Episode 1x01 - "Pilot"
After the events of The Avengers, the world is in an unsteady place, faced with the prospect that they are not alone in the universe with threats they cannot begin to imagine. Agent Phil Coulson, presumed dead, has resurfaced to form a small team of SHIELD agents, tasked with handling the smaller cases that the Avengers cannot. One such threat is that of Michael Peterson, a super-powered single father who has fallen on bad times, consumed by an energy that he struggles to contain, which may threaten the safety of those around him. Coulson's newly formed team must locate and subdue this threat, whilst dealing with the mysterious Rising Tide techno-hacker group.
So, here it is, the first live-action Marvel TV series (well, if you ignore the 1970's Hulk and Spider-Man shows) and it is set firmly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the outset with references to the Battle of New York and Agent Coulson, himself. While his reappearance was largely explained as a way for Nick Fury to unite the bickering Avengers together, the brief conversation between Maria Hill and the SHIELD doctor, suggests a more deeper conspiracy at work.
Coulson's team were surprisingly glossed over in this pilot episode with the main focus on civilian Skye and the hero-of-the-week, Michael Peterson (The Hooded Hero). I imagine upcoming episodes will likely focus on the different members of the team and we'll see more mystery and back-story on them, but from the glimpses we got in this episode, they seem to be an interesting bunch, with Agents Ward and May appearing to have their own mysteries hinted at.
The characters seem to be well-cast, with Clark Gregg bringing the same charm to the role of Phil Coulson that he had in his numerous appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cobie Smulders, as Agent Hill, is something of a oddity, only appearing briefly in The Avengers, and not really having a defined personality. While she only appears in this pilot as a Nick Fury-proxy and a further link to the movies, there is the possibility that once How I Met Your Mother ends, she may join full-time, whereupon her character can be built up more. I also liked Brett Dalton, as Agent Ward, with his prickly attitude, as well as the bickering banter between Agents Fitz and Simmons, resulting in them being referred to as "Fitzsimmons" for shorthand.
There were some really fun scenes, such as Agent Ward's stylish solo mission to retrieve a "package" from France, as well as Agent Coulson shooting him with a truth serum to gain Skye's trust, resulting in him telling her about his grandma! The action sequences with Michael Peterson were pretty good, although I am hoping for more dynamic looking super-powered threats (or "Gifteds" as the show refers to them) with more varied powers.
Unsurprisingly, there were many of the Joss Whedon traits that made his earlier TV shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, so successful, such as a strong female character (Melinda May) and the old "bait-and-switch" tactic, when Coulson and his team find Skye immediately, as she is the midst of a voice-over stating how SHIELD will not be able to. It was reminiscent of the sequence from the Buffy episode, "A New Man", when after watching Giles leave his hide-out, Ethan Rayne steps out of the shadows to deliver a villainous monologue, only to be overheard by Giles outside and caught immediately.
While I have seen stronger pilots, such as LOST and Breaking Bad, this episode did a good job at introducing the team, although I imagine future episodes will flesh them out a lot more than this one did. One other area that needs work is including more captivating mysteries, beyond that of Agent Coulson's reappearance. And while I understand the limitations of the TV show format prevents appearances of Iron Man, Hulk, etc, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't a cameo, or at least a larger mention of Nick Fury, but I suppose there's always time for that later!
Score - 8.5 out of 10
- Michael Peterson has been injected with an unstable blend of Erskine's Super-Soldier formula (Captain America), Gamma Radiation (The Incredible Hulk) and Extremis (Iron Man 3)
- The "package" that Agent Ward recovers from Paris is a Chitauri Neural Link (The Avengers)
- "With Great Power comes...a ton of weird crap you are not ready to deal with" (a mangled version of Spider-Man's motto)
- "So, are you excited to be coming on our Journey into Mystery?" (This was the comic that introduced Thor)
- What really happened to Coulson during his "death"?
- What injury occurred to Agent May to stop her from going into the field? Whatever it is, doesn't seemed to have slowed her down much, suggesting a more psychological trauma took place.
- What in Agent Ward's family history explains why he isn't a "people person"?
- Skye mentions to Michael that she's "disappeared" someone before, implying herself. So, just who is Skye really, and why would she need to hide?
- What was on the SIM card that Skye discreetly took from her van before Michael kidnapped her?
- Who is the organisation behind the Centipede experiments? Hydra, perhaps?
Next Episode - "0-8-4"
Coulson and his team of SHIELD agents travel to Peru to investigate an object of unknown origin, codenamed 0-8-4, but when he runs into Commandant Camilla Reyes, more than just sparks fly at 30,000 feet.