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Josh’s Thoughts on the Pilot Episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

Well, this past week the much-hyped premiere episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finally arrived!  (That is a lengthy title, and I think for simplicity’s sake I will just be referring to the show as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from here on in.)  I am excited and intrigued by this show, both because of the never-been-done-before conceit of having the show set in the continuity of Marvel’s continuing series of movies, and also because of the pedigree of the men and women behind the show.  The pilot was written and directed by Joss Whedon (who wrote and directed The Avengers and will be doing the same for the sequel coming in 2015, not to mention having helmed several brilliant other TV shows you might have heard of), and though he won’t be the show-runner moving forward, that responsibility lies in the incredibly talented husband-and-wife hands of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.

So what did I think of the pilot?

In a nutshell, good not great.  I wasn’t exactly blown away, but the show was definitely good enough that I am along for the ride for now.

The pilot was a lot of fun, made so primarily by a lot of wonderful Joss Whedon-scripted snappy dialogue.  I was quite taken by the light, this-may-be-serious-business-but-we’re-gonna-have-fun-along-the-way tone.  It’ll be interesting to see how the Joss-free scripts for the next few episodes turn out.

I love how unabashedly the show is set in the Marvel movie universe, with lots of references to the battle of New York in last summer’s The Avengers (though it is weird that we don’t see any lingering devastation from the carnage of the alien invasion — one line about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s involvement in the clean-up wasn’t really enough for me) and to the Extremis virus from this past summer’s Iron Man 3.  There were also plenty of other little winks and nods to the wider Marvel comic-book universe, with mentions of Project Pegasus, a play on the classic Spider-Man “with great power…” line, and more.  If done right, this show could be an incredible way to explore many of the nooks and crannies of the Marvel universe that would never be able to make their way into the big movies.  I for one am hoping in particular to see a few of the famous S.H.I.E.L.D. agents from the comics (Contessa!  Clay Quartermain!) pop up in the show down the line.

It was great seeing Agent Coulson (the magnificent Clark Gregg) back, and I’m intrigued by the mystery of his resurrection.  However, while it’s great fun having Coulson back — and at the center of things, now! — there’s no question his resurrection dilutes the power of his death in The Avengers.  That’s a shame.  How much I wind up liking this show will ultimately affect whether I ultimately like or hate the return of Coulson.  For now, I’ll stay positive — Clark Gregg is the MAN and he gets all the best lines in the show.  I am looking forward to getting to explore his character more deeply, something his brief appearances in the movies never allowed.

The biggest weakness of the show, for now, is the rest of his team.  I wasn’t really all that taken by any of the other five agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. introduced in the pilot.  I would have thought Mr. Whedon would have been able to be more successful at creating characters that would instantly grab me.  I don’t dislike any of the characters, but neither am I all that interested in any of them yet.  They all seem a bit too pretty and handsome (particularly the hacker Skye, who was supposed to be living on her own in her van trying to bring down the system, but who somehow always was looking gorgeous in makeup and perfect hair) and they’re all a little too one-dimensional so far.  It’s just the pilot, so we have plenty of time to get to know these characters… but thinking back to, say, the pilot episode of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, by the end of that first installment I was already in love with those characters.  That’s not the case here.

I also wasn’t hugely taken by the look of the show.  It looked a little generic, a little cheap to me.  It looked like Smallville.  Now, they could for sure do a lot worse (I kinda liked Smallville, and somehow I stuck with that soap-opera superhero show all the way ’till the end), but I was hoping for something a little more cinematic.  I think we saw the show pressing up against the realities of the limitations of a weekly TV budget.  Here again, it will be interesting to see whether future episodes manage to expand the canvas, or whether we wind up seeing that same one block of New York City a LOT more.

This premiere wasn’t a home-run.  I’d say it was a double.  It was fun to watch, and I’ll be tuning in next week.  I am interested to see where this show goes from here.

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