Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen (creators)
Review by Drew Bittner
Date: 02 October 2013
Links: IMDB record /
In a world where superheroes are the new reality, someone has to be ready to solve problems, anticipate threats...and pick up the pieces. That someone is SHIELD--the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Seemingly back from the dead after the events of The Avengers, Agent Phil Coulson (Gregg) assembles a team of brilliant, capable operatives who don't play well with others. May (Wen) is a former field agent who is coerced into being their pilot; Ward (Dalton) is a one-man army who likes being self-reliant; Fitz (DeCaestecker) and Simmons (Henstridge) are a mismatched pair of lab rats whose brilliance isn't well suited to field operations; and finally Skye (Bennet), a hacker who finds herself swept up in events.
In the pilot, Coulson has to handle two different problems. The first is a superhuman in Los Angeles, captured on YouTube. He's Mike Peterson (Richards), a factory worker and single dad whose superpowers have an improbable source. Even with powers, though, he cannot find a job and the stress is tearing his fragile psyche apart. SHIELD has to intervene or this new superhuman might go off like a bomb and take lots of people with him.
The second is a worldwide group of hackers named Rising Tide who are dangerously adept with cybertech, even managing to tap into and track SHIELD operations. One of their best... is Skye.
In "0-8-4", the team rushes to Peru to find and acquire an object with unknown capabilities. Turns out it's a piece of long-lost technology, powered by lingering tesseract radiation (which ought to sound familiar to those who've watched Captain America). Coulson and his group--which is already showing fractures--allies with Coulson's old partner Camilla Reyes and her National Police soldiers. The team must pull together, fast, to survive a dangerous turn of events or see this object fall into the wrong hands.
The show, in these first two episodes, is engaging, full of Easter eggs for comic book fans (like me) and a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There's even been a cameo in each episode so far, which suggests that Marvel intends to keep the TV show tightly connected to the movies--a terrific element, if true.
Given that the show airs at 8:00 pm (EST), it's likely to remain a PG-rated show (much like the movies), with explosions and gunfire but no graphic violence. On that basis, I'm okay with letting my four year old (who loves the movies) watch Agents.
Gregg keeps Coulson rolling smoothly in this new medium, bringing the same dry wit and cool competence that made him stand out as far back as Iron Man. He certainly has some terrific one-liners. He's also the subject of a serious mystery--as implied by Maria Hill (guest star Cobie Smulders) and Dr. Streiten (guest star Ron Glass). Something happened with Coulson...but it'll be some while, clearly, before we get there.
Ming-Na Wen is great as Melinda May, a burned-out super-agent who smolders resentment at being dragged into dangerous situations but cannot help doing what she does so well: kicking ass and taking names. Her character arc should be terrific as we learn why she left the field. Dalton also delivers as Ward, a stoic do-it-yourselfer who's uncomfortable being part of a team. His struggle to connect is most clearly tied to Skye (Bennet). He considers her a threat, and he might not be wrong.
Bennet handles the complexity of Skye skillfully, making her different from other snarky/capable heroines in the Whedon mold. She is deeply conflicted in working with SHIELD, and her struggles will be a major element of the storyline moving forward. DeCaestecker and Henstridge are a pleasure as Fitz-Simmons (two scientists with a hybrid monicker), rattling off technobabble at machinegun speed as their hands unleash weird tech to save the day.
So far, in two episodes, we're seeing a lot of set up and foundation-building. And that's okay. Viewers need to know the scope of the world in which SHIELD operates. Hang on--things will only escalate from here.
And check out the end of "0-8-4" for a surprise cameo.