I review the flawed but fun Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D pilot, directed by Joss Whedon.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D aired last night in the UK, and after thinking I wasn’t able to watch it until tonight, I found out that I was actually able to watch it when it aired – something that I leapt at the chance. After all, this is Joss Whedon right? He’s done Avengers and Firefly incredibly well to the extent where Firefly is probably one of my favourite TV shows. And with all the hype and positive reviews for the pilot episode from places like IGN, how could I possibly be disappointed?
The answer is yes – I could be disappointed. Whilst there are some undeniably cool factors about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, such as Marvel bringing their shared universe to the small screen, the high-budget production assigned to this series and the reappearance of Ron Glass (Shepard Brook, Firefly) in hopefully what will be more than just a cameo, as well a Coulson himself – keep the program fun and entertaining over the course of its running time. It’s just that the episode doesn’t really deliver elsewhere, and whilst it is a fairly strong TV Pilot, it doesn’t quite match the calibre that we’ve seen from Whedon’s works from the past. Whilst yes, it is better than Welcome to the Hellmouth, another Whedon pilot (Buffy) it doesn’t quite match the awesomeness of Serenity, or even The Train Job for that matter.
There are many problems with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and that first problem is with the characters. Aside from the imports from the big screen Maria Hill and Phil Coulson, played by Cobie Smulders and Clark Gregg, most of the characters, Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) Skye (Chloe Bennett) and the duo of Fitz/Simmons, played by Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge respectively, fall into the category of being stock characters that you’ve seen a thousand times before. There isn’t anything new with them, and whilst Whedon is working with clichés again, and whilst he pulled them off making them likeable and interesting in the past, with Firefly and (in some cases) Buffy, he doesn’t really succeed with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Out of these newcomers to the Marvel Universe, the ones that I liked the most was easily the duo of Fitz/Simmons – however, given that the pilot was shorter than Whedon’s previous ones (I still need to watch Angel & Dollhouse at some point in the near future), which mostly were longer than 45mins (if you count the first two episodes of Buffy as a whole episode due to the fact that it was a two-part storyline), I’m willing to have faith that the show’s characters can be expanded overtime, and after all – not every pilot from shows that we’ve loved before has been great, right? (I’m looking at you, Buffy).
Still on the subject of characters, we turn our attention to for me, a character that remains the highlight of the freshly introduced cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, was the mysterious hooded man who we saw in the trailers – one who everyone at first assumed it was Luke Cage. But as it turns out, it wasn’t. Played by J. August Richards, who I’ve encountered on Arrow previously as a villain – it was nice to see him in the spotlight as he handled the character pretty well, but it’s a pity it doesn’t look like he’ll be joining the cast for the rest of the series though.
The plot is fairly straightforward. Following the events of the Avengers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D sees Coulson back in action as the team attempt to look out for the evasive ‘hooded hero’ that I’ve already mentioned above. There’s an explanation behind Coulson’s supposed death at the Battle of New York, but there’s a subtle hint at a wider mystery being on display here that will allow for a future storyarc. Fans of the Marvel-verse will find familiar nods to long-term Marvel series such as Journey Into Mystery, but also there’s a reference to Natasha Romanoff even if she doesn’t show up in person.
There’s the traditional level of snark in Whedon’s dialogue, but unfortunately – it doesn’t always work. There wasn’t any laugh-out-loud/snorting moments like there was in The Avengers, and some of the dialogue was pretty poor. The “Don’t touch Lola” moment was just as awkward and weak as it looked in trailers, and there were a few other notable cases that prevented this from being completely solid. The soundtrack doesn’t match Avengers-level quality either, but then again – we have a different composer in the form of Bear McCreary, who actually has really impressed on Da Vinci’s Demons (but less so on Defiance) before, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing what he can bring to the table in the future.
In conclusion then, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’s first outing is a heavily flawed but fun pilot. Something that could have been a lot better given what we’ve seen from Whedon in the past, don’t expect to warm to most of the new characters but expect a lot of fun. I’ll be sticking with this one to see if it improves, if only because I have faith in Whedon.
Next three TV reviews should be of the Atlantis pilot if I watch it, Orphan Black Episode 3 and By Any Means Episode 2, so you can expect them to be heading your way.
MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. EPISODE GUIDE: S1x01: Pilot, S1x02: 0-8-4, S1x03: The Asset, S1x04: Eye Spy