Agents of SHIELD
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Review - Episode 1: Pilot

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 25 Sep 2013 16:26
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For the uninitiated, S.H.I.E.L.D. is... well, they're The Men in Black, pretty-much, but with official U.S. government sanction; a covert organization that monitors unexplainable phenomena, supernatural occurrences, dangerous mistakes of science and all the other wackiness drifting around the margins of comic-book universes like Marvel's. They were supposed to police and contain this stuff, but ever since The Battle of New York (read: Act III of The Avengers) the cat is out of the bag and the whole world now knows that everything from superheroes to aliens to monsters to ancient pagan gods are real and walking among us.

As such, the Agents at the center of this series comprise a new division within the agency, operating so off the grid they get to keep secrets from the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. and even from The Avengers. One such secret: Their leader is Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), believed murdered by Loki in The Avengers but looking very much alive. Operating under him are Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May, a veteran officially onhand to fly the handsomely-appointed jet the crew uses as a junior version of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier; "Agent Fitzsimmons," actually a buddy team of weapons-designer Leo Fitz and biochemist Jemma Simmons; and Brett Dalton, who looks every bit like a guy whose actual name is Brett Dalton, as new recruit Grant Ward, on hand to ask questions and receive exposition as the general audience P.O.V. character. Amusingly, Coulson's main function seems to be as the hardcore fanboy P.O.V. character. The guy who already knows all the history and gets to grin knowingly when something from the comics or the movies pops up in the narrative.

These are the all too human (at least, as far as we know) heroes Marvel is counting on to hold our interest. Apart from some quick glimpses of whatever you can show of The Avengers without having to pay for an appearance, steadily tossed-off references to Stark Tower, Asgardian sex appeal, "I don't think Thor is technically a god." "Yeah, well, you haven't been in the same room with those arms." , and Ward supposedly being S.H.I.E.L.D.'s best fighter other than Black Widow; Marvel's big guns are staying out of the way... mostly.

The Avengers do appear - assembled, no less! - in the Pilot's first scene as a set of action figures being gawked at in a department store window by a young boy. In the comics, it's always been a running background gag that the Marvel Universe is every bit as full of comics, toys and movies featuring its heroes as our Universe. There, these are considered loose documentations of true events; a fun conceit I like seeing incorporated into the series.

It's a diversion, however: Moments later a building across the street explodes and catches fire and the boy's father, an unassuming middle-aged man named Mike Peterson (J. August Richards), runs off to try and help the people inside... scrambling up the walls (by punching his hands into the concrete!), pulling a survivor out of the wreckage and leaping out the window to safety unharmed - leaving a crater in the pavement. Yes, Mike is an unidentified superhuman, and his very public heroism has earned the attention of both S.H.I.E.L.D. and "Rising Tide," a S.H.I.E.L.D.-focused amalgamation of WikiLeaks and Anonymous that wants to make all the superhero-secrets the agency is covering up public knowledge.

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