New Show Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., 1×01, “Pilot”

When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was first announced as an idea, this fan girl squeeed. A new Joss Whedon show combined with the Marvel Universe? That sounded like the best damn match made in heaven. After all, The Avengers was an awesome movie. A lot of people were wondering if this show was ever going to work. How can you have a TV show set in the Marvel cinematic universe work without using Captain America or Thor every week? 

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. delivers on that premise without needing a giant green guy to make a cameo. The pilot episode is a Joss Whedon Paint By Numbers. This is not a bad thing. The comedy, the action, and the dialogue all fit right in with both the Marvel and the Joss Whedon Canons. Other than Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen, the new S.H.I.E.L.D. team is comprised mainly of unknown actors. I am surprised Joss shied away from hiring his previous players, though both Ron Glass and J. August Richards appear in this episode.

We are first introduced to Skye through voice-over narration with brief flickers of nods to The Avengers. I have a feeling she will be the heart of the show even if it is supposedly a Phil Coulson show. Skye is the first to interact with the show’s main guest star, the aforementioned J. August Richards. Her camera phone captures his daring rescue of a woman from a burning building. His willingness to sacrifice himself to save someone evokes the emotional response we got as kids reading comics. The giddiness and the horror of hoping the hero makes it out alive. Skye herself seems to be experiencing them. In some ways, I have a feeling she is supposed to be us, the viewers.

Cutting to Paris, a helmeted man on a motorcycle is pursuing something for S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Grant Ward gets to play James Bond by chasing down some Chitauri leftover technology and trying to out pace something called the Rising Tide. Ward pulls out some Buffy moves, including improvising blunt force with a blender. Ward is poised to be the straight man, the brute, and the suave man.  He might grow on me. Grant Ward is hopefully a better version of Riley Finn.

The first big reveal happens as Coulson is introduced to Ward after Ward was being debriefed by Maria Hill (Hi Cobie! Can’t wait for them to rescue you from How I Met Your Mother). The scene should have had more emotional impact, but that light bulb scene was all over the internet the last few weeks. Coulson and Ward trade barbs, including my favorite joke of the episode, the poop joke. Yeah, I love lowest common denominator jokes. Coulson explains his death as something lasting a few seconds and then being revived. Unfortunately for Phil, Dr. Streitner (Ron Glass) and Maria Hill converse about him not knowing the real reason behind his amazing resurrection.

The recruiting mission continues as Coulson personally pleas for Agent Melinda May to come back into the field. He says she only has to be the bus driver. This adds another mystery: Why did Melinda May get out of the field in the first place? I have a feeling my favorite character will be Agent May. I love Ming-Na Wen, so maybe that bias is already there. Finally, the team is coming together!

The bus, as it turns out, is actually a big-ass plane designed as a S.H.I.E.L.D. mobile command unit. Ward shows up and is introduced to the most Jossy of characters, Agents Fitz and Simmons, two British scientists. They both could have combined into an Amy Acker role but hey, two unknowns needing jobs is good! Simmons makes a Hermoine reference which cracked me up. Fitz has a giant gun, that if you play by Chekov’s gun rules, should have to be used by the end. It was described as being non lethal with bullets that disintegrate in the skin. Ward does his whole manly man routine and acts like he doesn’t care for the lonely scientist peons. Coulson rolls up in some 1960s car that he has named Lola. Ward sees Melinda and fanboys out. She must have one hell of a back story.

The plane leaves the hangar and it has of course the giant bird S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on the top of it. They are on their way to go catch the Rising Tide. Rising Tide is partially revealed to be Skye broadcasting from her Matt Foley van. Skye appears shocked that S.H.I.E.L.D. could track her. Ward and Coulson begin to interrogate her. Trying to play bad cop is not that becoming on Agent Ward. Because of his bad cop attempt, it ends poorly for Ward as Coulson injects him with the super truth serum and lets Skye have at him.

Here is where the NCIS comparison I heard come in the other day comes into play. Sure, S.H.I.E.L.D. is a procedural, but it is Whedon’s take on a procedural, so it has to be better than CBS drivel. Fitz, Simmons, and May explore the building that was destroyed and it turns out to be a secret lab. Ooh, a secret lab. I bet super humans were made here. Honestly, it’s a good first plot point for a new show. What the viewer learns about that lab is crucial to both the events that transpire later on and that it is a call back to Iron Man 3 and Extremis.

Mike Peterson (Richards) sets off to confront the boss that fired him and caused him all these problems in the first place. Mike hulks out and destroys parts of the factory.  He then visits the woman he saved from what we now know is a lab in the hospital. It turns out she was the doctor giving people Extremis-like powers. Mike thinks he is doing OK and that he’s not like the other guy. She insinuates that he needs to die. This sets Mike off like a ticking time bomb.

Mike finds Skye and kidnaps her. He has brought along his child too. Skye realizes now that her working with S.H.I.E.L.D. is important and that they are not the enemy. She wants to help save everyone.

The climatic end scene is worth watching without spoilers. I have to say that it played very much like a superhero movie ending and not a low budget procedural.

Overall, this was the highest debut for any network drama in four years. That says a lot about Joss Whedon’s influence, but more about the Marvel Cinematic influence. Whedon’s fans may be the most vocal, but this show has something for everyone. I really think this will be a huge crossover hit. I look forward to being on this ride with you, dear viewers.

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Alyson

Queer Pop Culture Junkie in the Northwest. Addicted to Coffee, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fantasy Sports, The Mountain Goats, and Tottenham Hotspur.

14 thoughts on “New Show Recap: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., 1×01, “Pilot””

  1. While the episode felt very pilot-y and a little forced with the Jossiness, I still enjoyed the hell out of it. I’d like to see a little less young, pretty, and white and a little more with the veteran actors and the more diverse cast members, but I’m willing to give it time.

    Plus, I’d watch Clark Gregg recite the alphabet. Any alphabet. For hours.

  2. I *just* watched this. It was a lot of fun – not hitting the heights of anything yet (and the biochem woman’s English accent was a little irritating, which is odd, because she’s English but not speaking with her natural accent) but I’ll definitely be watching again.

    Two questions:

    What happened to/with/by Agent May?
    What is “Tahiti”?

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