Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Premiere
The Agents of SHIELD premiere is harmless fun but forgettable.
After helping direct The Avengers towards becoming one of the most commercially successful theatrical releases of all-time, Joss Whedon went from being the underdog geeks love (thanks to Buffy, Firefly, etc.) to an A-List Hollywood director. And with that success came expectations for Marvel Studios and Disney to sign him to helm a sequel.
Not only did Whedon sign to write and direct The Avengers 2, later dropping the number in favor of the Age of Ultron subtitle, but Marvel put him in a position of power where he would help coordinate and oversee the entire next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and gave him his own series on ABC. That show is titled Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and to no surprise it earned a full season order, beginning its run this week.
The pilot episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. sees the return of Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) after seemingly being “killed off” during the events of The Avengers. Since the story takes place later and within the same shared universe of the films, how Coulson is still alive is a mystery, one that’s not explained in the episode. While there are many theories as to how Coulson lives, thanks to a mysterious conversation Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) has with another SHIELD agent, we know the explanation is not simply that Coulson survived the violent attack by Loki. There’s something they’re not telling Coulson (or the audience) and we don’t know what or why.
Instead, that mystery serves as a hook for what we can presume will be the entirety of the first season of the show, arguably a needed one (albeit frustrating) since the introduction of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fails to offer many memorable moments. The episode sees Coulson form a secret team consisting of a psychologically damaged veteran, two childish genius scientists, and a seemingly emotionless field agent, rounded out by a hacker/blogger.
Their first task is to deal with a super-powered individual who’s down on his luck and using his ability to get by while gradually losing control and becoming unstable. To its credit, the plot and characters involved tie into the cinematic universe, but much is left shrouded in mystery due to the fact that the status of Coulson’s role in SHIELD and the organization itself isn’t clearly explained.
With the timing of the series release and concept of the show, we expect the background elements of the story may rely on events yet to be seen in the films, specifically Captain America: The Winter Soldier – a movie where S.H.I.E.L.D. is crippled.
The promise of a series that weaves in and around the events of the larger cinematic universe is an exciting and ambitious one, but one that needs many episodes to justify itself. As a standalone episode, the pilot of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is as harmless as it is generic ABC television. Whedon and the writing duo of his brother and brother’s wife have proven themselves with ensembles and really need to make the supporting cast shine in the followup episodes since so far, the team feels amateur and certainly smaller and less interesting than their heroic counterparts in the films.
Whether the fan-favorite Coulson character, a wonderfully entertaining supporting character in the films, can lead a show remains to be seen, but it’ll very much be up to the writing team to craft something unique and worth watching since the reality that the show is part of the bigger Marvel franchise will only carry it so far. It needs to be better and stand on its own.