Yesterday was a big day for Marvel Entertainment. Iron Man 3, one of Marvel Studios’ biggest releases to date, came to Blu-ray and DVD complete with a fantastic new Marvel One Shot Short, Agent Carter starring Hayley Atwell reprising her role from Captain America. And there was something else…..what was it?…..Oh yeah, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. debuted on ABC. I haven’t heard anything about the estimated numbers but no doubt a large number of fans checked out the show last night. And judging by the various social media outlets I’ve checked out, there are a lot of different opinions out there on the quality of the first episode ranging from high enjoyment to heavy dissapointment. Many were hoping for a series that captured the magic of the Marvel Films in episodic form for our television viewing pleasure. Some were happy with what they got. There were obvious ties to the Marvel Movieverse and and references to comic characters and titles throughout. Others felt that they went a little too much on the corny side and fell back on storytelling cliches. The fact of the matter is that both camps are right. The show does make references that many a fanboy like myself caught instantly. It also used a number of plots, ideas and archetypes we’ve seen before. The question becomes “Did their use of tried and true methods hurt or help Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in winning their audience?” The votes still out on that one but I will say that a little bit of change from the status quo might have done them some good.
The series begins with an introduction of a new hero on the streets of New York. Mike Peterson, played by J August Richards is an honest man who’s out of work and is trying to figure out how to provide for himself and his small boy. Suddenly, disaster strikes. One of the floors of a near by building EXPLODES. This forces Mike into action and he saves a young woman from the ensuing blaze. But not all is as it seems as the episode progresses and we’re introduced to the players in S.H.I.E.L.D. Aside from the returning Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), who’s ressurection story may leave some fans scratching their heads and others shaking them, we’re shown a brand new bunch of characters who can make themselves useful in specific ways. Coulson’s handpicked them to be his personal crew. Their job: find folks with powers and help them…..or stop them, whichever the case may be. There’s Grant Ward, a cocky young super agent who thinks he’s above it all, Melinda May, a former heavy hitter in the spy game who’s got a checkered past, and Fitz and Simmons, a he-said/she-said duo of weapons experts. Rounding out the team is Skye, a computer hacker who’s interested in bringing S.H.I.E.L.D. out into the open. The majority of the episode is spent on Coulson trying to convince this upstart to join the team and help them track down this new, mysterious hero who saved the woman from the fire. In the end, this rag tag group comes together to “save the day” and find the “hero”. It’s also revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t the only group out there looking for superhumans.
Was the show entertaining? Yes. Were the characters interesting? Interesting enough to make we want to check out the show again next week. Did they knock it out of the park? Not by a long shot. There’s a great deal of work that needs to be done to win over not only new audiences but also the one they’ve already got. The explination of Coulson’s return is sketchy for longtime comic fans and will be an eventual letdown for fans of just the movies. I hope that they use the “realization” moment for Coulson to make this story choice better. It’s definitely a situation that can be fixed with good character development. As far as first episodes go, this one did a good job of introducing us to all the major players, but that’s about it.
What bothered me about the show was the “bait and switch” element. We’re lead to believe that Mike Peterson is going to be a major player. He gets this big introduction and is the person of interest to all the other characters. But instead, he’s a guest star, made unimportant within sixty minutes. There are some who’re crying “freak of the week” storytelling but no, I don’t think that hunting down folks with power is all they’re going to do on this show. I do feel there’s more Chuck than Smallville in this setup. I just didn’t like the handling of the first metahuman story in the series. It was sewn up too easily and reaked of network t.v. It’s also a shame because this could’ve made for an interesting reoccuring character.
The performances were not bad for a pilot but not great either. I’ve seen many a successful show have a humdrum pilot. It seems that when starting a t.v. show, the showrunners just want you to know who all the characters are but not why you should give a crap about them. There was a bit of that here as our two main windows into the show, Agent Ward played by Brett Dalton and Skye played by Chloe Bennet, are kind of flung at us with no real character traits to make us want to hang onto them. It’s obvious that as the show progresses, Coulson will take a back seat to these two and they will become the “stars” of the show. But for right now, I’m left wondering why I should like them? This especially rings true for Ward who comes off as too smug for his own good. Thankfully, where they suffered in character development they made up for in enforcing strong ties to the Marvel Movieverse.
When this show was announced, I was worried that Whedon and co. would rest on the fact that Clark Gregg was one of the stars as being the only connection to the Marvel films. Thankfully that was not the case as not only does Agent Maria Hill (of Avengers fame) make multiple cameos in this first episode but the Extremis weapon from Iron Man 3 also gets a mention as well. This is a small thing but I am happy for the continuity.
Overall, this was not a bad first episode. There’s plenty of room for improvement but I have faith that that will come as the series continues. I just hope that it doesn’t take them too long to figure it all out.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!