Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S1 Ep1: Pilot

Did Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. live up to its hype? And will it have lasting appeal for a mainstream TV audience?

The initial signs are good. 12 million viewers tuned in for Tuesday’s US premiere, the most for a debuting drama since 2009. Will they stick with the show? On the basis of this opening hour, I’d say yes.

This week’s mission

Unemployed factory worker Mike Peterson develops enhanced physical abilities via a centipede-like device on his arm. However, a side-effect of the treatment is that it turns him into a walking bomb. The team must locate and contain him before he can cause any harm.

Six of the best

S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson returns from his apparent death – we’re told he was recovering in Tahiti but there’s obviously more to it than that – to put together a team to defend “the line between the world and the much weirder world”.

In short order we’re introduced to black ops specialist Grant Ward, pilot and martial artist Melinda May, and engineering and science specialists Ian Fitz and Jemma Simmons. Each is highly skilled but none are super-powered.

Added into the mix is Skye, a hacker and superhero fangirl, who as the newest recruit also provides the audience’s eye-view. (If nothing else, Chloe Bennet is going to be the break-out star of the show.)

Fanboys/girls assemble

First of all, full disclosure: I’m a self-confessed Whedonite. Now that I’ve got that out of the way: I loved this.

Joss Whedon’s fingerprints are all over this first episode, which could easily have collapsed under weight of expectation and the awkwardness of being a narrative ‘middle-child’ – simultaneously both a pilot and an Avengers spin-off.

Is it perfect? No.

There’s so much ground to cover that it’s a little rushed, lacking in depth and the central Mike Peterson plot is simplistic. We’re given only the broadest of insights into the characters but we’ll get there given time. The action sequences lack the grand scale of the Battle of New York in Avengers Assemble but are top-notch by TV standards.

Some fans have been enraged by the absence of Nick Fury. Personally I’m not, as his presence would have overshadowed the new characters.

The series is undeniably closely related to the movie franchise, but it is not Avengers Mark 2. Viewers tuning in expecting to see a small-screen adaptation are missing the point.

However, if you’re willing to accept these constraints, this was an enjoyable escapist ride. There’s lots of snappy quips, action and intrigue, and the tantalising prospect of the entire Marvel archive to dip into.

In fact, think of it as containing a dash of Alias (with fewer outlandish wigs) and a sprinkling of Heroes (with less angst) in addition to the base of the Avengers universe, and there’s a recipe there potentially as potent as the Extremis serum itself.

I’m going to enjoy watching this one develop.

Marvel mentions

Cobie Smulders reprises her Avengers Assemble role as Agent Maria Hill.

We see Mike and his son looking into a shop window displaying action figures of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. Hill also mentions them, while Coulson name-checks Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow).

Skye starts to say “With great power comes great responsibility”, a line commonly attributed to Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben. (It’s actually the French writer Voltaire.)

Skye accuses S.H.I.E.L.D of covering up New Mexico (the infamous Roswell UFO incident) and Project Pegasus, a fictional scientific base which has featured in several Marvel comics.

Extremis formed the basis of both Iron Man 3 and an earlier Iron Man comic. Here it is said to include Captain America’s super-soldier serum and gamma radiation, the source of the Hulk’s power.

Best line

She’s a groupie … She might as well be one of those sweaty cos-play girls crowding around Stark Tower.

Grant Ward’s unfavourable first impression of Skye.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reviews

Preview: Can Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. work without Avengers?

This review was originally posted on

6 Comments on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S1 Ep1: Pilot

  1. Well, I was entertained. Rather more than I thought I would be. I’m almost grudging about it: I quite liked the idea of poking fun at comic book culture and going away. But this was smart and knowing, and good enough to keep me watching for now. I wonder whether it has legs, but perhaps that’s for another day.

    • Being a Whedonite, I was always going to be easily won over, and this was a *very* Whedon script – his writing style is every bit as distinctive as Aaron Sorkin’s. It’s encouraging that the reception from those with neither a badge to polish or an axe to grind seems to have been broadly very positive – it’s all about appealing to people who just want to be entertained, and I thought this pilot set its stall out nicely. Let’s see how things develop.

  2. Maybe I’m becoming a Whedonite. How do you get in? Secret passwords?

  3. I think I’m becoming one of those insufferable fans who go off people when they get successful – I love Whedon on a budget, but this was all too flashy and clinical and soulless. Didn’t like it much at all.

    • I know what you mean, but equally I suspect the budget for future episodes – while still substantial – will be much less than in the pilot. Which will mean less whiz-bang and more reliance on the characters. This is, basically, Scooby Gang Mark 2 (rather than Avengers Mark 2), and the original one worked out fine. Except maybe for the sending the boyf into another dimension. Oh, and the Wiccan best friend losing her girlfriend and going all evil. Oh, and the dying and coming back from said death. Oh, and the friend who loses an eye. Other that, it was all good.

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