Wow. Talk about an impressive pilot.
I don’t know why I’m surprised; Joss Whedon is responsible for a number of incredible shows (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse) and Agents of Shield is yet another home-run for the TV mastermind. Before today, I actually could not picture Marvel’s grand cinematic legacy being carried over onto the small screen. And yet, Whedon accomplished just that with one heck of a terrific opener.
In true Whedon fashion, the dialogue is effortlessly witty and the cast is uniformly excellent across the board. I can’t stress how important it is for genre shows to bring out the funny, and not take themselves too seriously. Thankfully, the Shield pilot is peppered with a ton of amusing touches and smirk-worthy moments.
But let’s talk about the cast. Chloe Bennet is a revelation as the lovable hacker Skye. The girl just oozes likeability from the start, and she’s definitely my favorite thing about the pilot. In addition, her banter with Agent Grant Ward (our protagonist and requisite action hero played by Brett Dalton) is a joy to behold. I can definitely see these two being the show’s long-term will-they-or-won’t-they couple. Carry on folks.
The supporting cast is also first-rate. Caestecker and Henstridge deliver a pair of truly memorable turns as geeky tech-duo FitzSimmons. I’m not usually a fan of nerdy, comic relief characters but Fitz and Simmons are just exceptional (further boosted by Whedon’s spunky dialogue). I’m also intrigued by Melinda May, the team’s most veteran member. The pilot showcases her awesome asskicking skills (Whedon loves his female heroines), but I have no doubt that we’ll be exploring her equally-compelling past in the episodes to come.
I still haven’t even mentioned Cobie Smulders’ and Clark Gregg’s return appearances as Agents Maria Hill and Phil Coulson. Both weren’t particularly memorable in The Avengers, but they definitely stand out, offering the audience an entry point and some familiar faces to rely on. We also get some tidbits for the show’s long term mythology: not only is Hill hiding Caulson’s true whereabouts after his death, but there’s a nefarious organization out there using the Extremis technology (see Iron Man 3).
Bits & Fitz
– My favorite action moment of the hour is definitely Grant’s awesome close-combat fight with the two baddies in the kitchen. It’s superbly choreographed, and there’s a hint of intrigue as a mysterious blonde watches him and then casually walks out of the apartment.
– Caulson’s entrance out of the darkness (“I think the bulb is out”) is beyond epic. I love how Whedon makes fun of conventions.
– There are lots of great references to The Avengers in the pilot; I especially liked the fact that Ward has the “highest marks since Romanov”.
– How awkward was Fitz (or was it Simmons) spanking Grant on the ass? And what about their amazing flying gadgets (which they’ve individually named). Wow.
– Will the plane be the team’s base? Because that would be brilliant.
– Unexpected twists I appreciated in the pilot: Skye is behind the Rising Tide, and the woman Mike saved turning out to be his not-so-innocent doctor who pumped him full of Extremis.
– Skye referring to Grant as the “T-1000” felt quite appropriate. I especially loved their interrogation scene as Coulson unexpectedly injected Grant with the truth serum. “Gramsy?”
– I’m not J. August Richards’ biggest fan, but he did a pretty good job as a down-on-his-luck guy who develops superpowers and goes berserk. His final speech about being the good-guy was well delivered (albeit a tad cheesy).
– While I would have loved a jawdropping cliffhanger to bookend the episode, the final scene was very exciting with Coulson’s “Lola” turning into a hoverdrone and driving off with him and Skye.
Maria: A little while ago, most people went to bed thinking that the craziest thing in the world was a billionaire in a flying military suit. Then aliens invaded New York and were beaten back by, among others, a giant green monster, a costumed hero from the 40’s, and a god.
Grant: I don’t think Thor’s a god.
Maria: Well, you haven’t been near his arms.
Coulson: Agent Hill did a very detailed assessment of your last three missions. Combat, top grades; Espionage, highest marks since Agent Romenoff. Under people skills, she drew what I think is a little poop, with knives sticking out of it.
Sky: You never know who’s listening.
Mike: I don’t even know who’s talking.
Simmons: So are you excited to be coming on our journey into mystery?
Maria: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for Agent Ward?
Grant: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Maria: And what does that mean to you?
Grant: That someone really wanted our initials to spell SHIELD.
Fitz: And, with a little luck, get some images from before the blast. And by “luck,” I mean “unappreciated genius.”
Grant: There are two ways we can do this.
Skye: Oh, is one of them the easy way?
Doctor: This is a disaster.
Mike: No it’s an origin story.
Coulson: Are you alright?
Melinda: We’ll deal with that later. At length.
Action-packed and witty, the Shield pilot is the most confident and impressive debut of the season. Highly recommended.