Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 1, Episode 1
What do you get when you cross a mysterious, supernatural law enforcement agency, a resurrected, wisecracking field agent, a blob of poop (or possibly a porcupine – the jury’s still out on that one) with a lavish budget? The answer is Agents of Shield.
The first live-action television offering from comics giant Marvel, it’s a slick ensemble show set in the universe of Avengers Assemble (you know, that 2012 superhero movie that smashed box office records).
Shield picks up where The Avengers left off, as the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division (thank Thor for acronyms!) are doing damage control in the wake of the revelation that superheroes (and super villains) walk among us.
The story-of-the-week is standard superhero fare, introducing Mike Peterson (played by the magnetic J. August Richards), a father whose super-strength lands him in hot water. The Shield team race to save him and those around him from the ticking time bomb of his increasingly life-threatening ability.
While the central plot is engaging, the truly intriguing moments come from the long-term arc the series is developing – the ‘centipede’ that manipulates Peterson’s behaviour is a fascinating, malevolent device straight off of Loki’s Christmas list; and the secrecy surrounding the off-screen villain suggests there will be some promising dramatic encounters in the weeks to come.
Holding all this together is Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, who makes a welcome return following his shocking demise in Avengers Assemble (it’s explained that his death was planned as a ‘team-building exercise’ – someone should warn the newbies not to attend any Shield away days). As living proof that life begins after death, the charismatic Coulson has never been better, as witty and surprising in the lighter moments, as he is serious and forceful in the latter half of the episode.
Coulson’s team of Avengers-in-training are also promising – mysterious computer hacker Skye is smart and sharp-witted without being annoying, Agent Grant Ward has a surprisingly sensitive side lurking beneath his macho exterior, and the Fitz/Simmons double act has great comedic chemistry, as well as being a love story waiting to happen (in which case they should watch out – the course of true love never ran smooth in a Joss Whedon show). Of all the central characters introduced, only Agent Melinda May feels somewhat underwritten, but hopefully subsequent episodes will allow us to connect with her more.
Co-creator and director Joss Whedon does an effortless job of staging epic visuals on the budget of a network television show. The series explodes onto our screens with… well, an explosion, and the action never lets up from there. Ward’s fight scene in a Paris apartment is thrilling to watch, an extended sequence that’s part-Bond, part-Bourne; it’s also a useful ‘How To’ guide should you ever need to use kitchen appliances in defence against home invaders (the oven door is my personal favourite). The train station showdown at the end of the episode is another highlight, in which the victim/villain of the episode uses the Hulk’s ‘Smash!’ approach in the destruction of public property, to dazzling effect.
Whether the world of Shield will retain audiences with the same level of adoration as their multiplex counterparts remains to be seen, but on the strengths of this debut outing, Whedon’s small-screen Avengers might just give the A-listers a run for their money.Tagged in: Avengers (Assemble), Joss Whedon, Marvel, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, The Avengers, Thor
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