Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Those Marvelous S.H.I.E.L.D Agents

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D premiered last night. If you HAVE been living under a rock, welcome back to civilization!

As with all things Joss Whedon, me and every nerd I know were on high alert about the new show. Would we be blown away? Would it be quirky and zany and witty with one liners we'll repeat for years? Would it fall flat or take on too much? Would it get canceled after one season and leave us wondering for years after what could have been? Anything is possible with Joss Whedon and it ain't over until the monster lurches across the screen.

Would Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D live up to the mountains of hype?

Friends, browncoats, Scoobies... I am happy to say it does. Mostly.

I was outrageously excited for this show. It isn't like any other show I can think of. The Marvel films have built S.H.I.E.L.D up from a joke in the first Iron Man (Phil Coulson explains, embarrassedly, that they're still working on a name) to a force to be reckoned with by The Avengers. Agent Phil Coulson has especially become a fan favorite and I can't be the only one who was legitimately upset after what happened in the Avengers. "Phil Coulson Lives!" became a geek rallying cry, our very own "his name was Robert Paulson" from Fight Club. I was eager to learn all about this shadowy organization and the people who staff it.

I sat down to watch it last night and uttered a prayer at the TV. "Please," I said as the show started, "please don't suck".

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D picks up almost exactly where the Avengers ended. The battle of New York is referred to in passing (and there's even a recreation of it in a comic store window with action figures) and some of the major players from that film get name dropped. Stark Industries has an ad on the side of a bus and Captain America is alluded to when Coulson explains that S.H.I.E.L.D has some experience with super soldiers. S.H.I.E.L.D doesn't let these looming and mythic figures dominate the show, though. It would have been so easy to keep making this about the superheros, but the show carves out it's own space.

Coulson is putting together a team for reasons yet unknown. Maria Hill and Shepard Book a doctor played by Ron Glass chat briefly about how Coulson really doesn't know what happened to him and that he can never, ever find out. Coulson thinks he recuperated in Tahiti after being stabbed by Loki. Will we find out what really happened? Is the fan theory about Coulson being the Vision correct? We'll have to continue to tune in to find out...

The plot of the pilot was simplistic. A man rescues a woman from a burning building using superhuman feats of strength. Video of it goes viral and a hacker named Skye (who lives in a van but has model perfect hair) tracks him down. It's alluded to that Skye works for a hacker organization called the Rising Tide who are out to stop S.H.I.E.L.D. Not much is discussed about this shadowy group but I'm sure we'll hear more about them in the coming weeks.

While Skye is in her van, hacking away, Coulson is creating a team of some of the best that S.H.I.E.L.D has to offer. There's Grant Ward a brooding agent who likes to work alone and Melinda May (played by Ming-Na When, the voice of Mulan!) who is dragged away from a desk job to go back to the field. Rounding out the group is the adorable and hilariously awesome pair Fitz and Simmons. They had most of the best lines in the pilot and they lit up the screen whenever they were on. They had a fabulous sibling-like relationship and a wonderful, fresh take on the worn trope of super scientists. Fitz and Simmons felt the most Whedon-y of all the characters, with Skye close behind.

I won't spoil the episode (you really, really should go watch it. I mean it) but you know what kind of hijinks these guys got into. They have to save the day with very little time and do it with aplomb and a cheeky aside.

The tone of the show was very good. It wasn't super zany or quirky and it also wasn't the grimdark type of "sci-fi secret agents/police procedural" show like Torchwood was. It fits neatly between the two extremes. It didn't feel especially tense but it also wasn't cheesey. Coulson was his usual charming self and the new agents didn't seem like stereotypes. They weren't perfect but they have room to grow. No pilot is ever really exceptional. Just look at the first episode of Buffy. How cringe-worthy was that? Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D needs room to grow and explore these new characters. I can't wait!

Thankfully Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D did gangbusters in ratings. It had almost 12 million viewers and a huge share of the highly coveted "18-39" age demographic. Hopefully this spells good things for our agents and we'll be able to watch them for years to come. It is a Joss Whedon show, though, so I'm also trying to mentally prepare myself for it's untimely cancellation. Thankfully, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D airs on ABC and not Fox.

So, while the pilot wasn't 100% perfect, I'm in it for the long haul. I'm excited to see what happens and curious to see what direction the show takes.

Did you watch the pilot? What did you think? Comment and let us know if you're on board or if you're ready to jump ship!

PS - A massive and hearty "LOL" goes out to Johnny-come-lately DC who announced today that they will be creating a TV show about a young Commissioner Gordon called Gotham. I'm sure it was just a coincidence that they announced that, seemingly randomly, the day after Marvel had a ratings smash on it's hands. Listen DC, you can't steal Marvel's thunder. Marvel has Thor, after all. Good luck with that, though!

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1 comment:

  1. I liked it but I didn't love it. Not surprising since pilots are all about showcasing possibilities, not developing them. I'm really hopeful for the future too:)