill: You haven't been near his arms.

Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for Agent Ward?
Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Hill: And what does that mean to you?
Ward: That someone really wanted our initials to spell SHIELD.