Not content with just dominating the box office, Marvel has set their eyes on revolutionising the small screen market as well. The long-awaited first episode of ABC’s new series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Joss Whedon’s follow-up to the billion dollar success film Avengers, has finally aired and debuted to a huge 11.9 million viewers. Following the mysterious return of Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), the series continues directly where the movies left off, sharing both the same universe and timeline. While it’s certainly not must-watch material, the first episode delivers a few interesting, although not very exciting, ideas.
Don’t believe the hype. Coulson’s transition from big screen to small screen is not a very smooth one. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tells the ant’s point view story of the agency (ordinary men) who come face to face with gods and monsters within this world and beyond. It’s very loosely tied to the Avengers storyline, with references to Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man and Thor neatly placed in the middle of dialogue to keep fans interested and entertained.
The main thread, which will run throughout the series, is the mysterious return of Coulson, who died in the Avengers movie. Is he human? Is he a clone? Is he a robot? Does he have special powers we don’t know about? Does he have a flying car?
On top of his return, the pilot episode introduces three different point of entry characters for the audience:
Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) – a pilot and weapons expert
Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton) – a highly trained triggerman
Skye (Chloe Bennet) – a new recruit and probably the best looking computer hacker on the planet
Unfortunately, most of the supporting characters are exceptionally bland and stereotypical, with Coulson stealing the show. The most interesting character in the pilot episode is a superhero – well, an ordinary guy named Michael who happens to develop superhero capabilities. Just when you start to believe that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will follow the lives of other people who develop super powers, Whedon pulls the breaks and heads off in the opposite direction. Instead, Skye takes front and centre. When she starts investigating superheroes and the cover-up of the Battle of New York, she is recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. Turns out Michael is injected with the highly dangerous Extremis serum (remember from Iron Man 3?). Like Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce), Michael gains super strength and runs the risk of exploding if agitated too much.
But wait… Didn’t Tony Stark stabilise or cure the effects of the Extremis serum on Pepper Potts?
Regardless, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. focuses on the agents and not the heroes. However, it does everything in its power to remind the audience of its Marvel roots, with constant referencing and sometimes really cheesy humour regarding our heroes.
If you’re in its target market, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will appeal to you. But given the level of attention put into shows like Hannibal, Homeland, House of Cards, Luther, and even Fringe, it just doesn’t match up.
The first episode ended with no real direction for how things will pan out in the first season. With echoes of Heroes, it’s not the greatest pilot (largely over-hyped), but there is enough meat to keep audiences interested in the follow-up episode, which could make or break the series.