Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Disney's attempt to bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the small screen finally premieres!

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was created by Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and much more), Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. The pilot episode was written by the trio as well, and was directed by Joss Whedon.


• All in all not a bad start, as first episodes go. It's definitely set in the Marvel Universe, and there was plenty of trademark Joss Whedon humor on display. It felt a bit like CSI: Marvel. Like a police procedural with superhero trappings thrown in now and then. It also felt a lot like the pilot episode of Fringe (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).

Naturally since this is TV the action was a bit more scaled down than in the various Marvel movies. Will that disappoint viewers who tune in expecting to see, you know, actual superheroes? They're gonna have to ramp up the super heroics quite a bit or I'm afraid viewers will become bored and start tuning out.

They'll also need to shake up the formula now and then, because if each week it's "normal citizen gets super powers and S.H.I.E.L.D. has to track them down and capture them before they destroy a city, while making witty comments" it's gonna get old fast.

It was nice to see Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson back from the dead, or whatever happened to him. The rest of the characters seemed pretty weak though. I guess that's to be expected-- you can only squeeze in so much character development in a pilot episode. Hopefully they'll flesh out the team a bit more in subsequent shows.

It would be awesome if Samuel L. Jackson or Robert Downey Jr. made a surprise cameo in an episode, but I wouldn't hold my breath. If it did happen, there's no way it would be a secret. Disney and ABC would promote the ever-living hell out of their appearance every hour on the hour for months prior.

Thoughts (SPOILERS!):

• I liked Agent Coulson's dramatic reveal as he stepped out of the shadows in front of a gobsmacked Agent Ward. "Sorry, that corner was really dark and I couldn't help myself. I think there's a bulb out."

• At the beginning of the episode, unemployed factory worker Mike Peterson sees a building explode. Surprise! Peterson secretly has super strength. He climbs the burning building and rescues a woman, leaping from the top floor to the ground far below while holding her.

Luckily for the woman he was holding the laws of physics weren't paying attention. He landed with enough force to literally crack the pavement beneath his feet, all while holding the woman. Realistically she should have broken in half when he hit the ground.

• I liked all the little nods to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Chitauri communicator from The Avengers, as well as references to Tony Stark, the Hulk, Thor, and Loki. They even offhandedly mentioned Natasha Romonov the Black Widow. 

It's very cool that events in the films influenced the pilot here. It really helps sell the idea that these shows and movies all take place in one big universe, just like they used to do in Marvel Comics. I wonder if the reverse will be true? Will the next Thor movie contain references to this TV series? Doubtful, but who knows?

It's amazing how effortlessly Marvel handles all this crossover stuff. It really does make it seem like all their properties are taking place in the same world. Meanwhile DC and Warner Bros. can't make one decent superhero movie to save their lives.

• A sampling of that patented Whedon dialogue: 
Agent Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, Agent Ward?
Agent Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.

Agent Hill: And what does that mean to you?

Agent Ward: That someone really wanted our initials to spell out "shield."
• Nice to see Ron Glass on TV again. Glass is a  native of Evansville, Indiana, my home city. Why, we're practically related!

Also good to see Ming Na Wen as well. Seems like I've been watching her on TV forever. I can remember seeing her on As The World Turns in the 1980s! Can you believe she turns 50 this year? Amazing!

• So it's implied that Agent Coulson actually did die at the hands of Loki in The Avengers. Is the Coulson we're seeing here a clone? Does Nick Fury have a vault full of replacement Coulsons somewhere down in the basement?

• I saw Stan Lee listed in the credits as some sort of producer. I love Stan, but I'm betting his total involvement in this series consisted of someone saying, "Hey Stan, we're doing a S.H.I.E.L.D. show" and he said, "Sounds good to me!"

• So we think Mike Peterson is a hero, but he turns out to be the villain of the week. True to form for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he's not really bad, he's just misunderstood. Or being used. Just once I'd like to see a villain who's evil because he's just an asshole. Loki comes close, but even he has deep-seating psychological reasons for his villainy.

• So Mike Peterson's not a mutant, he got his superpowers from the Extremis formula. Thanks, Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. for reminding me that the awful Iron Man 3 film exists.

• Once the agents figure out who Peterson is and the threat he poses (blowing up himself and anyone nearby), they say they only have two choices: Kill him or let him die. Coulson immediately says, "We need to come up with a third option."

Kudos to the writing team for this line. Hear that, Man Of Steel writers? You don't have to have your hero snap the villain's neck to learn that killing is wrong.

• At the end of the pilot Agent Coulson is tooling around in his beloved car Lola. He pushes a button on the dash and Lola transforms into a flying car, zooming offscreen.

Nick Fury had a flying car very much like this one (except it wasn't bright red) in the comics back in the 1960s.

Next week the Agents face a Code 084, whatever that is.

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