Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. S1 Ep01 – Pilot

agents of shield, s1 ep01--Agent Coulson clutching binder in HQ

“With great powers comes a ton of weird crap.”

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of the biggest shows people have been waiting for this season. A spin-off from the Marvel movie-verse focusing on the members of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division, S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together Marvel mythology with Joss Whedon’s quirky sense of humor. But does it live up to the hype?

First, let’s meet the team: Agent Phil Coulson is the leader, and no we don’t find out how he’s still alive. Coulson thinks that he stopped breathing for forty seconds when Loki stabbed him and then he went off to Tahiti to recover. What really happened is something that “he can never know.” Dun-dun-dun.

agents of shield, s1 ep01--Fitz and Simmons in their lab

Fitz and Simmons. Or rather, Simmons and Fitz.

Coulson has to gather together the best of the best of the best for his special operation to investigate all the weird stuff that happens in a world full of superpowers and aliens: Agent Grant Ward is a black ops specialist whose espionage skills are the highest since Natasha Romanoff, but his social skills are comparable to a porcupine, according to Agent Hill (or a little poop with knives sticking out of it, as interpreted by Coulson). Then there’s Agent Melinda May, an ace pilot and weapons expert; she drives the bus. Of course no group is complete without a quirky scientist, and Coulson doubled down with two, Fitz and Simmons, experts in engineering and biochemistry respectively. Last but not least, a civilian hacker and activist known only as Skye helped the team with their first assignment and then joined them at the end.

In this first episode, we got to watch the team come together, which required introductions and getting-to-know-you scenes to establish who is who and what is what and why is this all happening. You know, standard pilot episode stuff. This can slow things down at times because the focus of the plot has to be split between introducing all these new characters while also developing a storyline that brings them all together. It’s similar to The Avengers in that respect, except they only have forty minutes instead of two and a half hours to do it all in. But still, even the slow parts are filled with snappy dialogue, so you barely notice that you’re in the middle of a “meet so-and-so” scene. Overall, the character development and plot development worked together with only a few drawbacks—mainly, with so many new people being introduced, certain characters had more time dedicated to them, such as Skye and Ward, while others stayed off to the side.

agents of shield, s1 ep01--Mike Peterson climbing wall

It’s not exactly Spider-Man, but it’ll do.

Plot-wise, the pilot established a case of the week style format while also setting up what will no doubt be an over-arching story. A mysterious group of people is experimenting with all the different ingredients known to create superpowers, including the unstable Extremis virus, introduced into the Marvel movie-verse in Iron Man 3, and they’re using ordinary people to test out these powers in what is known as Project Centipede. The agents had to stop one of those ordinary people suddenly gifted with extraordinary power, Mike Peterson, before he exploded. Naturally the origin of the operation was not discovered, so they’re bound to come back later, right?

agents of shield, s1 ep01--Agent Melinda May

Melinda May. Don’t mess with her.

But this first case offered an interesting look into the minds and morals of the new team. Coulson wanted to find a way to save Peterson, but Ward wanted to shoot him to save people from the impending explosion. Coulson has a funny, awkward, and almost goofy at times personality that contrasts greatly with Ward’s stiff, no-nonsense manner, which should make for some interesting tension. And possibly fan fiction. Ward and Skye, on the other hand, had a different sort of tension that may lead to a romantic, or at least very teasing, relationship. Also, fan fiction. Skye is that typical quirky kind of hacker personality, but with a Whedonesque spin to it that reminds me a bit of a watered down Buffy. Meanwhile, Fitz and Simmons are, frankly, adorable. They have British accents and a brother-sister type relationship. Apparently they work together so well that they are often referred to as one entity, Fitz-Simmons. These two provided the technobabble and saved the day by finding out what gave Mike his powers and how to stop the explosion of Extremis. Less attention was given to them than to Ward, Skye, and Coulson though, so this first impression is more of a surface impression. They’re cute and brilliant, but we didn’t get a good meaty look into their personalities. Luckily, we have the rest of the season to do so. Lastly, there’s Melinda May, who suffers the same fate as Fitz-Simmons in the development department. We were given hints of a past for her and we got to see that she’s more than just a great pilot when she helped take down one of the guys working for Project centipede, but we really only got a basic idea of who she is.

agents of shield, s1 ep01--Lola the hover car

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

You can see Whedon’s handprints all over the writing from the dialogue to the visual gags. His usual one-liners and snappy back-and-forths mix perfectly with the chemistry between the characters. But it’s not all fun and poop drawings—there’s plenty of action too, plus a bit of social commentary in standard Whedon form. There are too many good parts to name—from Coulson stepping out of the shadows (“I think there’s a bulb out”) to Maria Hill’s defense of Thor’s godhood (“You haven’t been near his arms”) to the final reveal of why Coulson loves Lola so much (it’s a freaking hover car!). Personally, I think Coulson identifies with Lola because it’s an older car, and he’s an older agent. He said new and improved aren’t the same thing. Sometimes you need experience over youth, and so at first I thought Lola was just a metaphor. Then we found out Lola has some special modifications. Does Coulson have any modifications too thanks to his time in “Tahiti”? It makes you wonder, especially with how easily he dodged that flying door.

One of my favorite aspects though is how well it fits in with the Marvel universe. There are references left and right to the movies, from the Chitauri neural link to the Avengers merchandise in the store windows to the “sweaty cosplay girls crowding around Stark Tower” Agent Ward mentioned. The only drawback is that for non-Marvel fans it may be difficult to follow. But if you love the movies, then you’ll love this. It suffers from the sort of things you expect in a pilot—more exposition than usual, not enough time for all the characters—but it was a fun ride and shows great potential for the series. Definitely add it to your watch list.