When ABC and Marvel announced production of a new television series, a ‘sort-of’ follow-up to the 2012 blockbuster hit Avengers Assemble, fans reacted with a mix of trepidation and excitement. Sure it had the master of geekery Joss Whedon at the helm (something that instantly made it cool) but would it be as good as the cinema-success or would it be a horrible Hulk shaped catastrophe? Whedon said it would be autonomous from The Avengers and, after watching the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s clear he was right. The pilot hit our screens with a bang, literally, and the realisation that this series is actually going to be good. We hope.
The first episode (which stays in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) is slick, as you’d expect; high production values make you feel as if you could be watching a movie, an Avengers mark II; there’s clearly no shortage of funding with this series. It’s all very fast moving, with lightning quick cuts and plenty of action, barely giving you a chance to pause for breath but it seems to work. There are a couple of familiar faces to settle us into the series, namely Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who act as the bridge between the Avengers movie and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The franchise continuity is most welcome for avid fans and the relevance to the actual Avengers is explained neatly, giving people who haven’t seen the movie, or aren’t familiar with the comics, a chance to acquaint themselves with the Avengers world, albeit briefly and in slight code. Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and Captain America all get mentions.
Instead of focusing on these well known superheroes though, the series surrounds the S.H.I.E.L.D organisation, otherwise known as the ‘Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division’. The secret division is tasked with identifying superhuman individuals and, of course, keeping earth safe. This central theme combined with the hero-complex storyline gives the pilot a mixed feel, a sort of X-Men meets Smallville meets Homeland. It doesn’t yet seem to have its own identity, but it’s only the beginning and there’s plenty of time for it to develop more of a unique angle.
The characters are instantly intriguing even though Whedon has barely given us much to go on. What’s clear is that most of them seem to be concealing a secret and no doubt all of them are more than they initially seem. The cast have a lot to give but there’s no clear favourite character yet. Their ‘banter’ unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired, unlike Buffy-banter which was there from the very start. Hopefully this will pick up as the series progresses. It’s not completely lacking in humour though – the truth serum makes for amusing if not ridiculous viewing, and has Whedon written all over it.
This episode has a very clear message running through it and sparks questions which will no doubt shape the future of the series; what it means to be a hero for example, and how can you be a hero when you’re not super?
Whilst the answers to those questions still hang in the air, one thing’s for sure – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is super cool. The end on its own is every nerd’s dream… don’t we all want a shiny vintage car that can fly? What’s even more exciting than a flying car though, and particularly exciting for Avengers fans, is that there’s plenty of room for some cross-over action, what with Marvel continuing to churn their individual superhero movies out, so it will be interesting to see if the two mediums affect each other.
Only time will tell if the series holds any appeal for watchers who aren’t already under the Marvel/Avengers spell, but for fans this is a weekly treat to be relished. Until next week!